Friday, December 21, 2007

Quesadilla Delight

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: These roasted pepper and Cheezly quesadillas were just the kind of treat we've been waiting for all week—something savory to balance out all of the holiday sweets. Perfectly crispy and accented with fresh cilantro and hot sauce, I can guarantee we'll be repeating this main sometime in the very near future. Colleen sautéed a Mexican medley of pinto beans, corn, mushrooms, and celery artfully seasoned with paprika and cumin and—never neglecting her attention for detail—she included homemade guacamole, garlic aioli, some fresh greens, and a neat little lime wedge per each plate.

The Goods: This is the last post ... of 2007. Did we have you sweating there for a minute? Starting next week we will be on our Holiday Hiatus but will return well rested and in good spirits on January 2, 2008. We hope you all enjoy the season of giving by preparing your friends and family some tasty, Café VegNews-inspired meals.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

South Indian Smorgasbord

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: Where to even begin? Everything that you see on the plate was amazing, down to the last grain of rice. Speaking of the rice, it was brown with a generous helping of plump raisins. Clockwise from there we had a phenomal broccoli and green pea soup, then a salad with homemade almond-butter dressing. Next to the salad? Oh, just a little coconut-mint chutney. Yeah, you read that right. Next up, a simmered tomato chutney with mustard seeds and a spicy little kick of green chiles. How Jenny manages to come up with these dishes is nothing short of miraculous, and it's fair to say that we like that about her.

The Goods: Today we had a more-official departure celebration for Ms. Katie, whose final day as our editorial assistant is tomorrow. Since we won't have the whole staff here tomorrow, a day in advance seemed like the best time to party. To start the day off, Elizabeth brought in some maple-glazed doughnuts, as they are Katie's favorite. (See below for what happens when you try and put a star-shaped doughnut into oil that's too hot!) Then, Jenny made the amazing lunch you see above. Then, Aurelia made a two-layer vanilla cake with the lemoniest lemon glaze that has ever graced a cake. Unfortunately, the sugar-mad hordes here at the VNHQ devoured the sweet little cake before it had a chance to get photographed. Such is the life of sweets in the office, short and, well, you know....
To make up for it, here's a picture of the doughnut platter, and one of Ms. Katie holding it:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Swan-Song Squash

The Chef: Katie

The Menu: Delicata squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash all roasted to crispy perfection with nutmeg and cinnamon. Sounds like a pretty sweet way to get over the mid-week hump, right? Well, right you are. These veggies, in all their beta-carotene filled splendor, served as a welcome base for the spices which Katie expertly applied. A side of couscous, a loaf of warm sesame bread, and a salad of fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and more of the Cheezly we seem to be putting on everything recently rounded out this colorful plate.

The Goods: Today was the last cooking day for our fantastic intern, Ms. Katie. Remember the earlier posts about her claims of not being able to cook? "Pshaw" is what we say about that notion now. While we're all very sad that her internship is coming to its end, we'll always have the lunch-blog memories. Kudos to Katie on another fantastic meal, and an admirable send-off!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Outer Sunset Freestyle Lasagna

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: As the title clearly states, today we had Aurelia's Outer Sunset Freestyle Lasagna. Maybe you are wondering what that actually means, well, we'll go ahead and fill you in on the details. This fantastic baked pasta consisted of rice noodles, homemade tomato sauce, and, of course, grated Cheezly on top. The holy trinity of pasta, sauce, and cheese was in full, filling effect. The salad was fresh and crisp with romaine, bell pepper, and cherry tomatoes. And then, there was the Garlic Bread. Oh yes, it was so good it gets capital letters. If there's anything better than warm, perfectly garlicky garlic bread, we don't even want to know about it.

The Goods: Far be it from us to say that this lunch was miraculous, but, well, it just might have been. It absolutely poured down rain all morning, which inspired Aurelia to make something warm and baked. When we sat down to eat, the skies were lightening a tiny bit, but the rain was still coming down. Then, just as we were finishing off the last few bites, the sun burst through the clouds. Coincidence? We think not. So don't forget: the next time you're trying to coax the sun out from behind the clouds, break out the garlic bread. You'll instantly feel better, whether or not the weather clears up.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Creative Chana Masala

The Chef: Joseph and Colleen

The Menu: Wowza. We know that we're spoiled in terms of eating around here, and there is nothing better than having that notion reaffirmed after the weekend. To merry up this Monday, Joseph and Colleen collaborated on this amazing meal. Basmati rice made the perfect bed for simmered, Indian-spiced chickpeas, spinach, and tomatoes. Cumin, cinnamon, and other savories blended together in sumptuous splendor. To go with a main this fantastic the salad had to be Mr. Joseph's signature salad. He mixed romaine, spinach, tomatoes, avocado, bell peppers, sunflower seeds, and a sesame dressing with little chunks of mozzarella-style Cheezly. Oh, did we also have toasted pappadums? Why yes, yes we did.

The Goods: So to go with a delicious meal there should be a delicious dessert, right? Well, today we were in no short supply of sugary goodies. Wheeler's Black Label Vegan Ice Cream stopped by on Friday and stocked us with some of their awesome flavors. The pièce de résistance, however, was a rich, chocolaty, pistachio-topped fudge made by our very own Ms. Katie. A fudge this good deserves its own photo, so here you go:

Like we said, wowza.

Friday, December 14, 2007

End-Of-The-Week Scramble

The Chef: Katie

The Menu: Let me tell you a little about our lunch today and about the week now nearly behind us. On the left side of the plate we have a scrumptious heap of tofu scramble that Jenny whipped up for us on Wednesday morning for breakfast. So props to Miss Jenny for filling our tummies more than twice this week! Added to the scramble are the potatoes from Wednesday's lunchtime feast, and for some raw food nutrition we dipped carrot and celery sticks into the delicious sun-dried tomato spread from last Friday's holiday party. Lastly, we enjoyed slices of pizza that we ordered midweek for an after-work movie screening. We ordered it cheeseless and added Cheezely on our own (we are such a clever and resourceful group of vegetarians).

The Goods: Needless to say, we have a lot of fun here at VNHQ whether at work, before, or after. And, no matter what the activity, great food is always called for. With the holidays nearing, we find that our desire for food is only short of our desire to get together and enjoy each other’s company. Now, enough of the warm fuzzy stuff and back to work. There's only one more week until holiday break begins.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Crazy-Good Coconut Rice

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: That's right, this rice was so good, it was crazy. Coconut milk and raisins made this main more like dessert than lunch, and have you ever heard us complain about dessert? Didn't think so. The soup she made was easily one of the most amazing can rehabs we'd ever seen. Starting with just plain ol' canned lentil soup, Jenny managed to create an amazing, squashy coconut-milk infused soup with carrots and corn that was rich and sweet, but totally not overwhelming. This meal was simply amazing, and to prove it there isn't any left!

The Goods: We've been going a little crazy with cookies, cakes, candies, and all other varieties of sweets in the office since the big year-end bash last Friday. Today's lunch was the perfect complement to the sweet stuff, with the added bonus of a little nutritional value.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Big Ol' Buffet

The Chef: The Hungry Vegan

The Menu: Are you settled in? Make sure you're in a comfortable reading position because this is going to be a long one. Ready? Starting from the soup on the left and moving clockwise we have carrot vichyssoise; Indian cumin-scented coconut milk stew; broccoli with tofu; cannelini beans with sautéed kale; braised cabbage with red beans and rice; potatoes with herbs de Provence, lemon, and coarse salt; polenta with stewed peppers and tomatoes; and barley pilaf with mushrooms. Not pictured are the desserts: spiced apple and almond cake and pine nut anise crescents.

The Goods: If that all sounds like a mouthful, you should have seen the meal itself. The Hungry Vegan ships organic, ready-to-eat meals nationwide from its kitchen in South Carolina. Though shipping food across the country is not the most sustainable way to eat, The Hungry Vegan's website welcomes suggestions on how to improve its environmental standing and states that they only use all-natural, organic ingredients. The idea is that you can order a week's worth of food, and not have to worry about making dinner every night. So, we got to taste a collection of different entrées. As for the food itself, some of the dishes may have suffered the effects of their long journey, such as the broccoli, which fell a little flat, and the desserts having a fresh-from-the-fridge tinge. The lemony potatoes and creamy coconut milk stew, however, were favorites here at the VNHQ.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Super Stew

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Everything. All that was in the fridge and organic produce box went into the stew. Well, okay, almost everything. What we're looking at here are sweet potatoes, golden beets, and carrots roasted and then puréed, with steamed kale, sautéed leek, and diced tomatoes all stewed up together. Those with perceptive eyes will be able to spot some of the stuffed mushrooms from yesterday chopped in the salad. And that, as they say, is that.

The Goods: As you've probably guessed, we take words pretty seriously around here, what with trying to put them together in the best possible way all the time. To that effect, there are certain words that we tend not to say (remember "moist" from yesterday?). Inevitably, the word "super" comes up whenever anyone makes anything soupish for lunch, and try as we might, we just can't seem to get away from saying silly things like, "This soup is super." So, today we're not hiding from it. We're embracing it and putting it right in the title. Try and find the next time you see a bowl of soup or stew and don't think the word "super" now. You're welcome.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Delicious Leftovers

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: Oh, wild rice-and-cranberry-stuffed mushrooms, what would life be without you? Well, it would certainly not have been the same lunch today without them, that's for sure. The appetizer theme didn't stop with the mushrooms, as you can see. Crostini topped with either white bean aioli or a red pepper hummus made a crunchy companion to the mushier mushrooms. To complete the meal Aurelia made a great spinach salad with corn, grated carrot, and chopped nuts. Simple and delicious, this meal gave us fullness of bellies and roominess of fridge.

The Goods: No, you didn't miss a post: the mushrooms and crostini were leftovers from our awesome year-end holiday-themed party, which took place last Friday night. It was catered by the very talented vegan chef Jesse Miner, whom you may remember from our March+April Vegan Weddings feature. Chef Miner made an impressive array of finger food, and was even kind enough to send the VN staff home with cookies, which, in case it wasn't already abundantly clear, is the way directly to our hearts.

Of course, a year-end party is a great reason to go a little crazy with dessert, and that's just what our amazing publisher Joseph and associate publisher Colleen did. The photo below, taken today, is an amalgamation of the three, utterly incredible cakes that they had shipped to us from Vegan Treats in Pennsylvania. Oh. God. The cakes were so good. They were as follows: peanut butter bomb cake, coconut, and chocolate brownie cheesecake. Now. The "bomb" part of "peanut butter bomb" means that on top of the cake there are huge gobs of amazing peanut butter frosting, all covered in chocolate. You can see part of this one sticking out from the bottom of the pile. The coconut cake of course has coconut frosting, and the cake itself is so freakin' sweet it makes us want to use the word moist. Here at the VNHQ, we hate using the word moist, but, heck, sometimes it really does describe the spongy, mouthy perfection of a layer of cake. Finally, the brownie cheesecake. Not a chocolate-flavored cheesecake as the name might imply, this is a full-on cheesecake covered in hunks of brownie and drizzled with chocolate, which you can glimpse hanging out at the top of the plate in the photo. Please excuse us for the rest of the day, we are in a hyperglycemic coma.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lovely Lo Mein

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: Hello, rice noodles. Jenny's noodle dish today was both new and delish, which makes writing about it almost too easy. Perfectly cooked, flat rice noodles made a comfort-food bed for shaved carrots and whole green peas, and everything got a generous dusting of sesame seeds. To go with her lo mein main, Jenny whipped up some sesame tofu, which was salty and splendid. Did she stop there? No, of course not. Jenny's not a fan of the two-course lunch, so she also prepared a shiitake soup in rich broth.

The Goods: Maybe we say this every day, but we could easily have sat and picked at these noodles all day if there weren't this pesky business about publishing a magazine. Oh wait, we like that part too.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Serious Stir-Fry

The Chef: Katie

The Menu: Oh stir-fry over brown rice, you never let us down. After the indulgence of yesterday's mac 'n' cheese, it was great to get back to basics today with Katie's awesome stir-fry. The carrots and broccoli were both perfectly cooked until just tender, neither too crunchy nor too mushy, and the tofu was delicious as always. Katie simmered all this goodness in a ginger-scallion sauce. Sound fancy? Let's just say that these were some brilliant basics. The fresh spinach salad with sunflower seeds and spinach-filled Chinese buns made excellent, healthier-feeling sides.

The Goods: Everyone knows that it's rad to live in San Francisco, right? Well, you can trust us (we're journalists!) on this: it's great. The obvious (like not getting stuck in the snow) aside, one of the best things about our little town is the ready availability of these frozen Chinese-style buns. They can be found in almost every Asian market in the city, of which it seems like there are hundreds, and come in an amazing variety of vegan fillings. Really, it's no small miracle that the whole staff here doesn't more closely resemble the soft, doughy dumplings!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Martes Mac 'n' Cheese

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Yep, it's mac 'n' cheese time again. There are only so many days that the staff here can go without the stuff before things begin to turn ugly. Trust us, you don't want to see a group of mac 'n' cheese-deprived vegans trying to put together a magazine. So, in the interests of inter-office harmony, and because she desperately wanted some, Elizabeth whipped up a super-creamy, baked mac 'n' cheese. The recipe idea came from the forthcoming January+February (check out our new column, Veganize It!) issue, though due to the ingredients on hand a few changes were made. The results? Pretty stinking good, and by-and-large gone, which is just how we like recipes to turn out. In addition to the main, you may notice some sweet potato fries and a salad, and while neither of the sides were as notable as le mac, they did provide some much-needed nutrition to the meal .

The Goods: We've said it before, we'll say it again: If eating enough creamy, vegan mac 'n' cheese to make the devil blush is wrong, we don't want to be right.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Happy Birthday Sandwiches!

The Chef: Banhwich

The Menu: Okay, on very special occasions, we let someone else do the cooking. Today was just such a lunch, as we were celebrating the birthday of our most dedicated volunteer, Ms. Frankie. Banhwich is a local Vietnamese restaurant, and they make some seriously wonderful sandwiches. Today we all got a big sandwich on a fresh, French roll stuffed with tofu, shredded carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and special sweet tangy sauce. In case that wasn't treat enough, we also ate tofu, bean sprout, and lettuce spring rolls, complete with peanut dipping sauce.

The Goods: We freakin' love birthdays. Well, okay, maybe we love Frankie and the fact that birthdays give us the excuse to make specific lunchtime demands and eat more than we likely should. Either way, lunch today was amazing, and was made even more so by the appearance of a still-warm apple crisp courtesy of Colleen. Maybe it's a little bit difficult to get a photo of crisp that doesn't end up looking like a big, messy pile of gooey goodness, but, you know, around here we like gooey. It's totally appropriate to drool now: