Friday, February 29, 2008

Cool Greens, Hot Rice

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: Today's lunch delivered an exciting mix of elements that Colleen whipped up in no time. Chinese-style scallion-stuffed buns and a wholesome curried blend of tofu, broccoli, and potatoes graced our Friday plates. The toasted sesame salad added a familiar Asian accent and tied it all together without overpowering the buns or curry-rice centerpiece.

The Goods: This meal definitely fell under the creative umbrella of Asian Fusion. The salad's cool temperature and delicious combo of toasted sesame seed oil and rice vinegar could have passed for a Japanese appetizer, while the shepherd's purse buns would've satisfied any dim-sum fan, and the curry's balanced sweetness of coconut with a lemony bite represented Thai-inspired cuisine.

And now it's time to turn the tables again for our second Café VegNews giveaway! Hit us with your best shot and you may be the lucky recipient of a VN goodie bag, plus you'll get the chance to influence our lunch menu for a whole week. So be sure to leave your comments here by next Friday to be in consideration for our prize!

The question: Okay, it's a two-parter: Remember Raw Week? What theme week would you like to see next on Café VegNews?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Team Salad

The Chefs: Lisa & Molly

The Menu: Salad #1 involved a simple-yet-sensational combo of baby spinach and fresh plum tomatoes tossed in a homemade dijon-garlic vinaigrette. Next up was a surprisingly potent mélange of sweet yellow corn, black beans, fresh lime, crushed garlic, cumin, nutritional yeast, and cayenne pepper. Rounding out our salad-laden plates was a pile of baked regular and bbq potato crisps.

The Goods: Here at the VNHQ, we take pride in our tight-knit, fun, and industrious team, and today's meal was a perfect example. Today we've been extra busy and meeting-intensive, so we all came together to pull off yet another nutritious and utterly delicious lunch by pooling our talents. The results? Molly's garlicky spinach and tomato salad, Lisa's world-famous black-bean salad, and the benefits of Frankie's home-grown limes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fantastic Falafel

The Chef: Molly

The Menu: Homemade fantastic falafel, that is. Oh yes, Molly baked—that's right, baked, instead of fried—us up some lovely little chickpea nuggets and made a light, delicious hummus that we heaped on top. Roasted eggplant was her secret for making the hummus wonderfully flavorful and less weighty than traditional all-chickpea hummus. Of course, a stellar salad with tomatoes, mushrooms, and perfectly leafy lettuce completed the plate.

The Goods: You know what's excellent about baked falafel? Along with the obvious benefits of not filling your belly with greaseballs before trying to actually do work in the afternoon, eating slightly lighter fare during lunch makes more room for dessert! Today we enjoyed more spoils from the recent visit of VN columnist and baker extraordinaire, Allison Rivers Samson. Does anyone else like Pecan Heavenly Fudge Brownies? We sure as heck do.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tell-All Tuesday

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Today we bring you another exciting round of "throw together everything in the fridge and see how it comes out!" Up at the top of the plate we had some steamed collards with sauteed onions, garlic, and sausage. Next Elizabeth totally piggy-backed on the delicious salad that Aurelia made yesterday by adding some more lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, and avocado to the leftovers. Finally, we got individual pugliese pizzas that had all the fun of garlic bread and pizza in one neat package. Okay, these pizzas were neither packaged nor "neat," but they did hit the spot. Pulled together with some leftover tomato sauce, a few cloves of garlic, an olive tapenade, and more of a certain kind of dairy-free cheese—this time in mozzarella flavor.

The Goods: Okay, just this minute we have received the official go ahead from the makers of our mystery cheese who are none other than the amazing guys over at Chicago Soydairy. Branching out from their already-awesome Temptation Vegan Ice Cream, their new product, Teese, is sure to take its place amongst the meltiest of all cheeses, dairy or otherwise. Teese is only going out to restaurants right now, so if you have a vegan restaurant and have been bombarded with requests for grilled cheese sandwiches, get in contact with them.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Multi-Course Monday

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: It may not be summer quite yet, but in honor of the ever-so-slightly warmer weather Ms. Aurelia whipped up a perky picnic spread for us today. We started off with a big, leafy salad with sliced mushrooms, cucumber, and tomato, then some perfectly toasted pugliese, and Dr. Praeger's Tex Mex burgers—one of the company's few vegan offerings. The star of the meal was the super-garlicky potato salad. Yukon gold potatoes that had been steamed for just the right amount of time met with a ton of fresh garlic and seasonings. It was garlicky. It was delicious. It was, in a word, garlicious.

The Goods: If the longing for picnic-style fare is getting the best of you, be sure to check out a laundry list of animal-free, transportable edibles in the I Can't Believe It's Vegan! Picnic Pursuits feature in our just-released March+April issue. Until you get your hands on our fab new edition, find some garlic and some potatoes and go to town.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Vegan Nachos

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: Nachos. Freakin' nachos. Oh, and savory black beans, fresh guacamole, and an amazing tofu scramble with the sausage from Tuesday's taste test, broccoli, and mushrooms. Yes, we are indeed spoiled.

The Goods: Let's talk nachos. Oh yes, the pretty, melty cheese you see on those chips is 100-percent dairy free and incredibly delicious. Interest perked? Well, unfortunately we can't tell you who makes it, since it's still a prototype, but trust us, as soon as we get the okay from the company we'll be blabbing everything we know about this savory treat. For the present, however, you'll just have to make do with knowing about the awesome chips which served us well as cheese transporters. Mexi-Snax whole grain white chips were the perfect, salty vehicles for our mystery cheese. They also stood up well to the rigors of nacho baking, for which they get major accolades. Anyone else have nacho secrets you'd like to share? Spill the beans in the comments!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Indian Indulgence

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: Where to begin? The brown rice is always a safe bet, but Aurelia has a certain way of making it which must involve some sort of deal with the devil, because the texture of her rice cannot be beat. It simply can't be done; go on and try, we dare you. To top the goodly grain, she made an awesome spinach and tofu curry and a delicious chana masala. To green up the plate a bit, a simple, fresh salad of cucumber and avocado made this indulgent lunch complete.

The Goods: Not only did we get a filling and fantastic Indian-food spread today, we got a big bonus in the form of the lovely Allison Rivers Samson and her adorable daughter, Olivia. Allison arrived the way all guests should arrive: carrying a huge gift basket of baked goodies from her stellar bakery, Allison's Gourmet. We got to enjoy watching Olivia make fast friends with Fanny, our office canine constituent. Here's the dynamic duo with the ever-supportive Allison and Colleen:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eggless Benedict

The Chef: Lisa

The Menu: Brunch-gone-ballistic was the theme of today's amazing meal. Ms. Lisa spoiled us silly with her incredible eggless benedict. She layered toasty English muffins with browned faux ham, braised tofu, and a hollandaise sauce that made us wonder why anyone would ever use eggs. To balance out the heavy main we enjoyed slices of grapefruit, orange, plum, banana, and a couple grapes each. Would any midday breakfast be complete without orange juice? The answer is no, as is clearly implied in the photo above.

The Goods: It is not the policy of anyone on the VegNews staff to come into work hungover, but we all could appreciate the restorative qualities of today's lunch of brunch. Hearty, fruit-filled, and utterly delicious, this meal could turn us off of lunch for good.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Today we feasted on a super-sausage taste test, but more on that later. Can you have hot-dog-style lunch without chips? We think not. Blue corn chips are the way we do things around these parts, and a great green salad with shredded zucchini, pistachios, avocado, and butter lettuce added a little actual nutrition to the meal.

The Goods: Curious about the taste test? While we're not at liberty to disclose much information, let's just say that mystery "meat" never had it so good. Today's main came from a certain well-known faux-meat manufacturer who wanted us to give some initial feedback on a few new and improved flavors. When we get offers like this one, the answer is always a big, fat yes. So, while we can't tell you anything more about the fake-meat itself, we can say that our usually all-female office turned into a bona fide sausage party today.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rawsome Finale

The Chefs: Jenny, Lisa, and Molly

The Menu: Friday's fearless cooking trio made the most of what was left from our kitchen stock, and with the remaining greenery, concocted a satisfying conclusion to the week-long raw foods experiment. Jenny made sure our substantial head of broccoli wasn't forgotten, with a delicious cream of broccoli soup, enhanced by sunflower seeds, buttery cashews, and a boost of nutritional yeast and green hot sauce to round out the equation. Molly made more zucchini noodles which did nicely when twirled into the soup. Lisa whipped up a salad and homemade dressing which incorporated the leftovers from previous raw lunches including: avocado, carrot, lemon juice, and enough garlic to make you remember.

The Goods: Monday is a holiday which means no Café VegNews until Tuesday. Some of us at VNHQ were more thrilled than others about the raw theme, but I think we all appreciated the creative methods of non-cooked lunches and the decidedly delicious results. Inspired by our menu? The long weekend is a perfect time to get out to your favorite market or produce mecca and discover all the possibilities for when fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, and nuts come alive together on your plate.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Raw Week: Taco Salad Fiesta

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: Super-fantastic Mexican food. Aurelia made an absolutely amazing raw refried-bean-style paté of soaked sunflower seeds, jalapeños, sun-dried tomatoes, and magic. Yes, magic is raw for those of you who might be wondering. Add to that a bed of romaine lettuce, her crispy flax-seed crackers, fresh lemon salad dressing, and an avocado-tomato salsa, and you get the majestic Mexican meal you see before you.

The Goods: Aurelia has the advantage of a dehydrator at home, and was so committed to raw week that she took the time to make her flax crackers in advance. Let's just say that we are some very lucky co-workers around these parts. Even though every meal this week has been more distinct and delicious than the last, there's a little something we want to come clean about. The office hasn't been 100-percent raw. It's true. The lunches, yes. The oh-god-it's-four-and-we're-starving snacks, not so much. Maybe there was some chocolate. Maybe someone, who shall remain nameless, brought in some fantastic Cuban arroz con leche. However, we're still darn proud of the varied, and very delectable meals that have been coming out of our un-kitchen this week. More to come tomorrow, on our Raw Week finale!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Raw Week: Thai-Style Treats

The Chef: Molly

The Menu: Lettuce wraps have never been as exciting as they were today, filled with shredded carrot, coconut, and finely chopped cashews. The sensational soup you see to the right was something from another planet—specifically, the planet DeliciousRawSoupland. Butternut squash, sunflower seeds, cashews, dried apricots, coconut milk, and spices came together in such an incredibly tasty way this tom ka-cousin might have created a couple raw converts here in the office. Does it stop there? Oh no, we're only half done. Then, there was sushi. Yep, sushi. How to make raw sushi? Find some dried (not toasted) seaweed, and leave out the rice. Today's cucumber-mango-bell pepper-avocado-carrot rolls were a revelation. Then, for no reason other than it's a classic raw side, we had guacamole. And it was good.

The Goods: We may decide never to end raw week here at the VNHQ with all the amazing dishes that are coming out of our cool (temperature-wise, of course) kitchen. Ms. Molly's soup was a standout among standouts, and we just have to share how she made it with you. Enjoy!

What You Need:
A couple handfuls of raw cashews and sunflower seeds
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
Water for soaking
6 dried apricots
1/2 can of coconut milk
Cinnamon, curry powder, cayenne, and sea salt to taste

What You Do:
1. Soak the nuts and squash for one hour.
2. Combine all ingredients (including the soaking water) in a food processor and blend until smooth.
3. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Raw Week: Pesto Fettuccine and Caesar Salad

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Pasta without noodles? No problem. If you've got a vegetable peeler, some patience, and a big pile of zucchini, you can make a perfect pesto-transportation medium. Ribbons of zucchini stood in for cooked pasta, and stood up to the task of supporting the thick sauce. The pesto itself was a blend of fresh basil, spinach, garlic, cashews, and pistachios. A couple dashes of nutritional yeast and salt rounded out the sweetness of the basil nicely. What to do with the seed-laden middles of the zucchini? Elizabeth stuck them in the food processor with some capers, lemon juice, olive oil, and cashews, and made caesar dressing, which got generously poured over a salad of romaine, spinach, tomatoes, and avocado.

The Goods: Fettuccine pesto with caesar salad: aren't those the first two menu items that come to mind when you think of raw food? Perhaps they should be, since this meal was easy to whip up and satisfied the Italian-food afficionados in the office. We just don't recommend trying this menu for Valentine's day, what with the effects of heavy doses of raw garlic on breath quality. Suffice to say, we are glad to be guest-free today!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Raw Week Kick-Off!

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: Could you just stare at that mesmerizing yellow and orange bell pepper soup all day? We certainly could have, except for one minor complication—we were too busy eating it. This rich, surprisingly creamy soup filled us full. With the accompanying romaine and Swiss chard salad and cremini mushrooms covered in pistachio paté, there was no threat of going hungry with this raw-food feast.

The Goods: That's right, all this week we are going raw here at the VNHQ. As you may have noticed from previous posts, we get a hefty bounty of desserts sent our way for testing. Please note, we are not complaining about dessert. With the projected warm weather this week we thought we'd take advantage by giving our ovens a rest and our bellies an infusion of nutrient-dense raw food. Ms. Jenny, who claims that she's never made raw food before, whipped up an amazing spread which we were happy to be able to share with Erin Williams, the factory farming campaign communications director for The Humane Society of the United States. Here she is with the VN gang:

If you'd like to know more about Erin, check out her "How I Went Veg" story in the March+April Issue of VegNews! Note the actual squinting going on in this photo; it really is sunny today. In honor of our raw adventure, what's your favorite raw recipe?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Souper Troopers

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: This is not your everyday black-bean soup; laced with fresh, baby spinach, topped with a ripe cherry tomato and lemongrass aoili garnish, and finished with paprika-'sheeze' crostini, we dined well beyond our already elevated Café VegNews expectations.

The Goods: The non-dairy cheese you see featured here is a top-secret, yet-to-be-released new product that we had the pleasure of enjoying toasted and dipped into the thick, legume-y mélange. But before you jump to any unsavory conclusions about the VN staff and their indulgent ways, let it be known that many of the office personnel are already off for a long weekend—some galavanting in New York city's finest vegan restaurants—and there are only four of us remaining here to man the VN post. Today's glorious and satisfying meal was well-appreciated and deserved.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Faux Fish Fry

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: A gorgeous, glistening stir fry, complete with faux fish. For the former fish-eaters in the office, this imitation was right on the money, and for those who never liked fish, it was just a tad too lifelike. Bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and a delicious Chinese-style sauce made this stir fry one for the record books. Perfectly cooked brown rice and a huge salad of grated carrots, romaine lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes made sure that no one left the table wanting.

The Goods: Living in San Francisco has innumerable benefits, not the least among them is the ready availability of superb mock meats from our many Asian grocery stores. There's just something special about a really good fake fish; it's a little bit less common than, say, faux deli slices and so very satisfying.

The Winner: That's right! Today is officially the day! We were thrilled to get so many great responses to our first-ever blog giveaway. We asked, "What's your favorite comfort meal on a cold, rainy day?" Out of 22 responses, we chose what Lindsay had to say:

"Cold, rainy days make me want to eat piles and piles of mashed potatoes: hot and creamy, with a melty pat of Earth Balance on top and drenched in gravy. Sometimes I will cook up some onion, garlic, and crispy tofu to add to the pile. If I feel a lack of green-ness, I throw in some steamed green beans on the side, which I then proceed to eat with my fingers, like a boor. This is the most comforting of comfort foods!"

This sounds good enough to make us wish for rain! So, Lindsay, send us an email with your contact info and we'll send out your fun bag of goodies.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Pasta Fantastica

The Chef: Lisa

The Menu: Fancy-pantsy pasta. Ms. Lisa dove into her culinary treasure trove today and brought out the big guns. Just like our metaphors her pasta was mixed. Okay, that couldn't be resisted. But really, she mixed capers, leeks, cherry tomatoes, port wine jelly, and rosemary with rice rotini for one lovely lunch. Balsamic-vinegar-sautéed Swiss chard and spinach and rosemary focaccia complemented her marvelous main.

The Goods: For dessert today we got to try out a truckload of truffles from Eat Pastry. We love our chocolate around here, as you may already know. Imagine our surprise and delight when a new combination—a peanut butter and jelly truffle—came out of the box. In case you were wondering, this is the best idea anyone has ever had. Here's a photo of a few of the other flavors, as the pb&j didn't last long enough to shoot:

You'll have to wait for a full review of these sweets in the pages of VegNews, but suffice to say, yum. Don't forget: Tomorrow we'll be announcing the winner of our first-ever monthly giveaway contest! There's still time to leave a comment and possibly win our signature tote bag, chock full of surprise goodies!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Special: Dessert Alert!

The Chef: Earth Café

The Menu: Raw, vegan cheesecakes. Yes, that's plural for a reason. The flavors we tried were: Strawberry Fields Forever, Who's Your Daddy?, Cherry Dream, Find Your Thrill On Blueberry Hill, and Coconut Carob Cream Pie.

The Goods: You know it's not our style to post more than once per day, but these treats deserved their own mention. We are a group of dilligent dessert devotees here at the VNHQ, and these raw wonders blew us away. Unfortunately, since they are only available in a few locations, we can't put them in the mag. Earth Café uses no refined sugars, no hydrogenated oils, no wheat, and lots of love making these professional-grade treats. Each flavor comes with a snappy slogan such as, "Raw vegan cheesecake, you better ask somebody!" Elizabeth is modeling the latest look in cheesecake-eating, assisted by a scrumptious bite of Cherry Dream.

Easy Enchilada Bake

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: You know what the best thing about having rice and beans for lunch on Monday is? Having ready-made enchilada stuffing on Tuesday! And you want to know the best thing about lightly burning the filling while reheating it in the pan that will later be used to make enchilada sauce? Instant smoky flavor. We're pretty sure that these are not the most authentic enchiladas ever made, but they certainly were a satisfying lunch. A big, leafy spinach salad with cherry tomatoes and yellow bell pepper and a slice of rosemary focaccia filled all the other space in our bellies.

The Goods: So we're a team here at the VNHQ, which means we can shamelessly piggyback on the success of others. Taking Ms. Jenny's awesome eatin's from yesterday and making them into enchiladas was the plan for today. Of course, the corn tortillas had other plans. Instead of rolling up nice and neat, they decided to burst, tear, leak, and otherwise fall to bits. In the grand Julia Child tradition of turning catastrophe into casserole—voilà!—we went from enchiladas to enchilada bake. Do you have favorite save-the-day moves for when lunch isn't coming out your way?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Chunky Chili, Rad Rice

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: What do you get when you combine black beans, corn, tofu, carrots, green bell pepper, wheatberries, and spices? Oh, you get that scrumptious chili sitting prettily atop a corn tortilla. Of course, a big ol' dollop of sour cream topped off the slightly spicy main. In her grand Cuban tradition, Ms. Jenny made yellow rice with red and yellow bell peppers. As you may have guessed, it was rad. How does she do it? We don't even want to know, as long as she does it often. Our mixed greens salad got a kick from a homemade sour cream and paprika salad dressing. Le yum.

The Goods: It's currently a sunny 53 degrees out, and you can bet that we ate al fresco today. While we aren't thinking as much about warm, comfort foods today as we were last week, we do want to say a big thanks to everyone who left a comment with their favorite rainy-day food. We'll post the winning response on Thursday, so be sure to get those last-minute entries posted before then!

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Good Shepherd's Pie

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: A quiet Friday at VNHQ made for an easy segue into the weekend. Colleen's preparations for our party-of-three lunch smoothed over our appetites and minds with an afternoon retreat led by organic vegetable shepherd's pie. The pie filling was a medley of savory flavors: leeks, mushrooms, and turnips, topped off with a layer of fluffy mashed potatoes. The main course was accompanied by a colorful garden salad drizzled with homemade balsamic-olive oil dressing. We wiped our plates clean with hunks of focaccia and relished in this meal's simplicity and satisfaction.

The Goods: Dipping bread in oil is a favorite pastime of any self-respecting foodie; add an intimate table, red-checkered tablecloth, good conversation, and it feels a lot like a scene from an outdoor café in Europe. Our leisurely lunch mimicked this style of dining and bliss, with sunny window views of all the sidewalk passersby. Bon weekend!