Monday, March 31, 2008

Oh! Burrito!

The Chef: El Burrito Express

The Menu: Our very favorite Californian tradition, the burrito. It's a special treat when we get burritos in the office, and today was no exception. They were filled with rice, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, and two—count 'em, two!—kinds of beans, black and refried. All these lovely ingredients came wrapped in whole-wheat tortillas with salsa and chips on the side. Those little green dots? Hot sauce. There are a few die-hard heat addicts in the office, and we try to keep them in a steady supply of spicy condiments.

The Goods: A lucky few of us got to attend the glitzy Genesis Awards in Los Angeles over the weekend (be sure to get the whole scoop on Press Pass), and the whirlwind trip left our energy levels a tad lower than they might be on any other Monday. Today's burritos were just the right thing to ease us back into the workweek routine. Okay, truth be told: burritos are a great way to start off any week.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sandwich Week: (Unlikely) Hero Sandwich

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: Never outdone, Colleen capped off our super sandwich-week with a real winner. After sneaking off to buy her secret weapon, a fresh-baked, crusty, artisan loaf, she whipped up a batch of roasted artichoke-hearts, yellow peppers, and zucchini. When drizzled with a rosemary-based marinade, topped with caramelized onions and avocado, and paired with a light, crisp, romaine salad, this medley made for one of the most sinfully decadent sandwich-plates of the week.

The Goods: After a week of rich, over-the-top, fancy-pants sandwiches, we were all relieved that Colleen decided to go the basic grilled-vegetable route. Some of the VN staff tend to think vegetable sandwiches are for "suckers and hippies,” but once they got their jaws suitably dislocated, and their teeth sufficiently sunk into this crispy, thick, and juicy sandwich, it was clear that even plain ol' roasted veggies, when layered between two thick slices, magically become the world's most perfect meal. Move aside, cupcakes! We at VNHQ wholeheartedly believe vegan sandwiches are going to take over the world. Thanks so much to everyone who contributed ideas for this spectacular theme week! We are already plotting our next theme.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sandwich Week: Fish-Free Tuna

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: That's right, it's another stellarly veganized classic. Today's tuna sandwiches were deliciously fish-less, and made with toasty whole-wheat bread, fresh romaine lettuce leaves, big slices of tomato, and avocado, which makes everything better. Aurelia also whipped us up some seasoned potatoes which we proceeded to douse in Wholemato's Spicy Organic Agave Ketchup. We got a preview of the new flavor, and let's just say that we like a spicy ketchup. Speaking of previews, that's exactly what today's sandwich was: a preview of the new Veganize It! column in the soon-to-be-released May+June issue. For all those of you who want recipes, rejoice! You'll be able to make this very same sandwich once the issue hits newsstands.

The Goods: But wait! There's more! We also got treated to some utterly delectable Divine Treasures courtesy of someone's awesome boyfriend. These chocolates come from a vegan-owned company in Connecticut, where they make a huge array (caramels! peanut butter! toffees! oh my!) of artisan goodies. Feel free to begin drooling now:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sandwich Week: Portobello Perfection

The Chef: Lisa

The Menu: Public Notice: In case you aren't already, please sit down before reading the description of this meal. Seriously. Okay, to start with the big guns, Lisa marinated portobello mushrooms in a mixture of almonds, olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and other spices and baked them, which resulted in juicy, firm sandwich fillers. Then, she made an aioli of cashews, tomato, and cumin that perfectly complemented the mushroomy loveliness (which is that good-looking dollop on the left-hand side of the plate). Topped with fresh tomato slices and spinach and set atop crunchy rosemary rolls, these were unbelievably delicious little sandwich packages. Oh, right, and there was a salad with a light lemony dressing and shredded zucchini.

The Goods: We may never eat anything that isn't served between two pieces of bread again. This week we've been talking about childhood favorites since sandwiches seem to have the power to transport us all back to 5th grade, sitting around big middle-school lunchroom tables and trading for the best ingredients. So, what were your favorites as kids?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sandwich Week: Messy Muffaletta

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Muffaletta. The New Orleans original usually comes stuffed with meaty and cheesy weirdness, but today's veganized version was a savory treat. Olive spread made from black and green olives, roasted red bell peppers, and garlic is the main flavor in this handful of a sandwich. Layered atop the olivey goodness we enjoyed faux salami, mozzarella-style Teese, roasted red and yellow bell peppers, and then another dollop of olive love. Also, we munched on herbed croutons in a spring mix salad with roasted zucchini strips. This took nearly as long to describe as it did to eat!

The Goods: The trick to muffaletta is to get a good, sturdy round of sourdough bread (it could be French bread, but since we're in San Francisco, sourdough it is), cut open the top, and hollow out the insides. Pack the ingredients into the bread all the way to the top so that the whole sandwich is one, solid piece, which will make slicing it into sections easier. (You can see that Elizabeth didn't quite stuff today's full enough, as the top sunk in a bit. More practice!) This is the perfect picnic sandwich, since it gets tastier and tastier as it sits all assembled and the oils from the olives get into the bread.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sandwich Week: Elena Ruth

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: Straight from Cuba, today we had traditional Elena Ruth sandwiches. In case you haven't been to the island recently, an Elena Ruth is composed of faux turkey, vegan cream cheese, and strawberry jam. Okay, to be totally traditional this would have been served on fresh-baked Cuban bread, but we had to make do with what Trader Joe's had to offer. In addition to the awesome kick off to our second-ever theme week's main course, we enjoyed a simple spring-mix salad, shoestring fries, and soy strawberry shakes. Yes, Jenny spoils us.

The Goods: In addition to getting sandwich week off to an auspicious start, we have a little announcement. Today marks the 100th post on Café VegNews! Remember all the way back to last October's Inaugural Post? And who could forget the Pre-Thanksgiving Potluck? There have been too many fond memories to link to all of them (in fact, you could just go back and read all the entries—there's not a stinker in the bunch!), but we hope you've enjoyed reading our daily posts as much as we've enjoyed eating the amazing lunches.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Indian Summer

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: An amazing mixture of sautéed vegetables including zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, potatoes, and swiss chard in Jenny's signature blend of Indian-inspired spices which our chef served over basmati rice. Holy yum, Batman. Oh, and that little salad on the side there? Yes, it's a super-simple avocado and tomato salad, one of our all-time favorites here at the VNHQ.

The Goods: We may only officially be 2.48 days into spring this year, but it already feels like summer. We ate al fresco in the gorgeous sunshine today, and, really, is there any better way to enjoy a scrumptious lunch with friendly co-workers? No.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Splendid Stir Fry

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: A completely perfect stir fry featuring fresh broccoli, zucchini, red bell pepper, eggplant, and peanut-flavored tofu from Sunergia Soyfoods' line, which Colleen baked to crispy perfection. She also managed to make a sauce out of magic, which was, aptly, totally delicious. We don't even really want to know what was in it, since to demystify this dish would be to do it a disservice. Served with perfectly cooked basmati rice and hot bowls of miso soup, this Asian-cuisine-inspired meal filled us with joy. Okay, literally, it filled us with tasty food, but isn't that the same as joy?

The Goods: Happy Spring! We are all pretty stinking thrilled that the sunshine has finally regained some of its warmth. To celebrate the official end of winter, we indulged in some Blackwell's Organic Gelato. That's right, vegan gelato. Yum!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Les Doigts Du Tofu

The Chef: Lisa

The Menu: Super-garlicky mashed potatoes with fresh parsley, Lisa's signature breaded tofu fingers, and a salad of romaine lettuce, shredded zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, and knock-your-socks-off dressing. The parsley gave the potatoes a superb lemony flavor and the fingers were just perfectly crunchy. Sound good? Well, it was. There was not so much as a molecule left over when we were through with lunch today, and that's just how we like lunch here at the VNHQ. No, there wasn't anything particularly French about the meal, but the chance to say "tofu fingers" in another language is not one that should be missed.

The Goods: Today, the goods are two part. One: Did you notice the white plate? We recently received a comment suggesting that the blue plates we normally use weren't doing our delicious food justice, and that we might switch to a white serving dish. Always eager to improve, we made the change. So, what's the verdict? Do you like the white plate? Did you love the blue? Could you care less so long as the plates are full of delicious vegan food?

Two: We had the pleasure of dining with Lori Patotzka, who has been our Calendar Editor and a long-time friend and supporter of VegNews. She's moving on to other projects, and it was a treat to get to see her for lunch and wish her well in person. Here's a bittersweet photo of Lori and the VN team during today's blustery lunch hour:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Serious Salad

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Salad. Yep, sometimes, we vegans love ourselves some big, serious salad. Especially after a weekend at Expo West (more to come on Press Pass!), we all really needed a huge, healthy salad to help clean out our systems from the hundreds of pounds of samples we consumed. Today Elizabeth tossed some spring mix greens, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, sunflower seeds, and shredded carrot and zucchini together with a pinot grigio vinaigrette. Sound fancy? It took about ten minutes to throw together. For something a teeny bit substantial, we also enjoyed fresh multigrain bread spread with some Galaxy Nutritional Foods Wholesome Valley Hummus. The roasted red pepper and classic flavors were favorites here at the VNHQ.

The Goods: Yes, as you've probably already noticed, we didn't update the blog yesterday. The majority of our team was out of the office, since we'd worked all weekend at one of the world's largest trade shows, and those that did manage to bring themselves in weren't in an eating mood. Now we're back on track and will get you updated on all the goings on from the weekend soon!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chili and Corn Bread

The Chef: Molly

The Menu: It was typically sunny and blustery outside the VegNews offices today, and the chill from the breeze made the idea of warm corn bread oh so appealing. While the scrumptious loaf, made with a spoonful of corn salsa for spice, was browning in the oven, Molly mixed up an easy pot of white bean chili thanks to the all-natural soup mix by Frontier Soups. In addition to the mix, Molly threw in some artichoke hearts, perfectly chewy mushrooms (from a can shh!), and chunks of homemade tofu bacon made by VegNews’ own Frankie McGee, our perennial supplier of all things delicious and made with love.

The Goods: This sweet and spicy cornbread was a success despite the initial conundrum of what to use for an egg-replacement. After a mini panic attack and rummaging through the shelves, a solution was reached: 1/2 banana mashed in with 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Voila! Perfectly tender and sweet corn bread with spicy corn niblets from the salsa. Also note: the edible flowers on top of the corn bread were picked fresh from Frankie’s garden this morning; the red flower is Pineapple Sage and the blue variety is Borage.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Crazy Coconut Concoction

The Chef: Molly

The Menu: A mixed soup/curry hybrid took shape at lunch today. A bevy of veggies, including carrots, broccoli, green peas, fried tofu, and shitake mushrooms simmered together in a stock of coconut milk. Molly was very liberal in her use of the VNHQ’s vibrant spice rack, employing a variety of Thai-style spices to make this sweet and savory soup sing. Mixing in spoonfuls of rice seemed to be the answer in distinguishing soup from curry. A homemade lemony salad dressing breathed new life into the leftover salad from yesterday.

The Goods: As mentioned, today the rest of the office flew down to Anaheim and embarked on a weekend full of delicious tests and sampling of vegan products galore! Stay tuned, as the fruits of their labors at Expo West will be available for everyone to read about in the VegNews’ Best in Show awards.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Miso Soup and Mashed Potatoes

The Chef: Molly

The Menu: A light, lovely miso soup with cubed tofu and fresh spinach warmed us up from the inside out today. Alongside we devoured a mash of russet and sweet potatoes flecked with fresh parsley, and a filling salad with mini-tomatoes and coconut-baked croutons. It was quite the feast!

The Goods: This will be the last lunch for most of us in the office this week as tomorrow we head down to Anaheim to attend Expo West 2008, this year's installment of one of the largest annual trade shows for the natural, organic products industry. Molly, in addition to being today's chef, will get to add a couple more tags to her cooking roster since she'll be in charge of holding down the fort and keeping Café VegNews up to date while the majority of our team heads south.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brunch! For Lunch!

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Oh, that's right it's brunch. Well, okay, technically it might be sort of a breakfast-brunch hybrid since all the menu items today definitely fall in the brunch category, but without the requisite slice of canteloupe it may not entirely count. That said, we enjoyed a bright tofu scramble with broccoli, red bell pepper, and black beans, oven-roasted potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, and Parma, and some warm, toasted multigrain bread.

The Goods: It's no secret: we love us some brunch. Tofu scramble is such a tried-and-true go-to for when you're low on creativity but still want something warm and filling. Not low on creativity were the fantastic answers that were sent in during our second blog giveaway. A huge thanks to all who sent in their theme ideas, it's nice to know our readers are just as creative as we assumed you would be! With so many fantastic options to choose from, it was difficult to pick just one theme.

The Winner: The kettle corn must go to someone. So, a hearty congratulations to Inastasi519 who suggested sandwich week! We'll be busting out our most ingenious subs, hoagies, po' boys, and more the last week of March (we want a little time to prepare!). Inastasi519, please email us with your name and address so we can send out your winnings!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Alfredo Alleluia

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: Today's dish was a mouthwatering revelation, to say the least. Armed with asparagus and sweet potato fixings, Jenny turned out a supreme Alfredo sauce made from white vegan cheese and her magic touch. Toss this sauce with hearty brown rice pasta, a side salad of mixed greens with homemade balsamic dressing, and you can kiss your case of the Mondays’ goodbye!

The Goods: Jenny's rendition of the seemingly hard-to-veganize cheese Alfredo sauce had a dead-on resemblance in taste and texture to the real thing. Put your worries to rest, former cheese lovers, there is life after vegan if you’re willing to try your turn watching it melt, experiment with complementary flavors, and always check faux-cheese labels for pesky additives such as casein. Adding soymilk and Earth Balance are just a few hints to help you replicate your favorite cheese sauces from the days of yore.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Yellow Bellies

The Chef: Joe

The Menu: Friday’s Joe du Jour menu marked his surprise return to the kitchen. The three members on the lunch squad today got our plates piled high with green madness! Simple white rice hit the spot as always, mixed in with a colorful yellow curry that provided a nice hint of coconut amidst a plethora of sautéed broccoli, bok choy, and bell peppers. An emerald spinach salad filled the rest of our plates and the crunchy celery, and sprinkles of dried seaweed added another element of satisfaction to this green team.

The Goods: Do you ever feel like eating a giant vat of vegetables? Well, after trying to eat our way through a tree-trunk sized piece of fake cheese during the past couple of lunches, it felt really good today just veggin' out. Coconut oil is a great option for vegetable-curry dishes if you want that flavor and richness without the heaviness of using a whole can of coconut milk. Ever need a place to put that nori you bought intending to make tons of sushi but just ended up letting it sit neglected on your shelf? Just a sprinkling of this tasty sea-vegetable on your salad, rice, or stir fry can up your intake of protein and vitamin A in a cinch.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Quesadillas Verdes

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: Amazing open-faced quesadillas with sautéed collard greens, orange bell peppers, and corn tortillas made an inspired and delicious main today. "Inspired" here can also be taken to mean: "yet another creative way to use the seemingly endless supply of dairy-free cheese we have in the office." Equally edible were perfectly re-heated leftover rice and a fresh salad with sliced button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.

The Goods: Since tomorrow's the last day to get your entries in for our second-ever Café VegNews giveaway, we thought you might like a little extra encouragement to get those theme-week ideas posted. Usually we like to be a bit mysterious about the goodies that winners will receive, since it's always nice to get a bag of surprise treats in the mail. This time, however, the goods are just too good to keep to ourselves. Looky here:

Oh yes, that's a giant box of vegan kettle corn. A 16-inch box of vegan kettle corn, to be exact, which the lucky winner of our giveaway will soon be seeing on their doorstep. (Unfortunately, we can't ship beyond the US. Sorry!) Divvies sent us this delicious, sweet treat and we were thrilled that they did. Warning: this is 5 gallons of kettle corn. You will need to have water ready. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


The Chef: Ronald's Donuts

The Menu: Freakin' vegan doughnuts. Get ready to freak out. Bearclaws, jelly-filled, custard-filled, glazed, and apple-filled doughnuts are officially on the Café VegNews menu.

The Goods: Holy crap. Any day that involves a box of doughnuts shipped straight from the source in Vegas is a good day to us. Our long-time friend and treat-supplier Rey Ortega was recently in Sin City and was kind enough to think of us. Unforutnately, Ronald's doesn't yet have their own website, but the ever-trustworthy reviewers at Happy Cow have already weighed in on these amazing goodies. The fluffy, sugary indulgences are so similar to their non-vegan counterparts that Rey's suspicions were aroused. Ever the cautious vegan, he sent a sample out to a food lab in New Jersey to test for animal ingredients. That's right, he's that picky. We are thrilled to report that Ronald's got a clean bill of vegan health. Okay, not so much health—these are still doughnuts we're talking about—but they're animal-free and damn tasty. Thanks Rey!

Rice, Beans, and Love

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: Cuban comfort food. Spiced basmati rice with peas and red bell pepper, pinto beans in a savory sauce with handfuls of fresh parsley, enchiladas—made from frozen vegan taquitos, a slightly sweet homemade enchilada sauce, and, of course, more Teese—and chunks of perfectly ripe avocado filled us up today.

The Goods: Can you tell the plates are bigger today? On some days, it's fun to use the smaller plates and pile 'em high with salads, but not when Jenny cooks. For meals like this, it's key to get out the larger vessels and fill them full. Poor Ms. Jenny has been under the weather, but was feeling well enough today to get back in the kitchen. This meal, she said, would at least help her feel better psychologically, if not physically as well. Love is always the most important ingredient! For more on the subject, check out VN Publisher Joseph Connelly's "Whole Lotta Love" in our current issue.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Packed Pizza

The Chef: Lisa

The Menu: Pizza with everything! Marinated mushrooms, faux sausage, thinly sliced eggplant, capers, a garlicky sauce, and more of that lovely Teese topped today's herbed pizza dough. Alongside we had a huge salad chock full of buttery lettuce, bell peppers, tomatoes, and Lisa's signature balsamic vinaigrette with dijon mustard and garlic.

The Goods: We also got a little extra treat today in the form of cake. If there's a better form for treats to come in than cake, we're pretty sure that we don't want to know about it. Sweetie Cakes Co. sent us some of their cake mixes for testing, and let's just say that we were thrilled to test them! Look for a full review in the May+June issue of VegNews, and, until then, enjoy this little preview of their Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake (with icing that Elizabeth just happened to have on hand...):
Interested in seeing more pictures of awesome food? Head on over to our new blog, Press Pass, and check out eats from around the world!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Super-Easy Soup

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Easy-as-can-be roasted carrot soup was the main of our meal. Elizabeth was short on time today, so she let the oven do all the work. After chopping two bunches of carrots and a few Yukon Gold potatoes, tossing them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and curry powder, she let them sit in the oven at 450 degrees while she went about her work. After about 45 minutes, two cups of water, and a little visit from the immersion blender, voila! Soup! A fresh chopped salad with romaine lettuce, red bell pepper, tomatoes, avocado, and cucumber with a homemade mustard vinaigrette and slices of sourdough pugliese finished off the plates.

The Goods: Today it's get-out-your-bikini-and-hit-the-beach hot here in SF. Since we get about six days like this a year, it might seem a tad out of place to be serving soup during such sweltering weather. Thankfully, a light soup like today's curried carrot can be served just above room temp and won't leave you feeling like you've just consumed a huge, heavy serving. Any other not-too-hot (temperature-wise, that is) soup ideas? Want to see us try to come up with a week of them? Don't forget to cast your vote for the next Café VegNews giveaway!