07 April 2014

Gluten Free Veggie Burger

07 April 2014 0
As always, I was trying to plan ahead and think of a meal that I could easily travel with for a family affair. Food allergies really do add to pretty much anything you want to do in life and some days I am just plain over it! However, I sucked it up and tried to create something that I could take for a family dinner celebrating my cousin's confirmation.

Thoughts that ran through my mind - the weather was getting nicer and I was sort of craving summer-like food. My aunt would likely make something on the grill to take advantage of the extra "kitchen space" and the nicer weather. I needed something easy to make and not too time consuming as well as something that would travel well.

I decided to try and make my first ever veggie burger without GRAINS!I steamed some cauliflower and sweet potatoes. While waiting for those I grated some carrots, ginger, celery, and garlic. I added some seasonings - pretty much whatever I could find within the house (cumin, pepper, fennel, curry, cinnamon, red pepper, etc.). I mixed in some honey and called it a day. I mashed in the steamed cauliflower and sweet potato. Letting the mixture cool before trying to make patties and then dividing the patties into my to-go ware. fingers are crossed that these burgers work out.

I packed some greens, cilantro, kimchii, hot sauce, mustard, and nori sheets for the burgers to be complete.

The smell was making me a little nervous but I do love nori and my kimchii so I figured they would save me even if the burger wasn't a winner.
I took out a sheet of nori, carefully placed the veggie burger on and then piled up the toppings! The rolling of the wrap was the difficult part, but I made it work.

The taste was much better than the smell and the texture held up just fine! I was actually really grateful to have some of these leftover for the week's lunches! God knows how much I hate getting up an extra 20-30 minutes a day just to make my breakfast and lunch to go!!





01 April 2014

Cozy Thai, State College PA Offers Gluten Free and Vegan Options

01 April 2014 0
This past weekend,  Nick (the boyfriend) and I headed to the middle of the state. While the weather is starting to get a bit more spring-like here in Philadelphia, we dared to head to the cold winter-like, State College, PA.

Good thing we love my little sister - or this trip would have never been worth it! That night, during our 4 hour trek to State College, we could feel the winter weather creeping back in - getting colder and colder every mile we drove.

I was exhausted and ready for bed by the time we got in. I crashed after we made plans to wake up early the next morning and head down town for some exploring.

We started our journey at the Berkey Creamery. I opted to not cheat on the vegan diet - but it did look like the creamery was well aware of a gluten allergy and that they would do their best to accommodate. I just did not find it worth the risk, especially this early on in the trip.

After leaving the creamery, we just walked around downtown - jetting into random stores here and there. Partially to get warm and then partially to just goof off and have fun sightseeing.

All this walking in the wind and rain, worked up an appetite. I began to crave some thick, creamy, curry. Thanks to some great research on my part, I found Cozy Thai Bistro. I found that Cozy Thai was suppose to be able to accommodate gluten free guests rather easily and was top-rated for some of the best, most authentic, Thai in State College, PA.

We arrived at Cozy Thai, just as they were opening. I informed the hostess that I was gluten free and she informed me, no need for a separate menu - as most of the dishes could be modified to be gluten free.

I searched through the menu and after a debate between a noodle dish and curry, I went with the Green Curry and I substituted white rice for some additional steamed vegetables.

We were initially served a house salad with a Thai peanut dressing.

The salad was alright. Nothing special. The salad was clearly a bagged mixed salad and was lacking freshness. The dressing was a bit on the sweet side and the table unanimously did not love it, but we did not hate it either.

The serving was also a bit on the midget size, but maybe that was for the best since we were not loving it.



I selected the Green Curry in hopes for a thick spicy bowl of heaven.

I suppose I should have paid more attention to the fact that this curry dish was made with a light coconut milk - making it a little more watery.

The spiciness was, well, lacking. The dish was bland and not substantial. It was alright, but again, not what I was craving. It left me unsatisfied. Not to mention, my side dish of steamed vegetables was on the skinny-side and almost stone-cold.

In my mind, all I could think was - all these great reviews, did I get the wrong dish or does the food in State College really rate this low on the scale?

Nick of course went with the Pad Thai. Everywhere we go, Nick orders his Pad Thai, comparing them as we go along!

By the looks of the dish, I could already tell you this was not going to be one of Nick's favorite Pad Thai dishes. It was lacking the water chestnuts and it was skim on the crushed peanuts. The look of the dish just did not scream PAD THAI!

Obviously, since I did not eat the dish, I can't critique it, but Nick did say the dish was good. This was not one of his favorite Pad Thai dishes, but he would eat it again and we do appreciate Cozy Thai offering so many gluten free options.


The little sister decided to go with a lunch special.

Cory substituted the white rice for brown rice.

She decided to be a bit adventurous for herself and order the Red Curry. She made note of the pineapple adding a needed acidity to it!

The second part of her lunch special was the Thai-Style Grilled Chicken with a sweet & sour dipping sauce.  Cory did not love the dipping sauce (it contained cilantro) but she did seem to enjoy the remainder of her lunch special.

Over all, we appreciate that Cozy Thai Bistro is able to accommodate those of us that are gluten free and vegan. Perhaps next time I will select a noodle dish for a more satisfying and filling dish...



18 March 2014

Crocodile Catering Accommodating for Gluten Free Vegan

18 March 2014 0
I am a woman. I am a career woman. I am a goal-driven career woman. I want to continue to grow and work my way to the top. I truly believe that with a strong dedication, plenty of hard work, and a good support system, that this goal will one day become reality.

In the meantime, I am networking and learning as much as I possibly can. That's right ladies, I said networking - which should be an ongoing duty in our daily careers. Networking is not only good for ourselves, but for the organization as a whole. Assuming you are representing your company in a professional manner, it is additional publicity for the organization. Not to mention, the connections you make typically become connections available to your organization. Recently, my organization's women's business resource group decided to join the Global Women's Leadership Forum. 

For me, this is so meaningful! The company has chosen to promote women in the workforce and supports additional, outside, resources to Empower, Engage, and Educate women. 

I have taken a leadership role in our membership / engagement with the Global Women's Leadership Forum. Part of my duties included providing an on-site lunch for the team. Let's be real, I have no idea what "normal" people eat these days. I typically look at my coworkers lunches and want to be sick.
It's greasy.
It's fried. 
It's fat-lathered.

It's nothing that I have interest in. With that being said, having to order for a group of ten, one vegan, and one gluten free vegan (myself), where was I going to order a meal that would deliver and was a reasonable price?

I called around, I actually called around to way too many places and wasted a good bit of my time. Either the catering company was too expensive or they could not accommodate all of our food preferences / allergies. 

I came to my last resort, Crocodile Catering. Our company actually uses Crocodile Catering often, but in review of their rather heavy gluten-filled menu items, I was wearying of their abilities to accommodate. At this point, I figured I would just pack my own lunch and bring it to the meeting, at least the rest of the group would have nice lunch. 

I called Crocodile Catering and legit said, "I used to be great at this.... Actually it was my job, but a few years out and having changed my eating habits, I am at a loss and am unsure what to order and how much". The Crocodile representative, with an almost annoying passion (was not yet sure if it was a true passion or a memorized line) said, "Great! We here at Crocodile Catering are here for you . We will help you plan for the perfect event."

I went into my speech of what time the event was and what is for....blah blah blah. The Crocodile representative started with selections for the food allergies. I was up first, we decided on a salad with fresh vegetables and a house-made Pico De Gallo. Up next was the vegan. Easy fix, we went with the vegan wrap. Now, the hard job, what to get for a long lunch meeting for a group of 10 women? Why not mix both a cold and a warm offering?

Perfect. A sandwich tray, a healthy salad, beverages, chips for those that want the munchies, and the soup of the dail - which was a vegan and gluten free tomato basil soup!!! 

The Crocodile informed me that ingredients were fresh, as local as could be, and seasonal. Most menu items are made in-house, which makes it easier for them to accommodate food allergies and food preferences. The representative I was speaking with, assured me that she would personally make sure my dish would not be cross-contaminated and that it would be a satisfying meal. We left our conversation at that and I crossed my fingers for a successful meeting.

The meeting was in progress as the Crocodile Catering team  professionally setup for our lunch. Once everything was all said and done, we walked over to our lunch station and I could see an adorable bag all bundled up with my name on it and the vegan wrap clearly labeled and to the side. I grabbed a spoonful of soup before anyone else did, on the chance it might become cross-contaminated.

Not really sure what to expect, I opened my bundle. I had my own hand sanitizing wipe, sealed silverware, an apple, a bag of chips, a small fruit salad (aka dessert) and my main salad with the Pico De Gallo. 

First I tried the tomato basil soup. Ah! This couldn't have been on a better day! As I am fighting a nasty sinus infection, so it was soothing to my throat. The taste was full of flavor and clearly freshly made.

I am always amazed at what people can do with fresh vegetables. The plating, for a picnic-style entree was adorable and again, ingredients were clearly fresh and flavorful! The remainder of the group was a bit jealous of my dish. 

The entire group was left satisfied with the food offerings.

Thanks Crocodile! Now I know, moving forward, I too can participate in business lunches! I also know that you really do love your job at Crocodile Catering and that you really can take care of all the hard parts for me!



17 March 2014

Making Fermented Vegetables Just Got Easier

17 March 2014 0
I typically ferment my vegetables using miso. However, I ran out and I did not have time to get some more before wanting to make more fermented cabbage. You know the problem, you really want to get this task off of your to-do list but you really do not want to have to run to the store for this single item. I personally, run into the store for a single item, and more often then not come back with a pile of crap I did not need. 
In avoidance of the grocery store today, I found one last jar of homemade kimchi in the back of the fridge. I prepared my vegetables as I normally would - cutting them into small pieces and then I dumped all the remaining liquid from the current kimchi into my blender. I added some additional seasonings and water. 

That was it! I dumped that mixture over the vegetables. Let the mixture sit for a good 30 minutes and then stuffed them into their jars, capping them with a couple outer leaves from the cabbage. In 5 days we will see how well or not so well this idea of mine, or some may call, laziness, turns out. 

 

14 March 2014

Trying to Heal Through Soup

14 March 2014 0
I have come a long way since my food allergies where diagnosed - but I still struggle with digestion. In an effort to begin to heal, I have decided to focus on a good bit of smoothies and soups.

I get tired of the same-old-same old so I figured I would try and use my basic stock and add whatever I had in the fridge.

Recipe is as follows:
-Fresh grated ginger
-Fresh chopped garlic
-Leeks
-Water
-Ground Pepper
-Lemon Thyme
-Rosemary
-Brussel Sprouts

I put everything into one pot and let it come to a boil. Once it boiled I reduced the heat to low and let it simmer.

13 March 2014

Taproom on 19th Gluten Free & Vegan Availability

13 March 2014 0
Having read an article that the Taproom on 19th would be celebrating every Monday in March with half-off their Taproom Burger - I figured I owed my partner-in-crime from the Vedge outing, a good manly-meal.



I quickly did an internet search for the Taproom on 19th and their burgers looked amazing! The real question, can they accommodate someone that is gluten free and vegan? I saw a couple of vegan options on the menu, but could that be adapted to also meet my gluten free needs?

While Taproom on 19th does not have an actual website, they do have a pretty up to date Facebook page, so I figured, heck, why not try and send a quick FB message?! One of the owners was very quick to respond and was eager to inform me they most definitely could accommodate my needs and that they would be more than willing to create an off-menu item if given an advance 24-hour notice.

It being a burger place, I was a bit skeptical but did request they make a large plate of steamed veggies - thinking how much more safe can I get? Steaming vegetables would reduce any risk of cross-contamination.

When we arrived late on a Monday evening, the owner was there. The bartender was aware that I was coming in and that I had a number of food allergies and that they were to make an off-menu veggie platter for me. My guest quickly dove into the menu and selected the cheese curds and the Taproom burger.

The staff was efficient in taking our order and rather quickly returned with the ordered appetizer.

Having never tried cheese curds before, my guest went through these pretty fast! The sauce was the perfect consistency and full of flavor.

This is something to be ordered again! Crispy outside, cheesy inside!




Not too much longer and our main dishes were served.

The burger was ordered with bacon, America cheese, and an egg.

The burger had that nice grilled char on the outside, but was still a medium-rare inside. Again, one of my biggest pet peeves is an overcooked piece of meat. When eating out, a number of establishments choose to purposefully overcook meat, just to weigh on the cautionary side of things. Taproom on 19th - when you order medium rare, it is pretty darn close to medium rare!

My guest typically likes food to be "simple" (few ingredients and not too many flavors all in one dish). However, with this dish, he loved the the complex flavors and various textures between the sauce, the runny egg, and the crunchy bacon.

My steamed vegetables came out looking very enticing! Vegetables were cooked to perfection - still holding their crunch yet warmed all the way through!

Thank you Taproom for going out of your way to create a safe gluten free and vegan option for me.

I must say, now that I have been to the establishment, I can see that you are well educated on food allergies and can accommodate more than just the steamed vegetables. I am looking forward to returning to try the roasted brussel sprout salad!

I have already begun to encourage everyone I know to visit Taproom on 19th. If you can, get there on a Monday in March to take advantage of their half-off burger deal! Or, better yet, their brunch menu looks very appealing!





11 March 2014

Vedge, Philadelphia, PA does Gluten Free

11 March 2014 0

Since my move here to the Philadelphia area, about three years ago, I have literally been dying to try Vedge and what it offers to its gluten free patrons. The problem was finding someone to go with me. My family and friends either heard the word "vegan", "city" or maybe it was the expense, but either way, no one wanted to explore this so-called "gem" with me.

There is really no need to even bother going through the number of awards Vedge has earned. Therefore, skipping over all the halla-bullo, I finally found a partner in crime to at least entertain the menu for the night. 

Upon arrival, the hostess was pre-educated about my gluten allergy and kindly asked if both guests wanted to refrain from gluten or just myself. I was actually caught off-guard, I had never had anyone even consider that I might not be the only one choosing to be gluten free. As we were escorted to our table, the interior of the restaurant appeared to expand right before our eyes. What a gorgeous establishment- hardwood floors, high ceilings, and massive windows! 

We were seated in the corner, which I actually preferred - right next to the full sized fireplace. What a lovely evening this was shaping up to be. 

I asked the waitress for her recommendations on dishes and pretty much closed my eyes and went in blinded. We started with the smoked carrots. 

First of, presentation is impeccable! I almost did not recognize the carrots. I actually initially thought they were beef jerky, thinking to myself, "wait, is this not a vegan restaurant?" The carrots were situated right on top of a white bean purée mixed with sauerkraut.

Delicious! The carrots were cooked to perfection and the white bean purée was creamy and luscious! I would say this was unanimously the favorite dish of the evening. 

Next, the chef sent out a roasted Brussel Sprout and spicy mustard dish.

Intense! The smoked sprouts - again cooked to perfection and the mustard sauce was pungent! 


Moving to our first warm dish of the evening...the eggplant braciole with salsa verde. 


Eggplant being on of my favorite foods, I was a tad disappointed in the dish, it was lacking real flavor. To me, the dish was bland and a bit on the mushy side. 

The next dish was ordered only because of the number of online reviews and recommendations stating the best dish of the entire menu would have to be the fingerling potatoes.

These little potatoes turned out to be my guest's (a non vegan) favorite dish of the evening.  I personally, typically prefer sweet potatoes over the basic potato, but I must say these guys were crispy and delicious. I won't lie - I went back for seconds.

One of the last dishes we tried was really the experimental dish of the night. I was trying hearts of the palm for, what memory serves me, to be the first time. 

The hearts of palm was resting on top of a saffron sunchoke purée. This dish was not a fan favorite. The taste I got from the dish was more like a burnt taste than a satisfying taste. 


Onto the salt-roasted golden beets. This dish tasted nothing like it's component ingredients,  but rather, it reminded me of my mother's tuna salad. I liked this dish, but I did not love it. 

 

The last dish of the evening was the most disappointing. The dirt list for the evening included a spicy sweet potatoes (as mentioned above, my favorite). I was expecting a spicy dish, especially since the staff warned us it would have a kick to it and instead, I found the sweet potatoes to be a bit on the sweeter side of things.


By the end of theses dishes, I was feeling dissatisfied and opted out of experimenting with the dessert menu. 


Will I return to Vedge? Perhaps, because I'm just not sure how I was left so unsatisfied but everyone else raves about this place. Personally, I think I could have made it better, and in fact have made better dishes that are less costly in my own kitchen. Sorry Vedge, you have not lived up to my expectations. My heart has not been won over and I will not be adding Vedge to one of my go-to-places. 

03 March 2014

Gluten Free & Vegan at Pure Fare, Philadelphia

03 March 2014 0
By now, all of my readers should be well aware that I have a long standing list of places to visit within Philadelphia and even beyond (NYC, New England, California, etc). Pure Fare was one of those locations that has been on my to do list, but I needed A. a reason to be in that area. B. Someone to go with me and C. To be able to find parking.

This past weekend, I found all three criteria. As we entered into the building, I was a bit caught off guard, as I thought this would be more of a sit down restaurant that would allow for me to order what I wanted and not rely on what was left - as we did arrive for a late lunch. Once I got past that quick transition, I realized, this had some great potential - It's late, so I am starving and they offer 50% off anything that is a day old. Which, let's be honest here, does not bother me in the least - I actually prefer to save 50% rather than have the today's entrees.

I was still in shock that absolutely everything within Pure Fare is gluten free - this includes oatmeal, granola, the sandwiches....oh my - we gf-ers are getting spoiled - but wait, taste and texture matter, so how did Pure Fare rate?

Here is what the group selected:

The Roasted Turkey & Honey Mustard.
- This sandwich was roasted turkey, sharp cheddar, tomato, lettuce, red onion, honey mustard and gluten free bread (quiona if I remember correctly).

While I try not to eat dairy or meat, I did cave-in and take a taste-test. It was definitely fresh, the bread was not dry as I had anticipated. Also, the mustard had a nice spice to it! The turkey was a litle dry for me, but this is probably one reason why I don't eat meat so much anymore. All in all, the eater of the sandwich loved it and said he would return. P.S he is not a gf-er!

The Granola Parfait. After having already sneaked in a taste-test for the turkey sandwich, I decided not to taste-test another non-vegan product. The feedback from the eater, was YUM! It looks delicious and fresh - even though this was one of our 50% off products :)







The Goat Brie + Fig Sandwich
This sandwich was originally stored cold, but our guest requested the staff heat it for her. The staff kindly agreed and put the sandwich on the panini press. I will admit, the wait time from when the request was put in and when the sandwich came out, was a bit longer than anticipated, but it wasn't too bad.

The eater - LOVED this sandwich- again another non-gf-er.



The Zucchini 'Noodle' Salad
This salad is very similar to something I would make at home for myself - so it was nice to eat something of my own regimen, but not have to prepare it. You know, "It is always better when someone else makes it" - well, even though everyone always informs me this is true - it is rare that I can agree!

The zucchini noodles were fresh, the cherry tomatoes where a bit on the skimpy side if you ask me (can you see them in there?). The miso dressing was refreshing. I just wish they would have left out the edamame (trying to cut back on soy products) and the oil in the miso dressing. Other than that, this was a nice healthy lunch for me!

Actually, to be honest, this was one of the first times in a very long time that I was able to eat out and not feel sick or disgusting.


The last thing we tried was the Green Detoxifier
This drink included: Cucumber, Kale, Apple and Juice of One Lemon.

It was definitely refreshing and detoxifying, but the $7.00 price was a bit steep, even for the city!

All in all, I loved this experience and I can't wait to return again! Hopeful for more VEGAN options :)

Also, just a quick plug in, this now adds their sister site, Agno Grill, to my to-do list.

27 February 2014

Homemade Vegan and Gluten Free Sirracha Sauce

27 February 2014 0
I've really been enjoying experimenting and making my own foods and condiments. Sometimes my experiments are a success and other times, they turn out to be drastic, horrible, awful fails. Either way, it is a learning experience for myself and only adds to my knowledge bank.

The other big positive, when I make my own food and condiments, I know EXACTLY what is in my food and how much of each ingredient was used.

Since I have been eating hot sauces like it's my job, I decided to look up a couple different recipes and see how I could make my own successful batch of Sirracha sauce. I didn't love many of the recipes I found. Either they had ingredients that I would rather not use or they seemed more complicated than I had time for. Either way, I decided I educated myself enough and I would just create my own recipe on a whim.

I started with some red jalapeno peppers, garlic, and apple cider vinegar.

I placed all the ingredients into a mason jar, gave it a nice shake, and let it set for a good 24 hours.

The next day, I took my jar of goodies and dumped it into a pot. I brought the pot to a boil, let it simmer a bit longer -- honestly, I was just enjoying the smell - which was rather strong and provided hopes to me that this sauce actually might be a win!

Once the pot had enough time to simmer, I let it cool for about a good 30-45 minutes. Then, because I was overly-anxious, I dumped all the ingredients into a blender. I added some red chili powder and tumeric and then mixed it all up!

The final product came out thicker than the recipes I had reviewed. So win for me, because I do not like running sauces. Those of you that do, you can simply add in some more apple cider vinegar or water to the mixture to thin it out.

The color was fabulous! When I first started to blend, I got a bit nervous that I had added too much tumeric and that I would be left with an unappealing yellowish-brownish colored sauce.

Now, for the most important aspect, the taste. The taste was good. At first, I didn't think it was as hott has I would have liked it, but I didn't to just give it a moment, because the heat factor was just a bit delayed!

I can't wait to make this again and maybe even add some ginger!



18 February 2014

Experimenting with Kimchi

18 February 2014 0
I'm addicted to this stuff, but I only purchase it as a "present" to myself because I eat an entire jar in one sitting - so the price adds up!

I was craving some spicy fermented cabbage and decided to just experiment with the ingredients that I already had at home.

I had the cabbage. I had some ginger. I had some spicy peppers. I had some red pepper powder. Garlic is always kept in bulk at my place. I had some leftover lemon grass and Kombu seaweed from last week's soup recipe.

Now, for a starter.... what did I already have on hand that I could quickly put together a kimchi?! Ah - I still had some brown miso!

Without any measurements I went for it. I put the cabbage and ginger through the food processor and then blended filtered water and a large overflowing tablespoon of the miso.

I mixed everything together - packed it tightly within the jar and let it set for 5 days.

I was holding myself back from opening it any too early - but I was anxious.

While I learned that I would like to add some additional vegetables, less water and more spice - for my first go at it - I LOVED this kimchi and it was much much cheaper to make on my own!


11 February 2014

Kombu Soup - Gluten Free and Vegan

11 February 2014 0
Within the last year, I have begun to explorer the many benefits to adding seaweed to my diet. I've learned a number of benefits to seaweed including:

1.  Seaweed is very high in iodine, which most of us lack in our typical diets. Iodine is crucial for maintaining a healthy thyroid. 
2.  Seaweed is said to help prevent breast cancer
3.  Seaweed contains a number of antioxidants and some even consider it an anti-inflammatory. 
4.  Seaweed is one of the richest plant sources calcium. 
5.  Seaweed is high in protein. 

All these fabulous health benefits encouraged me to explorer beyond the dulse seaweed that I was crinkling up on my salads. I marched into Whole Foods and I found this, rather off-putting brownish cardboard-like slab, kombu seaweed. I had no idea what I was going to do with it...but I figured I would get creative. 

I did a little research and it looked like no matter what I wanted to make, it was imperative to soda the kombu beforehand. I decided to put a total of 6 cups of water into a pan. I added a couple sheets of the kombu and a bit of grated ginger and garlic. Later, as the seaweed begin to soften, I toke the sheets out and cut them into thin noodle-like pieces. I placed the seaweed back into the pan and added some lemongrass, scallians, pepper, and cabbage. 

This soup is amazing, it is simple, yet bursting with flavor.


29 January 2014

iCreate Cafe, Pottstown, PA

29 January 2014 0
iCreate Cafe is a unique establishment - it really provides a lifestyle to their customers rather than just a product.

The Cafe has a very warm and welcoming attitude. It allows, no, it encourages, it's customers to come and play a part in this space. I would even o as far as to say, iCreate has the potential to provide that home-away-from home for it's customers. Literally, when I initially walked in, it looked more like a studio or someone's living room - with a comforting couch to the left of the fireplace and side tables directly under the front windows.

Ashraf, the owner, the chef, the marketing manager, and so much more - bleeds passion for this space. You can see it in his actions and words that Ashraf lives, eats and breathes this vegan lifestyle and encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing. You can attend iCreate for computer training, cooking classes, documentary movie nights, and so on - check out their facebook page for event updates.



Once you decide on the meal of choice, you can watch Ashraf create the dish right in front of you. All the ingredients are fresh - from the hand crushed garlic for the tahini sauce to freshly chopping the vegetables for the hummus and baba ghannoj. Did I mention the produce is all bought locally from Daniel's Produce and Dairy? Which Daniel's is unfortunately closed on Sundays - so I did not get the opportunity to check this place out.

It continues to be a constant struggle to find places that can accommodate my vegan and gluten free ways - iCreate Cafe certainly delivered and provided a fresh and flavor meal - one in which I devoured.

As per the recommendation from Ashraf, I went with the Sampler Meal #2. I figured a sampler was the best way to get a little bit of this and a little bit of that - giving me a real feel for Ashraf's skills and style.


I started with the sesame falafel. It was not as dry as I am used to - it held it's shape very well and the accompanies rich tahini sauce added a whole other level to it's flavor palette - which I selfishly asked for more because it was just that good. 

The baba ghannoj was creamy - not as flavorful as I had hoped, it was missing that smokey flavor, but still good enough that I finished it. 

The stuffed grapes leaves - honestly, these have to be my favorite in all of the Philadelphia area! They were tightly rolled and bursting with flavor in each and every bite! I was using the tahini sauce with these as well!

The hummus, a little runny and lacking the strong flavor - I do prefer a roasted red pepper or a roasted garlic variations - but again, this was still delicious enough that I ate it, it was just not my favorite. 

The salad was my favorite of the sampler meal. The ingredients where fresh and prepared on demand. The dressing fore this salad was simple yet very pleasing to the palette. Oddly enough, I have been on this anti-parsley kick, but I LOVED the parsley in this salad - it's really what gave the dish that "umf" factor.

I look forward to visiting iCreate more often and recruiting additional iCreate family members!



27 January 2014

A Snowy Weekend in Philadelphia

27 January 2014 0
The weekend started like this...

By 7:30am on a Saturday, myself, the sisters and the boyfriend found ourselves camped out at the Navy Yard for the first ever BHLDN bridal sample sale. In the back of my mind I'm thinking...this better be worth it, it's cold...it's way too early and I'm hungry - well actually I was ok on the food department because the bride-to-be had packed us some adorable snack bags!

As we entered into the bridal sale around 10am, it was a mad house. It was everything you thought it would be. Women stripping down (even after being asked not to), people grabbing and pulling dresses, dresses all over the floor... However, being the family that we are, we quickly devised a plan. We took over an entire garment rack - we packed all of our belongings underneath and asked the boyfriend to man-hold the dresses while the bride-to-be. We left the sale with three wedding dresses. I would say the early rise and long wait was well worth it!

After all the dress hunting, it was time to venture out into the snow storm and look for some nice warm, inexpensive and something pleasing to everyone, lunch. The boyfriend quickly suggested his new favorite, Vientiane Cafe in West Philadelphia.

Having never been there for lunch, I had no idea they offer a three-course special. We ordered a pot of ginger tea to share while we pondered our selections. I went with the Tom Yum soup, Satay (tofu), and the green tofu curry.

As always, the food was delicious, vegan, gluten free, and inexpensive. Service was on par as usual.

 


15 January 2014

Gluten Free Holiday Meals

15 January 2014 0
Every holiday is a little difficult for me, I am not only the only gluten free eater in my family, but I am also the only vegan-ish eater. This means I am on my own for holiday meals and I have limited space to make these meals as well as limited time as I am trying to help prepare the rest of the family's meal - which obviously gets the oven and stove top space way before my food would / does.

I find this a challenge that I like to take on. What can I create that is similar to a holiday meal? Can I not use the oven, stove top, or microwave?

This year I came up with a list of ingredients that I wanted to incorporate into my meal and then just started adding things to my bowl.

I spiralized some butternut squash and carrots. I mixed that with a nut butter, honey, tumeric, and chili pepper -oh and of course I added in some garlic, ginger, and lemon too. Then I simply flash steamed some vegetables in the microwave tossed in some cranberries and BOOM there you have it - a delicious and satisfying holiday meal made in literally 15 minutes or less!

13 January 2014

Thai Kuu, Authentic Thai in Philadelphia, PA

13 January 2014 0
I have really found a safe-heaven in Thai food for eating out both gluten free and vegan. With that said, when I caught wind that Thai Kuu just opened here in Philadelphia, I immediately reached out to their management to see if they would be able to accommodate a gluten free guest. 

Within no time, I had a response back. While the restaurant is still growing, there are currently one two gluten free options on Thai Kuu's menu. These items include the Pad Thai and the Panang Curry! The restaurant does hope to expand their gluten free offerings as they mature. 

I'm absolutely fine with their two gluten free options and look forward to checking out this new establishment soon!

21 December 2013

Gluten Free in NYC, the Butcher's Daughter

21 December 2013 0
On a Sunday afternoon, a group of family and I decided to head into Little Italy. Oddly enough, a vegan and gluten free gal was really looking forward to the this trip. I know, I know, you are thinking, "what could she possibly be looking forward to...it is not the pasta, it is not the sausage or the meatballs, what the heck is she talking about?"  I'm talking about a wonderful raw food restaurant just on the outskirts of Little Italy called Rawlicious. 

As we were getting closer to the city, I went to pull some last minute directions up to Rawlicious, only to find that my allltime favorite place had closed. Arg! I was really looking forward to a good meal. 

In desperation mode, I did a little gluten free, juice bar, and vegan app searches. I came up with The Butcher's Daughter. I couldn't successfully pull up their brunch menu on my iPhone, but I could see they had fresh juices and figured, if nothing else...at east I could grab a bunch of juices for lunch. 

I made my 4-5 minute walk to The Butcher's Daughter and quickly informed the staff that I needed to order something to go, as I was meeting the rest of my party at an Italian restaurant in Little Italy. The staff, energetically informed me that I would need to go next door for anything "To-Go" related. I scrambled next door and asked the waitress to help. I neede something to-go that is both vegan and gluten free. She informed me that it might be a limited option with their brunch menu. I quickly responded back, that's fine. I'm not a picky eater, I'll go with your recommendation of the kale salad with a cashew cheese sauce. While in the back of my mind, I think to myself, really? Another massaged kale salad with a cashew cheese sauce. Is that all the NYC has to offer their vegan customers? 

I picked up two juices to have later in the day, my total bill was a ridiculous 35 dollars. Are they seriouse? I realize it's the city, but this juice better be freshly made and the salad best be large and delicious! I packed up my order and headed back to Little Italy. When we arrived back at the restaurant, I placed my bag down on my chair as I took off my winter layers (coat, scarf, gloves...). When I went to sit back down, I realized that my juice was leaking.... And I was now wearing about half of the juice on my behind. Arg! If I wasn't annoyed enough that I paid 35 for this food already. 

I decided to move past the fact that I was going to smell like rotten spinach for the remainder of the day and be hopeful that I would enjoy my kale salad. 

Finally, my family's food had arrived so I could reveal my salad. First impression, plating was beautiful. 


Second impression, this was the worst tasting salad I have ever had! Literally, I was picking this salad apart which is not something I do. I find it rude and annoying when people do deconstruct their plates, but I just could not help myself. This salad was just so discussting. The fake bacon was burnt, the dressing had chunks in it, the avocado was not yet ripe.... I could go on and on about the negatives within this salad...but I have forced my mind to try and forget some things. Needless to say, I'll never be returning and I will certainly will not recommend The Butcher's Daughter to anyone. 

18 December 2013

Gluten Free in NYC, LiLi's 57

18 December 2013 0
Ever so often my sisters and I decide we need a trip to NYC. Do we have a particular agenda, not necessarily, but we know it's about darn time we have a visit. We always stay with an Aunt in NJ and then train into the city.

This trip, the twin and I decided we would take the boyfriends in and share the NYC holiday spirit with them. 

I have to admit, I was actually against this visit. The weather channel was calling for a winter weather storm, and after having spent 3 hours for a 30-minute drive on 76 the weekend before, I was really not welcoming another snow and ice storm. However, I was voted out, so the trip was still on. 

We drove up on Friday night and woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland! After layering myself up...legit, I felt like the michelin marshmallow man. It was somewhat difficult to move and my  peripheral vision was definitely affected! I'll be damned if I was going to spend the day freezing cold. 

We walked around all day. We saw the Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, etc and I was so disappointed. Maybe it was the weather, but I just felt like this year's celebrations, or recognition of the holidays, was nothing like it has been in the past. I suppose such is life, no?


After having walked all day I was starving and looking forward to a warm meal. I had made reservations a LiLi's 57 because they appeared to have a decent sized gluten free menu. 

Upon arrival, at first glance, the place is cute. The establishment is nothing fancy but a nice warm seat is very welcomed at this point. 

I asked the waiter for a gluten free menu and I was just so hungry at this point that I didn't even really take the time to read the menu. I just pointed and ordered. 

I guess it was not my day because I was disappointed. I did end up sick from eating here and I did not even enjoy the Thai basil dish. It was marked spicy, but I found no real flavor but sugar.... 

I will not be going back and I do not recommend LiLi's for anyone with a gluten allergy, but my guests who are non-gf seemed to enjoy their meals.



03 December 2013

Gluten Free & Vegan Thanksgiving

03 December 2013 0
Holidays are always a challenge with food allergies, but even more so when you are traveling to a crazy, rambunctious, Italian family - I swear, it is as if the the Italian bread and pastas are flying across the room. I would never change a thing, I love the family and how loud we are - but it does provide an additional challenge.

This year, I decided I wanted to make a seasonal holiday dish for myself. Last minute, I was not confident that I would get everything ready for the Holiday - but with a deep breathe, I managed. I successfully created a pretty awesome seasonal gluten free and vegan dish for my own Thanksgiving meal.

Now, keep in mind, I am limited to what I can make because the food I bring either has to sit indoors or on a porch with the possibility of freezing.

I went all out of on the seasonal squash this year. Oh, and I tried to incorporate cranberries in all of my dishes!

The star, presentation wise, was the stuffed acorn squash. It was so simple. I roasted a number of vegetables (brussel sprouts, onions, peppers, radishes, etc) and stuffed the squash. I added some cranberries and some spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper).

Probably the easiest dish I made for Thanksgiving and it was pretty darn good. It was a dish that everyone was trying to steal.

I also made a butternut squash soup. Simply roast a butternut. Add some roasted pepper and homemade vegetable stock, toss in some seasoning and ta-da you are done - it's that easy to create a delicious and seasonal soup.

This dish but added a lot of color and flavor to my Thanksgiving meal. I also added a little sage and roasted pumpkin seeds for some crunch.

One of the dishes I was most excited for, was my vegan mac-n-cheeze. I made a spaghetti squash for the base and then with a roasted butternut squash, some almond milk, a splash of vegetable broth, and some seasoning - I made a nice creamy vegan mac-n-cheeze. I originally tried this vegan sauce with kelp noodles, but it did not work as well as I had hoped. The sauce had nothing to really adhere to and I felt like I was pretty much eating cardboard.

I also managed to put together a quick tossed salad. Simple? Yes, but very much appreciated at times throughout the Holiday weekend.

So even though it was a challenge to create a dish that was travel worthy - I think that this was by far, my best holiday dish since being gluten free and vegan.

26 November 2013

Vientiane Cafe, A Gluten Free Delight

26 November 2013 0
Vientiane Cafe in West Philadelphia is a secret little hiding spot for healthy, gluten free, vegan Lao- Thai cuisine. Seriously - I'm not sure why this place does not get more press. Perhaps, that is part of why the Vientiane Cafe experience was as wonderful as it was, because I knew that I was embarking on a hidden treasure. I felt like I could take claim to it and call it my own.

It was the boyfriend's birthday and I was trying to do something nice, yet low key (he specifically requested low key). My first attempt for dinner was Vietnam Philadelphia. I have walked around this restaurant a million times and the smell was always so alluring, but after a discussion with the staff, I did not feel comfortable enough that I would find something gluten free that was not cross-contaminated. I do appreciate the honestly of the staff and will still continue to encourage those that are not gluten free to visit their location.

 When I first walked into Vientiane, my impression was, it is an adorable cafe. The light hardwood floors are offset by the warm toned walls - making it a very welcoming place - which is exactly what I was hopping for. When eating out, the boyfriend and I like to take our time and not feel rushed. We like to sit next to or across from one another and truly enjoy the experience - conversing and just enjoying our time together.

I was a bit nervous, as I always am when trying a new place - so when the menu came I dove right in and started scanning every page. The menu clearly noted what was gluten free and what was not. There was a fair amount of gluten free options - I was actually a bit surprised. As for the vegetarian options - every entree is made plain and the customer gets to select a vegetarian, meat, or fish option! I love love love this customization! It is so appealing to the customer!

The boyfriend went with the Chicken Pad Thai - which is his absolute favorite dish and thus far, on our eating adventurous, he has been disappointed by the Pad Thai dishes in the Philadelphia area. Thus, making me a bit more nervous that he would not like his birthday dish! EK! However, it only took one bit and he was sucked in! He loved the Pad Thai and was even contemplating orders a second helping later that evening! Congratulations to Vientiane Cafe for being boyfriend approved.

After much contemplation - I must say, being gluten free, I am not sure I will ever get used to having options while eating out. It always seems to amaze me and then take me a year to order because I am just so overwhelmed and not use to having options. Anyhow, with help from our lovely server, I went with the King Soup. Perfect option! The King Soup was creamy, zesty, acidic, and spicy all in one dish! While a bit messy to eat, I did finish the entire helping!

You can be sure that I will return again to Vientiane Cafe to try something else. While exiting the restaurant, I did stare down all the other customers' dishes. I couldn't help myself, it all smelled and looked so appealing. It was like I was already stuffed from my meal, but walking past their dishes made me hungry all over again!

 
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