10 April 2011

Tasty Eats for Vegans and Vegetarians in Salt Lake City

Recently, I was back in the Salt Lake City area to visit family and friends, as well as to tour some amazing special collections and archives (which will be posted soon on Here and There). When I'm in town, I always look for new places to enjoy fresh and tasty vegan and vegetarian eats. One of the best resources is City Weekly, the free weekly paper that specializes in an alternative look at the city and its surrounding areas. During my visit, the CW had released its "Best of Utah" issue (a misnomer, really -- it's more of a best of SLC with a handful of others tossed in for good measure), with all kinds of fun and useful spots to experience. I used it to find a few of the restaurants I tried for the first time this visit.

Here's a short list of the restaurants and stores I patronized while I was there (starting with the places that were new to me this visit) and what I thought of their products and services:

1. The Blue Plate Diner -- I went ovo-lacto here since I'd read nothing but great reviews about their omelets, however, there are a few vegan choices, such as tofu scrambles and burritos (more choices at lunch and dinner). I went for "The S.M.A," which was stuffed with spinach and mushrooms, and topped with sliced avocado. I also added some cheddar cheese for good measure. It was the fluffiest and largest omelet I've ever had. The side potatoes were crispy cubes of well-spiced tastiness. And the toast, well, pretty typical toast for Salt Lake, which is to say, Sourdough-based and not my speed. Otherwise, a big bang for the buck. Avoid the vegan sausage.

2. Vertical Diner -- While the Blue Plate is located in the funky and diverse neighborhood of Sugar House, Vertical Diner is a bit out of the way in back of a heavily industrial area, but it's more than worth the finding. Everything on the menu is vegetarian (a bit confusing because the menu mentions chicken, but it must be veggie chicken), and they serve a selection of gluten-free items as well, such as pancakes and their famous biscuits. This is definitely the place for cheap and tasty eats served by awesome punk folks in black playing college radio from the 1980s. At Vertical Diner, I had the best vegan pancakes I've ever eaten for $3.00. Fluffy and delicious, not to mention HOT. Next time, I'll try their biscuits and vegan gravy with fried "chicken."

3. Sunflower Farmers Market -- This chain of markets has been around since 2002, but they just opened a new store right up the street from a HUGE new Whole Foods store in Trolley Square. Frankly, I'm not sure how Whole Foods will complete, except on the convenience factor since Trolley Square is a bit of an upscale mall. And, they really are the place to go for good organic produce in the valley. However, I was very impressed by the variety of organic, vegan, and vegetarian packaged food options at much lower prices than Whole Foods at the new Sunflower Market. Next time I'm back in town, I'll have to check out the Murray store, which is much closer to where we stay.

4. Sage's Cafe -- For the past few years, each time I visit, I make sure to eat at Sage's. This upscale vegan restaurant located within a few blocks of both Trolley Square and the Main Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library (a must-see! Check it out below.) is definitely the place to take a non-vegetarian to show them how incredibly tasty meatless meals can be. The Nut Burger is one of the best vegan burgers I've had (rivals even the bean and quinoa burger at the Bear Dance Cafe in Midway, UT).

From Salt Lake City July 2009

Back to Sage's, the food is always thoughtfully prepared and delicious. They have a gluten-free options menu, too. Definitely try the weekend brunch. I'm a fan of "The Mountain."

5. Good Earth Natural Foods -- This health food store has several locations around Utah, but the Sandy store is the closest to Salt Lake City (and the closest to where I stay). It has very high quality fresh produce, some fresh breads, a good bulk foods room, many frozen and refrigerated options, and local and nationally available brand packaged foods. The prices are comparable to Whole Foods, but in some cases, they are lower. Also, depending on the day, the produce might be fresher and less expensive. Go to their web site first since they do feature coupons.

6. Whole Foods -- Because I normally live in a part of NJ where the closest Whole Foods is 35 minutes south or 40 minutes north and west, I am glad that there are so many Whole Foods stores in the Salt Lake City area. When I'm up in Park City, there's one. There's a store within 10 minutes of my in-laws' house. And, there are a few downtown. So, while they can be expensive on some items (not called "Whole Paycheck" for nothing!), if I use coupons and shop wisely, I can do pretty well on my staples. But, I think I might be spending more time at Sunflower Markets now that I know they are much less expensive on many of those staples.

10 March 2011

Vegan Nuts and Berries Bars

From Food

If you love almonds, these bars are definitely for you. Not only is there almond meal in this recipe, but I also used roughly chopped almonds for a nice crunch. I paired the almonds with juice-sweetened cranberries to contrast the richness of the nuts with that unmistakable zing of the dried berries.

I was inspired by Su Good Sweets' recipe for Fruity Almond Blondies, but I made a lot of substitutions to make it Altered Plates-ready and vegan, so I'm publishing the recipe as I made it below. In the future, I plan to add half of an avocado, whipped, to add more of a buttery flavor, but as is, the cookies are tasty. They are not overly sweet, and are packed with fiber.

Here's the recipe as I made it:

Vegan Nuts and Berries Bars


1 teaspoon flax meal
3 tablespoons filtered water

3/4 cup + 1/2 cup toasted almonds (rough chop the 1/2 cup)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup juice-sweetened dried cranberries (although using frozen ones might be an interesting choice as well)


1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and flaxmeal, and put aside.
2. In a food processor, grind 3/4 cup of almonds for 1 minute, then add the flours, salt, and baking powder. Grind again for approximately 2 minutes.
3. In another bowl or a mixer's bowl, beat the liquid ingredients until well blended. Add in the flax and water mixture and mix until blended.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, folding until just blended.
5. Add in the berries and remaining nuts, stirring until just mixed.
6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line your 8-in. pan with two pieces of parchment paper, crosswise.
7. Using wet fingers, press the batter into the pan. It's going to be thick and sticky.
8. Bake for 18 minutes or until a bamboo tester comes out clean.
9. Let cool in pan, then using the paper, lift the soon-to-be-bars out of the pan and cut into squares/rectangles.
10. Enjoy!

01 March 2011

Book Review: Veganize This! or It Ain't Pretty, But It's My Seitan

From Food

It's true, it's pretty spongy, brainy looking stuff, but it tastes fantastic, and the texture far exceeds anything you can buy in a store. Most of that seems a bit rubbery to me, but the seitan above is just chewy enough to make it seem "meaty." My friends at the library said it reminded them of bread, and another friend who enjoyed it the day after I made it said it reminded her of Injera, the Ethiopian sourdough bread, but only in texture. Since making the Beef-Style Seitan recipe in Veganize This!, I resolve never to buy seitan again. It's just too easy to make with this recipe not to do it myself.

That's what I've been doing a lot of in the past year -- making it myself. No more store-bought nut butters for me (although John prefers Arrowhead Mills' organic peanut butter), and no more whole grain sandwich bread which has not risen from my homemade (read: labored over) starter. And now, homemade seitan. I wish I had tried to do this sooner.

From Food

Be prepared for it to look and feel pretty much like brain (well, what I imagine brain looks and feels like). One very small drawback with Veganize This is that it doesn't have in-process photos, but that's a rarity and a lot to ask when publishing on a budget, so I'll forgive Jenn Shagrin. However, she does explain that this dough is a bit wetter than most seitan doughs, so I was prepared for a wet dough.

One thing to note -- be sure to plan other recipes using MimicCreme or the wide array of substitutes she suggests in the front of the book, because you only use a tablespoon of the stuff. I'm going to use my remaining MimicCreme to make a frozen dessert of some sort. I figure I can leave the ice cream maker attachment outside overnight since it's still pretty cold and I no longer have room in my freezer thanks to all the bread experiments.

From Food

The key to tasty seitan is the broth in which it simmers for an hour. Because the Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (well, all the bases) contains sweeteners I don't use (why sweeteners in bouillon, I will never understand), I used Rapunzel's vegetable bouillon. I recommend using the unsalted variety or one cube salted and one not.

The quality of the mushrooms is paramount to the success of the recipe. She recommended using dried shiitake mushrooms, but I used fresh organic ones from Whole Foods in Madison (I picked them up on my way home from my tour of Drew University's Special Collections and Archives).

From Food

One thing to note about the seitan -- when you drop it into the boiling broth, it will expand to about twice the size. Which is probably why Shagrin instructs her readers to flatten the dough to 1/4 in. thick. I didn't get mine to quite that size, but I was able to cut it very easily into bite-sized pieces afterward to enjoy with some broth and mushrooms. Today, I enjoyed the same over some mixed wild rices for lunch.

From Food

OK, I have tantalized you with my bready-looking, but delicious seitan long enough. Here's the recipe with my substitutions and her directions. The book review follows at the end.

Beef-Style Seitan
From the book Veganize This! by Jenn Shagrin. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group, Copyright (c) 2010.

Yield: 6 servings (although mine made about double that)


Beef Broth:

8 cups prepared Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (I used 2 cubes of Rapunzel's vegetarian bouillon in 8 cups of boiled water.)
6 dried shiitake mushrooms (I used 6 fresh ones, sliced 1/4 in. thick.)
2 tablespoons tamari (I used low-sodium tamari sauce.)
1 portobello mushroom cap, chopped (I sliced these, too.)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 bay leaves

Beef-Style Seitan Dough:

1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 cup prepared Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (I used 1/3 cube of Rapunzel's vegetarian bouillon in 1 cup of boiled water.)
1 tablespoon MimicCreme


1. Prepare the broth: First place all the beef broth ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.
2. Prepare the seitan: While the broth's starting to heat up, make your seitan dough by combining and kneading the vital wheat gluten, No Beef broth, and MimicCreme until completely mixed.
3. Squeeze out the excess liquid and form the mixture into a ball.
4. On a cutting board, flatten out the ball and use a sharp knife, or kitchen shears, to cut, pie style, into six beef-shaped wedges.
5. Before putting it into the boiling broth, flatten each wedge by pressing it firmly between your hands to 1/3 to 1/4 in. thick, then drop them into the pot of boiling broth.
6. Cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer, and let the seitan cook for about an hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Don't throw out the broth! Use a slotted spoon to remove each piece of seitan and place in a colander to drain.
8. Let the seitan and broth cool. Allow the seitan to marinate in the broth until ready to use, if time allows. Drain again before using.

Book Review

Veganize This! Reminds me of Vegan With a Vengeance in a few ways, but in many ways it is very much its own book. For example, Shagrin provides a stable of different kinds of homemade seitans (from the beef-style above to pork chops) and a wide variety of tofu-based not-meats, not-cheeses, not-seafoods, and more.

She gives very clear instructions (although I'm not quite sure what a beef-shaped wedge looks like) and most of her ingredients are easily found. I'm looking forward to experimenting further with the seitan I made, trying her recipe for Galbi (Korean Short Ribs). Importantly, Shagrin includes many gluten-free recipes, so those with gluten-free family members can dispense with the seitan and make some Vegan Chicken-Fried Tofu Steaks.

Overall, it's a fun read with many inspiring recipes that are not overly complicated to make. I'd recommend it for the vegan looking to try some new dishes and veganized foods.

02 February 2011

Lidia's Onion-Tomato Focaccia

From February 2011

While I don't have permission to reprint the recipe here yet, I can certainly talk about the wonderful Onion-Tomato Focaccia shown in the photo above. Since I've been baking some pretty complex breads lately thanks to The Bread Bakers Apprentice and Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, I decided to give myself (and John) a break by giving the focaccia from Lidia's Italy a try.

From February 2011

It's an incredibly easy and quick recipe for something so tasty. Although, I did away with some of the olive oil since the bread was fairly swimming in it. I'd also try making it again using a mix of half bread and half all-purpose flour (the recipe is all AP) to be able to roll it out for pizza.

Because it takes twice the typical amount of yeast for regular breads, it rises like mad. The dough is lovely. Soft and stretchy with lots of nice, small holes. It's downright tender, yet nice and crunchy at the crust.

Here's the upskirt:
From February 2011

The onions and tomatoes are marinated in olive oil and a little salt while the dough rises. I can't wait to try this with sliced mushrooms and diced eggplant. The herb on top is dried oregano, but I suppose you could use rosemary or thyme and get wonderful results. Overall, you need to be a fan of olive oil - good, fruity, high-quality olive oil - because as an ingredient, it's front and center on this focaccia.

It definitely takes favorite status in my bread ratings. I'll never buy focaccia again.

27 January 2011

Hanna's Yummy Apple Spice Cake

From January 2011

I've long enjoyed Hannah Kaminsky's Bittersweet blog for its recipes as well as the gorgeous photographs. But prior to the blog, I knew her from My Sweet Vegan, her book of delectable desserts. This recipe, Apple Spice Cake, comes from page 80 of that cookbook.

My substantive changes to the recipe were considerably smaller than most of the recipes I alter: 1. used currants for raisins (it's just what I do -- I prefer the tang), and 2. made one layer and used the rest of the batter to make muffins. The cake was very moist, tasty, and not overly sweet at all. The main reason for that is that Hannah's recipe called for apple juice concentrate as the sweetener. It impressed me as more of an apple oat cake than a spice cake, but either way, both the cake and muffins were greatly appreciated by my friends who had them for breakfast. Just perfect for chilly and snowy winter days.

From January 2011

I also omitted the topping. The cake is awesome on its own.

Apple Spice Cake, page 80, My Sweet Vegan, by Hannah Kaminsky 2007. (I abbreviated the directions to keep this short, and I formatted them into my style. Otherwise, they're hers, so make sure you tell her when you try it out.)

Yield: 2 8-in. round cakes or 1 8-in. round cake and 12 muffins


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups rolled oats
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup margarine (I used Smart Balance buttery sticks.)
1 1/3 cups apple juice concentrate, thawed and undiluted
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 apples peeled, cored, and diced
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8-in. round cake pan and a muffin pan (or another cake pan). (I actually save this for after the batter is mixed -- saves energy.)
2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.
3. In another bowl, cream the margarine by itself to soften before adding the juice, apple sauce, and vanilla. Mix well.
4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until everything is moistened. Add the remaining ingredients into the batter by hand, folding gently.
5. Spread the batter into the pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
6. Let cool in pans for at least an hour, then take out of the pans to cool completely on a wire rack.
7. Top as you see fit, or leave plain. It will taste wonderful either way.

10 January 2011

Book Review: Appetite for Reduction

From January 2011

As always, I am a fan of all books written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and Appetite for Reduction is no exception. In fact, it's my new favorite. Like many of us who blog about food, Isa admits to having put on a few pounds, especially during the writing and testing of her cookie and cupcake books (written with Terry Hope Romero). Consequently, she wrote a low-fat vegan cookbook.

For my review, I selected two recipes that were (as advertised) very quick and easy to make. First, I made the Scallion Potato Pancakes. I made two more pancakes (had slightly more potatoes on hand) than the yield listed in the book, but didn't change anything otherwise. I enjoyed them greatly with an agave-mustard dipping sauce that fit the bill exactly. When I tasted the pancakes without the sauce, they needed a little salt. But otherwise, I was very happy with the result.

The second recipe, Garlicky Mushrooms & Kale, was a huge success. I've long sauteed kale with olive oil and garlic, but hadn't yet added mushrooms. I swapped portobello mushrooms for the creminis, but otherwise stayed loyal to the recipe. It was very garlicky and tasty. I'd probably opt for adding some hot pepper seeds for more zip next time, or some fresh ginger.

Both delicious recipes were very low in fat, but very high in flavor. One of the great additions to Appetite for Reduction is the use of the nutritional information accompanying the recipes. I especially like the vitamin and mineral percentages. Although they don't include many, they do count Vitamins A and C as well as calcium and iron. You don't often see those in cookbooks.

I would like more photos, but I can understand the costs of publishing prohibit the use of many photos if you want to keep the price low (which it is at $11.42 on Amazon). Last, but not least, one of my biggest pet peeves is when recipes run onto the next page and I must flip the page for more directions. Both recipes ran over into the next pages, so I'll just say that I hope the designers can work on that issue for the next book.

I've requested permission to reprint the recipes, so if I get it, I'll update this posting with them.