Lyfe Kitchen: Tal Ronnen, Art Smith, and a couple of dudes who used to work for McDonald’s want you to eat their healthy food »
Guess what, vegans and the people who love them: restaurateurs really do want your money! Seriously! They are starting a chain of restaurants called Lyfe Kitchen, which will serve “healthy” omnivorous and vegan dishes. Art Smith, Oprah’s totally not-vegan chef who was once on Top Chef: Masters, has of late eschewed his creamy-buttery-cheesy cuisine for less artery-clogging death food at his own restaurant, and is in charge of the omnivorous part of the menu, and Tal “Mr. Gardein” Ronnen will be developing the vegan section. Plans are to open the first Lyfe Kitchen in Palo Alto, Calif. this summer.
This sounds kind of great, right? Except it also sounds a little, um, nutty. The chain will be marketed to “women age 18 to 49, hoping they’ll like the food enough to bring back friends andfamilies. While she’s enjoying a grain salad, there’s a beefy burger for her husband. While he’s munching away, he might try a bite of hers, and even like it.” Wait, what? Yeah, who wants to puke after reading that? Three sentences packed full of gnarly stereotypes, but stereotypes sell! And this isn’t a “vegan” restaurant: “The menu so far avoids modifiers like ‘vegan,’ ‘gluten-free’ and ‘dairy-free,’” despite offering such options. Because “vegan” is “scary” and “gluten-free” is for “crazies” and Lyfe Kitchen isn’t for scary crazies, it’s for Middle American Families and the Moms Who Run Them.
So definitely this is a positive idea coming to fruition, right? We shall see—you know your Vegansaurus will be checking this place out once it opens. What do you all think: is marketing to McDonald’s Moms the right way to sell a chain of semi-vegan restaurants? I mean, in Tal we trust, but as for the rest of the business partners and the model, who knows.
Happy Thanksgiving from reader Aimee in Maryland, who arranged on her plate, clockwise from the bottom: mashed potatoes, with butternut squash gravy by Roots Market in Clarksville; green bean and mushroom casserole from a PPK recipe; stuffing by Roots Market in Clarksville; Tal Ronnen’s sweet potato biscuits; roasted brussel sprouts; and Field Roast en croute. Butternut squash gravy! As delicious as it sounds?
She also turned 25 the day before Thanksgiving, so from all of us at Vegansaurus, happy birthday, Aimee! And Happy Thanksgiving, too!
Chef Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu: Oven-roasted banana rum cheesecake with spiced pecan crust and maple rum sauce! »
We’ve just about done it, friends: we’ve finished the dinner menu by chef Tal Ronnen + Gardein. Thanksgiving is done! Now it’s time for dessert, a little sweet something in our tums after so much tasty savory. But no pumpkin? No pumpkin! This is a vegan menu; it’s not for shrinking-violet traditionalists. BE BOLD! Make a vegan cheesecake, with bananas and rum and pecans and maple syrup! Judge the quality based on chef Ronnen’s recommendation of grade-B maple syrup, the tastier and healthier grade of syrup. Of course one can rarely go wrong cooking with booze—perhaps have a nice proper daquiri before baking? Considering you’ll be making five other courses, you’ll need a nice tidy drink to get through it all. Happy Thanksgiving!
Oven-roasted banana rum cheesecake with spiced pecan crust and maple rum sauce
6 to 8 servings
2 hrs prep (plus 3 hrs chilling)
45 min cook
4 very ripe bananas
1 cup grade-B organic maple syrup
4 Tbsp. Earth Balance
1 Tbsp. dark rum
1 cup pecan nut flour
½ cup spelt flour (white or whole)
1 Tbsp. firmly packed light
4 Tbsp. Earth Balance, partially melted
⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of sea salt
16 ounces nondairy cream cheese
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup dark rum
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
Toasted pecan halves
Step 1, Roast bananas: Preheat the oven to 325 F. Place 4 large, very ripe, unpeeled bananas on a roasting pan and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until bananas are soft and skin turns dark brown. let bananas cool to room temperature in the pan in their skins. Set aside. Increase oven temp to 400 F.
Step 2, Spiced pecan crust: Combine 1 cup pecan nut flour,* ½ cup spelt flour, 1 Tbsp. firmly packed light brown sugar, 4 Tbsp. partially melted nondairy butter, ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom, ½ tsp. ground ginger, and a pinch of sea salt in a bowl, and stir until well incorporated. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and put in freezer for 5 minutes. Bake at 400 for 8 to 10 minutes, until crust is a little dry and edges are light golden. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
*To make pecan nut flour, freeze the nuts overnight, then place in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Freezing the nuts prevents them from turning into nut butter when you process them.
Step 3, Cheesecake filling: Peel the roasted bananas and remove any obvious strings. Purée bananas in a food processor until very smooth. Add 16 oz. nondairy cream cheese, ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar, ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ cup dark rum, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, and ¼ tsp. salt, then pulse until smooth, scraping sides of bowl periodically. Do not overprocess or cream cheese will separate and curdle.
Step 4, Bake cheesecake: Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 400 F for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 F and bake another 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is the color of light brown sugar and center is set. A toothpick inserted in center should come out clean. Let cheesecake cool to room temperature on a rack for at least 1 hour, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
Step 5, Maple rum sauce: In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup maple syrup, 4 Tbsp. nondairy butter, and sea salt to taste and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. dark rum, stirring carefully, as sauce will bubble up a bit. Let cool for a few minutes then taste and add more salt if necessary. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a squeeze bottle. if not using immediately, the sauce can be warmed by putting the bottle in a pan of hot water off the heat.
Serve: In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup maple syrup, 4 Tbsp. nondairy butter, and sea salt to taste and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
The VegNews Holiday Cookbook is here, y’all! And I’m super excited because I’ve got recipes in it! That’s right, I am now a published recipe author. Now, you all know of my kitchen prowess from such works as Slow Cooker Pumpkin Bread Pudding but I’ve been honing my skillz for awhile now/been too poor to afford delicious takeout and I’m actually pretty okay (thanks in large part to working on VegWeb!). You can stop being terrified because I have no plans to inflict an entire cookbook on you or anything like that but my recipes in this, they are tasty! And if I’m not enough (I’LL MURDER YOU), it’s filled with recipes from talented chefs like Tal Ronnen and Robin Robertson! Oh, and it’s an e-cookbook which you love because you’re a total environmentalist. SO BUY IT! And then make my recipes (and, uh, the other recipes, too) and let me know what you think but only if you like them because frankly, that’s enough out of you! xoxoxo!
Chef Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu: Sweet potato biscuits! »
More mashed potatoes? No problem at all, chef Tal Ronnen. Possibly we love nothing more than a double-carb-punch of mashed root + biscuit. Picture soaking up the mingled sauces on your Thanksgiving plate with a piece of warm biscuit, then scooping up a bit of cashewy mashed potatoes, and adding a wee slice of your Gardein on top: perfect bite, y/y?
Fun fact to tell small children (which they can and will later repeat to everyone they know, including many other small children, thus ensuring that The Truth will be spread throughout the world): the tuberous root we in North American call the “sweet potato” is just a variety of the tuber we call a “yam”—much like differentiating between types of apples. Those rusty-skinned, orange-fleshed roots labeled “yams” are legally required to also be labeled “sweet potatoes” within the U.S. because there is a proper vegetable called a yam, of which the starchy tuber is eaten. Yams and yams aren’t related at all! You are now the hero/bane of Thanksgiving.
Sweet potato biscuits
20 min prep
20 min cook
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance, chilled
1 tsp. agave nectar
¾ cup mashed sweet potatoes, cooled
¼ cup unsweetened soy milk
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the margarine until well incorporated. Add the agave nectar, sweet potatoes, and soy milk and combine, forming a soft dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured work surface to ½-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits of desired size. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven on a greased baking sheet for 12 to 15 mins.
Tomorrow is the last recipe! Yes, it’s dessert, but it doesn’t use pumpkin. So that’s something to look forward to.
Chef Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu: Creamy mashed potatoes with chives! »
Your Vegansaurus loves a mashed potato. We have before made dishes based on the amount of mashed potatoes in the recipe. Freshly mashed, several days old and spread on bread for a sandwich, baked to golden-brown-crusted perfection: O mashed potatoes, our affection for you has always been, and always will be.
This recipe by chef Tal Ronnen doesn’t mess around: instead of non-dairy milk, it calls for cashew cream. That would make for a rich mashed potato, and cut with the fresh chives, it sounds really amazing. Thank you again, Gardein, for sending us this menu!
Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chives
20 min prep
20 min cook
Pre-prep tip: Soak raw cashews overnight!
(If you’re short on time, substitute soy milk.)
6 large potatoes, diced
1 cup cashew cream (recipe follows)
3 Tbsp. Earth Balance
¼ cup fresh chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Soak 2 cups of raw cashews overnight.
Add the soaked cashews to a blender and fill with water sufficient to cover the cashews by 1 inch. Blend on high for 2 minutes. Tip: if not using a professional high-speed blender, you might need to strain the cream through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. May substitute soy milk for cashew cream, if needed.
Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes.
Drain the potatoes, place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, and mix until smooth. Serve hot.
Easy-peasy lemon sqeezey. This one I would—WILL make ahead of time, you know, as a taste-test. Or supper. You know.
Chef Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu: Green beans with fresh cranberries! »
Hey everyone! This is the third recipe on Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu with Gardein, meaning we are halfway through dinner. Now if we were French, we might’ve started with this dish and ended with the beet and orange autumn salad, as is the custom in the francophone countries in which I have eaten meals. Once you make the mistake of eating the salad with your supper, only to watch everyone else eat it afterward, you remember the order. Of course you’d think someone would let you know that you were eating the salad out of order like a big dummy, but awkward situations can be difficult to diffuse. Thank goodness these are just delicious, neutral green beans.
Green Beans with Fresh Cranberries
15 min prep
15 min cook
¾ lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal
2 Tbsp. margarine
1 cup cranberries
1 clove garlic, minced and pressed
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook for 3 to 4 mins. Drain the beans in a colander and hold under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Blot the beans with a paper towel to remove the excess water.
Put the beans into a dry skillet and heat over medium heat until the remaining moisture on the beans evaporates. Stir in the margarine, cranberries, garlic, parsley, tarragon, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat well. Cook until heated through.
See you tomorrow for course four!
Chef Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu: Sage and pumpkin-seed-encrusted Gardein with cranberry cabernet sauce! »
On Friday we gave you the first recipe on chef Tal Ronnen’s and Gardein’s Thanksgiving menu, a beet and orange salad. Today comes the second recipe, a main course using Gardein chick’n scallopini and/or Gardein chick’n filets. I’m not sure how it would work using that fancypants seasonal stuffed Turk’y, but experimental cooks are welcome to try! Let’s get to the recipe.
Sage and Pumpkin-Seed-Encrusted Gardein with Cranberry Cabernet Sauce
20 min prep
40 min cook
for the sauce
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot
4 sprigs of thyme
¼ cup dried cranberries
1 cup cabernet
1 cup faux chicken stock or vegetable broth
1 tbsp. arrowroot
2 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. ‘Earth Balance’ butter
salt and pepper to taste
for the cutlets
12 (3 pkgs.) Gardein chick’n scallopini (frozen)
12 (3 pkgs.) Gardein chick’n filets (fresh)
1 tbsp. minced fresh sage
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (without shells)
1 tsp. paprika
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
unbleached white flour
2 cups unsweetened soy milk
olive oil for sautéing
salt and pepper to taste
for the sauce
Heat the oil in a sauté pan. Add the shallots and sauté for 3 mins. Add the thyme and cranberries and sauté for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cabernet and scrape the bottom of the pan, then reduce the liquid by half. Add the stock and reduce by half. Mix the arrowroot with the water and add to the pan. Stir well and continue to cook for 2 mins. Turn heat off and whisk in the vegan butter 1 tbsp. at a time. Remove thyme stems.
for the cutlets
In a food processor, process the sage, seeds, paprika, bread crumbs, yeast, salt, and pepper until well incorporated. Thaw the frozen scaloppini. Dredge each Gardein cutlet in flour, then dip into the soy milk and then into the Panko breadcrumbs. Sauté on each side until browned and crisp.
Again, send us photos if you make it! The next recipe comes tomorrow!
Chef Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu: Beet and orange autumn salad! »
Yesterday we told you about Gardein’s new, limited-edition holiday product, the Savory Stuffed Turk’y with gravy. We also told you about the special Thanksgiving menu that chef Tal Ronnen had prepared to complement the Turk’y, and promised to post one recipe a day until you got them all. There are six recipes, and today you get the first!
Beet and Orange Autumn Salad
by chef Tal Ronnen
10 min. prep
45 min. cook
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup sherry vinegar
2 oz. maple syrup
2 tbsp. shallots, minced
¼ tsp. black pepper, crushed
¼ tsp. coriander, ground
pinch dry mustard
¼ tsp. fenugreek, ground
6 oz. canola oil, cold pressed
10 oz. olive oil, extra-virgin
3 tbsp. chives, thinly sliced
3 cups baby spinach, washed
3 oranges, sectioned and peeled
10 red beets, golf ball sized, peeled & roasted
2 tbsp. canola oil
for the vinaigrette
In a large saucepan, combine the vinegars, maple syrup, shallots, black pepper, coriander, dry mustard, and fenugreek. Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by one-third. Remove from the heat and chill. Once chilled, purée in a blender, while slowly adding the canola and the olive oils. Strain, then add the chives.
for the roasted beets
Vegetable oil sufficient to coat the beets. Heat the oven to 400°F. In a baking dish, combine the beets with the vegetable oil and roast until soft (approx.. 45 minutes). Peel and chill.
to assemble the salad
Slice the beets and arrange on a plate with the orange slices and spinach then drizzle with the maple sherry vinaigrette.
We expect photos if you make it, pals! Check back Monday for the next recipe.