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.
Promotional recipes that sound delicious: Sun-dried-tomato-encrusted Gardein with spinach puree and baby potatoes! »
The Gardein people love recipes! They also love you to use Gardein in your recipes! That’s why they’ve created this pretty tasty-looking item, sun-dried-tomato-encrusted Gardein with spinach puree and baby potatoes!
They say it’s for “lovers” or whatever, I guess because it serves two and maybe also because it’s red, and “heart-healthy,” and cruelty-free? But don’t let anyone dictate your meals! If you want to make some Gardein-for-lovers, you make it, and you save that second portion to eat later on, because leftovers are delicious! And if you are someone’s “lover,” first, barf!, and second, making this dish basically ensures sexytimes later, because look at it! It’s beautiful. Just like you, lovers. Awww! puke.
1 pkg Gardein Chick’n Scallopini
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained (reserve oil)
1 tbsp oil reserved from tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, large minced
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups soy milk
1 lb. fresh spinach leaves
6 Tbsp. basil leaves, fresh
6 Tbsp. cashew cream or soy milk
3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 lb. baby potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Cover potatoes with cold water in a medium-sized thick-bottomed pot. Bring potatoes to a boil and cook until just fork tender. Drain and cool immediately.
Preheat oven to 400º F. Once potatoes are cooled, cut in half and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. place potatoes cut-side down on a nonstick baking pan. Bake potatoes for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven, then sprinkle with parsley.
Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add spinach and cook until just tender, approximately 30 to 45 seconds. Drain and place spinach into ice water immediately. When spinach is cold, drain and squeeze out excess water. Transfer spinach, basil, cashew cream and nutritional yeast to food processor. Blend until smooth and refrigerate.
In a food processor, process the bread crumbs, sun-dried tomatoes, reserved oil and garlic cloves until well incorporated. Dredge each thawed Gardein cutlet in flour, then dip into the soy milk, and then into the sundried tomato breadcrumbs. Sauté each side until lightly caramelized and crisp.
Plate the hot roasted potatoes and reheated spinach puree on each of the serving plates and top with sun-dried tomato and sun-dried-tomato-crusted Gardein. Garnish with sun-dried tomato and microgreens.
Hello, friends! It’s WTF Wednesday! »
Today I’m starting off with a confession: I don’t really know how to celebrate Thanksgiving. My parents never made a big deal about it, choosing instead to let us watch cartoons and eat turkey patties all day. Turkey patties are objectively disgusting, by the way. Even thinking about them makes me convulse in pain. This is unfortunate because I’ve been thinking about them for the past few minutes and kicked the coffee table really hard in mid-convulsion. When I moved out on my own, Thanksgiving meant watching cartoons and eating pizza out of a bowl (please do not ask me how I did this. I do not know). Now, it means going to Modesto to spend Thanksgiving with Allen’s family, which is actually the closest to a traditional Thanksgiving as I have ever home. It mainly involves eating and drinking myself into a stupor and then playing cards with Allen’s sister-in-law’s grandmother, who threatens me with bodily harm because I play very, very badly. Here comes my second confession: each year Allen fixes me a Tofurky all for myself. And then I eat it. And every year I discover I like Tofurky less and less, mainly because I have to eat it myself. I finally told Allen not to get a Tofurky this year, and while there were tears and recriminations, Allen and I are okay. And we’re making Gardein “turkey” instead. However, Thanksgiving always makes me think how ridiculous it is that we center an entire holiday around slaughtering a Turkey and then saying “thanks for all the blessings!” over its dead body. It doesn’t make any sense and it’s not at all fair.
Here’s another thing that isn’t fair: Remember those dogs I wrote about the other week? The ones that were sent to Afghanistan on all-out suicide missions? That was sad. Then I read this article about Target, a homeless Afghan dog that stopped a suicide bomber from entering a U.S. military base. Target was deemed a hero and was sent to Arizona to be adopted by a loving family. Happy ending, right? WRONG! Not used to being confined to a yard, Target escaped and was captured by Pinal County’s Animal Control. Then, because she had not yet been tagged or micro-chipped, she was placed on PCAC’s website, and even though her guardian paid the fee to recover her, Target was mistakenly euthanized. This is a dog that was on Oprah, you guys. She saved countless people’s lives; and she was murdered because some lady at Animal Control made a mistake. Rest in peace, Target.
This is probably a good time to remind you to get identification tags, a microchip, and license for your companion animal. It can be the difference between life and death.
However, I’m not all about bad news! Did you know that it is now acceptable to wear fur as long as the animal that was killed for your earmuffs was a pest and a nuisance? That’s right! Nutria fur is GUILT-FREE and fashion-forward TO THE MAX! (Do we say “to the max” anymore?) Why? Because Nutria are hella annoying and eat plants. I get it, okay? Nutria are damaging a fragile ecosystem and apparently they’re not very cute (wrong!). Does this really give anyone license to wear their fur? I mean, come on. You know who I find annoying? Julia Stiles! She is a horrible actress, didn’t do her own dancing in Save the Last Dance, and didn’t even return my hello when she rented movies at the video store at which I worked—this last one is probably the most damning. No matter how annoying and useless I find her, I can still not justify murdering her and wearing her skin. Actually, this brings me to another point: Why do you want to wear the fur of an “ugly” and “loathsome” animal? Why not relocate it? Why put it on parade in Williamsburg, N.Y.? Why cap its teeth in silver and turn them into necklaces? There are a lot of questions here and not enough correct answers. CONFIDENTIAL TO THE PEOPLE MAKING THESE “FASHIONS”: Why not protest the murder of animals instead of turning them into a “beautiful” profit? I’m going to have to be honest and let you know that the argument that “They’re being killed anyway, so why not turn them into fashions?” doesn’t hold much water. I would draw some comparisons here, but my mother reads this and the last thing I need is another angry phone call that begins with, “What you mean by ‘Hogocaust,’ Mark? You think you so funny and smart but really not!!!!” and ends with her not speaking to me for three to five weeks.
In other news, apparently the animal rights group known as the Justice Department sent a package of HIV-tainted razor blades to two scientists at UCLA, one who participates in primate vivisection and one who does primate drug experiments. Listen, I find vivisection as deplorable as the next militant animal-rights activist, but sending someone razors tainted with an incurable disease is probably not the way to go. First of all, it’s not going to get your point across, and second of all, it is bad biology. HIV cannot live outside the body for more than a few minutes so it’s not going to do anything to anyone. And it’s certainly not going to stop these people from torturing primates. You know what, I was all set to offer some solutions, but there aren’t really good ones I can think of. I just don’t like people sending each other threats and weapons through the mail.
That’s all for this week! Please send me links for next week. Have an awesome Wednesday and a fun and safe Thanksgiving!
Berkeley! Do it up at tomorrow’s FREE ThanksLIVING event! »
If you’re in Berkeley tomorrow, Tuesday Nov. 16 and wants some FREE VEGAN FOOD, look no further than Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy’s Thanksliving event! These kids have Got It Going On food-wise, with great companies like Gardein and Field Roast donating, so you know shiz is gonna be DELICIOUS.
The celebration takes place tomorrow at UC Berkeley’s Upper Sproul from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., but I bet to take full advantage of the free eats, you should probably get there on the earlier side? I know how people (read: me) get around free food, and the words “disgusting” and “insane” come to mind. Organizer Monica Chen says that it’s a particularly great event for omnis because they can try all sorts of amazing vegan options and see that a veg Thanksgiving isn’t just possible, it’s extra delicious! So, bring your grumpalump meat-mouth friends and family and show them the tasty-ass light!
[photo by Jared Zimmerman]
Interview with a vegan: Lisa Congdon! »
Lisa Congdon is a talent to be reckoned with. And by reckoned with, we mean PURCHASE EVERY PIECE OF ART SHE’S EVER MADE. Seriously, this lady is crazy-talented. My favorite pieces change moment to moment, but I’m currently lusting after this finch and "Brave Bear" (OMG I LOVE YOU BRAVE BEAR). Actually, I’ll just take one of each, please!
Lisa has lived in SF for 20 years. She is a woman entrepreneur (love) and co-owner of Rare Device, an art gallery and store that sells everything awesome and good (if you haven’t been, you are a fool who is missing out!). We love crafty vegans because they make the world a prettier place and can also design and paint stuff for the rest of us when we need it. You never know when you’re going to want a watercolor of yourself hugging a baby hippo in outer space. Actually, you probably want that right now, huh? Anyway, follow Lisa on twitter and buy everything in her Etsy store and visit Rare Device and be really happy that such a rad chick is vegan!
Vegansaurus: Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
Lisa Congdon: All three.
V: How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
LC: I have been a vegan for about two years. I had been thinking a lot about becoming a vegan for a long time, but when I did it, I did it pretty much “cold turkey,” as opposed to weaning myself off stuff over time. It’s sort of funny how it finally happened. My partner and I were visiting my family in Portland. We all love to eat, and we had this really gluttonous weekend of gorging on food, which included a lot of rich cheese. That Sunday we were at the airport for our return flight and we felt horrible and gross from eating so much crap. We went into the bookstore in the airport and we saw Skinny Bitch on the table. A friend had told me about it, so we bought it. We dove into it right away right there in the airport and read it together. We finished it before we got back to San Francisco (love the book, but it’s the Reader’s Digest version of “why be a vegan”). That same week I went a little heavier and read the The China Study and, we also went to see Food, Inc. That movie sealed the deal, and we both became vegan that same week. We’ve continued to educate ourselves as much as we can about the benefits—health, humane, environmental—of eating a plant-based diet, and feel like it was one of the most important choices I have ever made in my life.
V: What’s the best part of being vegan?
LC: There are so many amazing things. I’ve never felt so good in my life, both physically and mentally. I have far more energy than I’ve ever had, which is scary because I have always been pretty energetic. I sleep better, I never feel sick after eating—except maybe after I have the potatoes at Gracias Madre, which are completely naughty. I also feel good about causing less harm to other living creatures and the environment. I revere animals, and now I feel like I walk the talk. I can be more like Ellen DeGeneres, who is my personal hero. Oh, and I have become a mean vegan chef.
V: Do you have any companion animals? Where are they from?
LC: I sure do. First off, I have Barry and Margaret, my cats. I got them about five years ago at the SPCA. Margaret is secretary of the house. She makes sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to and if you aren’t, she lets you know. Barry lives a less stressful existence, mostly staring out the window onto the action on Capp Street from our apartment. [Ed. SO CUTE! Also, Vegansaurus HQ used to be on Capp! Perhaps Hazel barked at Barry and Margaret in your window at some point!}
Then there is Wilfredo. Wilfredo is a chihuahua I rescued from Wonder Dog Rescue about three years ago. He’s three and a half, and he’s a very good, sweet, gentle, loving boy. He’s just the kindest dog you’ve ever met, and very cuddly and amazingly loving. He’s got a really wonderful, distinct personality and beautiful green eyes. Unlike many chihuahuas, he loves people, even strangers. And he doesn’t bark, which is also pretty ridiculously amazing. Wilfredo and I will be featured on the The Bold Italic’s upcoming Pet Week [Ed.: It’s THIS WEEK and culminates in an awesome party on Saturday night at The Women’s Building in SF! The party will benefit Rocket Dog Rescue and there will be all sorts of vegan food there, including cupcakes from Fat Bottom Bakery and Sugar Beat Sweets, cookies from Eat Pastry, and VEGAN SANDWICHES FROM IKE’S PLACE! Plus, vegan chili and cornbread and BINGO and a pet fair and awesomeness! COME!]!
V: What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
LC: Oh geez, I HATE this question. It’s a toss-up between dogs, horses, goats, and sheep. Although this summer I visited the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen and I really must say I have a thing for pigs. And cows. Someday I want to have a barn.
V: Does being vegan affect your art? If so, how?
LC: Not really; my subject matter hasn’t changed too much since I became vegan. That said, I make the bulk of my living doing illustration work, and I did turn down a high-profile illustration job recently—it was for a cookbook—because they wanted me to draw diagrams of animals about to go to slaughter, with the cuts of meat and the like. I said I wouldn’t do it and told them why—as professionally as possible, of course. I lost the job and I have no regrets.
V: You have lots of art with animals in it; do you have a favorite?
LC: I think my favorite animal painting I’ve ever made is the "Mountain Goat".
V: What’s your favorite vegan cookbook?
LC: That’s another hard question! It’s a toss up between Veganomicon for basics, The Conscious Cook for fancier recipes—such amazing concoctions in there and I do like Gardein a lot—and Vegan Table for awesome seasonal recipes.
V: Favorite vegan restaurant? Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant?
LC: Gracias Madre. I am not sure what I ever did without it. It’s also rad—and dangerous—that it’s around the corner from where I live. And my favorite dish is their naughty Papas al Horno, potatoes with cashew nacho cheese sauce!!!
V: Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
LC: All 11 of you? ;) [Ed.: YES! God!]
Thanks, Lisa! You’re the most amazing and we are officially in love with you. Check out our other Vegansaurus interviews and apply to be interviewed YOURSELF! Just email and we’ll totally interview your fascinating ass.
[Lisa’s amazing portrait of Wilfredo is above; all photos and art in this post by Lisa!]
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.
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!