Lunch Wraps for “LibraryPig”

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Isn’t she cute?

This Thursday, I went to the library with my studious spouse and colleague. Sophie has chosen the nickname of “LibraryPig” for this book writing adventure. On the days we go to the library together, we take a break at lunch time and find food in a restaurant nearby. On Thursday it was Thai food. We liked the food, but have now tried the restaurant, Busaba, twice and have decided that we really just don’t like it much. It should be awesome, but for various reasons, it just isn’t.

Two of the vegan dishes on the menu at Busaba. Both tasty. And they have some cool art.

The placemats, for example. But most days, I send the “LibraryPig” with a wrap and come cut up fruit. I have made it a goal to not make the same wrap twice. Here is a picture of one of them featuring spiced roasted eggplant, quick pickled onions, gem lettuce, periperi hummus, pepper jack vegan cheese (Follow Your Heart), and sweet cherry tomatoes before it is wrapped up burrito style and tucked into a zipper lock plastic bag.

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Here is a list of some other wrap variations (that I have remembered to write down):

  1. Smoked tofu, grainy mustard, cucumber, avocado, spinach, red pepper slivers
  2. BBQ chix with mushrooms, celery and onion, plus spinach, scallions and roasted cauliflower
  3. Follow your heart pepper jack cheese, mustard, vegan chorizo (from Germany!), spinach, scallions
  4. Hummus, pepper-jack cheese, avocado, cabbage slivers, cherry tomatoes

 

Breakfasts of Champions!

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The traditional with an average-sized crumpet and a lovely Comice pear.

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Breakfast on a morning  when I miss home. Yellow corn grits with smokey chipotle hot sauce instead of toast or crumpets.

 

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Scrambled tofu and a top-notch avocado!

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Pita bread and lettuce for a breakfast pita!

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With a Linda’s chorizo sausage (I just found these this week!), sun gold cherry tomatoes and whole grain toast with seeds.

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And, with my new favorite addition, cut up fruit topped with unsweetened freefrom yogurt with Clare and David’s marmalade mixed in!

Beautiful artichoke plates and charming tuxedo cat mug were gifts from our friends, Fiona and Dan. Love them…the gifts and the people.

Dinner with Friends at The Gate

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Sophie and Vic

Sophie, her college friend Vic, long-time friend Diana, and I met at The Gate in Hammersmith. Sophie and I had a bit of trouble finding the place as there was a show at the Apollo Theater. The line for the show wound around and down several blocks, and covered the set back and rather unassuming entrance to the place with a wide queue of concert-goers. When we finally found our way in we were delighted to catch up with and share a meal with these lovely folks.

They had researched and suggested four possible restaurants in advance for us to choose from. The Gate had miso glazed eggplant on the menu, which is a dish that I absolutely love. I can name the two restaurants (prior to this visit to London) where I have had a memorable rendition of this dish (Kayuga in Ithaca, NY which may not even be there any longer and Wasabi in Asheville, NC and they no longer serve it). So, of course, I chose The Gate as the place to meet.

We each had a starter. Two of us had the miso glazed aubergine, which did not disappoint! The other dishes were a three onion tart and a seared tofu tikka dish with Indian flavors. The latter I tried and enjoyed.

My main was a wild mushroom risotto cake that had a soft inside, but a crispy outside, topped with wild mushrooms and set in a flavorful mushroom puree. It was decorated with arugula. The other dishes were equally delicious sounding and one was especially artful (see largest image below). It was the rotola. The other two were called aubergine schnitzel and red Thai curry.

We sat together and told stories for a couple of hours. Vic is especially good at asking conversation prompting questions, so three of us decided to try a dessert.  All but one of the desserts on the menu was vegan or had a vegan option. I hugely approve of restaurants that have vegan desserts beyond sorbet and sweet wines. I had the citrus tart. Yes, I ate the flower and the whole thing was delicious. The other one pictured was the soft cappuccino cheesecake. We enjoyed our desserts with some a small glass of Pedro Ximenex Emilio Hidalgo sherry. Yum.

I thought the creativity, taste and execution of this meal rivaled the offerings at Plant, my favorite restaurant at home (it is upscale and all vegan). And that is saying something. I hope to have an opportunity to go back to The Gate while we are here in London.

 

 

 

 

A Delightful Eve with Clare and David

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Super Vegman!

So, we had the pleasure of dining at my favorite place to eat out in Ealing again this week. Clare is so creative and thoughtful with her cooking! The vegetable action figure above was served with tasty homemade hummus and bread.

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Hummus with fresh vegetables

We started the evening in the sitting room with fun conversation and a tasty beverage. Then moved to the dining room for the Super Vegman surprise and first course.

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Sophie and David just chilling in the sitting room

One of my favorite quotes from dinner was Clare encouraging us to “have another rib” or red pepper from the Vegman. The main course was super creative, healthy and so yummy. Sweet corn cakes with an avocado mash, roasted cauliflower and chickpea salad, and lemony roasted Brussels sprouts!

It is fun to listening to these two talk about the process of cooking together. David made the sprouts as they had recently discovered that, although he generally wants to pass on them, he likes sprouts when they are made using this recipe. They are super lemony, soft on the inside with little bits of crunch on the outside.

Sophie begs to differ with David as sprouts are her favorite vegetable. She loves them even just plain boiled. And enjoyed David’s version very much. I learned to boil them properly from her. I learned two tricks, cut little “x”s in the bases and add them to the water once it starts boiling so that you can accurately measure the amount of time they are boiled. Ten minutes is the magic number.

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Lemony roasted sprouts
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Chunky avocado mash
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Tasty sweet corn cakes

I can’t decide which dish was my favorite. I have loved corn since I was child (some members of my family and some co-workers have made fun of me for my passion for corn. Some former co-workers gave me a cookbook called “Crazy for Corn” when I left that job to head to my current one. Several of us taught cooking classes together and apparently I was famous for suggesting or concluding that a new recipe we were making up or testing “is good, but would be better with corn.”

And, I love avocados. I am pretty sure that they are main reason I could not eat 100% locally. I would have to move to Greece or California or somewhere else in the world that they grow. My more recent vegetable passion is cauliflower. I love it the way Sophie is into sprouts.  The dish above also had roasted chickpeas, mixed baby greens and a tangy dressing. All very satisfying.

And, of course, because it is Clare and David, we also had a dessert course. Chocolate almond brownies with a “pinch” of cayenne and a lovely sweet white wine (Moscatelo?) Pinch is in quotes because Clare thought that perhaps her “pinch” was a bit bigger than the recipe writer intended. The after dinner white wine was a perfect balance to the dark chocolate with finish of cayenne style heat.

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Vegan chocolate brownies!
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Clare in her kitchen slicing bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So much deliciousness. I look forward to whenever we next share a meal!

 

Chix & Chive Salad Sandwich

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Today’s lunch!

Last night I made a chix and chive salad for Sophie’s “to go” lunch to eat just outside the the Institute of Classical Studies Library and my “at home” one. Hers was a wrap (these do not photograph well!) And mine was a sandwich (see above). Yes, I had to manually move the cucumbers and avocado onto the other side before covering it with the seed-filled whole grain bread. It’s called “high protein” bread. Luckily, it was made so by adding lots of seeds to it (rather than some sort of highly processed protein powder).

I make a version of this salad at home using Joy of Soy “Chix” nuggets and enjoy it with crackers or on top of a green salad. Here the recipe below was inspired by the mountain of fresh chives I liberated from the plantlings in the process of splitting one pot of chives into 5 and cutting them back in hopes of salvaging the plants. When I went to split them the entire pot was filled with roots. I saw about 1 tablespoon of earth left in the pot.

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Here are three of the babies after the haircut. Aren’t you glad I don’t cut your hair?

I dried the rest for use in dishes when I run out of fresh chives? Or perhaps, when the pots of fresh ones decide they are going to stop trying to recover from being torn from their brethren?

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Radiator-dried chives

This version is made using Quorn vegan pieces.

Chix & Chive Salad
2 servings

1/2 bag of Quorn vegan pieces, frozen (about a cup and a half) (a.k.a. chix)
1-2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 medium stalk of celery, finely chopped
1/3 of a sweet red pepper, finely minced
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
2 tablespoons vegannaise or other vegan mayo
1 teaspoon malt vinegar (other other light colored vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon Foxpoint Seasoning (Penzey’s) or other favorite spice mix, optional
salt and black pepper, to taste

Put frozen Quorn pieces in a small pan and add 1/4 cup water. Steam Quorn pieces over medium heat until the are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off any remaining water. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to touch pull the pieces into small shredded pieces. In a small bowl, mix shredded chix, together with the chives, celery, red pepper, mustard, vegannaise and vinegar. Add spices, salt and pepper as desired. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve as a wrap in a tortilla or as a sandwich on whole grain bread with spinach, cucumber and/or avocado, as desired.

 

 

 

Vegan Pub Grub

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Pulled Mushroom Bun and Sweet Potato Wedges at BunSmith near the London Bridge Tube Station

In the last week or so, we have had the pleasure of two across town adventures that included a visit to a pub. At the first we met Sophie’s college friend Clare and some members of her Real Ale group. In honor of our joining them, they chose an all vegan pub, called the Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker (not far from the Angel tube station). The pub offers only vegan beverages as well and their new line of vegan beers had not yet arrived which was a bit disappointing to the Real Ale regulars.

Nonetheless, the company was great and the food was delicious. I had the green mac-n-cheese with polenta fries and a side salad. Sophie tried the aloo tikki burger with fries. The food was plentiful and came our piping hot. I loved the polenta fries and thoroughly enjoyed the green mac. I forgot to take a picture of of it, but you can imagine it as macaroni noodles tossed with creamy pesto and topped with two colors of vegan cheese and spices (maybe paprika?). Not a dish to eat while watching calories, but a really satisfying version of vegan mac-n-cheese.

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Menu at The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker
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Side salad and polenta fries.
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Aloo Tikki Burger with a mountain of fries

Then just a few days ago we went to the London Bridge area to see the Kings College London student production of Euripides’ Medea which was performed in a mix of ancient Greek and English. While there were some lovely things about the production, a talented singing chorus and strong acting, Sophie thought the production our UNC Asheville students pulled off in December was even better. After the play we started wondering around nearby in hopes for finding a bite to eat. The second place we happened upon was a pub called, BunSmiths at the miller. And, lo’ and behold, they had multiple vegan “buns” on the menu. I tried the one at the top of this post (pulled mushroom)  with sweet potato wedges and Sophie had the vegan jerk bun with fries. I thought the filling of my sandwich was scrumptious, but oddly, given the name of the place, that the bun left a little to be desired (a little to soft and squishy…processed white bread-like).

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Vegan Jerk Bun

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Overall, I am thrilled that it has gotten seemingly SO much easier to find vegan offerings at London eateries, even pubs! If I where to make an wish for the next sea change in London pub offerings, I would ask for more un-fried vegetable (cooked or raw) offerings. Nonetheless, I recommend a visit to both of these places and would be happy to find myself back at either one!

Sunday Supper!

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My little windowsill “kitchen garden” (I haven’t split up the chives yet!)

Sunday was a more at-home sort of day. Although, I did take a nice long walk which took me through Cleveland Park to West Ealing and back to get some potting soil and little pots in which to repot the culinary herbs that I got from Tesco. They are planted and sold for short term harvest, but I am hoping to save a few of them for a windowsill kitchen garden and an outdoor herb garden. I also discovered these lovely little flowers in the front garden of the flat. Sweet harbingers of early spring.

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Snow drops hidden in plain sight in the garden

 

For dinner we had pasta with marinara sauce made using one of the remaining, PlantPure Starter packs which I had brought with me from North Carolina. If you haven’t checked out PlantPure and their line of starter packs, I highly recommend doing so. These are awesome folks doing ground-breaking work. All of their offerings are 100% plant-based with no added oils. We are big fans of the starter packs (as opposed to the frozen meals), mostly because we love making our own food to our own tastes.With the starter packs, doctoring is easy. I only had 3 left from the set of 20 when we headed over: the potato soup, the marinara sauce, and the tahini dressing.

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When I made the potato soup, Sophie said she thought it was the best soup I had ever made. Wow! Sadly, it was not completely of my creation, but I agreed with her that it was delicious. It is made creamy by nut flour and a plant-based milk (I used plain soya milk).

On Sunday, we tried the marinara and it, too, was a success. We served the pasta with portabello mushrooms stuffed with spinach.

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Pasta marinara with spinach stuffed portabello mushroom

 

Creamy Spinach Stuffed Portabellos
Serves 2

1 smallish red onion or a large shallot, finely chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of olive oil (or 1 tablespoon of water)
½ bag (about 4 cups) baby spinach
½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons dairy free cream cheese
1 tablespoon vegan pesto, optional
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 portabella mushrooms, stems removed
1/2 teaspoon of crushed ancho chilis, or smoked paprika

Sauté onions and garlic in a medium sauce pan with a teaspoon of olive oil or a tablespoon of water for 3 to 4 minutes until they begin to soften. Add baby spinach and soy sauce to hot pan and cook, stirring, until the spinach has wilted. Stir in the vegan cream cheese and pesto, if using, until thoroughly mixed. Add black pepper to taste and salt if needed.

Place mushrooms bottom side up in a small baking pan. Divide the spinach mixture evenly into the two mushroom caps. Sprinkle the tops with crushed peppers or paprika. Bake at 180 degree C for 15 to 20 minutes until top is slightly browned and the mushroom is cooked through.