Dining Out

Tips for dining out

Vegicurious Adventures: Plant-Based Guide to Quebec City Part 2

Le Saint Amour

Le Saint Amour

One of my biggest challenges of plant-based living is going out to dinner. We don’t live in a particularly herbivore-friendly area, so we don’t go out as much as we used to. Suffice it to say, I was a little concerned about what we would encounter on our trip to Quebec City. Not only were we travelling to a region where there’s a heavy French influence in their cuisine (butter, cream, duck, lobster, etc.), but there’s also a lot of French spoken there. I wondered how that would translate into vacation-worthy, yet healthy meals. Quebec City has an “old-world” atmosphere that makes you want to take it all in at a relaxed pace. Most of the restaurants display their menus on the sidewalk as a way to beguile you into coming back later in the day. And it works! It was a good way to find what we were hungry for and gave us a chance to talk to the restaurant staff about how their meals are prepared. Here are some of our favorite places in Quebec City:

Korrigane Brew Pub. This Irish pub located outside the walls of Quebec City has a cozy feel, tasty beers and a killer veggie burger that you can order with a side of fries or a salad. (Of course, I had the fries.) They also have a vegetable chili on the menu that we just weren’t able to get back for. Sitting at a table near the window I imagined how comforting it must be to be sitting in this warm and charming pub during the winter months.

Chez Jules . This is a French Brasserie located in the heart of Quebec City. We had the Ratatouille with Tagiatelle, a dish of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers served over tagiatelle. Superb! (You can use my recipe for Ratatouille and serve it over your favorite pasta. We had it with spinach tagiatelle.)

Ratatouille & Spinach Tagiatelle

Ratatouille & Spinach Tagiatelle

Wong’s Chinese Restaurant . You can always count on a Chinese restaurant for steamed vegetables and rice. Since we were on vacation (and there was something lost in translation), Bruce ended up with stir-fried vegetables and rice. I enjoyed Vegetable Singapore Mei Fun and washed it down with a Sake-tini.

Bello Restaurant. This pretty Italian restaurant had typical Italian dishes on the menu. We started out with a fresh arugula salad and some tasty bread. I had the Tagiatelle Funghi, which reminded me of my Pasta with Creamy Leek-Mushroom Sauce. Bruce ordered the Spaghetti Pomodoro. Delicious!

Le Monestere du Augustines. This restaurant is part of the spa-hotel that is located in a section of the Monestary of the Augustine Nuns. It has a holistic environment that’s centered on mindfulness. Not only can you partake in healing massages, reflexology, yoga and meditation, but their restaurant has the healthiest menu in Quebec City. Our dinner started with an abundant salad bar (kale, wild rice, couscous, micro greens) and minestrone soup. You get to choose from a meat, fish and vegetarian entrees, which change daily. We had a grilled eggplant dish similar to parmigiana. I worked up my own wild rice salad recipe which I’ll gladly share in an upcoming post.

Le Saint Amour. We saved the BEST for our last night in Quebec City and I’m saving the BEST for last on my list of favorites. I don’t even know where to begin with this gem. The decor of the restaurant is romantic, artistic and stunning. And the food is delicious, gorgeous and sensational. We ordered the Organic Vegetable Market Abundance. The name of this dish does not do it justice. If my memory serves me right (and my memory of a memorable meal is usually pretty accurate), I counted 19 different components that went into this dish. Some vegetables were steamed, others sauteed, others pureed, and sauces made. Yes, there was some butter, cream and cheese , but it was with a delicate hand. The plate was like an artist’s palette made of herbed gnocchi; fried polenta cake; plum tomato stuffed with goat cheese atop an olive crisp; patty pan squash, baby corn, baby bok choy, carrots, mushrooms, champignons, baby beets, asparagus, garlic scapes, micro greens, cheese sauce, carrot puree, tomato puree, beet puree and an edible flower. Imagine all the work that went into preparing that meal. You might say it is a labor of love, but when someone prepares something so beautiful, it’s just love.

Well, that’s all I’ve got until our next adventure. Wherever the road takes you, do not let food get in the way of experiencing life and what the world has to offer. Do your best to find restaurants that have one dish that is mostly plant-based and don’t fret if your vacation is not 100% compliant with your program. Happy trails to you and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

30 Aug 2016

Baked Hush Puppies

Baked Hush Puppies

Baked Hush Puppies

When I started Vegi-curious almost three years ago, my intention was to share my journey and help others transition to a plant-based diet. I still refer to it as a “transition” because it’s always changing. What started out more as a vegan diet, progressed into a low-fat vegan diet and is moving towards low-salt, whole food, plant based diet. One of the biggest challenges has been to find restaurants that offer any vegan or vegetarian options, and it’s even more difficult to find one that has anything on the menu without salt or oil. This makes it almost impossible to go to dinner with our omnivore family and friends. Sure, we can just order salad and a baked potato, but I can’t help feeling that our comrades feel sorry for us. The last thing I want to do is make others feel uncomfortable so I’m always on the lookout for a restaurant where there’s truly something for everyone. Over the Memorial Day weekend, we went to Woody’s Crab House in Northeast, Maryland. It used to be one of our favorite seafood restaurants. They serve mostly seafood items with a little bit of chicken, steak and ribs on the menu.  While we don’t order their crab cakes any more we can get a steamed vegetable sack that is healthy, satisfying and something to talk about. The “sack” is cotton netting that’s stuffed with broccoli, red potatoes, onions, carrots, celery and spinach, then steamed. It weighs about 3 pounds. And if that’s not enough, it’s served with corn on the cob on the side. I guess they couldn’t fit that into the sack. We upgraded from coleslaw to a green salad. They offer butter on the side, but I just seasoned my sack with Old Bay. (Why can’t more restaurants do this?) By now you’re wondering what this story has to do with Hush Puppies. Well, I’ll get to that now. Mom had the crab cakes and ordered Hush Puppies as one of the sides. Hush Puppies are fried batter that’s made with cornmeal, flour, onions and eggs. I equate them to a savory doughnut. As I sampled one of these tasty little puppies I wondered if I could make a baked, plant-based version. I searched the web and most of the recipes had the same ingredients that are in corn muffins, just different amounts. The baked versions were made in muffin tins, but I opted to drop mine right onto a cookie sheet. I coated them with crushed corn flakes to replicate the crunchy exterior of fried Hush Puppies. I omitted the salt so everyone in the family could enjoy them. And while they came out pretty tasty and crispy, if you’re not sodium-sensitive I’d keep the salt in the mix. You could drop a few Hush Puppies into a bowl of chili, serve them as a side to succotash (recipe coming soon) or just snack on them with your favorite fruit preserve. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Baked Hush Puppies

Makes about 28 hush puppies

1 cup non-dairy milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
6 tablespoons aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

½ cup minced onion

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon freeze-dried corn powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups of corn flakes, crushed

Preheat oven to 425F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together liquid ingredients. Whisk or sift together dry ingredients (except corn flakes), then stir in onions. Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir just to combine.

Use a small ice cream scoop and drop batter into crushed corn flakes. Gently roll to coat and place on parchment paper. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and cool completely.

30 May 2016

T.G.I.F. Salted Caramel Apple Martini

Caramel Apple Martini Thank Goodness, It’s Flowing.

“I love this time of the year.” You’ll probably hear me say this whenever the seasons change. Perhaps it’s a day at the orchard picking apples, putting out a big pumpkin and Indian corn on the porch, feeling the cool air on my face or hearing the sound of crisp leaves under my feet, but there’s something exhilarating about autumn. These are some of the inspirations behind my posts, but some of my ideas are inspired in part by what I experience while visiting a favorite restaurant. Grain on Main opened up recently and has become our favorite restaurant in town. They have a great bean burger and a grilled veggie sandwich for me and Bruce and a lot of tasty choices for Mom. If you ever tried dining out with what I call “mixed”  company (i.e. herbivores and omnivores), you can appreciate this triumph.  A few weeks ago, I ordered their Caramel Apple Martini and knew I was going to mix these up at home. This martini is made with apple cider, caramel vodka, butterscotch schnapps and rimmed with caramel sauce. Yummmmm! I consulted my mixologist (aka Bruce) and we came up with our own, albeit “boozier”, Salted Caramel Apple Martini recipe. Since the caramel sauce was a little distracting (and contains cream or butter), I opted to rim the glass with grated dark chocolate and kosher salt. A word of caution — this martini has some kick to it, so let me tell you about the School Night version. In my early forties I went back to school to become certified to teach Home Economics. My time in the classroom as a returning college student was extremely rewarding. My time in the classroom as a teacher, sorry to say, was disheartening.  To get me through the week, Bruce came up with the School Night Cosmo; just enough booze to take the edge off, but not too much that I would wake up with a brain fog. They were very therapeutic. Since I starting following a plant-based diet, alcohol seems to hit me a little harder so there’s still a need for School Night versions for many of our cocktail recipes and I’ll share both versions with you. Take delight in all the splendor that autumn has to offer, shake yourself a Salted Caramel Apple Martini and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Salted Caramel Apple Martini

 (The measurements in parentheses are for a school night version)

For rimming the glass:

1 ounce dark chocolate grated

¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

For the cocktail:

Crushed ice

2 parts caramel-flavored vodka (2 parts for school night)

1 part butterscotch Schnapps (1 part for school night)

1 part apple cider (3 parts for school night)

Using your finger, coat the rim of the glass with the schnapps then dip the glass into the grated chocolate-salt mixture.

Fill cocktail shaker half way with crushed ice. Pour vodka, schnapps and apple cider over ice, shake, strain into martini glass and enjoy.


12 Oct 2015

Year of the Goat Mixed Vegetables

Chinese Mixed VegetablesPlant-based Chinese food take-out sounds like a healthy option, but is it really? What could be so bad about vegetables, rice, lo mein or mei fun? Well nothing, that is until the chef starts adding oil, sugary sauces and salt into that wok. Did you know that just one  tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce contains 460 mg. of sodium? The Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day as the Adequate Intake level for most Americans, so you’re basically one-third of the way toward the limit after one meal. When are we going to stop the insanity?

Today’s post is part two of my Year of the Goat series. It’s basically a recipe for Chinese brown sauce and you add any combination of steamed vegetables that you like.  If you don’t have a vegetable steamer insert, get one.They’re inexpensive and can be stored inside of a pot. If you can’t wait to get to the store, simply take a small colander and place it into a larger pot; add just enough water to touch bottom of steamer insert; add vegetables; cover and steam to desired tenderness (about 5 to 8 minutes). The vegetable combinations are limitless: broccoli, carrots, peppers, onions, scallions, green beans, bok choy, water chestnuts . . .  you get the idea. The sauce is a variation of a recipe from the Forks Over Knives cookbook. The recipe makes a large amount of sauce, so you can make a huge pot of vegetables for your New Year celebration or stretch it out over a few days. If you do find yourself ordering Chinese food (after all, we all need a break once in a while), you can ask the chef to use low sodium soy sauce, as little oil as possible and no added salt. Better yet, why not order steamed vegetables with sauce on the side and please . . .  pass on those crispy noodles. Stay tuned for part three of the series — Vegetable Fried Rice. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Chinese Brown Sauce

1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 – 4 tablespoons Hoisin or Szechwan sauce
2 tablespoons corn starch (or other thickener)

Whisk all ingredients in small pot. Bring to boil over medium heat until thickened. Pour over vegetables and mix well or serve on the side and drizzle on as needed.


21 Jan 2015

Killer Griller Sandwich

Mushroom Pepper SandwichWhen I talk to friends and family about my transition to a plant-based diet I’m likely to get asked, “So, what’s been the hardest thing for you?” Well, the answer to that is somewhat multi-faceted and depends on what stage of the transition I was in at the time. If you would have asked me that question during the first few months, I would have said “dairy” without a doubt. But, I adapted and now enjoy almond milk, soy yogurt, ice cream made with coconut cream, and nut-based “cheeses”. I recall seeing a commercial that would spark a craving for sausage. The funny thing is that sausage was never on my list of favorite foods, but every time I saw that commercial I could almost smell it in the house. Crazy!
I went through a phase when I would say that eating out was the hardest part of a plant-based diet, but this is not such a big deal anymore. In fact, it’s opened up a whole new world, literally, for us. In so many other cultures, the focus of their diet is more on starches and vegetables and less on meat and fish. Thai, Indian, Chinese and Japanese are just a few cuisines that can easily be adapted to a plant-based diet. Some of our favorite dishes include Thai Curry, Thai Fried Rice; Japanese Seaweed Salad and Vegetable Sushi; and Indian Dal and Samosa Chat. Since giving up cheese, I eat more pizza than ever and suffer no remorse! Now I order it loaded with raw or grilled veggies or sautéed mushrooms and onions. And I cannot forgot about Chipotles.
And then there are times when I’ll say that what I miss most are sandwiches, so I’m always looking for new ways to keep two pieces of bread together. One of my favorites is what I call my “Killer Griller” sandwich. It’s just grilled Portobello mushrooms that have been marinated in balsamic vinegar, roasted red peppers and cashew cream cheese. You can make the cashew cream cheese and do your grilling on Sunday and have sandwiches for the rest of the week. The roasted peppers and cream cheese freeze well, so in keeping with my “One Mess, Many Meals” concept, make extras and pop them in the freezer. You can use whatever type of bread you like, vary the type of greens, add some sliced tomatoes . . . you get the idea.
So, in answer to the question I’d have to say that nothing is hard if you really want to make a change in your life. There may be challenges and obstacles, but there are ways through or around them. Once you break through, you may find a whole new world waiting for you. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Killer Griller Sandwiches

Bread of choice (I used a Portugese roll)
roasted red peppers
grilled and marinated portobellos
cashew cream cheese
greens (I used arugula)

Toast bread or roll. Spread a layer of cashew cream cheese on bread, then pile on the roasted peppers and marinated portobellos. Top with greens and anything else your heart desires.

Number of servings depends on how you stuff your sandwiches.


13 Aug 2014

Hidden Treasures

Wheaton Village 002

Falafel Wrap at Wildflower

One of the biggest challenges that we’ve faced since adopting a plant-based diet is finding a good restaurant, especially when we’re away from home.  I wanted to do something different for Father’s Day weekend. With a beautiful weather forecast, a road trip seemed like a good idea. We decided we would take a drive into southern New Jersey to visit Wheaton Arts, a glass-making museum in Milville, New Jersey. I thought for sure that there wouldn’t be any place to find vegan food, so I started thinking about what goodies I could pack in the cooler. A little sandwich, some pickled beets and figs and a few brownies. And then I decided to spin the wheel of fortune and googled “vegan restaurants milville nj”. To my delight, up came Wildflower Earthly Vegan Cafe. Nestled among several artist’s studios and minutes away from the Museum, this would be a good stop to fuel up for the afternoon. The menu looked simple, tasty and healthy. We both ordered the Falafel Wrap that was made with baked chickpea patties, fresh greens and a tahini sauce. It’s been my experience that while vegan restaurants may have healthier choices, their menus are not necessarily low-fat. Not only were we happy to find this vegan restaurant, but even happier that the falafel wasn’t fried. Luckily we saved room for dessert and ordered a vanilla cupcake and a chocolate parfait. I don’t think the desserts were low-fat, but this is one of those occasions when we do make an exception. What I learned today is that with a little adaptation you can still do the things you enjoy and don’t give up hope because sometimes when you least expect it you may find a hidden treasure. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Wheaton Village 008

Wildflower Vanilla Cupcake

Wheaton Village 010

Wildflower Chocolate Parfait

Wheaton Village 020

Wheaton Glass

14 Jun 2014

I’m Not Me When I’m Hungry

Chowpatty Chat Chowpatty ThaliOne of the most challenging aspects of switching to a plant-based diet for me was (and still is) what to do when visiting or traveling. If we’re visiting family or friends, I typically bring along a few meals and snacks that transport easily and seek out a restaurant that I can “veganize”.  It may be hard to believe, but I’d rather bring my own food than resort to eating out. Even though many restaurants try to accommodate our requests, I find that many chefs use way too much oil or salt in their dishes. And trying to find someplace to eat “on the fly” is even more difficult. Maybe you’ve seen this candy bar commercial and the one guy says to the other guy, “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry.” Well that’s me. When I’m hungry, I’m cranky. Really cranky.

So this weekend was a bit more challenging. When we brought Mom home from her plant-based boot camp on Friday, the car was loaded and there was little room for food.  So I knew we would be eating out quite a bit. I had it planned out, sort of. Friday night we go for Thai food. Saturday we would grab a rice, bean and avocado wrap at Mr. Wraps; then snack on some buffalo hummus at our grandson Shea’s birthday party. We ate leftovers on Saturday night. After a busy morning on Sunday, we were hoping to get something to eat before heading down the turnpike. Two of the restaurants we wanted to go to were closed, so we decided to try an Indian restaurant in Iselin. We went to a place called Chowpatty. (www.chowpattyfoods.com) The menu was not in English. I was happy to hear our waiter say that everything on the menu was vegetarian.  The chef came to our table and suggested some dairy-free substitutions. I’m still not sure what we ate, but it was delicious. We started off with a bowl of  Samosa Chat. It looked like puffed rice, Chinese crispy noodles and a thick sauce. Then we had a dish called Thali, which I likened to a Chinese pu-pu platter. The Thali had a few different vegetable medleys, each with its own spicy sauce; rice, rotli (flat bread), a savory cracker and some relishes. Very fun and very tasty.  You know the saying, “When one door closes, another one opens”. Well this is so true for me. I don’t think I would have ever tried Indian food if I hadn’t adopted a plant-based diet. When I closed the door on eating meat and dairy, I opened up a door that lead me to so many different cuisines. I would love for you to share some of your dining experiences with me, both good and bad. If I get enough reviews from you, I’ll dedicate an entire page of Vegi-curious restaurant reviews . . . for you, by you. Thanks for stopping by.

27 Apr 2014

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