Tag Archives: Veganism

Ediets vs. MyFitnessPal: Weight Loss and Technology

26 Jan

As I mentioned in my last post, all that cooking and baking in November and December, with very limited time for the gym (as in, never!) led to unwanted weight gain for me.

Although in the past I have been successful with losing weight quickly on an all-raw food diet, or even a few days of juice fasting, I decided not to go that route this time because of the added pressure of a new part-time teaching job.  Plus, I’m not in any rush.  It’s the dead of winter, and I am not going any where in a bathing suit.

Generally, I eat lots of healthy foods, and cook with a minimum amount of oil and salt — if at all.  However, I also have a huge appetite and a weakness for chocolate.  I used to be quite active and burned it all at the gym or outdoors in the summer, but now with a brutal winter and concerns about having time to get to the gym, I can’t just eat as much as I want.

Therefore, I decided that this time around I would stick to a more traditional means of weight loss — calorie counting.  But how?  I couldn’t do it without help.

First I attempted Ediets, which helped me lose a lot of weight nine years ago before I was vegan and knew how to cook.  At the time I succeeded using the Vegetarian convenience plan, which designed a menu using mostly frozen entrees and simple recipes for salads, dressings, snacks, and easy cooked foods like chili.  I did not abstain from dairy at the time, but I am happy to report that Ediets now provides a check box option for avoiding both dairy and eggs in their Vegetarian plan — thus making it vegan friendly.  The plan costs about $18 per month, and gives you menus, shopping lists, exercise logs, and a community for connecting with others.

But I did not stay with Ediets.  Within 24 hours I called back for a refund — which they did promise to return to my credit card.  I don’t believe it’s a bad service at all, and do believe it would be helpful to some vegetarians and vegans — but not me.

As I looked through the menus planned for my first week, I was discouraged by the choices automatically chosen for me.  There were a lot of meals planned with vegan deli meats, vegan cheeses, and bread.  Now, I love a great sandwich from time to time, but I’m so passed the stage of wanting my food to look like a substitute of the Standard American Diet.  It’s probably great for newbies still attached to the ham-and-cheese sandwich ideal, but I just can’t have it every day, or even every other day.  Also, I wouldn’t want just one sandwich — if and when I do splurge on something like a vegan grilled cheese sandwich, I want at least two!  Plus, I wondered where all the greens were in the Ediets plan.  A small salad once  a day isn’t enough for me.

Ediets does permit you to modify the menus.  In fact, if you are like me and you prefer to have the same breakfast food all the time (I just can’t think in the morning), you could find the one you want and set it to come up every day until you change it.  When you modify the menu, you scan through other meal options in their database.  You also have the option of choosing a different meal that is not from the Ediets database.

And therein lies my problem.  After my modifications, my first three meals all said “I chose my own meal.”  None were from the Ediets database.  At that point I realized I would be paying for a service that would essentially  just track my weight as I reported it week to week — since their menus did not appeal to me.  But before I gave up, I tried one more thing.  Since I’m not a huge fan of bread — or rather, I don’t want to waste my calories on bread — I actually changed my Ediets plan from Vegetarian to Wheat-Free, thinking that perhaps a new body of meals would appear in my menus sans sandwiches — more whole foods-based, perhaps.

And that’s when I got the error message!  Under the exclusions section, I marked the “wheat” category and kept the boxes checked off for all the animals (eggs, dairy, beef, pork, fish, shellfish, poultry).   In fact, the only box left was “soy.”  The red-lettered threatening message said “You cannot exclude more than 5 sources of protein.”

Really?  I wasn’t under the impression that I had… I mean, I hadn’t excluded tofu, tempeh, beans, seeds, nuts, rice, quinoa, etc…. oh, and let’s not forget I didn’t exclude plants, who also have protein — a building block of life present in all plant foods!

I came to the sad realization that although Ediets attempted to accommodate vegans, it was still stuck in that Standard American Diet protein-obsession (hence all the bread and vegan meats and cheeses).

Thankfully, the agent on the phone was understanding and promised to refund my money within 5-10 business days.

So what else can I do?

I discovered a free Droid app for my phone called MyFitnessPal.  It is available both on the Internet or through the phone app.  There are tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands?) of food items in their database, and one need only specify the food and its portion size.  And the coolest part is…

… the BAR CODE SCANNER!

If I do eat a granola bar, a certain cereal, or other packaged food, I simply scan its bar code with my phone and it is added to my daily food log.

As I document the foods I’m eating, the program keeps a list of recent ingredients or foods that can easily be chosen again if you repeat the same foods.  For breakfast every day, I’ve been eating 1/2 cup of rolled oats with 1/2 a cup of almond milk, a tablespoon of raisins, and three prunes.  After selecting the individual ingredients on the first day, I was able to save it as a meal called “Breakfast” (I wasn’t very creative with the title), so every day since then I’ve been able to record this meal with one click.

I also created a meal called “Soup” (yes, I have to work on these names).  After my  husband and I cooked a simple soup with broccoli, carrots, tofu, rice noodles, and broth, I looked carefully at my bowl and estimated how much I had of each ingredient in one serving.  It looked like a 1/2 cup of the noodles, 1/4 cup of carrots, 1/4 cup of broccoli, and maybe 1/2 cup of tofu (if in doubt, one could measure it).  The rest was all watery broth with seasonings.  So I entered these ingredients on my food log the first time I ate them, and saved it as “Soup.”  Every time I’ve had left over soup since that day, I just simply clicked on the “Soup” meal I had created.

Another option is to just enter the calories.  So if I make a meal from a recipe book that has the calories listed per serving, I can just add that number to my log (although with this function MyFitnessPal wouldn’t be able to also count the other nutritional information like carbs, proteins, vitamins, etc.)

MyFitnessPal also has an exercise log.  You can add an activity from their database for which it will estimate how many calories you burned.  If you know for a fact how much you burned, you can simply enter them as well.  These calories burned are automatically added to your daily food log, so you know how much more you can and should be eating for that day.

If you decide to use MyFitnessPal, I would suggest creating your free account on your computer first so you can set up your weight loss goals and any meals you eat regularly, like breakfast or snacks.  Then keep track of everything you eat on the go by using the cell phone app.

Well, it’s only been about 6 days, so it is still too soon for me to report any success with MyFitnessPal, but I can say that I am getting the hang of it and am particularly motivated to go the gym more often when I see how it makes my calorie goals go up — that means more food for me!

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Bringing Pizza Back

28 Nov

No doubt you my have heard countless vegans name pizza as one of their most missed foods from B.V. (Before Veganism).  Pizza and probably Macaroni and Cheese, the latter being my most missed.

In B.V. times, I would order just extra cheese — no toppings — on my pizzas, but all that changed when I gave up cheese.  Along with the peace of mind that goes with the cessation of stealing calves’ milk, I also changed my pizza habit — tons of veggies toppings, and no cheese — if and when I had pizza at all.

At home, I would do the same on my pizzas, complete with veggies on tomato sauce and a whole wheat crust.  Then one day I discovered Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cheeses.  These cheeses satisfied my husband’s craving for cheese, but were still a bit of a pain for me to grate by hand — at this point I had gone without cheese pizza for so long that it didn’t seem worth the trouble of all that grating.  Furthermore, the taste was just OK, and the melting was one step up from competing vegan cheese makers.

And then there was Daiya.  I first discovered it at the Vegetarian Summerfest I attended this past July in Johnstown, PA, where in addition to other ridiculously delicious foods three times per day, we were provided with pizza — lots of pizza — at both lunch and dinner.  I had a slice at every meal — probably to make up for lost time!

Daiya melts — it melts — it really melts!!  Daiya really tastes more like mozzarella, or cheddar, more so than other brands.  Daiya is already grated when you buy it in a small package.  Yes!  Daiya has brought pizza back to many of us now, and the beauty of it is that it mostly tapioca starch — it’s actually soy- and gluten-free, which means it can be embraced by people with allergies too.

I have had to travel far to get my Daiya, since my nearest Whole Foods is 45 minutes away, and no one else by me sells it. But I have good news:  I went to my local health food store and was speaking to the owner, and I asked him directly if he had heard of it.  He actually had not heard of Daiya but immediately offered to order it for me.  Within three days, he had a box of it!  No more traveling for Daiya!

One bag will yield me enough cheese to satisfactorily cover two pizzas, each with an approximately 12 inch diameter.

So this weekend I made four pizzas for a party at my house:  a grilled zucchini and eggplant, a onion and mushroom, a “meaty” one with Tofurky Kielbasa and Yves Pepperoni slices, and a just plain cheese mix of both cheddar and mozzarella Daiya cheese.

Of course, I wouldn’t eat pizza every day, but it is great to have an alternative that I can confidently recommend to other vegans, and most importantly the uninitiated veg-curious.  Truly, now there is nothing missing from the vegan world!

Below are some pictures — unfortunately with a house full of people, I did not get a chance to take the pictures until after they had already had slices pulled from them:

So What Do Vegans Eat For Thanksgiving?

23 Nov

Typically one of the first questions posed to a vegan by a non-vegan is “What do you eat on Thanksgiving?” (As if turkeys were the only choice otherwise).  I had the good fortune of attending two vegan Thanksgiving so far this season.  The first one was smaller, with 12 people in attendance, but the second one was much larger — perhaps close to 3o people.  Such an event is the perfect place to answer that age-old question, with an abundance of delicious examples.

Below are some photographs of foods from the second, larger Thanksgiving Potluck I attended, hosted by Vegetarian Society of South Jersey.  I apologize for the grainy quality of some of the photos, and for the fact that I did not have the opportunity to track down all the people who contributed a dish in order to get all the ingredients and information accurately.

Food Paparazzi

11 Nov

As I loaded my plate yesterday at Mumbai Bistro’s buffet-by-the-pound, I eagerly took out my camera to photograph it before eating.  As the flash flickered in the dining room, I paused and wondered, what am I doing?  Who takes pictures of their food?  Why?

As I asked myself these questions, I also had one answer — I do, I take pictures of my food, and so do many of my vegan/veg-curious friends.  I have definitely been in vegetarian restaurants in which our whole table whipped out cameras to photograph beautiful meals as they arrived.

What compels me, as well as my other vegan friends, to take these pictures?  I have yet to meet or dine with a nonvegetarian who does the same thing.  As I think of my relationship with food, I realize that I simply view it differently now, as a vegan, than as I had before.  I plan menus at home around seasonal produce, and note the passage of time as these fruits and vegetables come and go.  My bookshelves have completely been overrun by vegan cookbooks, pushing out my English and Spanish literature books long ago.  My travel plans include decisions about where to eat — even a trip to New York or Philadelphia is ten times more exciting now, with the anticipation of eating at a vegan restaurant.  My memories are anchored around what I ate and where: “Remember that day when we had that chocolate infused chili on vacation?”

Years ago, when I still ate cheese, if I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich or mozzarella sticks at a diner, the food was not so fascinating, colorful, or tasty enough to remember.  I ordered, I ate, I left.  But now my experience with food has changed.  Many times, especially in the beginning, my restaurant food choices were very limited (iceberg lettuce and tomato, anyone?). But as time has passed and a few new restaurants have sprung up in my area, I have improved my ordering skills.  I peruse the menu for ingredients, and often design my own satisfying dish.  These are my memories and experiences that I enjoy documenting and sharing as other people might photograph vacations and dance recitals.

As a vegan, my food choices may have limited me from the animal products world, but in turn it opened up the vastly larger plant world.  I look forward to trying new vegetables and fruits unknown to me, but also rejoice in recreating the familiar ones in more and more ways with each season.  Ethnic foods in particular have added diversity to my palate, and have become an exciting option for when I cannot find a vegetarian restaurant.

Having this much significance in my life now, my conscious eating is something I experience daily and thus becomes central to my life.  Of course, not all vegans care this much about their food, and I’m sure there are plenty of meat-eaters that will claim the same joy I’ve described.  I can only speak for myself and for my fascination with food’s power.  Chosen poorly, it has the power to harm; chosen consciously, it has the power to heal.  Its flavor has the ability to bring joy or disappointment.  It brings people together to connect over their celebrations and common desires.

After thinking about it last night, I decided today to go through my picture files for other examples of foods I’ve either cooked myself or ordered at restaurants over the past few years, and describe what I remember.  Here are some photos of some of the foods I’ve made or ordered and felt were important enough to photograph.  (Some of the images are low quality, especially if I took the picture with my phone camera, so I do apologize — I am no photographer!)

Vacation Pictures

My honeymoon in Saint Martin.  Left:  my favorite mango daiquiri drink garnished with a starfruit and gooseberry.  Right:  Ital food from a Rastafarian restaurant called Freedom Fighters Ital Shack, serving an all-vegan natural menu.  Cucumbers, avocados, sprouts, plantains, barley, and seasoned TVP.  It was served with home-brewed sarsaparilla tea, somewhat visible in the corner.

“Second” honeymoon in Jamaica.  My options at this resort were very limited, since they were cooking everything with butter.  I was actually sick for three days before realizing it.  Then I just ate mostly fruits and fresh salad for the rest of the week, along with unlimited rum.  Left:  a fruit called guinep.  It’s eaten by biting the skin so that it cracks open, removing the pulp and sucking on it, then spitting out the seed.  We bought two bunches and kept them in our room to snack on throughout the week.  Right:  typical decorative fruit displays at the resort restaurant.  I would have chowed down on it if I could!

Washington, DC.  Lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian, where the cafeteria serves many native foods categorized by region.  This meal included purple potatoes from Peru, as well as wild rice and mushroom entrees.  It was my husband’s uncle’s idea to eat here, and it was fantastic!

Lancaster, PA.  A wonderful family trip in which ten of us stayed for President’s Day weekend.  It happened that Valentine’s Day also fell on the same weekend.  Left:  my Valentine’s Day meal of capellini pasta, marinara sauce, grilled veggies, and an edible orchid — which I did eat, and found to have a surprisingly buttery texture!  Center:  huge fruit salad for breakfast at a neat little cafe.  Right:  an awesome fried tofu, hummus and veggie wrap served at a brewery.  It was amazing, but unfortunately when we returned the following year, they no longer had it on the menu.  After anticipating it as I planned the trip, and of course thinking about it all day while sightseeing, it was quite disappointing to not have it that night!

Lititz, PA.  A great mid-week getaway just this past summer, where we stayed at the Speedwell Forge Inn and Wolf Sanctuary.  It was quite an awesome bed and breakfast, which deliciously accommodate vegan guests (or any dietary needs) — the food was terrific but I had forgotten my camera for breakfast.  Instead, this picture is of a chocolate chili and wild rice risotto I had at Cafe Chocolate.  They have several delicious vegan entree options, and some of their chocolate is vegan — like their amazing truffles!  We also had chocolate-strawberry shakes with chunks of dark chocolate floating in them.  These were my best memories of this trip!

Restaurant Pictures

Green Cuisine in Stone Harbor, NJ.  Eggless “Egg Salad” on pumpernickel bread with fresh fruit.  Yum!

Thai Basil in Piscataway, NJ.  A vegetable yellow curry.

Horizons in Philadelphia, PA.  Peruvian Mushroom Crepe with squash, really big Lima beans and a really yummy sauce.  Perfect restaurant to celebrate our second wedding anniversary.

All the Way Live in Philadelphia, PA.  A  medley of five raw appetizers on a bed of baby greens.  Green wakame salad with sesame seed oil, nutmeat made from walnuts and savory herbs, BBQ baby bella marinated mushrooms, quinoa with cilantro and fresh vegetables, and black bice with kale, onions, peppers and burdock root.

Careme’s in Mays Landing, NJ.  The second all-vegan gourmet dinner co-sponsored with American Vegan Society.  Read about the third one here.  (In order from left to right) first: butternut squash soup with pumpkin-spice croutons garnished with vanilla almond milk froth and baby watercress.  Second:  green asparagus tempura with pickled radish lime zest, and a warm tamari chili soy sauce.  Third:  ruby beet tartare with watercress, endive, green apples, pistachio nuts, and Dijon mustard.  Fourth:  garbanzo bean panisse with young carrots, sweet onions, cumin, crispy shallots, barley, and tomato-currant relish.  Fifth:  dark chocolate caramel sorbet with chocolate streusel, puffed rice, and an almond milk froth.

Potlucks!

Tons of fabulous food at a raw food potluck this past summer.  Left:  the salads and savory foods.  Right:  the awesome desserts!

(In order from left to right) first:  potato salad.  Second:  mac and (not) cheese!  Third:   peanut butter chocolate pillows from a Vegan Cupcakes Invade Your Cookie Jar recipe.  Fourth:  chocolate orange spice cake with dulce de batata from a Viva Vegan recipe.

Celebrations

First wedding anniversary party.  Left:  a huge spread of all vegan appetizers including cabbage salad, fennel salad, cucumber salad, hummus, vegan ranch dip, guacamole, fresh salsa, fresh veggies, and tons of other stuff that aren’t even in that picture.  Right:  the top of my wedding cake (vegan) from the previous year, and just peeking in the bottom of the picture are two desserts from recipes in Ani’s Raw Desserts.  Those desserts were much better than my cake.  On our wedding day, the caterers gave us our cake top sealed in a cardboard box, which we kept in my in-laws freezer for the year.  When we opened it, I realized it hadn’t been wrapped in plastic or anything — it just sat in the cardboard for a year and tasted awfully freezer burnt!!  We ate a bite anyway, just to celebrate, and moved on to the good (and fresh) stuff.

For my thirtieth birthday, my husband made this tempeh chili for the party — all by himself using a recipe he found on the Internet — and he ordered this vegan gelato cake from Dreamz Cafe in Millville, made with mango and strawberry flavors.

At Home

Some random foods I’ve made in the last year or so.  (From left to right) first:  butternut squash and orange soup.  Second: pumpkin waffles.  Third:  veggie pizza with Daiya cheese.  Fourth:  “meat” lovers pizza with Daiya cheese, Smart Ground, Tofurky sausage, Yves Pepperoni slices.  Fifth:  grilled Daiya cheese and tomato made with a panini press.  Sixth:  Chocolate banana cake with chocolate ganache on top.

Now with this blog, I intend to continue documenting good vegan food in my own kitchen as well as in restaurants in and around New Jersey.  With opportunities three times per day, I’m sure I’ll never run out pictures for this blog!

Three Minute Vegan Ice Cream

10 Nov

At a Veg Meetup a few weeks ago, I described my vegan ice cream recipe that I’ve been making for a few years.  To some, it seemed to involve a lot of work, but to me it only takes about five minutes, or three minutes if I rush.  The trick is to always have the ingredients on hand, of course, and multi-task the preparation and clean up.  Today, I actually set my stopwatch and finished the whole job (with pictures) in 2 minutes, 58.2 seconds!

Very often, I have an insatiable desire for chocolate, and sometimes it’s in the form of ice cream.  In the summer, it’s every day!

Vegan Ice Cream does exist and is available for sale in both health food stores and regular grocery stores like Shoprite — however, it still has fat and sugar comparable to cow’s ice cream.  As much as I love Coconut Bliss, So Delicious, and Purely Decadent chocolate ice creams, I can’t afford to eat the calories (or pay the price) every day.

But a banana, ice cubes, almond milk, and hemp powder can be a surprisingly rich stand-in for these higher-calorie ice creams, and very easy to make.  As I mentioned in my smoothie post, I always keep frozen overripe bananas on hand.  I usually buy them at Acme, where they sell them for $0.25 / lb. in paper bags.  Before they get mushy, but after they are very yellow and have quite a few black spots on them, I peel them and freeze them in a plastic ziplock bag.  Provided I have these bananas, some cocoa powder, and almond milk on hand, I’m set!  You don’t need the hemp powder, but I have been adding it ever since I discovered that I’d much rather have chocolate ice cream after a workout than a protein shake.  Thus, I put my hemp powder in the ice cream, with the added bonus that it does add a subtle nutty flavor and some body to the ice cream.  Now I add it all the time, even when I haven’t worked out.  All in all, the result is a delicious ice cream eating experience that really amounts to no more calories or regret than having eaten a banana!

Following a recipe based loosely on Alissa Cohen’s Living on Live Food and in observing banana whips in progress at Bashful Banana (Great veg-friendly food!) in Ocean City, New Jersey, I devised a strategy using the tools and resources I have.  Bear in mind, as pictured, my food processor has a hole on the top of the lid with a removable cup.  Once the machine is running, I safely add most of my ingredients through there to avoid wasting time, but you might want to stop yours in between ingredients (today I had to stop it in order to take pictures).  I also suggest washing some of the tools while the food processor works, but for the first time, you may want to keep your eyes on it instead.

1. Set up and plug in food processor.

2. Put 3-4 ice cubes in the processor and start running it.

3. While the ice is chopped up, grab a knife, cutting board, and a banana from the freezer.  Cut it into round slices about 3/4-inch thick.

4. Add these slices to the food processor (I actually throw them in through the hole on top and keep the machine running).

5. While these get chopped up, wash off your knife and cutting board, and grab the almond milk, hemp protein (if using), and cocoa powder from the fridge.

6. Pour in about 3 tablespoons of the almond milk (eyeball it) through the hole on the top.

7. Add about 2 tablespoons each of cocoa powder and hemp protein.

8. Put the hemp protein, cocoa powder, and almond milk in the fridge while the food processor is running.

9. When the mixture is thick and smooth but not liquified, stop the food processor.  Immediately wash the food processor lid.

10. Remove the food processor bowl and careful take out the blade.  You can use a small rubber spatula to push off the ice cream.  Immediately wash this blade too.

11. Don’t waste time or dirty any more dishes!  Take that same small spatula and eat your ice cream right out of the food processor bowl!

12.  When finished, wash the bowl immediately to avoid sticking.

Mmmmmm!!!  Tastes great, and if you multi-tasked, you really don’t have dishes to wash or stuff to put away.  Five minutes later, it looks like nothing happened in your kitchen — nope, no sneaky snacks at all!

However, the only catch is that you really do need to eat it on the spot before it melts, and it won’t keep the same texture if you freeze it.  Thus, for real vegan banana ice cream, you’d have to use an ice cream maker and more ingredients.

Here are some suggested add-ins I’ve used in the past (add to the finished ice cream and pulse the blade a few times to incorporate it):

1.  Almond or peanut butter (be sure it is room temperature).

2. Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips.

3. Vegan Graham Crackers, Sweet and Sara Marshmallows, and chocolate chips (My response to the Phillies Graham Slam flavor put out by Turkey Hill).

4. Coarsely chopped Oreos (I usually get Newman-O’s).

5. Peanuts or almonds.

6. A teaspoon of agave nectar and a drop of vanilla extract (especially if your bananas weren’t that ripe and sweet).

7. Chunks of brownie or cookie dough if I happen to be making some.

8. Carob powder instead of cocoa powder.

Substituions, if needed:

1. Frozen chunks of mango also work as well as bananas, but I wouldn’t put cocoa powder in it.

2. Almond milk is my favorite for this recipe, but really any non-dairy milk will do.

3.  You could always skip the cocoa if you don’t like chocolate.

****If I get a Flip video camera for Christmas, I promise I’ll repost in the future with a video to prove how fast this recipe can be made!  In the  mean time, enjoy!

Culinary Students Go Vegan

2 Nov

The culinary arts students at Atlantic Cape Community College have been studying the diversity of cuisine, especially with respect to special dietary needs.  At Carême’s restaurant, where students test their culinary creativity while running a restaurant, the students have now had three opportunities this year to wow a crowd of vegans and veg-curious.  It began this past spring when the American Vegan Society and the Dean of the Academy of Culinary Arts teamed up to co-host an all-vegan fine dining experience that would be a special treat for local-area vegans and vegetarians as well as an important learning experience for the students.

As the Dean explained during the second vegan dinner in September, she expects all her students to graduate with the experience of cooking for specialty diets as marketable skills in acquiring restaurant jobs.  She also noted, as a paraphrase of a comment made at one of her industry conferences, when a group of people look for a restaurant, if there is even one vegan or vegetarian in the party, they will choose a restaurant that accommodates that person.  Therefore, restaurants who refuse to adapt will lose the business of that whole group.

So take that, steakhouses!

The students, many of which are about to graduate this semester, brainstormed and designed the menu together, and cooked from fresh ingredients, including herbs and micro-greens from their on-campus greenhouses.

Once again, the crowd was wowed as each of five courses appeared at the tables.  First, a corn and coconut bisque arrived, garnished with fresh cilantro, cherry tomato halves, and drops of red pepper oil and green chive-infused oil.  The smooth body of the soup, along with the burst of fresh corn niblets delivered rich flavors with every spoonful.

Next, we savored the smoothness of a brilliant green edamame-truffle hummus on triangular fried flatbreads, topped with curled pepper ribbons and parsley.  The creamy and crispy textures blended exquisitely in bite-sized pieces.

The third course combined cold vermicelli noodles with raw pea shoots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots in raw spring rolls, providing a cool and crunchy texture in a hint of a spicy sauce.

Despite the abundance of these first three courses, the students had more for us.  Wild mushroom risotto and eggplant provided a rich and creamy bed to charred tofu, sesame seeds, watercress, and micro-greens known as bull’s blood.

In keeping with the fall season, dessert was a green apple cobbler with rice syrup and hints of ginger and cinnamon.  The tartness of the apple and sweetness of the cobbler  were both enhanced by the ginger.

Some attendees were so full, they requested take-home boxes.  Instead, the students returned with these creative swans as containers for their leftovers.

We concluded our dinner with a well-roasted coffee and soy milk, of course, and a few short words from the hosts.  At the conclusion, the lone vegetarian student chef in the program thanked us for our support and told the following tongue-in-cheek joke:  “Why did the tofu cross the road?  To prove it wasn’t chicken!”

As these students complete their restaurant class and move on to graduation or additional studies, a new group will be taking on the project in spring, at least once, and so a new generation of chefs will be educated on the rich flavors derived from the plant kingdom.