Saturday, September 21, 2013

Enjoying the Dining Out Experience on a Plant Based Diet: It's Tough

It was the most sorry plate of pasta I'd ever seen.

The menu at the fine Italian Cucina read, "Penne Mediterranean: Spinach, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, olive oil and feta cheese, tossed with barilla plus multi grain pasta. $12.49"

As I looked down at my pitiful plate, I counted. Five wilted pieces of spinach were hastily tossed into a bed of oil with noodles floating in it. Fifty noodles. Ten pine nuts. Four sun dried tomatoes. No cheese. $12.49.

I looked at my husband and his salad. "You want some?" He asked.

Quite stricken with shock, I nodded my head. We shared his salad, and then each ate half the pasta. As many times as we saw the waitress, we requested more "complimentary" bread.

It is rare that I will order pasta at a restaurant. Everyone knows you can purchase a one pound box of pasta for pennies and prepare it at home in minutes. However, it was one of only three options to choose from on the menu. My husband's salad and my pasta order made up two of those three choices.

The plate of pasta was so poor, however, that I actually started to wonder if, because my husband had mentioned to the waitress that we wanted the vegetarian options, the chef had decided to plot against us and punish us by serving such a wimpy plate of food. I actually began to wonder what the plate would look like if we hadn't mentioned our dietary preferences at all. Would it be the same or would I have been alloted ten pieces of spinach? How could any "fine" restaurant ever feel good about serving this plate of food to any of their dining guests? And for $12.49?

"You didn't get enough, did you." He stated.

"Neither did you." I replied.

Four days previous I had made Angela Liddon's Thick and Chunky Tomato Sauce, tossed in a large vat of brown rice pasta, served with baked acorn squash, and a large loaf of whole wheat zucchini herb bread for our family of five. The zucchini herb bread resembled the tasty complimentary bread at the fine Cucina, but the pasta and squash had been far superior in quantity and quality. I had left that meal full and happy.

In other circumstances I have called out the restaurant's attention to their poor food, and requested that they fix it. But my husband had purchased this meal and gone to great effort to take me out on a nice date. Sometimes requesting recompense is painful. And in this situation, too painful.

If I, as a normal human being with a normal appetite (albeit eight months pregnant, so maybe not so average appetite) had been introduced to the "vegan" lifestyle by the Italian meal served at last night's restaurant, I would have rightly refused to maintain such a lifestyle.

I left that restaurant with my husband, hungry, and inwardly shaking my head. It's tough. If I was too busy to cook due to my life's circumstances (if I had to work full time, etc) and had to rely on the business world to feed me a plant based diet, I would never make it. Most restaurants simply don't know how to do vegan, let alone plant based whole foods. But I told myself, "I'm not hungry. I am going to be just fine."

We window shopped, and walked in and out of the local clothing venues around the area. Very soon, however, I realized I wanted dessert. Trader Joe's was conveniently located nearby, and we made our way through the store searching for a treat. We purchased dark chocolate-covered almonds and vegan trail mix cookies. We also bought some Pure bars and Lara Bars. After devouring the food bars, and heading home for the evening, I could not deny it any longer. I was starving. I had wanted dessert for the first time in a while because I was so hungry, but didn't realize it until after chowing down two trail mix cookies, and a bunch of chocolate-covered almonds.

I have been asked before, from someone unfamiliar with our dietary preferences, "How do you get full?" A bit taken aback, and not understanding the basis of their question initially, I had to think about it from their perspective. If you try to get food out in the world that does not contain animal products, you may only receive the plateful of loaded empty calories that I had received last night. And, after eating it all, simply left with an empty stomach loaded with calories.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sun-Dried Tomato, Mushroom, and Spinach Tofu Quiche from Angela Liddon

I found a spare moment that I could try to slip in a short post. Well, not really. I am sure there are at least ten other things I should be doing right now. But moms are usually famous for thinking/feeling that way all of the time!

Experimenting or trying new recipes has been failing for me recently, and more and more I am having to stick with the tried and true so that my family has a good dinner to come home to. But I saw this recipe on on Monday and I couldn't resist trying it out. Honestly, Tofu Quiche does not sound like it would turn out.

But it was fabulous. My children even loved it, mushrooms and all.

I am still struggling with a lot of food aversions through this pregnancy, and now that I only have six weeks left until the baby is born, there isn't a lot of room left in my tummy for eating isn't a lot of fun. So while my cravings are few and far between, I truly crave this dish.

I wish I had doubled the recipe, and next time I make it (next week maybe?) I probably will double it.

The only thing I changed and would change further, is the moisture in the crust. I added more olive oil and should have added more water, because the crust was a tad dry and too crumbly, although it really was still very delicious. I used olive oil and it gave the crust such a lovely Italian flavor.

Oh, and P.S. I am no longer a staunch oil free cook. I have found it too inhibiting and I figure that adding a tad of olive or coconut oil to certain dishes that would otherwise completely not turn out, is better than quitting being a whole foodist altogether. In other words, I found 100% oil free cooking for a family with small children to be unrealistic long term.

I did not take a picture before we happily ate it all, but if you go to Angela's site she has some lovely pictures that she took. Part of the reason for this blog is not to just try to create original recipes, but also to share with you some recipes that have worked well for us that are created by other chefs that inspire me. This is one of those meals!

Angela mentions on her blog that this quiche would be good for any meal: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I found the crust to be especially dry as leftovers, but I did not reheat it the way she suggests in her note.

I hope you get a chance to try it, and I hope it works out for you as well as it did for me and my family!

Sun-dried Tomato, Mushroom, and Spinach Tofu Quiche
Directly from Angela Liddon's Website: (click the link for a printable version from Angela)

Vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free
By Angela Liddon

Sun dried Tomato, Mushroom, and Spinach Tofu Quiche

Note from Angela: This delicious, nutrient-packed tofu quiche is adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook. Thanks to Ashley for reminding me to make it! It was my first time making a tofu quiche and it really surprised us with how amazing it turned out! Even Eric went crazy for this quiche, often enjoying leftovers twice a day until it was finished. Enjoy it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack. I've made this a few different ways simply by changing up the vegetables used. One version used asparagus (1 cup diced) and broccoli (1.5 cups diced), which was also very nice. The only thing I would advise against is using a high-water vegetable, like fresh tomatoes as it might result in a water-logged quiche. Best of all, it reheats well. Simply place leftover quiche on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350F.




1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons water, mixed together
1 cup whole almonds, ground into flour
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats or buckwheat groats, ground into flour
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil (I had to add 2 tablespoons, and I used olive oil)
1-1.5 tbsp water, as needed (I would probably add 2-3 tablespoons of water)


1 block (14-oz) firm tofu
1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
1 leek or yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 cups (8-oz) sliced cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup baby spinach
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4-1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste


Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a round 10-inch tart pan. Alternatively, you can use a 9-inch glass pie dish if desired.

Wrap rinsed tofu in a few tea towels. Place a few books on top of it to lightly press out the water while you prepare the crust.

For the crust: Whisk together flax and water mixture in a small bowl and set aside so it can gel up.
In a large bowl, stir together the almond meal, oat flour (or buckwheat flour), parsley, oregano, and salt.

Add in the flax mixture and oil. Stir until mostly combined, adding the remaining water until the dough is sticky (about the consistency of cookie dough). The dough should stick together when you press it between your fingers.

Crumble the dough evenly over the base of the tart pan (or pie dish). Starting from the centre of the pan, press the mixture evenly into the pan, working your way outward and up the sides of the pan. Poke a few fork holes in the dough so air can escape.

Bake the crust at 350F for 13-16 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm to touch. Set aside to cool while you finish preparing the filling. Increase oven temperature to 375F.

For the filling: Break apart the tofu block into 4 pieces and add into food processor. Process the tofu until smooth and creamy. If it doesn't get creamy, add a tiny splash of almond milk to help it along.
In a skillet, add oil and saute the leek (or onion) and garlic over medium heat for a few minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, season with salt, and cook on medium-high heat until most of the water cooks off the mushrooms, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in the herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, nutritional yeast, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes until combined. Cook until the spinach is wilted.

Finally, remove from heat and stir in the processed tofu until thoroughly combined. Adjust seasoning to taste if desired. Spoon mixture into baked crust and smooth out with a spoon until even.

Bake quiche, uncovered, at 375F for 33-37 minutes, until the quiche is firm to the touch. For best results, cool the quiche for 15-20 minutes on a cooling rack before attempting to slice. The crust may crumble slightly when sliced warm, but not to worry.

Wrap up leftovers and refrigerate for 3-4 days. Leftover quiche can be reheated in the oven on a baking sheet for about 15-20 minutes at 350F.