Excellent “Chicken” Salad

                      20160518_192746 (004)

This is a wonderful vegan “chicken” flavored sandwich spread that is great for school or work lunches. Packed with protein, taste, and crunch it satisfies on every level. Even if you have a nut allergy, you can still enjoy this scrumptious “chicken” salad with no fear– simply substitute raw cauliflower for the nuts.

 

                      20160517_153017

 

Ingredients:

1- 15 oz. can chick peas, rinse and drain

1 handful each of almonds and cashews OR an equal amount of chopped raw cauliflower.

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

4 – 5 Tbsp. Vegenaise

2 tsp. prepared mustard

1/8 – 1/4  tsp. ginger powder

1/8 – 1/4 tsp. Adobo seasoning salt

pepper to taste

1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)

Method:

Chop scallions and celery (and cauliflower if using) — set aside.

Blend remaining ingredients in food processor ( blend only enough to chop — you want it kind of chunky, not creamy).

Place blended ingredients in a bowl and add chopped scallions and celery (and cauliflower). Mix well with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Makes 6 – 8 great sandwiches!

Advertisements

Chen Vegetarian House, 709 Penn Ave. West Reading, PA 19611- Phone: 610-374-2288 or www.chenvegehouse.com

Chen Vegetarian House is an all vegetarian Asian restaurant with a full menu of vegetarian dishes to choose from…just what the health-minded people of Berks County have been waiting for!  Tonight was our first visit there and I was impressed.  We will be going back!  Although this is a small establishment, probably more geared to take-out than dining-in, our experience was entirely enjoyable.

We entered the newly remodeled restaurant (next to Haute Chocolat) and were promptly seated at one of the two tables by the window.  Several other tables were available near the take-out counter.  Our server answered all our questions and explained the menu (Yes, EVERYTHING on the menu is vegetarian — even the chicken, the beef, the pork, and the seafood).  They do not use MSG in any of their food.  We talked and drank green tea until our dinners arrived.  The spring rolls were piping hot and very fresh (not frozen and reheated).  My Pad Thai was delicious, seasoned perfectly with not too much “chicken” and lots of crunchy bean sprouts.  My husband ordered General Tso’s “Chicken” (his favorite) and we were both impressed by the quantity and presentation.  Our meals were delicious and the service was efficient and courteous.

Chen Vegetarian House also features something other Asian restaurants don’t offer — fresh vegetable and fruit juices (3.99) and fruit smoothies (4.29).  Hallelujah!

The menu states that lunches including white or brown rice, hot & sour soup or spring roll, and entrée are only $5.99.  To save time you can pre-order online and pick up at the counter. Business hours are Mon. – Thurs.: 11 am – 10 pm, Fri. and Sat.: 11 am – 10:30 pm, and Sun.: 12 pm – 9:30 pm.  Visa, Mastercard, and Discover are accepted.  Now until 1/31/2014 is their Grand Opening and you get 10% off a minimum $20 order!

If you want a healthy and delicious meal for not a lot of money, then I would highly recommend Chen Vegetarian House.

Easter Onigiri

Onigiri may be new to Americans, but in Japan it is a common snack and bento box lunch treat for kids. Usually, they are small round or triangular rice balls filled with vegetable surprises.  Onigiri is an ancient food that history tells us was wrapped in leaves and carried by Samuri warriors into battle.  Today, making the cutest Onigiri, shaped and decorated like animals or people, has become somewhat of a crafty competition among Japanese mothers when preparing school lunches.

Easter Onigiri

With Easter approaching I was inspired to try making something I’d never seen — Easter Onigiri! It was a little tricky getting the colors I wanted naturally, without going the standard food coloring route, but I think these turned out pretty cute.  They’re really not that hard to make and would be a fun project to do with the kids.  What a colorful addition to an Easter buffet table instead of the usual hard-boiled eggs — and no messy eggshells to deal with!

Ingredients:

1 cup sushi rice

3 Tbs. rice vinegar

1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. evaporated cane sugar

1 1/4 sea salt

1 sheet nori (to cut up for decorating)

Fillings:  1/2 inch slices canned baby corn, pickled radish (yummy!), red bell pepper, thawed frozen corn, diced avocado, etc.

I recommend making one color rice at a time.  To make the different colors you will need:

1 tsp. Turmeric – yellow

1 tsp. red beet powder (I’m sure Hallelujah Acres BeetMax* would work, too. You may have to adjust the amount to get the color you want) – pink

1 Tbs. Hallelujah Acres BarleyMax* – green (For brightest color, in a shaker cup put 1 ice-cube the BarleyMax and enough water to measure 1 1/2 cup. Shake vigorously until ice-cube dissolves. Add mixture, foam and all, to rice and cook as directed)

If you want to decorate white eggs, then add no coloring.

Method:

Rinse and drain rice several times (It takes about 5 times until the water is no longer cloudy). Place in a heavy saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water and whatever coloring you choose. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to med/low. Simmer 12 minutes (don’t peek!) Remove from heat and let stand 1 minute.

Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl whisk together rice vinegar, sugar, and sea salt. Mix in the hot rice until the liquid is absorbed. Spread on a foil covered baking sheet to cool for about 5 minutes.

Place a square of plastic wrap over a 1/2 c. custard bowl. Scoop a spoonful of rice into center of plastic wrap making a thumbprint indentation. Fill indentation with your choice of fillings. Cover with another spoonful of rice and pull up sides of plastic wrap. Twist and squeeze wrap around rice, forming a tight, smooth egg shape around filling. Unwrap and place onigiri on a large flat plate.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Decorate Onigiri with cut up nori.  Have a bowl of water nearby to glue down nori decorations.  If rice sticks to your fingers wet them to solve that problem.  I used die cut stamps (the kind used for scrapbooking) to stamp out flower and duck shapes, and a paper punch for little dots. Be creative — go wild!

*www.hacres.com

Crunchy Garden Salad

Do you ever get tired of leafy green salads?  With gardens producing just about every vegetable imaginable right now you might want to throw together a colorful vegetable salad that contains no lettuce at all.  The ingredients in this crunchy salad can be altered to accommodate whatever vegetables you have on hand; for a surprising burst of flavor throw in your choice of olives (I like kalamata olives), pickles, banana peppers, or sun-dried tomatoes.

It will be more flavorful if you steam the heavier, more dense vegetables for a few minutes — not too long, just until the color brightens but they still retain some crispiness. Any Italian salad dressing will work well, and it always tastes better the next day after flavors have had time to marinate. Makes a great lunch!

Ingredients:

1/2 head cauliflower florets

1 stalk broccoli florets

2 carrots, sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, sliced

2 red radishes, thinly sliced

1 pint halved cherry tomatoes

1 ear fresh corn kernels (sliced off the cob)

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Optional: (any or all) olives, dill pickles, banana peppers, sun-dried tomatoes

Lightly steam cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots until just crisp tender (they will be easier to chew and absorb more flavor if steamed). Cool quickly in very cold water and drain.  Place in a large bowl, add other ingredients and your favorite Italian dressing. Toss to coat everything with dressing and allow to marinate for best flavor (good to make the day before). Serve cold.

Makes 10 – 12 servings

Van’s Cafe, 448 Penn Ave. West Reading, PA 19611, 610-741-6466

Today the Reading Eagle did a nice piece on Van’s Cafe, the new Vietnamese restaurant in West Reading, so we had to go there for lunch to try it for the first time.  For those who are familiar with West Reading, Van’s is occupying the same space as the former Fire and Ice Cafe. The place is casual, the decor minimal, but clean.

I hope I can give it a fair review because my main thought about Van’s is that they won’t win any prizes for speed.  We went on our lunch hour, which was a mistake — don’t go there unless you are under no time constraints.  After sitting at the table for about 15 minutes we went to the counter to order.  I still don’t know if that is how you are supposed to do things there; some people did have a waiter come to take their order, but we and others went to the counter.  No one greeted us, seated us, or told us what to do (a simple sign “Please place your order at the counter” would have been helpful).

The food was very good and fresh.  They had a few vegetarian options.  We both ordered the Vegetarian Spring Rolls and Vegetarian Rice Noodle Soup (huge bowls) called Pho.  I don’t think the soup broth was vegetarian, however.  Service was very slow and disorganized. (I could see my husband’s blood pressure rising by the minute).  Our appetizer came out after the noodle bowls, and I don’t think we would have gotten it at all if we didn’t remind the server.  We were missing a set of silverware and had to hunt one down ourselves.  No one came to freshen our ice teas or offer water.  As we ate we saw people leaving and more coming in and standing waiting to be seated.  Tables weren’t cleared as new orders were coming out and there was nowhere to put them or to seat the people who were waiting for a clean table — Did I mention that the service was SLOW?

Prices at Van’s are all under $10.00, and the food is good.  Convenient parking is available in the rear. I am hoping that this was not a typical lunchtime at Van’s, and that they were just having an off day.  I would love to go back to sample their bubble tea, but I know my husband won’t be going next time.  With some people you don’t get a second chance.

Hearty “Chicken” Garden Soup

This soup is a melange of colorful garden vegetables and comfort food flavor with just a hint of hot cayenne pepper to spice it up.  As healthy as it is beautiful, this recipe will make the most of summer’s bounty all in one pot — sure to be a keeper!

In a large pot:

Lightly saute 1/2 cup chopped onion in 1 Tbsp oil (or 1/4 cup water for low fat)

Add:

4 cups water and 1 (32 0z) container Imagine brand “No Chicken Broth,” and bring to a boil.

All at once add remaining ingredients:

3 stalks celery, chopped

4 carrots, cut into chunks

2 large orange bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium zucchini (10 – 12 inches), cut in half lengthwise then cut into 1/4″ slices

1 large bunch kale, stalks removed and leaves chopped

1 Tbsp. whole fennel seeds

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. turmeric

1 – 2 tsp. gray Celtic sea salt (or to taste)

Simmer all ingredients together for 15 – 20 minutes.  Add 1 package chopped Light Life brand  “Chicken” Strips during the final 5 minutes of cooking (just to heat thoroughly).

Serve hot.  (Makes about 8 generous servings)

Raw Carrot Apple Cookies

This is another great way to use carrot pulp leftover from juicing.  If you don’t have a dehydrator you can bake them in a  low temperature oven.  I did this for years before I had a dehydrator, but you must keep an eye on them.  If they do actually bake, they will still be yummy, full of fiber and nutrition,  just not raw.  Still a healthy cookie you can feel good about snacking on or giving to the kids.

Raw Carrot Apple Cookies

carrot/apple pulp (leftover from juicing)

soaked ground buckwheat groats OR soaked rolled oats

ground flaxseed

sprinkle of stevia powder (very potent, a little goes a long way!) or a little honey

dash sea salt

ground almond meal

raw sesame seeds

raw sunflower seeds

chopped almonds

chopped dried fruit, your choice ( I used papaya and cherries)

about ¼ c. water with 1 ½ Tbsp, lemon juice

Soak grains in water (not too much) about 20 mins.. Add remaining ingredients; use your own judgment to make a moist dough.  Mix thoroughly using a wooden spoon. Shape and press dough into cookie shapes on teflex or parchment paper sheets.  Dehydrate until they resemble a moist cookie (4 – 6 hours) – not too long or they will be very tough.  If necessary flip and dehydrate on the other side until done.

You can vary this recipe by substituting whatever ingredients you have on hand for the nuts and seeds (poppy seeds, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seed, coconut, etc.) and chopped dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries, currants, dates, etc.). Be creative – these cookies never come out the same twice!

Crockpot Sweet Potato Soup

This is a wonderful fall recipe; the color, aroma, and taste are all the best autumn has to offer.  It’s the perfect way to warm up on a crisp cool evening.  This soup can either be made on the stove or in a crockpot.  I like to throw all the ingredients in the crockpot just before leaving for work — what a stress reliever to come home to the smell of dinner only minutes from serving!

Ingredients:

1 c. celery, chopped

1/2 c. onion, chopped

1 Tbsp. olive oil

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

32 oz. Imagine “No-Chicken Broth”

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. honey or maple syrup

Method:

Saute celery and onion in olive oil until tender.  Put sautéed mixture in crockpot and add all other ingredients. Cook on High for 8 – 9 hours (until you return home).

Remove bay leaf. Puree cooked mixture with a submersible stick blender.  (Or if you have extra time, cool cooked mixture and puree in batches in blender.)

Add: 16 oz. rice milk, 3 scoops rice “Better Than Milk,”  3/4 tsp. cinnamon and puree again until creamy.  Add more rice milk if soup is too thick.

Serve hot topped with chopped walnuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon, croutons, or chopped scallions.

Vegan Seafood Salad

This recipe makes a great summer, picnic, or a take to work lunch.  The flavor is better if made ahead, so make it the night before and packing your lunch the next day will be simple. (The secret ingredient is the nori — for real seafood taste that makes all the difference in the world!)  Remember, organic ingredients are always best.

Ingredients:

1 parsnip, finely shredded

1 carrot, finely shredded

1/2 c. red bell pepper, finely chopped

3 – 4 stalks celery, diced (I like a lot of crunch — it adds interest to this salad)

1/2 c. onion, finely chopped

1 sheet sushi nori, crumbled or folded several times and snipped into tiny bits with kitchen shears (This is the quickest and easiest way)

1 tsp. nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp. pink sea salt (or to taste)

1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1/4 – 1/3 c. Vegenaise (vegan mayo)

Method:

Toss to mix all ingredients.  Adjust spices to your preference.  Let chill for at least 1 hr. to allow flavors to blend.

Serve cold on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes.  Also delicious as a sandwich spread on toasted whole grain bread.

Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant, 401 Penn Ave. West Reading, PA 19611. Phone 610-685-6677

Aladdin is a wonderful Mideastern restaurant that offers a variety of delectable foods for the health conscious.  They have an extensive vegetarian menu to eat in or take out, and always use the finest fresh ingredients.  It is one of our favorite restaurants in Berks County — we have never been disappointed by the food or the service.  The atmosphere is very ethnic — almost like eating in a desert nomad’s tent or a Mideastern marketplace, complete with music. To add to the fun, Friday night usually features a live bellydancer.

Last night I ordered the Aladdin Makaleh which consisted of grilled cauliflower, zucchini, and eggplant along with falafel topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, and tahini sauce.  It was delicious (and huge)! My husband had the Falafel Salad, which is a very generous serving of falafel, hummus, tabouleh, and tahini sauce.  At only $7.50 it is a bargain.  I have ordered the Falafel Salad in the past and can tell you that their tabouleh is the best!  Don’t let the word “salad” make you think this dish will leave you feeling hungry; it is definitely large enough for a satisfying entrée.  We had fountain drinks (free refills), and did not order dessert because it was a friend’s birthday,  and we had brought our own cake.  Aladdin supplied plates and silverware with a smile.  If you are looking for excellent vegetarian food in Berks County, then you won’t be disappointed with Aladdin.  If you don’t see exactly what you want on the menu, you can make your own combination platter or ask them to alter any item to suit your preference, and they will oblige.

Aladdin is truly a gem — a wonderful compliment to the Main Street revitalization program in West Reading.  Their prices are reasonable and parking is convenient.  Oh, they do serve meat dishes and have a Kids Menu, too 🙂

For more information online:  DineIndie.com/Aladdin

//