Vegan Polish Stuffed Cabbage (Halupki, Golumpki, Pigs-In-A-Blanket)

One of the things I miss most about my hometown is the food.  Populated by descendants of European immigrants brought to the anthracite area of Pennsylvania as cheap labor for the booming coal industry in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s, the Wyoming Valley is rich in ethnic heritage and the most wonderful foods you can imagine.  These simple peasant dishes will not be found in any fine restaurant, but families still gather to make and feast on recipes that traveled from Europe and  have been handed down for generations.

I thought Halupki, pure Northeastern PA soul food, was gone from my life forever when I gave up meat, but I have found that with a little imagination and experimentation I can still have my Pigs-In-A-Blanket (as we called them when I was a child) and eat them, too!  This recipe is the result of sheer determination and stubbornness, since I also decided to not use prepackaged fake meat for the traditional ground beef filling. I think this one is a winner. It takes a long time to prepare, so the best thing to do is plan ahead and do it in two stages.  The first day make the brown rice and  Medley’s Vegan Oat Burgers; the second day you can prepare the cabbage, filling, and sauce and assemble the cabbage rolls. It truly is a labor of love (now I know why it took my mother, aunts, and grandmother all together to make these for family gatherings), but to make things easier prepare extra brown rice to freeze, and note that one Oat Burgers recipe is enough for two Halupki casseroles, so making it next time will not be as time-consuming.  Here we go:

MEDLEY’S  VEGAN OAT BURGERS

These are the tastiest vegan burgers ever — on a bun with your favorite toppings or as a substitute for chopped sirloin with mushroom gravy.  This recipe makes a lot so you can freeze some for another time.  The recipe comes from my niece (a wonderful cook just like her mother) who got it from the restaurant where she first enjoyed them. I veganized it.

In a food processor separately grind:

2 c. rolled oats

1 c. walnuts (not too fine, chunky is better)

1 lg. onion

Add:

2 c. rolled oats

2 Tbs. ground flaxseed & 6 Tbs. warm water (mix together and allow to sit a few minutes until thickened)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp ground sage

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp pepper

1 c. unsweetened soy or almond milk (or just enough to hold it all together)

Let mixture sit for 20 minutes.  Form into patties (slightly wet hands so they don’t stick) and brown in olive oil. Then add 2 cups of water with enough soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (about 3 Tbs) to taste.  Pour this over the burgers and simmer uncovered until liquid is absorbed, turning once or twice. Enjoy!

Halupki FILLING:

1/2 recipe Medley’s VEGAN Oat Burgers chopped up after cooking (freeze the other half for next time)

1  – 1 1/2 c. cooked brown rice

1 Tbs parsley

1 Tbs sweet paprika

Saute together: 6 oz. chopped Portobello mushrooms, 1 lg. onion, and 2 Tbs. Annie’s Organic Worsteshire Sauce.  Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and season to taste with sea salt and cayenne pepper.

Halupki SAUCE:

1 – 10 3/4 oz. can tomato soup and an equal amount to crushed tomatoes

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice or vinegar

1 soup can water

Mix all together and season with sea salt and pepper as desired.

Method:

(Dealing with a whole head of CABBAGE can be intimidating — don’t worry, you will win).  Core the cabbage and submerge the whole thing in a large pot of boiling water.  It will be somewhat bouyant so you will want to turn it occasionally so that the leaves soften evenly. Cook until the outer leaves become tender, then you can start to peel the leaves off one at a time, and place them on a clean towel to drain. (You can take the cabbage head out of the water to do this, then return it to the water to cook a little while longer until more leaves can be removed.) Repeat until all leaves are removed.

When cabbage leaves are cool enough to handle: In each leaf place 2 – 3 heaping Tbs.filling, tuck in sides and roll to cover filling.  Place cabbage rolls in a large oblong glass baking dish (seam side down).  Pack them tightly together so they don’t unroll.

Pour sauce over all the rolls and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake @ 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. This recipe makes a lot (about 30 cabbage rolls).

FREE 3 Days to Health Seminar, Sept. 18, 19, and 20, 2011, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

If you are in the Reading, PA area Sept. 18 – 20, don’t miss this enlightening 3-day presentation by Chet and Bev Cook (BA, ND, CHC), Directors of the Hallelujah Acres Lifestyle Centers.  Discover God’s simple, Biblical model for physical health and healing through lectures, video clips, food prep and sampling, juicing demos and more!

God designed our bodies to be healthy. Learn how to take control of your health by eliminating toxins and following the nutritional plan that God intended for us. Totally FREE, but space is limited, so please register today!

Location: Glad Tidings Church, 1110 Snyder Road, West Lawn, PA 19609

To register phone: 610-670-7504

Austin’s Restaurant, 1101 Snyder Rd., West Lawn, PA 19609, 610-678-5500

Austin’s is an upscale American restaurant suitable for family dining, date night, or business lunches.  The decor is classic and clean on two levels with brick appointments and an open view of the kitchen.  The food may be a couple of dollars on the high side of average, but they do use the freshest of ingredients and everything is made to order.  Their servers work as a team, which keeps things moving smoothly and efficiently.  There are several vegetarian options on the menu, and there is even a gluten-free menu available if you ask your server.  Austin’s will gladly substitute brown rice or gluten-free pasta for any pasta for only $1.00.

On the night we visited I ordered the Vegetable Platter ($12.99).  It included steamed broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash and snow peas served with Austin’s own homemade Chipotle Black Beans and brown rice with two slices of garlic toast.  Everything was delicious, and the portions were more than generous.

My husband ordered the Vegetarian Pasta ($14.99): vegetables stir-fried with oil, garlic, and spices tossed with linguine, Parmesan cheese, diced tomatoes and toasted bread crumbs.  A large side salad was included in the price.  We both had hot tea to drink (free and prompt refills).

Austin’s has a variety of desserts on their menu (if you have any room left), and they also feature a Kid’s Menu for their younger clients,  and Daily Lunch Specials.  They open everyday at 11:00 am for lunch and dinner.  Reservations are not required, but we have found that it is wise to call ahead and get on the list before arriving.

I would recommend Austin’s for any occasion when you want to go somewhere a little upscale.  It is conveniently located on the corner of Snyder and Van Reed Rd. just across from that big church on the corner (Glad Tidings). You will be pleased with the appearance, location, food, service, and atmosphere at this classic restaurant.  I can’t think of a thing they could do to improve.

To see their complete menu and learn more: http://www.austinsrestaurant.com.

Tulsi, Fine Indian Cuisine Restaurant and Lounge, 2101 Columbia Ave. Lancaster, PA 17603, phone: 717-509-7771, www.tulsicuisine.com

Tulsi Indian Restaurant, under new management within the last 6 weeks, is well worth the 35 – 40 minute drive from Reading.  It is located in the Travel Lodge Motel, but don’t be deceived by the outward appearance.  Inside you will find a lovely candlelit diningroom with cloth tablecloths and napkins and uniformed waiters who could not be more attentive without being intrusive — very friendly and accommodating.

We were happy to find many vegetarian options on the menu at Tulsi.  On a Wednesday evening we ordered from the “specials,”  and for only $11.95 per person we each got one appetizer, one entree, rice, and naan (Indian bread).  Beverage was extra, but free refills on the tea.  For appetizers I ordered the Vegetable Samosas (crisp pastries stuffed with potatoes and spices) and my husband had the Vegetable Pakoras (assorted vegetable fritters). These appetizers were served with a crisp unleavened bread (I think the waiter called it “Roti”) and an assortment of three sauces (sweet, tangy, and hot).

For entrees I chose the Malai Kofta (vegetarian alternative to meatballs in a rich tomato/onion gravy with light raisins).  I asked for “not spicy,” and it wasn’t —  at first.  It wasn’t until the third bite that I noticed the slow burn — not too hot, but I did have to rely on frequent bites of warm naan to cool off. The occasional raisin was a wonderful accompaniment to the heat and flavors of this dish, which I thought was delicious.  The chef made Aloo Mutter for my husband’s special request at a 6 out of 10 on the hotness scale.  He was smokin’, but he likes it that hot so he was very happy.

I would highly recommend Tulsi;  for the flavor, price, and atmosphere I don’t think you can beat this restaurant.  The portions are very generous.  I wish we had left room to try one of their desserts, but the entrees were so tasty that we just couldn’t stop eating until we had finished them completely.

Tulsi is open everyday for lunch and dinner, and have a daily lunch buffet.  They also offer take-out, delivery, and catering.  My only criticism is that they don’t have a very big parking lot.  That wasn’t a problem on a Wednesday night, but I could see it making parking difficult on weekends. If you like Indian cuisine then try Tulsi — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Sacred Grounds Grille and Cafe, 1110 Snyder Rd., Reading, PA 19609 Phone: 610-678-0266, www.gtaog.org

I have been meaning to write about Sacred Grounds Grille and Cafe for a few months, and apologize for not sharing information about this little gem of a restaurant before now.  This casual modern eatery is located at Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in West Lawn, PA, and is open to the public.  The hours of operation are (a little unusual): Tues. – Thurs. 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Wed. 5 p.m. – 9 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. – 1:30 p.m..  The entrance to the restaurant is the main entrance to The Worship Center toward the rear of the church on Snyder Rd.  (Enter The Worship Center and turn right in the lobby).

Don’t think that this is just card tables and folding chairs in a spare room of the church.  This is a full service restaurant with commercial kitchen and competent staff.  The atmosphere is light and airy with modern furnishings and one entire wall of huge glass windows.  In nice weather you even have the option of dining outside on the patio.

The very reasonable and creative menu includes salads, soups, cold and hot sandwiches, wraps, pizza, and sides– plenty of vegetarian options! I’ve eaten at Sacred Grounds several times, and my favorite menu item is the Strawberry Spinach Salad.  For only $6.25 you will not find a larger or tastier salad anywhere, and they are not stingy with the strawberries and walnuts.  You can get the poppyseed vinaigrette on top or on the side — all served on real china dishes with stainless steel utensils (not plastic).  This salad is definitely a meal 🙂  Yummy!  Hot and cold drinks and desserts  are available just a few steps away at the Cafe.  Note: a portion of the profits from the sale of their fair trade coffee goes to support foreign missions.

This restaurant is open to the public, and even has free WiFi.  For a casual lunch with friends or a quiet business meeting, Sacred Grounds is unique in the area for its clean, healthy, modern, wholesome  environment and delicious food at reasonable prices.  Very classy, Sacred Grounds is a place you will be proud to take guests to; and while you’re there discover what’s going on at “that big church on the corner.” Highly recommended!

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

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Taste of Crepes, 617 Penn Ave., West Reading, PA 19611. Phone: (610) 685-2001

Wow!  Another vegetarian friendly restaurant in West Reading — how lucky are we!

Last Saturday, during “Art on the Avenue,” we stopped to have lunch at Taste of Crepes, a tiny new restaurant on the main street of West Reading. At this restaurant they offer savory(entree) and sweet (dessert) crepes. My husband and I both ordered the grilled veggie crepes and a side of mashed sweet potatoes topped with chopped walnuts and caramel sauce, which was the lunchtime special. I have eaten crepes all over the world, and I have to say that these crepes, which were made with buckwheat flour instead of white flour, were not only the healthiest,  but also the tastiest I have ever had. As a bonus you get to watch the friendly chef prepare your crepes before your very eyes — an art form in itself. The veggies inside were grilled to perfection and the whole crepe was drizzled with a tangy white horseradish sauce garnished with dollops of pureed red pepper, cranberry sauce, and a single fresh basil leaf. The presentation was lovely despite being served on paper plates (the proprietor assured us that china dishes had been ordered and would be arriving any day).  The side of sweet potatoes was more than generous (three large scoops) and so yummy it could have been dessert. At only $1.00, this side dish was too good to pass up, and we’re so glad we didn’t!

I would highly recommend this casual friendly establishment for a quick lunch or a healthy informal dinner out. Our entire bill, including green tea for both of us, came to just under $20.00.

Taste of Crepes is open Sunday-Monday: 11 – 5, Tuesday-Wednesday: 11 – 6, Thursday 11 – 7, and Friday-Saturday: 11 – 9.

Abigail’s Tea Room, 1441 Perkiomen Ave, Reading, PA 19602 (610 376-6050): www.abigailstearoom.com

Today my 6’3″ engineer husband bravely agreed to take me to Abigail’s Tea Room for lunch to celebrate my birthday. I say “bravely” because there is more than enough lace, fine china, and “cute” at Abigail’s Tea Room to strike fear in the hearts of ordinary men. As they say at Abigail’s, “It’s not just about the tea, it’s about the whole experience.”  Thankfully, I have an extraordinary husband!

As vegetarians we phoned ahead to be sure there would be something there for us to eat, and we were assured that they would make every effort to accommodate our request. Upon arrival, we were impressed with the superb remodeling that has gone into transforming this formerly rundown city property into the superb Victorian gem you see today. Decor is mainly burgundy and mauve with lace curtains and doilies on every surface, as it should be. Gold gilt mirrors, crystal chandeliers, and even an old Victrola concealing the speakers which softly played background music were all elegant touches that added to the feeling that we had actually stepped back in time. As tea connoisseurs we appreciated their extensive tea list and the fact that each person got their own full-sized pot of tea instead of the “one cup of hot water and a tea bag” that we are used to getting in restaurants today.

For lunch we opted for the “Tea Room Special.” This included an appetizer consisting of a scone and a slice of orange bread served with Abigail’s sweet cream and fruit preserves. This was followed by a cup of Garden Vegetable Soup (you could choose a Garden Salad if you prefer) and any 1/2 sandwich or slice of quiche. We chose the Vegetarian Wrap, and it was delicious.  The wrap consisted of tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, cucumbers, peppers, and a tasty hummus dressing. The wrap was served with a fresh fruit garnish of melon, pineapple, one globe grape and fresh strawberry all on a bed of greens — the presentation was lovely! To top it all off we each had a tray of  four mini desserts: brownie, fruit tart, lemon square, and vanilla cream layer cake. After all that we were quite full, and the tea lasted through the whole meal! (They do have honey for your tea — you just have to ask for it). For $13.95/person, including the tea, I would say this was a good value and a enjoyable experience.

Of course, they do have a gift shop for you to browse through. I found their prices reasonable and the selection of items unique and lovely. (Perfect gifts for the tea lovers you know). While there, don’t forget to walk upstairs and see the restored rooms on the second floor, too.

I would recommend Abigail’s Tea House to anyone. Take your sister, aunt, mother, friend, even the men in your life. If my husband could do it I know there are other men out there who are brave enough to try something different. Try it — you just might like it!

Restaurant review: Good Eatz Green Cafe

Good Eatz Green Cafe, 701 Penn Ave., West Reading, PA 19611.  610-670-4885.  Open Monday – Saturday 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.  http://www.GoodEatz.org.

Good Eatz is a new restaurant on the main strip in the quaint shopping district of West Reading.  Advertised as a green cafe, you can expect to find quality organic ingredients in an ecologically responsible environment.  Their baked goods are not only organic, but gluten-free. Many vegetarian, and even vegan, options are available, and the friendly and helpful staff is more than willing to make alterations to suit your dietary requirements. This is a blessing for those who avoid eating out because of complicated dietary restrictions or preferences.  The decor is modern and relaxed without being too trendy. I found the menu to be reasonably priced for the quality and variety of menu selections.

Last night I visited with a few friends, all of us ordering vegetarian dishes. My sauteed vegetable wrap was a delightful surprise for someone who has gnawed through many dry tasteless wraps at restaurants before. This wrap at Good Eatz was by far the BEST vegetable wrap I have ever had. It included a generous amount of broccoli rabe, butternut squash, onions, cubanel pepper, grilled asparagus, and hummus in a big gluten-free wrap. Included was a generous side serving of quinoa pasta vegetable salad garnished with an organic orange slice and a whole dried date. Delicious.

Other dishes ordered at our table included the Harvest Salad, a compilation of roasted butternut squash, grilled asparagus, dried cranberries, spiced walnuts, and cherry tomato served on a bed of mixed greens with a cranberry white balsamic vinaigarette.  The pasta primavera included a whole grain gluten-free pasta with a variety of organic vegetables tossed with an aoli sauce served with grilled whole grain gluten-free bread.

The entire presentation of each entree was lovely besides being delicious and ample enough to satisfy the most ravenous appetite. After considering ordering bottled water with our meals we were encouraged by the waitress to try their filtered tap water to drink.  Another surprise — this tap water tasted better than the spring water we have delivered to our home! (More restaurants should consider the quality of water they serve. Bad water even changes the taste of  food).

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who is concerned about their food choices and the environment.  If you want to enjoy an evening out or just a quick lunch knowing that you are eating for the health of your body and the planet, then Good Eatz is the perfect destination. My meal came to under $10.00 with tax. What a deal! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.