Sunday, January 29, 2012

2011 Vegan Awards

Here are the winners of my personal Vegan Awards for 2011:

Best legume/bean :


Chickpeas are amazing and so versatile! I love roasted chickpeas in quinoa, spinach and cranberry salad, roasted chickpeas as a snack, or sauteed chickpeas with vegetables. I love falafel, hummus and The Sexy Vegan's mock tuna salad , and chickpea mock crab cakes.

Best Vegan Sausage:

Field Roast Frankfurters (picture courtesy of Field Roast)
These sausages are addictive! I can eat them hot or cold and never get tired of them. They remind me of my favorite Czech sausages.

Best Cookbook:

This was the most frequently used vegan cookbook in my kitchen in 2011. The recipes are low in fat or fat free, yet very flavorful, delightful and easy to make. I made almost all recipes from that cookbook, many of them multiple times.

Best Chocolate:
Chocolove xoxox (Orange peel in Dark Chocolate)
and Whole Foods Dark Chocolate with Coconut

Best Tea:

The Republic of Tea Apricot Decaf Black Tea

Best Plant-Based Milk:

Whole Foods Unsweetened Almond milk

This milk is amazing! It has only 40 calories a cup and I use it for everything from Overnight Oats, puddings, creamy soups and sauces, baked goods to smoothies. I also enjoy a splash of this milk in my tea.

Best Meat Alternative:
Gardein's Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n
A tasty chicken alternative, with fantastic texture and seasonings.

Best snack:
Marinated Collard Greens! I make these very often and when I don't make them, I buy them at Whole Foods's deli bar. Here is my recipe.

My personal best recipe of 2011:
Vegan paella with Sophie's Kitchen vegan prawns. This recipe won me a Kindle in a recipe contest :-) I am very proud of this recipe and I make it quite often. I made the recipe pretty simple so everyone can make it at home. You can leave out the vegan sausages and the vegan prawns if you don't have them, but the recipe will miss them.

Best vegan pizza:

Mellow Mushroom pizza with some many options-I still haven't tried them all :-)

Best vegan friendly grocery store:
Sevananda Natural Foods Market because they only sell vegetarian and vegan products (with the exception of cat and dog food). They also make awesome baked goods and have delicious hot and cold bar options everyday.

Best drink:
Caffeine-free and decaffeinated tea :-) I have quite a collection and love them all for different reasons.

Best grain:
Quinoa (a delicious, versatile and nutritious grain with funny "tails")

Here is my favorite way to enjoy quinoa, in a roasted chickpea salad with raw spinach and dried cranberries.
I also love my quinoa tabbouleh salad

Best vegan friendly restaurant:
World Peace Cafe is a vegetarian restaurant that is run by volunteers. They offer a great selection of vegan and vegetarian foods, wide assortment of teas and delicious vegan cakes. I love volunteering in the kitchen there. The staff is very nice and when I volunteer there I learn so much about cooking and food and ways to keep my mind calm and peaceful.
And their Peace burger is the best vegan burger that I have EVER had! Here is a picture of the burger from their website. They offer meditation classes every Thursday evening. More info here.

Best vegetable:

I became a kale addict overnight. I used to hate kale and then one day I had some kale salad at Whole Foods and boom! A new kale addict was born :-)
I love my kale raw, but I do enjoy it cooked as well (or baked into kale chips)

Not sure what to do with kale?
Try my kale recipes:

What are your 2011 winners?

Brown rice four ways

I ate a lot of brown rice this week. I precooked the brown rice and then made easy and quick meals later in the week.

Brown rice and stir-fry made with fresh (not frozen) vegetables, and Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n. I have been eating very little processed foods lately, but I was craving this fake chicken and since I already had some in the freezer, I used it in this stir-fry.

This lovely green dish is brown rice with raw spinach and cooked green peas.

Brown rice and black beans topped with tomato salsa, green onions, and crushed tortilla chips.

Edamame, brown rice and bell pepper medley.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Creamy salad dressing

This salad dressing is tasty, oil-free, low fat, nutrient dense and easy breezy to make. I served it over my dinner salad.

Creamy salad dressing

1 15-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1-2 cloves garlic
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup of water (or more if you prefer thinner dressing)
4 Tbs nutritional yeast
salt to taste

Place all ingredients into a food processor or a blender and blend until smooth and creamy, adding more water until you reach desired consistency. Season with salt to taste. You can store this dressing in a refrigerator for up to three days.

Mediterranean Flavors Cooking Class

Earlier today I attended my very first cooking class. This Mediterranean Flavors cooking class was held at one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants "Cafe Sunflower" in Sandy Springs.
The restaurant owners Lin and Edward Sun, and their daughter Jenny Sun created a very nice atmosphere and a great cooking demo area. I attended this class with about 20 other people, mostly women.

The menu:
Meatless Harira (Moroccan Ramadan Soup) with Harissa
Tagine of Soy Chicken, Preserved Lemons and Olives served over Couscous
Ensalada Catalana

Chef Marc Jolis was teaching this class with the help of his assistants Jackie (a culinary school student) and Edward Sun. Chef Marc Jolis was amazing! I found his style of teaching style very informative, fun, and easy to follow. I enjoyed all the tasty tidbits that accompanied each recipe. It was really interesting to learn not just about the recipes, but also the origin of the dishes and other interesting information about many of the key ingredients. Besides the fact that I learned how to prepare these dishes step by step, I also learned how to preserve my own lemons, prepare fresh Moroccan hot sauce "Harissa", store ingredients before using them in dishes, press ginger in a new way, dress salad with vinaigrette, cut and dice bell pepper, peel tomatoes, and so much more.
Even though I cook often and know a lot of techniques and tricks around the kitchen, I still learned a lot today. It was a very inspiring cooking class and I cannot wait to make these dishes at home. I loved this food journey around the Mediterranean sea!
I was even able to take home a jar with a preserved lemon :-) It will be ready in four weeks.

Chef Marc Jolis stirring the Soy Tagine that was prepared in a traditional tagine dish with a unique cover. Words cannot describe the wonderful, strong aroma of this dish while it was cooking! All the lovely spices came together and created a very flavorful and aromatic meal.

The last touch of olives and preserved lemons.

And here is my bowl of delicious Soy chicken tagine. The flavors were very bring and they lingered in my mouth a long after I was done eating. The preserved lemons gave this dish a perfect touch.

A wonderful Meatless Harira soup accompanied by spicy Harissa condiment. This soup was fantastic!!! Just the perfect amount of heat, bursting with flavor!
I will be making this soup soon.

My bowl of Meatless Harira soup.

Chef Marc Jolis demonstrating the proper bell pepper cutting technique.

Peeling tomatoes for the Ensalada Catalana.

Beautiful Ensalads Catalana with arugula, drizzled with El Alino salad dressing.

I cannot wait to attend the next cooking class! If you live in Atlanta, or near by, you have to visit Cafe Sunflower! They have two locations, one in Buckhead and one in Sandy Springs.
They have some of the best vegan dishes that I have ever tasted! And they even sell a cookbook with many of their famous recipes.

Follow Cafe Sunflower on Twitter or Like them on Facebook

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Healthy Eats

Quinoa, dried cranberries, spinach and roasted chickpeas with roasted sweet potatoes. I used chipotle chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder for the sweet potatoes to give them a lot of flavor.

Raw kale salad with Happy Herbivore's Alfredo sauce (I added raw garlic and lemon juice to the sauce), steamed cauliflower and cooked chickpeas.

Brown rice, lentils, tofu, red bell pepper and onion medley with raw spinach salad.

The same as above, minus the red bell pepper and tofu.

Raw cauliflower and spinach risotto made in my brand new food processor :-)

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Do you like books?
Check out my very first YA book review on a new BLOG

Bear loves reading dystopian books and gives this one 5 out of 5 paws :-)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Where is my home?

The Czech national anthem starts "Kde domov můj, kde domov můj?" (Where is my home, where is my home? ).
I often ask that question myself. To me home is where my heart is, which means here in Atlanta with my husband and our furry babies. However, a big part of my soul is still back in the Czech Republic. People often ask me if I miss my homeland. There are things that I miss about living in the Czech Republic and there are things that I do not miss at all. I have lived in Atlanta, GA (USA) for almost 7 years now. All of my personal experience about the USA is based on this city. I have visited Florida and Louisiana though.

I made a list of things that I miss and that I do not miss. I think that you might find my observations interesting since it shows some of the differences between Czech and American culture and their standards of living. These observations and opinions are strictly my personal, even though it might seem like a generalization. I will be going back to edit this post when I get some more ideas in the future :-)

I miss:

*FAMILY (Yes, my whole family is still there and since my husband is American, I do not have anyone here from the Czech Republic besides my doggie Shelly and a few Czech friends that I met here).
*Czech friends
*Prague- I have been to most European cities and Prague to me is the most beautiful, magical and amazing city that I have ever been to. I was born and raised in Prague and I know every little corner of this fairy-tale like city. I have seen Prague go through changes but the spirit and the core of Prague stays the same. Prague's architecture is magnificent and her beauty is captivating. When you are in Prague you travel in time into the Midieval times, through the Renaissance, Baroque and back to the 21st century. There is always something to do in Prague-museums, theaters, coffee shops, clubs, river boat trips, feeding swans and ducks by the Vltava river, hanging out downtown, roller-skating in a park or spending a day in the main library. You never get bored there and you can have fun even with very little money. Nightlife there is so much more fun than in Atlanta, especially when you walk across the Charles Bridge at 2 am...........
*Public transportation-You can ride with your dog (as long as he/she has a muzzle) :-))
The bus, subway and tramway system in Prague is fast, convenient and reliable. You can get anywhere in Prague and most of the time you only wait 5-10 for a bus, tramway or a subway. The night buses are awesome, too and they are fun to ride. You often ride a night bus with bunch of drunk, singing and joking people :-) And you can ride for free after the midnight (because nobody checks your ticket late in the evening.) You can live your whole life in Prague without owning a car and you would be fine. Public transportation in Atlanta is horrible. The usual time I have to wait is 30-40 minutes for a bus in the middle of the day. The buses do not go into many parts of Atlanta so you still need a car or a taxi. And you cannot take your dog with you (unless he/she is in a small crate or you have a guide dog).
*Trains- Czech trains and buses are relatively cheap and get you anywhere around Czech Republic. You can ride with your dog as well. I used to take Shelly with me everywhere.
*Cheap beer and the fact that you can drink in public :-) Beer is actually cheaper than soda or water in Czech Republic, bizarre but true. And I like that you can buy hard liquor at any grocery store and at most bus stops (at the newsstand) . Until a few weeks ago you could not buy alcohol in Georgia on Sundays. And grocery stores only sell wine and beer, no liquor.
*I miss how close Czech Republic was to other countries so traveling was fairly easy and fun
*Three different kinds of mineral water- non sparkling, lightly sparkling and regular sparkling (no kidding) LOL
*Fresh produce-Red currants, black currants, porcini mushrooms, gooseberries and wild blueberries
*Mushroom hunting on the weekends
*Ground poppy seeds and poppy seed pastry
*I miss the fact that Czech Republic is very dog friendly compared to Georgia. You can bring your dogs almost everywhere in the Czech Republic, including most stores
*I miss shorter working hours and weekends spent camping, hiking, snowboarding or swimming in lakes and ponds
*I miss the "safe" nature without poisonous spiders and snakes.
*Swimming in lakes, ponds, and rivers with my dog
*Four seasons-I love how different the spring, summer, autumn and winter were compare to the seasons in Atlanta. We only have two seasons in Atlanta, insanely long summer and short annoying winter without snow
*Small bakeries, vegetable and fruit stores and other small shops
*Tearooms and Teashops
*The diversity in stores, unique shops
*An abundance of English Cocker Spaniels
*My favorite tofu spread
*Free healthcare
*Czech humor
*Easy and fun traveling
*Warm and welcoming people (the ones that are like that, but many can be bitter and unfriendly)
*Czech movies and books (even though I watch Czech movies frequently online, or on DVDs that my family sends me)
*Czech castles and nature
*Vending machines with hot soup, coffee and hot chocolate at every subway station
*Lack of censorship

I don't miss:

*Seeing children peeing and pooping in the middle of the street (no joke)
*Seeing men peeing at every possible corner in any city or village, usually near pubs. Peeing in public for men is a normal part of life even though to me it is quite disgusting. One reason for that is the fact that we don't have free restrooms. Not all men pee in public though.
*Being bothered by prostitutes and drug dealers in Prague, especially downtown in the evening hours
*Not having a dishwasher or a dryer. I used to have to hang my clothes on the balcony and let it air dry. That could take days depending on the weather. In the winter the clothes would freeze and become hard as a rock so I would have to hang them in my bathroom, above my bathtub.
*Pickpockets. I cannot even count how many times I had been a victim of these thieves, my wallet was stolen at least once a year, my cell phones, walkman, money and camera were stolen as well.
*No free water in restaurants- In the USA when you dine out or even go to a fast food, you can ask for free water, and many restaurants bring you a glass of water as soon as you sit down. In Czech Republic you have to pay for water. The reason for that is simple, they want to make money and Czechs are known for being cheap so nobody would order soda or a fancy drink if they got free water. With the exception of beer, most Czechs will have a beer with their heavy, greasy lunch. And since beer is cheaper than water, it is not that bad :-)
*Restaurants charging for a basket of bread or a bowl of almonds served with your meal. The bread is really funny. They will bring you a big basket of stale bread that has been passed around from customer to customer and before you leave they count how many slices you ate and they charge you for each slice....... And if you are a tourist and don't know about this and eat the whole basket..... well, for the price of one slice at a restaurant you can almost buy a whole loaf of bread at a store :-)
*Smoking! Smoking everywhere, including restaurants. When I eat, the last thing I want is to smell and inhale someone's cigarette smoke. My whole Czech family smokes and it drives me crazy! I love that America is so anti-smoking.
*Paid public restrooms. Every time you have to pee or wash your hands when you are away from home you have to pay (it's about 25 cents which for us is not cheap). Most public restrooms don't even have a free toilet paper. You get a tiny piece of toilet paper from the "Toilet lady" that collects your money. Many public restrooms even charge extra for the "washroom" if you want to wash your hands. That is just insane!!!! Even McDonalds restrooms are not free downtown Prague. But they give you a coupon to use for your next visit. And Starbucks restrooms are locked with a coded door. When you buy something from them they give you a receipt that has a number that you use to get into the restroom. No purchase, no restroom! This is mostly done in effort to keep all the prostitutes and druggies away from the public restrooms. Does it work? Heck no, prostitutes and druggies have money and 25 cents to them is nothing. The only good thing about all this paid public restroom thing is the facts that it keeps old ladies employed after they retire, and the restrooms are fairly clean. The worst part of all is the fact that most restrooms use bar hand soap, which is disgusting, so bring your own hand sanitizer (and some toilet paper).
*Stinky people who do not shower or wear deodorants, and wear the same shirt for a week.
Most Czech men take shower only every other day, or less often. Most of them do not use a deodorant or a cologne because they believe that "a real man should stink like a man". Also most Czech men think that taking care of yourself is for women or metrosexuals. This is an observation that I have done over 21 years of my life there.
*Seeing people drinking a beer at a bus stop at 7 am!!
*Many disgusting foods such as boiled pork knees, veal brain, stewed kidneys, baked livers and lard
*Gloomy autumns
*The way some men treat women there
*Harsh and loooooong winters
*Seeing bitter and depressed people
*Customer service, or rather the lack of customer service
*Listening to my constantly unhappy, complaining and bitter family and neighbors

This is Karlštejn, my favorite Czech castle

This is Liberec, a city near the German border

Shelly loves snow! She used to play in snow for hours and it was the funniest thing ever to watch her

A view over Czech, Polish and German borders

A small city where my great-grandma lives

Feeding swans and ducks by the Vltava river

Hedgehog eating his evening meal before heading back into the nature