Traveling Vegan

Finding vegan food while traveling is not always easy, especially when traveling to areas of the country that rely heavily on meat and dairy products. I was in Roanoke, Virginia during the 4th of July week, and finding vegan food at restaurants and markets was really quite challenging. Aside from a beautiful array of fresh produce at roadside farm stands, fresh and delicious vegan food was nearly nonexistent. Thankfully I’m a chef, and I enjoy a challenge, so I was able to whip up quick and delicious meals on the go, to be enjoyed at the hotel, on the road, or before going out to dinner with my family. It’s a little awkward sitting food-less at a table of dining individuals, but when the majority of restaurants have no vegan options, there are only so many french fries one can consume in a weeks time, so it’s better to just pass. With a little planning and willpower, it’s really no effort at all to create beautiful and nutrient dense vegan meals with little to no kitchen equipment in a hotel room — you just need to be prepared. When shopping, remember balance, knowing that each of your meals should contain greens, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Choose fruits and veggies that need no kitchen equipment to prep for consumption. If craving melon, opt for the pre-cut and packaged options — not something I would normally advocate for, but when you’re in a bind, it’s okay to use. If preparing a salad, like mentioned with the melon above, chose pre-cut and packaged produce that can simply be added to salad greens. A simple vinaigrette can be made with vinegar — like red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, whisked with a fork in a plastic bowl. Fresh fruit is always a delicious add-in to a salad, so feel free to add whichever fruit you desire, and maybe add some roasted nuts and a protein rich canned bean like chickpeas, and boom, an easy and delicious lunch or dinner. For breakfast, I enjoyed either avocado toast with roasted red pepper hummus and a side of fresh fruit, toast with raw almond butter, a smear of coconut yogurt, and fresh berries, or a bottled organic protein shake. The moral of the story is, whether traveling near or far, finding vegan food at restaurants may be a challenge, but creating beautiful food doesn’t have to be. With a little imagination and preparation, you’ll have an amazing meal in minutes flat. 

Enjoy the journey! 

Payton 

36 Hours in Vancouver…

Two weeks ago, my family embarked on a major adventure. We flew from New York City to Vancouver, Canada. Then got on a cruise ship to go up to Alaska for 7 nights.  The intention for this post was to write about Alaska and all of it’s wonderful cuisine but it would be a shame to leave out the wonderful meals and places we discovered in Vancouver.  So here is it, my list of where to eat if/when you find yourself in Vancouver.  Most of these places were in walking distance from the Westin Grand, our hotel, but they are all really delicious none the less.

Tim Hortons : A trip to Canada isn’t complete without a trip to this donut empire. We shared a box of Timbits (their version of donut holes) and were completely happy. My two-year-old loved them so much that he carried the box onto the cruise ship, not wanting to let any of the glazed deliciousness go to waste.

Per Se Social Corner:  We stumbled upon this gem on our way back to the hotel one day and had to return for lunch.  The pasta was freshly made and their salmon salad was out of this world.  There were a lot of dining options and also a coffee and gelato bar.  We will return on our next visit to Vancouver.

The Farmers Apprentice:  My sisters gave my husband and me a gift certificate to this locavore restaurant and also offered to watch the kids.  Obviously, I am going to love any date night but this restaurant was really special.  We chose the carnivore menu and ate beets, salmon, lamb and a pretty amazing crème puff to finish it all off.

While the visit to Vancouver was quick, I was very satisfied with our dining choices and I can definitely say, I’ll be back for more of what this fun city has to offer.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Dining Across the Pond

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. Getting to a new place, seeing new scenery, and trying new foods are what making adventures in different cities and countries the best!  Since Summer is often a time for travel, we’ve decided to focus our blog on foods in different places.

Right after I got married, my husband and I went to London.  This wasn’t a week’s visit, we lived there for two years. As you can imagine, I had the opportunity to really immerse myself in British Cuisine. British food has gotten a bad rap for a long time but let me tell you there is a lot of great food in London if you look for it.  As with any metropolitan city there are chefs from around the world, cooking their native cuisines. At the same time, there are still plenty of local chefs cooking amazing British Food.  Here are some of my favorites.

Geales – This is a neighborhood restaurant that serves up the biggest portion of fish and chips you’ve ever seen.  It is also the best fish and chips I’ve ever had.  We went here whenever anyone came to visit so they could cross fish and chips off their list.  Let me tell you, it never got old.  This is still a stop on any trip I take to London.

The Ledbury – Now Number 27 of the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants,  The Ledbury is fine dining at it’s best.  I had the pleasure of dining here many times as it was just down the street from where I lived.  The food and ambiance complemented each other perfectly providing an intimate dining experience on some of the best local foods.

St. John – This is one of the original nose to tail restaurants where they literally serve you everything from the snout to the hoof.  While that might not sound appealing to all, it was wonderful to see how they used traditional methods on non-traditional cuts of meat.  The flavors were traditionally British but the food was anything but traditional.

Rococo Chocolates – I couldn’t right a post about London without mentioning our amazing Rococo Chocolates.  We have a large selection in our marketplace, here.  There are four retail locations in London and if you are strolling around Belgravia, don’t miss the chance to have a coffee and a chocolate in their wonderful MaRococo Garden.  All of their chocolates are made in London and the fresh ganache isn’t available outside of England, so be sure to select a few of those to taste as well. My personal favorite is the Anglesey Sea Salt Ganache.

If you need any other eating tips in London just let me know.  I could write pages of recommendations.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Give me s’more please!

S’mores are a tasty campfire treat that I look forward to every summer.  The origin of this treat can be traced back to the “Graham Cracker Sandwich” in an old Girl Scouts cook book.  There is no denying that you will always come back for some more of this combination of toasted marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. I used to love to catch my marshmallows on fire and let them burn to gooey goodness. Now I have more patience and prefer a nice toasty outside and a super gooey inside.  As we are always looking for ways to make something old, new again… we have come up with some pretty delicious variations on this classic dessert.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Traditional S’mores & More

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

8 Large Marshmallows, toasted to your liking

2 chocolate bars, cut into 4 pieces

4 large graham crackers, broken in half

Method:

-Sandwich toasted marshmallows between two pieces of graham cracker and 1 chunk of chocolate.

VARIATIONS

-Make this treat even easier by using Paul + Pippa Chocolate Flake Biscuits to replace the graham crackers and the chocolate.

-Use some single origin dark chocolate from Palette de Bine

-Add some extra sweetness by placing a Salty Caramel from Jacobsen Salt Co. in the sandwich

-Make it cool by adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream

-And when all else fails just eat the gooey marshmallow😊

Seas the Day!

There is nothing better than lounging on the beach on a hot summer day. With easy access to a plethora of beautiful beaches via public transit, we New Yorkers are quite lucky! From Far Rockaway, to Fire Island, to the Hampton Villages, there is no shortage on beautiful beachfront fun. Laying in the summer sun near the water with a cocktail in hand and a speaker loudly singing makes for the most perfect day, so gather up your friends, pack a cooler full of snacks and our Watermelon Margarita Slush Punch, maybe a volleyball and frisbee, and make a day if it. It’s also important that you go prepared, regardless of which beach you choose to visit. A proper beach bag should contain a blanket or beach towels for lounging, a Bluetooth speaker, a hat, sunglasses, loads of sunscreen, water,  a book or a few magazines, and maybe also a collapsible beach umbrella. For snacks, it’s important to bring foods that don’t easily spoil — so I would personally avoid any type of meat or seafood unless you have a really well insulated cooler — like fresh fruit kabobs, vegetable crudités, chips and dip, or maybe even a classic PB&J…using Gus & Grey Jam of course!  Most importantly, pack plenty of water, as staying hydrated is imperative when spending a day outside in the heat of the summer. Spending most days surrounded by concrete, it can be hard to remember the beauty that surrounds us, but luckily so, the beauty of nature and the roaring ocean is only a quick train ride away!

Happy summer!

Payton

Watermelon Margarita Slush Punch

Ingredients:

1/3 c sugar

1/3 c fresh lime juice

5 c cubed seedless watermelon

1/3 c tequila

Fresh mint leaves

Method:

-Heat lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool.

-Add watermelon, lime syrup, tequila, and mint to a high speed blender and blend until smooth.

-Place in a shallow dish and freeze, agitating mixture with a fork every 30 minutes to create slushy texture. Transfer to a freezer safe storage vessel when completely frozen.

-Pack in cooler completely encased in ice.

-To build cocktail, add slush to a glass, add in another shot of tequila, and top with club soda and a wedge of lime! Enjoy.

Ice Cream, Yes Please!

There is nothing better than ice cream on a warm summer day.  With Van Leeuwen opening down the street I am tempted almost daily to stop and have a cone.  The most intriguing part of the shop are their flavors.  They have everything from basic vanilla and chocolate to Royal Wedding Cake and S’mores.  Always being someone who is up for a challenge, I decided to pull out my ice cream maker and see if I could create some amazing flavors with the products from the marketplace.

When I received my ice cream maker years ago, I was given a copy of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Cookbook and to this day, their sweet cream base is what I use to start all of my ice cream creations. I am happy to share the recipe below along with the creative flavors I produced. Put the ice cream in a cup or a cone and enjoy!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream Base

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients:

2 large Eggs

¾ cups Sugar

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

Method:

-Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.

-Whisk in the sugar a little at a time and then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 more minute.

-Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend.

-Pour entire mixture into prepared ice cream maker and freeze as directed.

-Add mix-ins during the last few minutes of freezing.

Flavor Creations

Black Forest – Gus & Grey Sassy Red Head with Paul + Pippa Chocolate Biscuits

Cashew & Cranberry – Chopped Cacao Prieto Dark Chocolate Bark

Chocolate Chip – Chopped Palette de Bine Single Origin Chocolate

Toffee Crunch – Lucy’s Toffee Crumbles

It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere! Strawberry Moscow Mule with Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead

Who doesn’t love a cocktail on a hot summer day or night… or even better, BOTH?! Not only do I enjoy drinking a delicious cocktail, I also equally enjoy crafting the perfect cocktail, and playing around with and experimenting with different flavor combinations. Variation is limited only to your imagination, so let your creativity run wild…. I certainly do! In the summer, I love using seasonal produce paired with fresh herbs, like blackberries or strawberries and mint, or cucumber and basil, or raspberries and thyme…. so on and so forth, the list goes on and on. A combination of nostalgia, the ocean breeze, and the warm hug of a summer evening pairs so perfectly with a cocktail. I relish the nights set underneath a star painted sky sipping something cool, light, and refreshing. A lovely craft cocktail also elevates your summer outing, picnic, or party to the next level, so plan accordingly 🙂

Since it’s almost strawberry season, how does a Strawberry Mule with Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead sound?! Pretty amazing, right? I think so too! Fresh strawberries, ginger beer, maybe some fresh mint for good measure, vodka, and Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead Jam for a little spicy-sweetness, how could you go wrong with this combination?! Get your friends together and enjoy a beautiful summer moment outdoors with this delicious cocktail. Enjoy!

Strawberry Moscow Mule with Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead Jam

Ingredients:
⅓ c sugar
⅓ c water
⅓ c Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead Jam
1 c fresh strawberries, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice, plus lime wedge for garnish
3 oz chilled vodka (yes, this is a double! You can thank me later!)
Ginger beer

Method:
– Make simple syrup by combining sugar, water, and Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook until all of the sugar is dissolved. Add the chopped strawberries and allow to steep for at least 30 minutes. Now would also be the perfect time to add some fresh mint leaves, gently mashed beforehand to release their oils. After steeping, strain into a pitcher.
– To an ice filled cocktail shaker, add a few tablespoons of simple syrup, vodka, and lime juice. Shake until chilled.
– Muddle a few fresh strawberries and a few mint leaves in the bottom of a copper mug, add ice, and top with the vodka mixture, making sure to leave room for the ginger beer. Top with ginger beer and a wedge of lime and ENJOY!

Happy summer, everyone!

Payton

Bring on the grill… Summer is here

This past weekend we had weather that made it really feel like summer.  I spent Saturday at a friend’s house soaking up the sun, warm weather and, most importantly, eating meat from the grill.  Cooking over an open flame makes everything taste better, everything.  One of my favorite meats to grill is skirt steak. It is super easy to prepare, and everyone likes it.  The skirt is cut from under the breast of the steer and rarely is thicker than 3/4 inch, which makes for quick cooking. Try the recipe below to impress your friends this summer.

Happy Friday!

Julie

Spiced Skirt Steak

Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients:

2 lbs. skirt steak, trimmed

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons La Boîte Ayala – Rosemary, Black Pepper and Garlic Blend

Method:

-Combine olive oil and La Boîte Ayala – Rosemary, Black Pepper and Garlic Blend and rub into skirt steak.  Let the meat sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before grilling.

-Prepare your gas or charcoal grill. Once the grill is hot oil the grates to prevent sticking.  Add the steak to the grill and cook 3-4 minutes per side for medium.

-Allow meat to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Life’s a Picnic

A picnic seems to be a quintessential summer outing; a nostalgic activity that quite effortlessly releases one’s childhood spirit. There is something so relaxing and youth-inspiring about lounging on a blanket laid overtop grass covered ground underneath the burning summer sun, sharing food, laughter, and time with those whom you cherish. More than just mere eating on the ground al fresco, a picnic ignites the melody of the summer breeze, bringing forth a connection to the ease, joy, and fascinating energy of the summer months. We think that a picnic is all about joyful relaxation, so we’ve compiled a list of tips, tricks, and artisanal food products to make your time outdoors as effortless and stress-free as possible. As with most things in life, preparation is key, and with any luck, our tips below will be the start to a relaxing summer day!

Tips and tricks for the perfect picnic:
1)The right food is imperative! Food that isn’t fussy, packs and travels well, does not require multiple utensils, and is nearly mess free makes for perfect picnic eating. In addition to the amazing artisanal items in our Life’s a Picnic gift-set, you should find yourself packing things like an assortment of different sandwiches and wraps, chips with a few different dips like hummus and salsa, fresh fruit kabobs, vegetable crudite with hummus and pesto, a simple meat and cheese tray, crackers, and a few sweet options like cookies or brownies for dessert — maybe even an alcoholic slush for the adults. Make sure paper plates, utensils, napkins, and stackable disposable cups find a place in your basket as well — biodegradable and made from recycled materials if at all possible! Also, use frozen bottles of water to keep your chilled items cold, and then drink once they defrost. For more inspiration, check out our Life’s a Picnic Pinterest Board.

2)REMEMBER FOOD SAFETY! A picnic isn’t stress free and enjoyable if you get food poisoning. Remember to keep cold items cold, using plenty on ice packs and or frozen water bottles, and do not allow the food to sit out in the hot sun for too long before enjoying once your picnic is set up. Pack away the cold items when not in use, and pull out of the cooler when needed.

3)Cleanliness and sanitation is essential. When packing your basket, don’t forget a to add few empty trash bags, as well as wet-wipes, and hand sanitizer.

4)Stay hydrated! The summer sun can be brutal! In addition to summer inspired beverages, both adult and kid-friendly alike, don’t forget to pack bottled water as well. As noted above, use frozen bottles of water to keep your chilled items cold, but it doesn’t hurt to pack extra water just in case.

5)Sunscreen. If you’re planning on spending more than 30 minutes outdoors on a summer day, sunscreen is an essential element in your picnic pack. It may also be handy to pack some toxin-free bug spray.

6)A comfy blanket with a large surface area to fit you, your friends and loved ones, in addition to the food is a must — the foundation to a perfect picnic.

We hope these tips prove helpful! Enjoy the summer sun, everyone!

-Payton

Comfort Food for a Rainy Day

I had the most delicious roasted mushroom and caramelized onion toast at Ladybird in the East Village a few weeks back, and ever since then, my palate has been hooked on all things mushroom. Inspired by the delicious simplicity of the dish, I decided to try my hand at recreating it, from scratch… which meant also baking the perfect loaf of bread to act as a vehicle for the scrumptious roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions. And what a ride it has been!

Since today is quite gloomy, I thought I’d share a yummy whole wheat bread recipe. It is delicious as is, but somehow even more delicious once toasted. Enjoy with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onion, a generous smear of roasted garlic hummus, and sliced avocado for a spin on Ladybird’s creation, or simply enjoy with butter and Bee Local honey or Gus and Grey jam. The moral of the story…. The bread itself is so delicious that it doesn’t really matter what you top it with! So let your creativity soar!

When baking a whole wheat or whole grain bread, there are a few tips to remember. Unlike processed white flour in which the bran and the germ are removed, whole grains are fully intact with the bran, germ, and endosperm, and therefore require more moisture to ensure that the bread once baked is not too dry or crumbly. Due to the excess moisture, as well as the added bran and germ, whole grain bread is heavier than bread made with processed white flour, so additional time for the bread to rise is necessary to ensure the proper texture. Also, avoid over kneading! Lastly, depending on the humidity in the air, more or less flour than the recipe calls for may be needed, as making the perfect bread is all about feel — so if your bread doesn’t turn out great the first time, don’t fret and simply try again.

 

Happy baking!

Payton

 

Whole Wheat Bread

2 Loaves

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon dry yeast

2 cups warm water

5-6 cups whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

 

Method:

-preheat oven to 375°

-make sponge: In large bowl, combine yeast, water, and 2 cups of whole wheat flour, stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 30 minutes.

-Prepare the Bread:

  1. Add salt and just enough flour to create a dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  2. Turn dough out onto a clean and floured work surface and knead for 10 to 15 minutes, adding remaining flour as necessary, until a smooth dough is formed. The dough should be moist, but not sticky.
  3. Transfer dough to a clean and lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and proof in a warm place for 50 to 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
  4. Prepare loaf pans with oil and parchment paper.
  5. After the dough has doubled in size, punch down, and allow to rise one more time.
  6. Divide dough in half, form into two loaves, and transfer to loaf pans. Allow to rise again, under a damp towel, for 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Bake bread for 30-45 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. If using a thermometer, the internal temp should register between 190° and 205° F.