Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Baltimore Vegfest, 2013 = Raw Challenge Fail

As you know, I committed to following Brad’s Raw Challenge for this month until…I realized…the 3rd Annual Baltimore Vegfest was on Saturday! I have been to every single one so far and I love just supporting this event and watching it as it grows. I also love the fact it gives me an excuse to travel to Maryland!  

We had arrived just in time to grab our goodie bags filled with, well, vegan goodies! Veggie Bouillans, gluten-free onion crackers by Mary’s Gone Crackers, AloDrink, samples of Lush and Parma and oooh a Twilight candy bar by Go Max Go! Lots of yummy goodies!

Then we set out to explore. After a glance, I was surprised to see that the Vegfest had seemed to have shrunk. Maybe it was the location which seemed a bit more spacious? Or maybe there really were less vendors this time around. Whatever it was, it definitely didn’t prevent it from being enjoyable, especially with the beautiful weather! 

*UPDATE* This year has been the largest yet for the Baltimore Vegfest! With over 2,000 people and 12 more vendors than last year, my eyes were clearly mistaken. It's so exciting to hear that this event is growing!

First stop were a few samples from Dandies and Tofurkey. Vegan junk food at its best. Dandies makes some amazing marshmallows that resemble the real thing in both texture and taste. They melt down well too. I’ve used them to make vegan rice krispy treats and s’mores. So good! The Tofurkey was good as well, but in all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of meat substitutes.

Five minutes in and we come across this cutie. If I didn’t live in an apartment I would have immediately adopted and brought home this beauty. McKitty was so sweet and friendly. I literally fell in love but knew I just couldn’t take him. He was being fostered by AARF, Animals Allie Rescues. I’m pretty positive he found a new home that day! This is a great org who looks for people to either foster or adopt pets, so if you’re looking for a new animal to love, please check them out and adapt first! 

As we continued our journey I was immediately stopped by a scent I recognized way to well: Barbecue  - and not just ANY barbecue, Land of Kush barbecue. If you have never heard of Land of Kush then you are seriously missing out on some of the absolute best vegan soul food around. From collards, to mac n’ cheese to barbecue soy ribs, your plate will look just as good as, if not better, your mama’s plate when dining at Nani’s house. I kid you not…I know I said I’m not a meat sub fan, and I’m not, but Land of Kush has some barbecue that is hard to resist. The smell alone is mouth watering. Plus, you know it’s good when your non-vegan mom and husband BOTH ask for it.  So for them, I took some to go. 

Next stop was Mira’s Homemade Granola. I only got to try one flavor, Double Nut, but I recognized the main ingredient, buckwheat. For some reason, I have grown to dislike buckwheat – not sure why truthfully. However, the granola can’t be judged by my dislikes. In my opinion, it was still flavorful and full of crunch. They are raw which is a super plus and a great product to introduce to the growing community of raw foodists. 

Looking for more raw goodies I came across a lady selling...what is that? Yes, JUICE! Raw, freshly made JUICE! Finally I scored! The lady who owns the company, Jukai Juice, along with her sweet son greeted us and offered us two flavors: The Hulk with kale, pineapple, green apple, lemon and ginger or the Honey Pi with Honeydew Orange Pineapple Lemon and Ginger. Of course, I opted for the Hulk since greens ALWAYS come first. :) The taste was phenomenal! Sweet, citrusy and very refreshing. I didn’t realize I had drank it all before it was too late. I could have gone for more but I knew I didn't need to. 

And then there were donuts…kale donuts that is. With a gluten-free option. By A, B, C Vegan. If you’re a bit skeptical, don’t feel bad because so was I. However, when we tasted them we have to say they weren’t all that bad. We ended up trying a gluten-free glazed baked donut. While it was grainy as most gluten-free baked goods are, it was also moist – a plus. Not sure if the moisture came from the baking or from the glaze, but it was moist. The glaze was a bit too sweet for me, but it worked well with the cake donut. All in all, a good recipe AND a unique one at that. Who would have thought of adding Kale to a donut!?


And then there were truffles….oh creamy chocolaty truffles. These I had to literally walk away from because I could have eaten myself out of Vegfest stuffed with chocolate truffles. Truffles by Emily sold four different vegan flavors: Duke of Earl, Pistachio Pomegranate, Coconut Almond and Lavender. We opted for the Pistachio Pom to split as we attempted to save room for our trip to a vegan restaurant. The truffle literally made me roll my eyes back and say OMG. The texture was super smooth and creamy which was well complimented by the crunchy, salty pistachios. The flavor was simply sweet, a bit salty, nutty with a hint of tangy fruit from the pomegranate. Now, I could be bias seeing as I am a major truffle lover, but these truffles were very well balanced in both texture and flavor. A must try if you can!

We did stop by a few vendors and took a few extra pic... 

Since Vegfest literally took us, oh, I think an hour!? We decided to head out to explore Roots Market and Great Sage. While my friend had been to both places once, I have not so I was beyond excited to finally be able to visit this fabulous shopping center. 

Roots Market is an organic grocery located in Clarksville, MD. It is like a Whole Foods, but in my opinion, better! It carries only the best products! Look at all the goodies I grabbed! I am particularly excited about my purchase of cacao butter for only 12.99. A steal! 

After we browsed through the store, filling up on food samples, we finally decided to take a seat and enjoy a light lunch at the GreatSage

As I stated, I have never been before, but I follow the Great Sage’s Facebook Page and gawk and drool daily at their photos of their latest and greatest menu items. I was thrilled to finally be able to try something on their menu. First, we ordered drinks, a Ginger Mojito for me. It was bit sweet, but still quite tasty. It was a very well blend between alcohol and brew.

I was even more thrilled to discover they offered two raw dishes: Beet Ravioli and Chocolate Crepes. Of course, we ordered BOTH and shared.

First up, the Beet Ravioli: “marinated beet slices filled with sunflower-cashew cheese, topped with basil pesto and a micro green salad”.  The beets were tender enough to cut, yet still had a slight bite to it. They had a very light, earthy flavor which I can only guess can be thanked to the marinating process. Smart idea to draw out some of that strong earthiness red beets seem to always have when consumed raw. The “cheese” inside was full of flavor, but a bit chunky and tasted more like a pate than a ravioli cheese.  Something smoother, creamier and lighter in flavor may have given the dish the ravioliness we were looking for. The pesto was light and added a nice addition in terms of pleasing every part of the palate. All in all, the dish was full of flavor and beautifully presented.

Then came the chocolate crepes, “chewy crepes filled with a coconut vanilla ‘crème’ topped with a raw chocolate fudge sauce.  At first bite we were both a bit thrown off by the chewy texture of the crepes. Clearly we didn’t read the description! It wasn’t a bad thing at all, just a shock. We had never had raw crepes before and only knew crepes by their non-raw counterparts which are thin, light and only slightly chewy. These crepes were smooth, thick and had quite a chewy bite to them. At first I thought maybe thinner will work, but anything thinner may not have held it’s shape and THAT would have killed presentation. I do have to admit though, they had a dense, cake-like texture that I didn't expect, but very much appreciated for being a raw crepe.  

As for taste, slightly sweet and very chocolaty which worked very well with the sweet, thick, fluffy coconut vanilla ‘crème’. The crème was near perfection in both consistency and taste. I immediately identified the coconut and my friend mentioned a hint of banana. It was seriously finger lickable, which I did not do although I really, really wanted to. The raw fudge sauce was familiar – a possible blend of coconut oil, cacao powder and agave which made it very saucy, with a strong cocoa flavor. It’s a great compliment to the dish for anyone looking to add a bit more sweetness to every bite. I didn’t try it with the mint, which I should have. Overall, a rich, decadent raw dessert that exceeded my expectations. Now let’s get that raw crème stuffed into some strawberries and drizzled with chocolate or mixed in with a berry salad. Yumm!

Between the beautiful weather, supporting my locals at Vegfest, browsing Roots like a kid in a candy shop and enjoying some impressive raw dishes at Great Sage, I have to say my Saturday was VERY well spent. I couldn’t have asked for a better day!


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Meet Grace, and a new recipe for mock-tuna salad

Meet Grace!

Hi!  My name is Grace.  Kerry and I have been friends since college and recently Beth and I have gotten to know each other as well.  It's wonderful to develop relationships with people who share similar passions and values.  Since I moved to Washington, DC about 6 months ago, I have been following "The Split Plate" and I love the premise of the blog.  Many people in different places in life adopt a whole foods, plant based mindset.  However, the way this mindset is expressed in individuals' lifestyles can look very different from one person to the next, and it should!  This idea of how people express variations of a vegan lifestyle is the basis for "The Split Plate," and I'm excited to be a part of it!

I'd like to give a brief background on how my diet has evolved over the years.  As a child, I never cared for meat, but was required to eat what was on my plate.  When I moved out of the house I gradually began to get rid of meats in my diet.  Even when I lived with my parents I barely ate red meat and that was the first to go.  Red meat consumption has been shown to raise the risk of cancer, and also atherosclerosis and related diseases such as heart disease and stroke so it was easy as a teenager to justify to my family my desire to remove it from my diet.  When I graduated from college and began cooking for myself, I found that since I no longer cooked chicken at home, when I would eat it with others it became more and more unpalatable.  Fish left my diet only last year.  I still eat dairy and eggs occasionally, especially when they are the only option on restaurant menus.  However in my own house I have been making vegan dishes.

Currently i am progressing toward a whole foods, plant based diet.  My current diet still includes preservatives and occasional eggs and dairy, but I am learning, step by step, how to substitute natural, plant based ingredients for these items.  Healthy eating is a journey and I continue to learn more each day!  

Jackfruit and Chickpea Mock Tuna Salad Recipe

Mock Tuna Melt with Daiya

One of the things I love about a plant based diet are the new and exotic ingredients to which I am introduced.  Beth and I learned about jackfruit at the Cookology class we recently attended and I have been obsessed with the ingredient ever since.  A few months ago, I tried Sticky Fingers Bakery's mind-blowing chickpea mock tuna salad (I still dream about it!) Ever since, I've been trying to replicate their recipe. The final recipe I came up with is different (Sticky Fingers' recipe does not include jackfruit) but just as addictively delicious.

  • 1 can jackfruit in brine or salt (not syrup)
  • 1 sheet nonstick foil
  • 1/8 sheet of nori
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 4 spring onions (or equal amount of alternate onion)
  • 1 shallot (or equal amount of alternate onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 strip celery
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup dill relish
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 handful parsley or other fresh herbs you have around (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • Bread
  • Daiya jalapeno garlic havarti wedge, sliced (or alternative flavor)
  • Toppings: sprouts, tomato, watercress, avocado or any other as you prefer.

Jackfruit shredded and broiled
1) Jackfruit from a can has a soft consistency and briny flavor. To get rid of the brine, rinse multiple times, soak in water for about 1 hour, then rinse again and drain. To toughen the consistency, broil on non-stick foil at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until jackfruit is dried out and starting to brown around the edges. Mid way through, remove from oven and pull jackfruit apart with 2 forks to attain desired appearance, then return to oven.
2) While jackfruit is browning: crumple nori and add to food processor or blender and blend. Add boiling water and blend.
3) Add spring onion, shallot, garlic, celery and pulse until ingredients are chopped.
4) Add mayonnaise, capers, relish, miso, nutritional yeast, parsley and blend.
5) Add chickpeas and pulse until chickpeas are chopped but not blended.
6) Remove jackfruit from oven, transfer to large bowl and allow to cool. In the meantime, place 2 slices of bread on hot foil, add 1 slice of Daiya on on piece of bread and return to oven just until Daiya melts and browns a bit.
7) Mix chickpea mixture into jackfruit by hand.  Spread 1/2 cup of the mock tuna salad on hot toast with melted Daiya, add preferred toppings, and enjoy!

Mock Tuna Salad
Nutrition Facts for Mock Tuna Salad


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Blueberry Hemp Milk Smoothie

So I usually drink a green smoothie every morning as my breakfast, or on the weekends as a snack after my workout.  I usually don't follow a recipe as I have found that a lot of my favorite smoothies are ones that I make up myself.  I do use recipes from Young and Raw's 30 day smoothie challenge but I also tweak these a bit and add or omit certain ingredients.  If you haven't ever heard of Young and Raw or their 30 day Smoothie Challenge you should check it out!

Today was a day that I completely created my own smoothie recipe and it was by far my favorite.  After drinking an entire glass each my boyfriend and I were actually fighting over the leftovers in the blender.  If you would like to try a healthy, green smoothie that tastes like dessert check out this recipe I created today.  You can use this recipe to fool anyone who refuses to eat greens! 

Hemp Milk Creamy Blueberry Smoothie
16 oz hemp milk 
2 Tbs organic chia seeds
2 handfuls of organic kale & organic spinach 
4 organic dates 
1 frozen banana
1/2 - 3/4 cup frozen organic blueberries
6-8 ice cubes

This recipe makes enough for about 2 smoothies with a little left over.  I guarantee that this will be one of the best smoothies you have ever tasted!  Mmmmmmm....

- Kerry

Review: Cookology - a "Vegan Picnic"


I am really excited about this post, although it is a bit late. I didn’t realize Brad’s Raw Challenge was this week! Oops! Two Saturday’s ago I had the privilege to attend what I believe was the very first vegan cooking class taught and hosted at Cookology

 If you have never heard of Cookology, it is a store-front located in the Dulles Towne Center that teaches and hosts different cooking classes for groups, birthday parties and even for business team-building. The classes they offer are widely ranged to accommodate every age group, special diets and every culinary adventure you can imagine. From local wine and food pairing, to French cooking, to date-nights, anyone and everyone can find a cooking class that fancies their taste buds.  And now, thanks to Cookology and Chef Kevin Carroll, "everyone" includes us vegans, rawsies, and gluten-free-ers too. 



The moment I received confirmation that vegan and raw food classes would soon become available, I stalked Cookology Online daily, anxiously wondering what dishes we would be whipping up. It didn’t take long for them to post and open the new classes and, in excitement, I immediately bought my ticket for the vegan class and shared the event to many in hopes that the class would be a full one.  I decided to skip the raw class since the dishes they were making were familiar to me; dishes I had made before. In all honesty, it was the same for the vegan picnic class minus one dish I was seriously intrigued by: BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwiches.  

When the day arrived, I was a bit anxious since this was my very first time attending a class at Cookology. I didn’t know WHAT to expect! After checking in, we were led to the back kitchen where a fully prepped chef’s working table awaited our arrival. We each chose a spot around the table and waited for further instruction.

 As I waited and took in my surroundings, I noticed a few things. First, there were only 8 of us – a smaller group than I was expecting, but a more intimate, personal setting which I actually quite prefer. Second, the setting with the kitchen table, bulk items and prepping tools provided a more professional atmosphere – different than the “let’s just have fun” atmosphere I was used too. Last, the presence of cutting boards, prep bowls, and knives meant this class was going to involve more personal prepping/cooking than any other class I have been to so far. I guess that’s what happens when you attend one too many raw food classes. All of this made me feel more like a chef than another cooking class participant. This made the experience something new and different which is exactly what I was looking for.

Once the chef introduced himself we started…and never stopped! We made dish, after dish, after dish, cleaning along the way. The class seemed a bit fast paced which meant I didn’t have too much time to take pictures. At first, I was a bit disappointed with the speed at which the class was going, but then I realized, that’s how it is in the real world! Actually, it’s faster than that! We were being taught firsthand how to prep, prepare and plate three dishes in under 2 hours while keeping our working spaces clean along the way.  Funny, because I do the same thing at home – prep, prepare and plate 2 lunches and a dinner in under two hours. I guess I AM a chef at home. :)
While it did seem fast paced, in the end, we had a chance to sit down, relax, and really appreciate and enjoy the food that we made. In this experience I also gained a brand new respect for Chefs in the real world. Time is seriously of the essence! 

So, interested to hear what we made!?



Well, we worked backwards. Life is too short to NOT enjoy dessert first, right!? So that’s what we made: Lemon Glazed Donuts…err well muffins that tasted similar to a lemon cake donuts. Donut pans weren’t available and in my experience, a pain in the butt to work with too. 

While we we’re making the donuts the chef pulled out one ingredient that made my friend and I gasp in horror: CRISCO! Yes, we were using Crisco! Even the chef knew we would react to the use of a hydrogenated oils but...he gave us a reason as to why he chose it: taste. Yes, only donuts taste like true donuts with Crisco and honestly, without it, our lemon donuts would have been just muffins. Taste, 1. Health, 0. I couldn’t blame him. Chef’s are trained to prepare foods based on taste and presentation and well, he did say this was a vegan class, not a health class. After all, vegan isn’t always healthy. I guess you gotta indulge sometimes…

After they baked and cooled down, we finished our donut muffins off with a deliciously sweet lemon glaze, which while making, I learned a new skill: how to tell when the consistency of your glaze is just perfect.

As stated before, the Crisco did make a difference. While they didn’t look anything like donuts, they did taste like a donut. The outside was crispy, the inside, moist and airy. The glaze, amazing! Sweetly tart and in my opinion, the star of this dish. This donut would have been just good without that glaze. With it, it was seriously mouthwatering and addictive. It was hard NOT to eat them all. Actually, I ate them all on the way home...so much for health!

Next we worked on our Baba Ghanoush – at first glance, an odd dish for a picnic themed course, but when you think picnic, you think dip so I guess that makes sense! If you never heard of baba ghanoush, it is simply a hummus made with roasted eggplants as opposed to chickpeas.

We set to work roasting our eggplant in the stove as opposed to over a grill and learned the same can be done for bell peppers as well. As we passed around the ingredients, our chef explained what some the ingredients were to some of the students who never had heard of things like tahini before. Points for a chef who knows his stuff. We quickly whipped this dip, topped it with bell peppers we had chopped on our own, set it aside to be eaten later with some already made flatbread, and we were on to the dish I was looking forward to most: the BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sliders!

I’ll be honest, I was praying and oh so hoping we would learn how to make these babies with fresh Jackfruit. However, after receiving Jackfruit 101 from the Chef, I quickly learned that due to time, that was literally impossible. Fresh Jackfruit requires picking and boiling before it’s edible. We did however, get to see, smell and touch the Jackfruit which was pretty cool considering I had never really examined a fresh one before…only from the sidelines at the Asian market.I have had it to eat though, dried from the Philippines and new it tasted splendid!

So instead we used canned Jackfruit – a bit different in texture, but tastes the same. We gather our ingredients and to the hot plates we went to cook our pulled BBQ. After some heating up and simmering, we were ready to plate! We made three small BBQ sammies which we simply dressed, to the Chef's recommendation, with agave to bring out the flavors in the BBQ more.

Two hours. One Chef. Eight Students. Three Dishes. One happy picnic.



Overall, this class definitely met my expectations for being their first vegan class. 


I liked the change up in the pace and overall atmosphere. I loved the fact that the ingredients were in bulk as opposed to being separated into plastic dishes which saves on plastics as well as on time for those who have to prep the table. Passing around tools and ingredients did make things move a bit slower, but if it saves the planet, then I’m all for it. I loved the kitchen setting and our ability to pretty much make every recipe on our own from measuring, to chopping, to sautéing, etc. The recipes no doubt, were delicious. Most of all, I enjoyed being able to sit at the dinner table with my fellow classmates and enjoy the meal I just made. There are perks to making all your dishes first and then eating last as opposed to stuffing your face along the way. I have to say the class was worth the $65 dollars I paid and those who drove down from DC and Maryland agreed. If you can capture people who are willing to drive that far down, then the opportunities are limitless. 


However…yes there is a however. I believe that in every business, constructive criticism is important. So, however, after chatting with my friend about the class, I do have a few suggestions for possible improvement.
  • While I enjoyed the pace, some may have preferred more time to dive deeper into the development of the dishes, specifically the BBQ Pulled Jackfruit dish. Of course, it takes time, multiple classes and feedback in order to determine what works best for their audience. Just something to think about early on. 
  • As I mentioned before, I found baba ghanoush dip to be an odd addition to the menu although I understood how it could fit. We, however, agreed that we would have preferred to have made something that would have complimented the sandwich more, say a slaw or a potato salad. No doubt, the dip was excellent and full of flavor, just an oddball in our opinion. Maybe we are a bit too conformed when it comes to our ideas about food themes :). That could be an issue. On the positive side, listening from others, a majority of students have never made baba ghanoush before, so they had learned something new which is the whole point of this cooking class. You don't want to learn to make a dish you already know how to make right!?
  • There was also an assumption that we would be making the flatbread to accompany the baba ghanoush, which I should have realized wouldn’t have worked due to time, but maybe some clarification on what exactly was going to be made that day would have toned expectations.  All it takes is simple rephrasing to fix that.
  • We do wish there was more time to play and experiment with the Jackfruit! Again time was our enemy!
  • Kudos for saving the planet with plastics, minus the aprons. However, the amount of paper towel we used was insane! A wet and dry towel for each of us would save money on paper towels and time as well with washing hands.
  • Lastly and most importantly, a little PR was needed at the end. Our chef was a great teacher but he did step away at the end. Maybe the assumption was that we wanted to be left alone to chat and eat after hearing him direct us around for the last two hours? Maybe. But it was quite the opposite. We wanted to continue the conversation with him. Ask him about his experience as a chef and as a former vegan. Ask him about the Jackfruit more. Ask him about other classes they offered. It would have been nice to have him in our presence as we enjoyed our meal. Keep us engaged from the time we walk in to the time we leave. Maybe have someone else as a "host" do that instead of the Chefs? Maybe time was once again to blame? We did have to ask for to go boxes and for the recipes, which we were informed would be e-mailed to us which I preferred. It saves paper AND you won’t lose it on the way home! 




I definitely plan on attending any future vegan-friendly and/or raw classes they offer. I feel Cookology has the resources to really cater to this new audience of vegans and rawsies. Actually, I just paid for tickets to a Mommy and Me class with my 6 year-old daughter. None of the dishes are vegan so this momma won’t be eating, but at least I know my daughter will get the chance to do what she’s been dying to do. Cook! That’s the great thing about Cookology, they cater to all types of people! So check out their classes. You never know what you might find :)
I will keep you all posted when the next class is offered! I hope you will join us as we build a new community there!

Oh and let's not leave out the perks of driving all the way to Dulles Towne Center...SWEETZ BAKERY's amazing vegan cupcakes!!! Keep an eye out for a review post on these amazing treats!