Friday, October 28, 2011

German Apple Cake - Vegan and Fabulous

I like to have a couple of tricks up my sleeve to offer sweets to the vegans in my life. This German Apple Cake recipe is a great one to know. It is tasty and the recipe is forgiving. It comes from a favorite cookbook of mine, "The Joy of Vegan Baking" by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassion Cooks. This cookbook is so approachable. And, like all of my favorite cookbooks, it gives you more than a list of recipes, it provides information about ingredients and technique. For instance, she gives you options for egg re-placers (bananas, flaxseed, applesauce), milk choices, and cooking tips to accompany most recipes. This book is tasty, pretty, and fun.

I've used the recipe as "framework" many times, meaning I've altered the recipe when my pantry contents didn't extactly match the recipe. And, like I said, if you pick-up the book, Colleen will walk through a lot substitute options.

What you'll need:
3 to 4 apples, peeled and cut into slices
1/2 cup non-dairy butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 unsweetened apple sauce
2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

For the topping: 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark), 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 of ginger

Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan.

Peal and slice your apples
3 to 4, depending on size

Cook the apples in a bit of water on the stove, until soft but not mushy. Set aside. I've added a squeeze of lemon, but it is not necessary.

Combine your sugar n' butter.

Mix it up.

Add your 1/2 cup applesauce & non-dairy milk
hint: 1/2 cup of applesauce about the size of a individual sized container of applesauce.
hint hint: the mixture will not look fully integrated until you add the flour,

so you can expect it to look a bit broken.

Combine your flour and baking powder in a small bowl and slowly add to the wet mixture.
All mixed up. It should be thick, thicker feeling than muffin batter.

Spread the batter evenly on the bottom of the pan.
Now you are ready to arrange your apples.
I tend to do this more "organically"
myself without the temperament to create
patterned design.

Add sugar, cinnamon, ginger topping and bake for 30 - 40 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Enjoy! This is great with ice cream or
a cup of tea.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Food Day 2011

The RFC gathered this week to celebrate Food Day, just wanted to share a bit of our fun...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

black radish delights (with a side of fame!)

In our latest "red box" we got beautiful black radishes.  After using them to cover polenta for our Food Day gathering (more on that to come from Casey!), I decided to make a delicious radish pizza for dinner the other night.

First I gathered up my ingredients (strategically covering my dirty stove with a cutting board, so fancy!)
I was feeling all excited about potato pizza after Rachel's post, but I actually ended up substituting mushrooms.  Oh, and I added some onion.  Also, I got brave and used the hot sauce I made the other day.  I have to say that we have been using it like gangbusters at our house as of late.  It mellowed a bit (still super hot though) and now I can't get enough!  All that to say, the true ingredient list (picture notwithstanding!) should look like this:
  • black radishes, natch
  • garlic
  • hot peppers (which I seeded, based on past experience!)
  • pre-made pizza dough
  • olive oil
  • onion 
  • mushrooms 
  • hot sauce 
I chopped up the garlic, sliced the onion and the radishes, cut the peppers into strips and seeded them, cut the mushrooms and sauteed everything until the radishes were almost clear.  I always add the mushrooms towards the end so they don't get overcooked and I added the hot sauce a bit later as well.

Then it was a matter of rolling out the dough on my pizza stone, spreading my goodies on the dough and popping it all in the oven.

 So good!  I can't get over how amazing the radishes were.  And for a night when we really didn't feel like we had the "right" toppings for pizza, it worked out right nice.
Anybody else done anything fine with our best friend pizza lately?  I just never seem to get tired of finding new ways to make it delicious!

P.S.  I had the thrill of being interviewed by a new "cyber friend" recently about being a vegan mom.  She talked to a lot of interesting people and I was really honored to be a part of it.  Check it out if you can (she said shyly).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Restaurants we love

This is by no means a complete list of Richmond restaurants. We don't get out all that much, y'all. This is simply a sampling of our favorite places- place we where we go for their fresh food, great atmosphere and innovative style. By all means, let us know your faves and we'll try (to try) 'em out!

401 Strawberry Street
You can't beat it for carry out. The food is amazing. I love their eggplant parmesan so much, and their pizza and their arugula salad...

200 N. Boulevard, inside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
I love eating in a museum. Plus, their plates are pure artwork. And, Michael Shaps made a wine just for them. I love that too.

2110 E. Main St.
Favorite pizza place, 'cause they are wood fired. My other favorite dish is the 'perfect egg' on greens. They are also famous for their cream puffs, as they well should be.

203 North Lombardy St., Richmond
There is always something fun happening at Balliceaux- plus the drinks are well crafted, and the food is fantastic- comfort food with a twist. The building itself is gorgeous- you'll feel like you are in another town with the enormous windows open wide on temperate nights.

1501 Main Street
Good pizza (sensing a trend?), fun apps, some local ingredients, a great bar, and a totally relaxed atmosphere

1209 E. Cary Street
My mom and I had a lovely Christmas supper here last year, which, I will admit, is the only time I have been. Christmas dinner is a big one though, and they did a great job. I hope to go back- maybe for Christmas this year? Delicious, occasion- worthy food.

414 East Main Street
Small and cozy, Cafe Rustica is a lovely date place after downtown events. The menu changes seasonally, so the preparation is always fresh.

3120 W. Cary Street
I remember when this space was a bridal shop, and so am doubly impressed with their classy renovation (over a decade ago now, I realize). We have been known to play hooky to have a fancy 'ladies lunch' there, and love the classic french cuisine found right in the heart of Carytown. Their pastries and bread are so good, (so good) and are available for purchase- take some home the next time you are in.

411 N. Harrison
So busy, very lively and loud, I cannot stop ordering the penne with broccoli rabe. I cannot recreate this dish at home- not even close. So, everytime I get a hankering for it, I gotta go. Kinda want some now...

1223 Bellevue Avenue
Fantastic wine at great prices. Lovely fresh pasta- and it is in our neighborhood! The owner (Gary York, also of Coast) has been seen procuring fresh food for his restaurants at local farmers markets.

Harrison Street Cafe
402 N. Harrison Street
Amazing vegan and vegetarian food . . . not to mention fabulous coffee. And it's easy on the wallet as well. A winner!

917 West Grace Street
The go- to spot for innovative and classic vegetarian comfort food. The menu is constantly changing, and the basement location and high booths make for an intimate, yet fun atmosphere. I was there when I found out Michael Jackson died, and the staff played an all night tribute to the King of Pop. But I digress...

116 S Addison St
The coffee here is fresh and superstrong- just the way I like it! They also bring in amazing doughnuts from Country Time. Vegan friendly and super chill.

101 West Franklin st. inside the Jefferson Hotel
I have never eaten a full meal at LeMaire, but I'd love the occasion to! Of course, they have great bar food as well, easy and a little fancy. With drink specials every weeknight, including $5 Manhattans on Friday nights, why not go an sit on their orange couches and enjoy this historic hotel bar?

The Cellar Door
1600 Monument Ave
A cozy spot with Portuguese inspired food, this spot is the perfect date evening, rowdy night with friends and the perfect brunch spot with your parents.  Loads of vegetarian options, there's a feast for any budget.

The Roosevelt:
623 N.25th Street
This spot has that perfect atmosphere that is at once laid back and elegant, a great selection of affordable small plates in addition to entrees, and an impressive selection of Virginia Wines. Check out their brunch menu for delicious sounding bits like Local ricotta pancakes with brown sugar apples and maple butter.

2933 West Cary Street
I adore this place, and only don't go more often because so many other people love it too. Despite the potential crowds, Secco has the most fun with their ingredients, but is quite serious about their food offerings as well. Even your cheese plate will be well thought out, and will come complete with homemade jams and chutneys. I discovered my favorite (I said it!) champagne right there- at their bar. Everything is exciting here- the last time I went I sat next to the owner of Caramount cheese and had the best time hearing about her business. I think they appreciate when folks nerd out about food- one of their cooks is blogging about his adventures cooking in kitchens around the world! Love it.

Strange Matter
929 W. Grace Street
They're a venue, a restaurant, an arcade . . . oh my! We may love fresh food, but we need comfort food just like the rest of the world! Strange Matter has amazing guilty pleasures (vegan revenge, anyone?) and video games to boot. Color us intrigued!

506 W. Broad St
With dark woods, great bar, and seasonal fare, this place feels like a secret. All part of the charm.

901 W. Marshall Street
We love checking out what is new at this fun spot- brunch and dinner menus are always interesting and seasonal. I promise, it is worth the wait. Battleship, anyone?

The Magpie
1301 W. Leigh St
Cozy spot with inventive menu.  Self described as a 'gastropub', the execution is indeed delicious!

4019 MacArthur Avenue
Dinner only, this Northside spot is a favorite for the comfortable quasi European cafe atmosphere, the fantastic cocktails are created by the owner himself. We love the delicious and diverse menu, and have been known to walk blocks just to carry home their fabulous pizza!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Test of Time

Time... It keeps on ticking. The world keeps turning. The seasons change. The sun rises and sets again... and finite time means making choices. I have so many interests, and yet perhaps my energy runs out before the clock. Infinite hopes and finite time and energy is a phrase I once wrote to a friend to describe a certain state of mind that starts leading you to a place where you're trying so hard it can feel like you're hitting a wall. You can be so busy pushing forward you're unable to go with the flow, and sometimes that's the best way to be moved further along.
Inspiration can come from the most unlikely and seemingly simple task.

One small and silly example I have can been taken from the notably non-food related photos in this post. One of my "maybe I should just give that up" moments was a couple of weekends ago when I realized it was time to make a choice about bringing in the houseplants. This year I thought perhaps I should just let 'em go. They take up time, and space, there's all that re-potting and some leaf dropping. I have so much outdoor gardening... In the end I chose the plants. It took a few hours to scrub the pots and trays, replace the soil, wash the plants, and find each one a good indoor home. Shortly after getting them in I stopped struck by how lovely the light looked shining through the plants in the dining room window. I felt lifted and thought of how much I will appreciate these beauties come winter... Make time for something you love or would just love to try.

If you're reading this blog, perhaps something you'd like to do is dedicate more time to creating a garden, preserving or making your own food, trying new foods, visiting a farmers market or making a day trip out to that orchard or farm you've wanted to check out. It can feel like it's about doing more, and making life more hectic than it already is. Really, its about slowing down and giving some time and attention to things things we often ignore. The rewards are quite often surprising.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking for Local or Seasonal Choices for Event?

A few months back I did a post on my wedding in Richmond and how I tried to focus on local options. If you are stumped about local options, give us a shout. The RFC is always millin' about town eating, reading, tasting, cooking, and such to find and share the local options we love.

Shoot us an e-mail if you have questions about local options. We loved to hear from you as well; please tell us about your finds!

Also, we are in process of updating our resource list available on this site. So, if you don't see something you are looking for, please let us know. We just did honey and will let you know as other options are updated. Enjoy this beautiful day!

From left to right: Erin, Cat, Casey, Shannon, and Rachel
Photo by Vanessa Rees

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Community Dinner to celebrate Food Day

From our friends at Shalom Farms:
Shalom Farms, an initiative of United Methodist Urban Ministries of Richmond, is having a benefit dinner Monday, October 24 at 7:00pm. We are once again proud to partner with Todd Johnson Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Mezzanine Restaurant (Richmond Restaurant of the Year in 2009). Thanks to Todd’s generosity and the support of local farms almost 100% of the cost of your ticket will go straight to Shalom Farms. Your support will allow us to continue to provide thousands of lbs of our produce as well as educational resources and supports to the children and families in Richmond who need it most.

This four-course dinner is a great way to support Shalom Farms and have an incredible local and sustainable meal. All of the meat and produce will be from Shalom Farms, Victory Farms, Tuckahoe, Rock Castle Farm, and Manakintowne Specialty Growers. The dinner will take place in the main gallery upstairs at Gallery5. In the downstairs gallery you can view our “The Art of Growing Communities” installation featuring art for sale as a fundraiser. If you can’t make the dinner but are interested in supporting the project consider gifting the cost of tickets so that we can invite our partners and friends from the one of the underserved communities we work in.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Let Them Eat Pizza: Crushin' on Pizza Tonight

October is a big deal in my family. In one month we celebrate the following (in order of day): our wedding anniversary, my mom's birthday, my mom and dad's anniversary, my mother-in-law's birthday, my husband's birthday, and my birthday. That is a lot of celebrating, ya'll. So, this year my family came down to RVA from NY, DC, and ol' West VA for a day in sun.

I'd had never been to the South of the James Farmers' Market. (I know, that's weird.) Since everyone was hungry we left the Northside for a lil' Southside early lunch.

'Alo vendors!

We arrived just as the market was closing, but we found that people were still willing to chat with us and, most importantly, feed us! I saw the Pizza Tonight brick oven and I knew we had a winner. It was perfect. There are three vegans in my family and so finding a vendor that can serve up yummy food for all is key. And they did just that!

OK - who loves this as much as I do??
A portable wood fired oven!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

These folks have a dope pizza oven that they tote around town to make you smile and they are super nice. My family - all eight of us - rolled up as the market was closing. But, they graciously took our orders and fed us.

Nice People.

Yummy Menu.

Beautiful vegan pizza with onions and potatoes!

Want some Pizza Tonight of your own?? Check 'em out - they are about town (with product to sell in stores as well.) But, if you get the chance, I'd recommend checkin' out the mobile wood fired oven, can't be beat. Enjoy!

- PS! You like these pics?? Why, thank you! But, they are courtesy of my talented sister, Vanessa Rees.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cookbook Love: Heidi Swanson

Okay so maybe I have a problem with cookbooks. I openly admit it, but in the spirit of sharing all things good, I can't possible say enough about Heidi Swanson of Super Natural Cooking and Super Natural Every Day. You may also know her from the fabulous blog 101 Cookbooks (she obviously has her own issues... maybe this is why I love her?)

Now to be honest about my cookbook library, some books in my collection get more use than others. Some are treasured for their beautiful photography and others are staples falling apart at the seams from overuse, and others are just gathering dust (but I just can't seem to part with them.)

But Heidi is all about good whole food ingredients, a lot of which I usually have on hand, so I tend to reach for her books all the time. One of our favorites are her Otsu Noodles, soba noodles with a ginger sauce made at my house with baby onions from the garden and Twin Oaks Tofu (read more about our great visit to Twin Oaks here.) Also in her second book Super Natural Every Day she does a special take on these noodles with a black sesame sauce which we recently fell for. (This one with its rich black suace would also make a perfect Halloween dinner party main course.)

Also we love her Grain-ola, Rustic Cabbage Soup, Hedgehog Potatoes, Kale salad with toasted coconut and Oatcakes (which are like granola in muffin form and great for a quick breakfast.)

So if you don't know Heidi you should, and if you do what are your favorites?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Foodie Weekend!

What an amazing foodie weekend here in RVA! As the growing season winds down, it seems that the celebrations are on, full tilt! Perhaps everyone is getting a jump on Food Day, coming up October 24.
In celebration of the harvest, several Virginia Whole Foods Markets are transforming themselves into apple orchards, complete with games, apple tastings, and cooking demos. I hear there will even be carmel apple making and hard cider available on tap! Whether seeking heirlooms varietals or local picks, the in-store festivities will allow customers to compare apples to apples. The festivities start at noon and end at 4 this Saturday.

Also Saturday, the first film fest of all foodie films put on by Slow Food RVA! Check out the details on the Reel Food Film Feast, which is also this Saturday from 9am- 6pm at the Byrd Theater. Some of your favorite foodies will be there!

What other food- related fun is going on this weekend? The RFC has a fun Food Day celebration planned- we'll tell you all about it, and you know we'd love to hear about how you celebrate. Food Day, my new favorite holiday!

Local Honey

We are (slowly) updating our resource list on the sidebar. As always, if there is a local honey producer that is not listed on this page, please let us know!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ceaser is a Cinch! (Veg. Ceaser Dressing)

A few weeks ago we were hurting for dinner options, we had a few leftovers, and some stuff for salad.  We always make our own dressing, usually a simple balsamic, with a few other fancier rotations, but I got it in my head I wanted Caesar.  Having never made a Caesar dressing before I was truly taken aback by the ease of a nice Caesar.  Now, perhaps I should say Caesar style dressing as my version substitutes capers for the anchovies, and leaves out the raw egg yolk.  It's delicious, its quick and easy and you probably already have everything you need in your kitchen already.
This vegetarian version  is based on the one provided by Alice Waters in The Art of Simple Food. Having made this a few times now I've learned a couple it can't sit for too long or the oil will separate.  Mostly though I love how simple and easy this classic is to enjoy at home with out relying on some mystery ingredient store bought dressing.  I used capers because we had them handy and we really loved the way they worked.  It's nice to have those recipe staples in your pocket that allow you to be spontaneous.  Got leftover chicken, shrimp, leaf lettuce instead of romaine, mushrooms, sweet red peppers?  Roll with it, and enjoy.
For Salad
Brush a couple 1" thick slices of crusty white bread with olive oil and toss on grill, or cut into cubes, toss with oil to coat and bake on a cookie sheet  in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
Tear up or Chop one washed head romaine lettuce

First, combine in a small food processor...
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2-3 garlic cloves
2 rounded teaspoons capers
pinch of salt (optional)
 Fresh Ground pepper

Close to Serving slowly pour in
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, blending constantly till emulsified ( My food processor has two tiny holes in the top of the lid that allow for the perfect amount of oil to travel trough while blending.)Constant blending while slowly adding the oil is key. 
Then  blend in most of 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese finely grated, saving a small amount for garnish. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Best Fall Brunch

Sallie and Matt sent in these recipes after making an amazing family brunch last weekend- everyone loved it, even their small children. Sal says, 'Seriously, can I eat breakfast for every meal?'

Ten Minute Apples
3 bruised galas from last week's market
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup apple juice
Cut apples to bite sized pieces. Saute in oil until they begin to brown. Add juice & cinnamon, stir until sticky and a bit gooey. Add apple juice and boil off until apples are caramelized (about 5 min.)

Potato & Turkey Hash
2 cubed, boiled potatoes
1 cup cubed turkey or ham
Small onion, chopped
2 chopped garlic cloves
Olive oil
Dry spices: Paprika, salt, red pepper, cumin, coriandor
Fresh chopped jalepeno and cilantro (optional)

Saute onions & garlic in oil. Add potatoes & turkey ham. Cook until beginning to brown. Add dry spices. Cook another 3-5 mins. Take off stove & mix fresh jalepeneo & cilantro. Serve alone, with apples or top with fried egg.

Day Trippin' on Apples and Beer

Last week my husband and I just celebrated our third wedding anniversary. We decided to stay near home for this one, leaving town just a bit for some Fall adventures. We filled a Saturday with local apple picking and local beer tasting. This is a fun day trip accessible within an hour's drive.

Before last weekend I'd not been to Carter Mountain. But, I gotta say, Rob and I certainly didn't crack the case on this one. As we traveled up the mountain road full of cars, we realized we may be the last people in VA who have not been to Carter Mountain to pick apples. If you aren't familiar with Carter Mountain Orchard it is a self-pick apple farm located just outside of Charlottesville. The place was packed with families of all ages. I have to say, I was nervous about the volume of folks up there, but it couldn't have been organized better. The parking was well managed, as was the check-out line. The orchards are large enough that it could handle many visitors at once. And, hey, it's just darn purdy.

Ahh, nice view.

Nom, Nom!

Baby apples!

For the apples, I'm looking to make some tasty treats. Right now, I'm thinking on apple and caramel - date caramel, if you please! This could be fun for Halloween as well. Check out this beautiful blog by Vanessa Rees (a NY-based photographer and my sister) on the how-to on this treat.

After we picked our apples, we went down the mountain and over to neighboring Nelson County. We drove to Blue Mountain Brewery for a beer on their beautiful patio.

We enjoyed a yummy Full Nelson IPA made with local hops available on draft (ok, we had two). I love this beer - available on draft at some RVA restaurants. This beer is in high-demand, so go for it if you see it!

Pretty IPA on a pretty porch!

My husband is an environmental engineer and he was quick to catch their cool "cover cropping" program. These folks planted soy beans over their harvested hop patch to act as a nitrogen fixer. Nitrogen is one the nutrients necessary for plant growth - so it should make for some tasty hops (and beer) next year!

See the soybeans?!

Anyway, we did this day trip and were home by 5 pm - love it! A day trip to near-by mountains is great fun for the fall. It is fun, tasty, and local. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

kitchen finds

My kitchen has been overwhelming lately. I needed more space for everything: spices, beans, knick knacks, etc. I have been planning to have my brother build another shelf system so when he happened upon the perfect shelf (already built!), it felt like kismet.

I think this is such a good-looking piece. I had so much fun filling it up with everything that had been overloading my other shelves.

And it works better than I could have hoped. Now I just have to empty it again and hang it on the wall. Here's hoping that's a 2011 project!
How about you guys? Any last-ditch kitchen projects to get in before the end of the year? I still have a little something up my sleeve that I'm hoping to share soon. I'd love to hear what others are doing.