Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Soup's Up!: Building food consciousness

I'm not usually one to follow diets. I think, why do that to yourself? Food is so good. A coworker suggested one to me that sounded pretty reasonable, however. It's called the UltraSimple Diet and you can download the companion guide here (Who wants to buy a diet book? That definitely goes against my principles). The thought behind this diet is to rid the body of toxins while still eating food. It's about eliminating common toxins, or allergens, from your diet such as gluten, dairy, alcohol and caffeine for a week.

I'm only following this loosely as I have no intention of giving up yogurt and while I know I probably should drink less coffee, I do need something to keep me awake at work. I'm not even taking the advice to take spoonfuls of lemon juice or olive oil before my first meal of the day. So why even post about it? Basically because like me, you may find some of the recipes inspiring. I'm using this as a general guide to being more conscious about what I eat and to be more observant about how certain foods make me feel.

Tonight I cooked up the hearty vegetarian lentil soup (found in "Recipes for Lunch and Dinner" in Section 5 of the companion guide) and am looking forward to slurping it down for lunch tomorrow. As a general plug for soup--it's so great--you can throw in a bunch of veggies and herbs and make all kinds of combinations sure to pique your palate. I also think soup is a great place to put your efforts in shopping at ethnic markets. You don't know what something is? Why not throw it in a pot with a bunch of other intriguing ingredients and see what magic can be made?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Va-va-va-voom: Vegan delectations on either side of the BQE

You know when something's so good, you feel obligated to do it proper justice? That's how I've felt since I discovered Champs and foodswings, both cash-only, vegan eateries located in Williamsburg. To be honest I'm still hesitant that I can do these places full justice but it's not fair to keep them from you any longer.

So without further ado, let's start with foodswings. Located near the BQE on Grand Street, this little vegan haven is great for late night junk food savories. While I've only tasted two of their dishes so far, I feel it's safe to assume that the plethora of items tattooed across their chalkboard menu are fabulous. One I can certainly vouch for is the chick'n parmigiana sandwich featuring breaded veggie chick'n with Daiya mozzarella and marinara sauce smushed between two pieces of garlic bread--which in itself is genius. Even vegans/vegetarians get the occasional craving to nosh on something that feels bad for you. This little diddy perfectly satisfies that craving. And since my first post on using Daiya, the taste of this soy cheese has really grown on me.

Second on the hit list: the philly cheese steak--veggie steak with onions, mushrooms, and Daiya cheese on Italian bread. In one word: hearty. Not as perfect as the chick'n parmigiana but stands up in its own right as a late night indulgence.  And if you've already made the commitment to indulge in this mouthful, why not wash it down with a chocolate soy milkshake?

Moving on to the other side of the BQE, we come to Champs. Sigh. If I lived in Williamsburg, this would be an old standard. I'm sure it is for actual residents. While you're sitting in your retro booth with a portrait of Rue McClanahan or Mike Tyson staring down at you, you may wonder why this place is so well-known for being a bakery when its true delights come in the savory variety. On my first visit, I played it safe. Why, I can't remember. I had the bomber burger, which all these months later, I don't remember at all. I'm sure it was tasty but if you're going to go, I recommend getting something with faux meat because they use it so well.

Option 1: the Reuben--grilled seitan with melty vegan mozzarella, tangy mock Russian dressing and homemade purple kraut served between fresh slices of marble rye bread. Each sandwich is served with a side of leafy greenery and balsamic vinaigrette. Are your tastebuds watering, yet?

Options 2 and 3: The Buffalo Chick'n vs. the Hot Cubano. Both these hot sandwiches are contenders for my number one, favorite vegan sandwich of all time. The former for its finger-licking-good sauce and the latter (a melty paradise of soy ham, jalapeno and pickle) for its punchy kick. Both pack some heat, the latter more than the former. And both are the reason I haven't tried more things on the menu. These little buggers are so delicioso that it's hard not to order one or the other when I find myself in the neighborhood.

By virtue of a friend ordering something else, I was able to try the chili. As a main or a side, the chili is a wise choice. It's robust and beany and is apparently made extra special when served alongside the breakfast menu item called the Drunken Cowgirl.

Whether you're in the mood for a hearty breakfast, a savory lunch paired with leafy greens, or a sumptuous snack, I highly recommend checking out either of these vegan havens in W-burg. It's well worth the trek, even if you're coming all the way from South Brooklyn like I do.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pocketful of Rainbows...or Veggies

I remember a dark time in my life. A time when I didn't like baba ghanouj. The truth of the matter is that I had one rotten (literally bitter) experience and shut out the Middle Eastern spread altogether. I now realize I'm a fool. I now say yes to the opportunity to have it at every turn. I now say yes to life.

I've only had four things at Eva's in Greenwich Village--two were soups and two were sandwiches. All were excellent. With each pita sandwich you get a filling of some sort--baba ghanouj, hummus, falafel, just to name a few, a mountain of salady goodness that cannot be contained in the walls of the pita, and a choice of dressing such as tahini or yogurt. The vegetable and lentil soups are both packed with vegetables, hearty enough to stand on their own but also serving as a great accompaniment to the overstuffed pitas.

I like this place. Many vegetarian options to choose from. There's lots of items on the menu with "protein" in the title. I haven't tried them yet but this spot seems to be all about healthy eating, which I appreciate when I'm looking for a quick bite that doesn't make me feel weighed down and convenient in that I can pay by debit card. It's also not too far from this place:
which reminds you what an eccentric neighborhood Greenwich Village is. Sparkly jumpsuits anyone?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Twisting Your Way to Bliss, Part 2

My month long pass of unlimited classes at YogaWorks is almost up and I'm finding myself at a crossroads. Do I buy another unlimited pass like the one available on Groupon now? So far, I like YogaWorks. The majority of classes I've attended have been with instructor Sarah Bell at their Union Square location.

YogaWorks classes have a different feel from classes I've taken elsewhere in the city. The vibe is quieter and feels less judgmental. As an instructor, Sarah is laid-back but also not too hippie dippie as some instructors can be. There's no music played during the 85-minute class but neither the lack of music nor the longer class time makes me more antsy or restless than any other class. In fact, the first two times I took it, I actually felt less emotional. I can't say if this was state of mind, concentrating more intently on the poses, lack of moody music or something altogether different, but I appreciate the fact that I've been focused rather than having my mind wander and that I've remained focused without struggling too much.

I'm also not used to non-Vinyasa classes. While a little bit of flow is incorporated into Sarah's 5:45 p.m. Monday and Wednesday classes, most of the session focuses on alignment and doing what's right for you in your body on that day. The website describes the YogaWorks signature classes as focusing on alignment, Sun Salutations and postures and modifications that "individualize the practice for each student" and I have to agree that it lives up to that description.

So where does the dilemma in this situation arise then, you must be asking yourself if you made it this far down the post. The dilemma is it's hard to settle on a yoga studio. In an earlier post, I mentioned liking some of the classes at Yoga Vida, which still holds true. The vibe there isn't as chill as at YogaWorks though. There are only two teachers there so far that I enjoy taking. I'd like a studio option where I can take class any day of the week and want to be there and feel welcomed to be there. A space where no one seems in competition with anyone else.

The next studio I want to try is Brooklyn Yoga School. It's donation-based but I'm hoping the classes don't get too crowded. I'm also hoping it's better than Yoga to the People, which I have a few grievances with. Anyone ever been? Thoughts?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Eating Out on a Budget: Dorado Tacos in Union Square

It's all too easy to get out of the habit of things. One busy week at work turns into neglecting your exercise routine in the evenings; one week without groceries leads to a second week of justifying your "fatigue": This is the last night I'll pick up takeout.  One week of not allotting time to post to your blog leads to two weeks of laziness. But I know one thing that seems to be habit-forming and that's a trip to Dorado whenever I'm in the vicinity of Union Square. Since having lunch with friends there for the first time a few weeks ago, I've been back a handful of times for their all-too-tasty tacos.

Having tried all but one of the options I can eat, my favorites have become the Baja Original (sorry true vegetarians who don't eat fish) and the Veggie (yay for everyone!). The fish in the Baja is crispy perfection topped with tangy crema sauce and the veggie consists of perfectly grilled zucchini and red peppers tied together with guac and a kicking spicy sauce.

Tacos are the perfect light meal, filling but doesn't make you want to go back in time to when you could've made the choice between a food that would keep you going and a food that was sure to knock you out. While visiting, I recommend rounding out your meal with the guacamole and chips, for Dorado does what so many find hard to do: make an excellent guac.