Vegan Watermelon Feta Balsamic Salad With Tofu Feta + Mint

Watermelon goes surprisingly well in salads. I still remember the first time I had watermelon in a lettuce salad. It was at LPQ right when I moved to NYC to start at NYU. It was served with arugula + feta + mint and seriously good balsamic.

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My mom and I adored this meal. To us, the flavor combo was new. Now, you see this stuff all over. But at the time, it seemed like a fun, wild treat to us. Something I totally would have Insta’d. But that was an age where people didn’t Insta their food. Strange to think about, I know.

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Anyways, when watermelon is in season, I have thrown it into salads ever since that day. I love it.

Now I’m plant-based mostly, and rarely have feta around. Even when I wasn’t plant-based, I rarely bought cheese because it was rare I’d use cheese for more than just a garnish. I was never a huge cheese eater.

arugula

But it adds such a nice a lovely saltiness and a bit of staying power to the salad. So here we are. I used this homemade tofu feta, but you can totally use conventional feta or purchase a plant-based feta at the store.

Arugula provides a nice peppery green, but you can also use baby kale or whatever green you want.go together surprisingly well together. I also often add avocado to this salad. Because avocado. Duh.

watermelon salad ingredients

Also, it’s essential to use a good balsamic. I mean, really you don’t have to, but it will truly kick it up a notch. And if you haven’t experienced a really good balsamic yet in your life, you should. They are sweet and sticky and wonderful.

I used this one from Trader Joe’s, which I’d highly reccomend.

balsamic_arugula_salad_watermelon_vegan

Speaking of Trader Joe’s, I need to hit it up tomorrow. This week has been crazy busy. I started 2 new jobs, did a lot of freelance, and took a day trip to Chicago, which I’ll be sharing soon.

Stay tuned!

Tofu Feta

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Servings: 1 as entree or 2 as side, easily doubled or tripled

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups arugula, baby kale, or spinach
  • 1 cup watermelon, cubed
  • 3/4 cup tofu feta or conventional feta, or plant-based store-bought feta
  • 1/2 large avocado, sliced (optional)
  • roughly 1/4th cup fresh mint
  • 4 tablespoons high quality balsamic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Assemble greens, avocado, watermelon, mint and tofu feta in a bowl. Drizzle with desired amount of balsamic and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy.

 

 

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Salted Avocado Toast with Radishes and Sliced Lemon

I’m going to keep this quick because my life is an exploding hot mess of busy these days. More on this in tomorrow’s post. Stay tuned.

Avocado Iron Salt Toast

Now moving on to HAPPY THINGS. Like the fact that my dog is still cute. And the fact that salt exists. I love salt. Salt is arguably the greatest flavor enhancer of all times. It’s like the auto-tune of food.

iron salt avocado toast with lemons and radishes

Let’s also talk about iron, shall we? As a vegan, people always give me that annoying “BUT HOW DO YOU GET ANY PROTEIN?” stuff and I roll my eyes back into my head so far I can see my brain. Besides whole grains, nuts, vegetables (kale has 3 grams protein per cup!), tofu, etc etc, it’s truly not a concern. More concerning for vegans? B Vitamins and iron. At least according to my nutrition professors and to my opinion.

iron salt avocado toast with lemons & radishes

I actually do make an effort to get enough iron and B vitamins from foods. And so when my friend John approached me with this cool Iron Salt he’d created, I thought it was awesome. Each 1/4 teaspoon has 10% DV of salt. And as a bonus it’s pretty and pink and tastes great. COOL. I love it. And no I’m not just saying that. I’m a woman of honesty. And it’s also made in Brooklyn, which instantly makes it trendy and hip. #cool

iron salt avocado toast with lemons and radishes

Anyways, I made some recipes with the stuff and genuinely do love the product! You can order it here.Look out for some of my recipes that will be popping up on the Iron Salt Blog, which I’ll also share here. The first of which is this Salted Avocado Toast with Radishes and Sliced Lemon. It’s satisfying, tangy, creamy smooth, and totally rad (not just rad-ish ;-)). The radishes add a nice sharp flavor, and the lemon makes them sparkle. The Iron Salt brings it all together by highlighting each flavor, tying them all together, adding a nice crunch, and obviously, making it look really pretty.  It’s a nice way to mix up your avocado toast game. Enjoy! HAPPY SALT!

Avocado Iron Salt Toast 3

Salted Avocado Toast with Radishes and Lemon

This toast is refreshing, different, and filling, yet light. The Iron Salt highlights the earthy flavors of avocado, while the radishes and lemon provide an intriguing and fresh flavor contrast. An delightful dish for breakfast or as part of a light lunch, this toast is truly a nutritional powerhouse. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil if desired. If you don’t have radishes or lemon on hand, sub fresh tomatoes and basil, or cilantro with red peppers and lime juice.

Serves one.

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice whole-grain bread or gluten-free bread
  • ⅓ avocado
  • 2 radishes
  • ¼ of a small lemon
  • ½ teaspoon Iron Salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)

Directions:

  1. Toast bread.
  2. In a small bowl, mash avocado and add ¼ teaspoon of Iron Salt. Spread on toast.
  3. Thinly slice radishes and lemon. Layer radishes and lemon on toast. Garnish with remaining iron salt. Drizzle with additional lemon juice and olive oil, if desired.
  4. Enjoy

Christmas Avocado Toast [with Pomegranate Seeds + Red Pepper Flakes]

Avocado toast is the epitome of what’s #trendy for food. I remember being surprised when I first moved to NYC, seeing it on cafe menus. I thought for some reason that I was a genius and had invented this snack. I didn’t. lol. It’s been around 5ever.

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I also remember being a little surprised by how much it cost. It’s like, $8 in a lot of cool cafes. And now it’s like a thing. Who has the best avocado toast? Is your bread homemade? What’s on top of it? The finest sea salt? The highest quality cracked pepper? Single origin olive oil?

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The one I had at LPQ this summer was amazing with some pickled vegetables and Tuscan olive oil and such. Other than that, I usually make avocado toast at home. Because it’s easy, fast, and costs about $7 less than when it’s purchased at a cafe.

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The other day I happened to be eating a pomegranate while making avocado toast. I decided adding some pomegranate seeds would make a nice color pop. My toast already had crushed red pepper flakes and sea salt on it, because that’s my go-to for avocado toast, so I kept all those babies in place with the pomegranate.

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when hunger happens while taking photos…

I was a bit shocked at how delicious the tangy sweet pomegranate seeds played off the spicy pepper flakes and the creamy avocado. The sea salt, per usual, tied it all together, making the avocado flavor pop a bit. The first bite was like a discovery journey: “What’s happening in my mouth right now? so many different flavors and textures, but somehow they all work!! THIS IS AMAZING. MUST EAT MORE.” 

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So I did. This was my go-to lunch and/or snack all weekend long. I ate like 6 pieces of this exact. Toast. I then realized how festive and beautiful it looks for the holiday season and realized this would make a lovely and gorgeous appetizer on a party spread. It comes together quite quickly and with minimal prep, and who doesn’t love avocado toast? It’s such a win for the appetizer world. Just cut it into fancy triangles or something and you’d be good to go.

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Otherwise just make it like a holiday party every day in your mouth and make a slice for yourself. You will not regret this toast. Plus, think of how cool it’ll look on Instagram. #justsayin. Enjoy this energizing, nutrient packed toast for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or a snack. Eat up homies!

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Prep Time: 1 minute

Cook Time: 1 minute (to toast bread)

Level: easy

Yield: one piece of avocado toast, can easily be doubled, tripled, or multiplied by 10 and cut into triangles for a party

Ingredients:

  • one slice whole grain bread or bread of choice
  • 1/4th medium avocado
  • 1/2  teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (a shake or two straight out of the shaker will do the trick)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds
  • dash sea salt

Directions:

1. Place bread in toaster. Allow to toast until desired toastiness is achieved.

2. Meanwhile, mash 1/4th avocado in a small bowl with a fork.

3. Remove toast from toaster. Sprinkle red chili pepper flakes and sea salt. Sprinkle and/or artistically decorate with pomegranate seeds.

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4. EAT. 🙂

An Honest Recap of my 5 Day “Primarily Plant-Based” Lifestyle Experiment

It’s not a secret that I have been a vegetarian for over 13 years now. Or maybe it is. I don’t know how well you know me.

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more to “plant based” than #justplants doe

As my choice to not eat meat is judged as hashly by some as my love for the Kardashians and Teen Mom, let me delight you with the story of my vegetarianism:

It went like this: I stopped eating meat around age 10 because I straight up didn’t like it. That was pretty much it. I got tired of explaining to friends’ parents why I didn’t want to eat the cheeseburgers they served for dinner or to the paraprofessionals why I had zero desire to touch those “chicken” nuggets on my tray.

hashtag what vegans eat

hashtag what vegans eat

So one day, I just started saying “Can I have something else please? I’m a vegetarian.” And then before I knew it, I actually kind of was a vegetarian. We didn’t eat too much meat in my household anyways (mostly poultry and fish, and in smaller amounts than most) and my parents didn’t see it as a problem, so vegetarianism has since turned into a pretty regular part of my lifestyle for so long that I can honestly never realistically see myself eating meat again. I genuinely just don’t even think about it.

oatmeal #5ever, dont forget the #cannedpumpkin #srslydoe

oatmeal #5ever, dont forget the #cannedpumpkin #srslydoe

Sure, I’ve cooked chicken and seared lamb chops and gutted shrimp in my food science class, but I didn’t want it. If I ever did crave a piece of chicken or a beef burger, I’d eat it. But in the past 13 years, it hasn’t happened. And through diet analysis projects I’ve done for nutrition classes, I have learned that I do eat a varied, balanced diet, and am not missing out on any vital nutrients whatsoever (yes, I eat plenty of protein, through the diet analysis I learned I almost eat double what I actually need and actually started cutting back my overly-consciencious efforts to “get enough”). So do I have any desire to eat meat? Nah. But if you do, that’s your thing. Go for it. I’m not going to stop you.

i bet you thought this looked good and didn't even realize it was #vegan #meeither

i bet you thought this looked good and didn’t even realize it was #vegan #meeither

I’ve always wanted to try out the vegan thing, even if just for a little while. A lot of people may ask themselves (or directly to me, some quiet rudely and judgmentally I might add), why I would try this.

Well, shit. I don’t know..a lot of reasons. For one just to see if I could do it. Secondly, to see if I felt any different. Third, it’s not a secret that  this country tends to consume quite a large amount of animal protein compared to others, and that trying other things might not be the worst idea. Lastly, as a way to be forced expand my culinary creativity and as an excuse to try new recipes. I tend to be a creature of habit and get into eating a lot of the same.

is bread a carb? #yes is it #vegan? #yes also, #delicious

is bread a carb? #yes is it #vegan? #yes also, #delicious

So for the first time since the birth of the Greek Yogurt mega-fad, I broke my 2-Fage-a-day habit and ate a primarily plant based diet for 5 days.

Notice how I didn’t straight up say “vegan,” because my intent wasn’t to be 100% pure vegan. Primarily Plant Based means the following (at least to me):

  • I did not purposely consume any diary or meat products (obviously meat, but also no direct cheese, eggs, milk, ice cream, etc, etc)
  • I did not freak out at small traces of things in products, ie, if there were “traces of egg whites” in my toaster waffles. You better believe that those babies still entered my body. This made it much more realistic to stick to, and far less restrictive.
not a relevant photo. but a cute one. #sleepynugget

not a relevant photo. but a cute one. #sleepynugget

So, last Monday through Friday, I gave this a whirl. And here’s what I experienced:

The Good:

  • I tried lots of new yummy things, including this lovely Black Rice Pudding stuff. I’m hooked and happy about it 🙂
  • I ate a boat load of creative oatmeal bowls. The key, I tell you is canned pumpkin. #sogood
  • I made lots of vegan tacos, with black beans, squash, avocado, black rice, salsa, and all sorts of other goodies.
  • I enjoyed a delicious vegan meal at Beans & Barley with some friends. [PSA..their marinated tofu is on another f**king level and everyone on earth needs to try it]. I also need to recreate it. ASAP.
  • I tried some other new things, like making my own cheese from cashews, and creating other nut butter sauces for pastas. Lots of new recipes from this experiment will be popping up on the blog in the coming weeks. hashtag creativity
this was rly good.

this was rly good.

How I Felt:

  • I didn’t feel deprived or hungry at all. I ate a lot, and a wide variety of foods. I even purchased some really delicious vegan cake slices from whole foods and found some diary-free cookies at Target and snacked on these chocolate muffins I made. Instead of my usual basically-ice-cream-flavored froyo, I forced myself to try some of the non-dairy berry sorbets and found out they were delicious. I also got some really good sorbet gelato one evening. I realized I have been neglecting fruity frozen things because I like classic ice cream so much. No longer. I will now be mixing it up more. I thought the whole desserts thing would be a huge road block, but it wasn’t that hard at all. I honestly thought the whole thing would be a lot harder.
  • I craved greek yogurt on the second day, and was going to quit my experiment and eat it because I don’t believe in denying your body it’s cravings, but because a crazy rain/hail storm prevented me from getting to the store I couldn’t get my paws on any, so I ate something else, and the craving passed, and I didn’t crave greek yogurt (or any dairy, actually) for the rest of the experiment.
  • I felt quite energized throughout the whole thing. Actually, moreso than usual, but I’m not going to make any miracle claims because this could have been placebo or a combination of many factors.
  • I genuinely, truly, did not miss dairy or eggs as much as I thought I would. And I’m a Wisconsin gal.
  • I realized that a lot of things I like are already vegan without trying to be. Like a lot of dark chocolates. Oreos are also vegan (which goes to show just how real that cream filling is….).Also Trader Joe’s soy cheese is actually delicious, but contains casein, and is therefore not vegan. #awkward
  • I felt like my dogs still looked just as cute this entire week as they usually do. Okay yes that was necessary to include.

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What Was Not So Great:

  • I feel like a completely vegan may get tricky hard to follow in a lot social situations. When cake is served, you better believe I’m finna want to eat it. I also felt that for me personally, it could also be tricky when to be a guest at parties or family functions. Which is why I don’t plan to stick to this long term (like I said, it was an experiment).
  • I was a bit less regular than normal (#tmi). Perhaps it’s all the time I’ve spent around pre-med people and/or working in hospitals, but I’m not shy about the fact that I have a long history of chronic IBS. And strangely, even though I was eating probably even more fiber than usual, I wasn’t quiet as good at my business as usual. I think my body is used to all the probiotics from all the yogurt I usually eat. Yes, I know probiotic pills exist. I also know that your body better processes all things directly from foods in place of from vitamins or supplements.
these are vegan. and phenomenal.

these are vegan. and phenomenal.

Final Thoughts:

Nope, I’m not vegan-ish this week. I stopped on Saturday because I was at a bachelorette party and wasn’t about to pass on cookie cake or mac’n’cheese being served. I’m not about that #denial life. I am eating less Greek Yogurt [as in, not a giant tub per day as pre-experiment] and am really into some of the new things I whipped up last week. Recipes soon, I tell ya, recipes soon. I also haven’t craved eggs at all since, but next time I do I will eat them. I’m also now also on a vegetarian taco kick, as well as a pasta and undying black rice kick. These are not bad things.

Overall, it was an interesting experiment. I know my choice to do this experiment was greeted by delight by some and some pretty rude comments by others, but I my reasons for the experiment were purely for personal growth and curiosity and I have zero regrets doing it.

At the end of the day, what people choose to put or not put in their mouths is actually a really strange topic, but it’s everyone’s personal choice, for better or for worse (I personally hope you make good choices and please #dontdoatkins if ily). It’s also important to point out that vegan is not synonymous with healthy. Like I mentioned above, Oreo’s are vegan. lol enough said.

So I end this far-too-long post with a glass of almond milk hot-chocolate and a puppy snuggled into my side, and ask you to be mindful of the following things: what you eat, what you read, what you believe, and to remember that you must moderate all things, including moderation. Cheers to all people who stopped reading 6 paragraphs or earlier ago; have a great week!

restaurant review: peacefood cafe

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Peacefood Cafe, an Upper West Side favorite for vegans and carnivores alike, opened its second location just this March. Located on on East 11th street between University and Broadway, the vibe at the downtown location feels a bit trendier that the uptown location, and reflects the food served: clean, fresh, and bright. Service is friendly, efficient, and knowledgeable. Don’t know what something on the menu is? Have a food allergy? Talk to your server. The staff is genuinely adamant that all diners have a great experience.

The menu is free completely free of animal products, and is instead overwhelmed with creativity and flavor. A must­try is the chickpea fries. Made with chickpea flour and indian seasoning, these pan seared patties come with a creamy house dipping sauce, which tempers the spices nicely. This appetizer is incredibly hearty and addictive, and is reason enough to stop in the cafe.

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While one could easily make a meal out of Peacefood’s incredible appetizers, it’s wise to save room for one of their outstanding entrees. Peacefood knocks salads out of the park. Whether you try the Asian Greens, or the famous “Other Ceasar,” salads at peacefood are incredibly fresh, interesting, and lightly coated in house­made dressings, all of which enhance flavors in the salad without overpowering.

The cafe has also earned numerous awards for their sandwiches, and after tasting them, its easy to understand why. A customer favorite the Tempeh Avocado. Tempah, a meat substitute, is a more texturally interesting and heartier alternative to tofu, and plays the star­role in the sandwich. The creamy avocado spread plays nicely off the grainy tempah, and the shredded carrots and pickled radishes add even more layers of flavor. Cilantro adds a refreshing element, marrying together all the surprising elements of dish. Paired with one of the menu’s freshly squeezed juices or smoothies, a sandwich from Peacefood makes a perfect springtime lunch.

The menu offers many other specialties, including raw lasagna, pizzas, sushi, paninis, and arguably the best veggie burger in the city. Meat­lovers won’t feel like they’re missing a thing, as entrees are consistently dynamic, delicious, and filling.

Desserts at Peacefood easily surpass many non­vegan bakeries in flavor and quality. The carrot cake is not to be missed, nor is their famous Magic Cookie. Bursting with pecans, chocolate,
and coconut, it’s reminiscent of a samosa cookie gone gourmet, and is an ideal ending to a great meal.

What sets Peacefood Cafe apart from many cafes, vegan or not, is that the food is not only delicious, but makes you feel good. The cafe really seems to understand what it means to nourish the body, and their creative menu and quality ingredients will leave you quite full ­ but happy full. You’ll exit feeling energized, satisfied, and eager to come back.

Address: 41 E 11th Street (between Broadway & University Place)