Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Larchmont Bungalow- Yum!

Is anyone else tired from cooking Thanksgiving?  I have the perfect remedy to what ails you: get out of the kitchen!  Well at least for one night.

Eating out can be very hard for allergics and specialty eaters like myself.  At least I used to think that before I was invited to try the delicacies at Larchmont Bungalow.  Oh yeah folks, I'm now a believer in the charming spot and all the magic it has to offer.

Upon entering the bungalow, you feel like you're in a more authentic version of Urth Cafe frequented by neighborhood fans and foodies alike.  When the first bite of any dish tip-toes across your tongue, you'll know why.  The casual atmosphere does not prepare you for the serious food you are about to eat.  The quality is high and the ingredients are carefully chosen and mixed together for choice results.  This is the kind of food you would expect to pay more for too.  The prices are easy on the diner for Los Angeles, and that is always appreciated.

I was invited to try Larchmont Bungalow's new Vegan menu, which offers many choices from breakfast to dinner dishes for the hungry animal-lover, not animal eater.  I love vegan food, but it usually presents a tricky ingredient list for me being allergic to nuts, several legumes and soy.  As I had suspected, almost all of the items in said menu had soy in them including the Tofu Scramble Sensation, Vegan Cobb Salad, and "Chicken" Tostadas.  But no matter!  Larchmont Bungalow takes food allergies seriously and said they could work with it.  Hallelujah!

They made me the wonderful Vegan Enchiladas (without the soyful meat sub) which was sparkling with flavor, yet milder than expected.  The "cheese" was all allergy-free, melty, and delicious!  The dish was hearty, packed with black beans and veggies.  I'll go vegan for this dish any day of the week.

But just so I knew where the Bungalow stood, I did happen to order non-new menu items:  the Bison Chili and the Mango, Papaya and Cucumber Salad.  (Now I was assured that many things on the menu could be prepared GF, including these before I ate it.)  This chili, which is so good that I might have to name my first born after it, is filling, bursting with flavor and just the right amount of heat.  It felt like being at home, wrapped in a blanket while candles flicker in the background as you watch your favorite movie.  This is a chili that creates sense memory.

The salad served as a refreshing counterpoint to the chili balancing its heat with juicy, fresh bright flavor.  They worked well eating bites of each at the same time.  This is certainly something that I want to repeat.

Full disclosure here folks: the kind people at Larchmont did invite me and so the meal was on them, but rest assured as always, I only write up places I truly recommend.  And the only words that are left to say are go thereNow.

Larchmont Bungalow (107 North Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90004, 323-461-1528)

Monday, November 21, 2011

YCEW Thanksgiving Round-Up 2011

It's that time again!  Thanksgiving is around the corner, and boy am I excited.  I've been cooking up delicious fall meals for weeks in anticipation of my favorite holiday table, and now it's time to share possible recipes with you.  In this year's round-up you'll find many vegetarian/vegan items for your specialty guests as well.

Please be safe whether you're dining at family member's and friends' homes or eating out at your favorite restaurant.  Remember, if you've been invited somewhere, make sure that the host knows what your concerns are.  If you feel hesitant about the kitchen or the food then bring your own Thanksgiving meal packaged for yourself.  They invited you because they love your company, not because of what you eat!

Enjoy any one of these easy recipes and add them to your GF, allergy-friendly Turkey Day table.  You'll stuff yourself more than the turkey!

First Course:
Butternut Squash Soup with Leeks

Quick Bread:
Savory Biscuits

Alternative Main (for veggies)
Spaghetti Squash "Pasta" Bake

Thanksgiving Fruit & Vegetable Medley
Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower (within post)
Butternut Squash Fries
Cranberry-Apple Chutney

Cranberry Tart
Pumpkin Applesauce Bundt Cake

Spiced, mulled wine (within post)

Leftover Ideas:
Chicken & Biscuits (sub turkey)
Turkey with Snow Peas & Pickled Ginger

So what am I cooking this year?  Many of my past favorites and two new vegan desserts; if they succeed, they'll be up on the blog soon after.  

A very hearty Thanksgiving to all my wonderful readers!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Best Side to Fall For

Genius blogger Cathy of What Would Cathy Eat? issued a Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge:  use her 10 Tips for a Heart-Healthy Thanksgiving to cook/bake our own healthy creation.

Now while Cathy is indeed calling this a "challenge" I was overwhelmed with all of the things I could make for this.  The tips which include ditching full fat dairies & meats, using whole grains, skimping on the salt, and using less sugar are tips I run my kitchen with on a daily basis.  I certainly wasn't stuck for recipes.

The tip I decided to enforce with this post was "Go overboard on veggies."  Considering my last two Thanksgivings had veggie only sides (no starch sides) I was ready to go crazy with the produce patch.  I decided to share the very best veggie Thanksgiving side that I've made.  It is full of flavor, color, and amazing fall staples, including fruit.  What it's not full of is fat, salt or sugar.  And though I do use oil, it's not a lot.  Here's a great tip for using less oil when cooking/sauteing: put your oil in a spray bottle and that way you can lightly coat your pan without dousing it in tbs of oil.

Although this side requires a few steps and a good deal of chopping, it only takes 35 minutes from beginning to end (chopping included.)  That's not bad for a Thanksgiving side dish!  The speed of this dish is due to my use of what I call flash sauteing: sauteing for only a couple of minutes until warm.

I recommend this be the last thing you cook and serve it up instantly.  I'd imagine the recipe below would be enough to act as sides for a family dinner.  Feel free to double the recipe to satisfy the company that undoubtedly comes with a holiday meal.  Also, you can mix the dish with green and serve up a hearty salad.

Thanksgiving Fruit & Vegetable Medley

1/2 small butternut squash (You will only use half of 1 squash for this recipe.  Save the other side for another side dish or for soup.)
1 lb green beans, snapped horizontally in half
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 large gala apple, (peeled, core and cut into 4 sides.  Then length-wise, cut thin slices out of the sides)
3 oz pomegranate seeds
1/2 tbs lemon juice
herbs de provence to taste or fresh rosemary, thyme, sage blend
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut butternut first in half horizontally, than each piece lengthwise to give you 4 pieces of squash.  

Peel the two squash pieces without the guts.  Be careful!  Squash is hard to peel and must be done with a sharp knife!
Cut the peeled squash piece into 2 pieces of about 1/2"-1" thickness.
Then cut pieces into small cubes of squash.  Repeat with other peeled squash pieces.
Spray/toss cubes lightly with olive oil and fold in a foil packet.
Place in oven for about 35 minutes.

In a large pan sprayed lightly with olive oil, saute green beans on medium heat until tender yet still al dente.  This should only take minutes.  Do not overcook!
Remove green beans from pan and set aside.

Saute red onion in same pan just until onions are sweating a bit and begin to get tender.  Do not brown!  You still want the onions to have tang and a bit of a crunch.  Remove onions and mix with green beans, set aside.

Toss apple with lemon juice and flash saute until apples are just warmed.  Do not overcook or you'll have another side dish- applesauce!
Remove apple and mix with other veggies, set aside.

Remove squash from oven when the 35 mins end (which should be around now.) 

Add squash to other vegetables and toss with care.  You don't want to squash the squash.
Sprinkle herbs and pomegranate seeds on top and toss again.

Finally you're done and ready to serve and enjoy!  Trust me, everyone will love this side dish.  It might even make you forget to reach for the stuffing first ;)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Breakaway Bakery

After constantly yelping, googling, and scouring the internet for local Gluten-Free options, I thought I knew all of them (and lack of them.)  This is why I am was in disbelief that I missed the gem that is Breakaway Bakery.  I can't believe this Los Angeles wonder escaped my radar for so long! 

There are so many things to love about this dedicated kitchen bakery.  To name just a few:  Gluten-Free, Organic and Kosher Pareve, no use of gums or transfats or preservatives.  Not to mention the wide selection of Vegan baked goods, which turned out to be my favorite of them all.  But most of all, I think the most lovable thing about Breakaway Bakery is the creator and baker, Janice.  Passion and love clearly fuel Janice's labors and flavors.  You can tell that she feels strongly about providing quality goods at respectable prices for a community of eaters that is more than often overlooked. 

Janice, GF herself, is one of those outcast eaters having allergies to many of the normal GF flours you and I would use for baking, which is why her bakery only uses Organic Whole Grain Brown Rice Flour.  Only using one flour is a feat in itself, but then add all of the other omissions and I don't know how she does it!  Further, it is a complete bakery also providing breads including loafs, bagels and challah.

 (clockwise from top left: Lemon Bar, Apricot Pinch, Picasso Cookie, Brownie)

I tried many of the items the bakery produces over a several day/several trip period, and I have to say I didn't find one thing that I disliked.  Some goods did jump out as my favorites though.  I am in LOVE with two of the vegan cookies:  The Apricot "Figaroll" and the Snowball.  Good G-d!  The Figaroll is play on what a Fig Newton would taste like if it were actually good.  The handmade gem, at a perfect dough to filling ratio, really just makes me go mmmmmmmmmm. 

 ("Figaroll" on the left, Snowball on the right)

Then there's the small vegan Snowball.  Visually unassuming, a small dough ball with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top.  The second you bite into it, the sweetness and dough flavors combine perfectly for a foodgasmic result.  I LOVE the first bite of a Snowball.

I'm also a huge fan of the Lemon Bars and Cranberry/Cherry Crumble Bars, which are not vegan.  I enjoy the bagels which have been a treat when I take a break from baking my own bread or relying on Trader Joe's Brown Rice Wraps.

  (I recommend refrigerating the breads before cutting for an easier slice)

So many positives exist about Breakaway Bakery that I hate to reveal my two almost negatives:

-Even though special orders can be placed/picked up Monday-Friday, currently the bakery is only open two days a week for a few hours each.  Unless you working stiffs can skip out during lunchtime, you might miss out on the delicious goods that Janice is providing. 
-I feel like the baked goods, albeit scrumptious, are on the sugary side for me.  That's probably only because I don't use a lot of sugar when I bake, and I tend not to eat sweets on a daily basis.  Also, my use of milder sweeteners (i.e. Coconut Sugar, honey) have further mellowed out my taste buds.  I've shared the goods with several others who like the sweetness just where it is, so I think it's mostly my issue.  

I'll keep returning to Breakaway Bakery as long as I live in Los Angeles.  I encourage you to support such a loving endeavor by a conscientious baker who brings us delicious baked goods for almost every eater.  Angelinos rejoice!  This bakery will have you outcast eaters saying Hallelujah! in LA.

Breakaway Bakery (5264 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019, 310-968-9380)