Vegan travel: Amsterdam

Grocery store provisions to take to the park. I love exploring foreign grocery stores, and especially enjoy seeing how packaging differs from place to place. Hummus, crackers, apple, berries, and Ritter Sport Marzipan (my lifeblood while traveling in europe – only 99 cents in most places!)20120829-134444.jpg

Boelhoed.

Vegan sampler: Marinated tempeh, black bean patty, squash with yogurt sauce, quinoa, vegetables in tomato sauce, and salad. Noms.

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A couple days later, I went back for a coffee/pie break and had this amazing vegan dutch apple pie and a soy cappuccino.

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Golden Temple. This place was good, but very pricy for the small portions. I ordered the special of the day: Thali-style meal with:

  • Cous cous, 3 lil pieces of broccoli and tofu
  • Falafel in gravy
  • Hummus
  • Soup
  • Pita

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Find more info about great vegan/vegetarian food in Amsterdam on Happy Cow.

Vegan travel: Berlin

Prices: $$

Berlin is unlike any city I’ve ever visited.  Aside from its striking, and often emotional, displays of history, the city is brimming with a lovable grittiness that can’t be found elsewhere.  Outside of the historic (read: sorta touristy) Mitte neighborhood, you’ll find yourself amidst a graffiti-ridden city full of captivating art culture and, you guessed it, a shocking amount of awesome vegan food!

GETTING AROUND

As far as transportation goes, Berlin isn’t exactly a walkable city (especially coming from Amsterdam directly before).  The neighborhoods are a bit spread out, but everything is completely connected by tram (which runs 24 hours) and metro.  While public transport is convenient and quick, it’s not my favorite way to see the city.  I much prefer to be outdoors, navigating on my own, if the weather permits.  While Berlin is a bit too spread out to walk everywhere, recent developments have made it a much more bike-friendly city.  I’d recommend renting a bike for at least one day to get around the city.  Rentals are easily available around the city for about 10 to 15 euro per day.  DB Bahn, the train company, actual has multiple outdoor portals with rentable bikes, so you can hop on a bike at one end of the city and return it all the way across town.

Onto the food:

1. Lucky Leek (Kollwitzstr 46, Berlin, Germany 10405)

After spending a rainy afternoon at the Hamburger Bahnhof (a modern art museum housed in an old train station.  If you’re a fan of Warhol, Liechtenstein, and modern art in general, I highly recommend it), I was ready for a good meal.  I’d read about Lucky Leek online and heard good things through an employee at my hostel, so I jumped on my bike and hit the dampened streets of the city toward Prenzlauer Berg.  The small restaurant is tucked between local boutiques and sidewalk cafes in this charming neighborhood.  Here you’ll find an all-vegan menu that changes daily and always features fresh ingredients and homemade vegan proteins.  To start, they served a complimentary beet dip with sliced bread.  I ordered the special of the day, which was a dish of sesame-crusted seitan served atop dumplings, bok choy, and mushrooms and garnished with fresh basil.  I expected the basil to clash with the rest of the asian-inspired entree, but it ended up being harmonious and perfectly savory.  The meal felt really upscale, but at around $14 euro for an entree, it’s still a bargain considering the quality of the food.  This is in contention to be the best dinner I’ve ever had, anywhere. 

2. Voner (Boxhagener Straße 56  10245 Berlin, Germany)

Walking along the streets of Berlin, it’s hard not to notice the abundance of doner kebab stands; they’re about as ubiquitous here as Starbucks in the US. This traditionally Turkish sandwich is probably the most popular quick eat in the city. Vegans and vegetarians can get in on this phenomenon at Voner, where the sandwich has been reimagined using seitan in place of the shawarma meat.  For less than 4 euro, you’ll be handed a sandwich served on warm, crispy, chewy bread, brimming with seitan and lettuce, and doused with your choice of sauce (I went with spicy and garlic, at the recommendation of an employee). This is not to be missed, y’all.

3. Goodies (Warschauer Straße 69  10243 Berlin, Germany)

For breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up, stop in at Goodies, where you’ll find an assortment of vegan treats.  They even have sugar free and raw options. On my first visit I chose the sugar-free coconut banana bread, which was lightly sweet and a bit dense and one hundred percent delicious.  I also tried the blueberry-orange scone, which was good, but I’m partial to my own scones.  Also try their unbeatable soy latte, served in a tall glass that shows off its gorgeous layer of foam.

Located in the dynamic Friedrichshain borough, Goodies is the perfect starting point for a walk along the East Side Gallery, the longest intact stretch of the Berlin Wall, now covered in commissioned murals.  From there, check out the neighboring Kreuzberg for a dose of street art, one-of-a-kind shopping, and the bustling outdoor Turkish market that’s held every Tuesday and Friday. At night, head back to Friedrichshain and check out its eclectic mix of bars.  There you’ve got plenty of choices: A dungeon-esque metal bar, a Big Lebowski-themed bar, or one that has the feel of a soviet-era living room.  Berlin’s nightlife is quite the spectacle, but it barely gets going until 2 in the morning, so fuel yourself with some hearty vegan food before a night out.

Find more info great vegan/vegetarian food in Berlin from Happy Cow.

Dairy-free Chocolate Orange Ice Cream

When I was thirteen or so I spent a few sunny Saturdays at Golden Gate Park.  A typical Bay Area weekend destination, right?  I’d agree, except my days weren’t spent riding the carousel, climbing the beautiful Strawberry Hill, or watching the buffalo graze.  Instead, I was at the casting pond with my dad, learning how to fly fish (or, more accurately, f*&king around with a rod and fishing line and biding my time until we could drive past the buffalo again.)

I remember going back to the casting pond at least a handful of times, though.  No, it wasn’t because I developed a passion for the sport.  I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any thirteen year old girl eager to fly fish.  My return to the pond was built upon the promise of post-casting visits to Swensen’s, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.  Apart from the kitschy atmosphere, Swensen’s offered one thing that you wouldn’t find elsewhere: the coveted Swiss Orange Chip flavor, reminiscent of those foil-wrapped chocolate oranges you find during the holidays.  So, while my dad never instilled in me a passion for fishing, he did pass on his good taste in ice cream flavors.

Though there’s no ice cream maker involved, this simple dessert sets up beautifully.  The bit of fat from the coconut milk allows it to retain its creaminess in the freezer.

If the chocolate orange flavor profile isn’t your thing, change it up!  Leave out the orange and/or chocolate, add a different type of fruit, or drop in a few spoonfuls of peanut butter for my favorite classic variation.  I know banana ice cream has been featured just about everywhere, so there’s no lack of ideas around the internet.
Chocolate Orange Banana “Ice Cream”

  • 4 ripe bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 3 or 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/4 cup full fat canned coconut milk
  • pinch of salt
  • optional: chocolate chips and sweetener – sugar, agave, stevia (Depending on your tastebuds and the ripeness of the bananas)

1.  Place all ingredients in food processor and grind until smooth and creamy.

2. If too thick, add more coconut milk.

3. Taste and adjust sweetener to your liking

This can be eaten immediately or stored in the freezer.  After freezing, allow the ice cream to sit out for 5-10 minutes to thaw out a bit, as it will be difficult to scoop straight out of the freezer.

Vegan Tacuba-style Enchiladas

It’s time to divulge a secret: I’ve been completely addicted to Trader Joe’s frozen corn and black bean enchiladas for the last two years.  As much as I love to cook, this is one of two packaged meals that continuously pop up in my rotation (the other being Kashi’s Mayan harvest bake).  It started a couple years ago, when I often found myself rushing to grab food on my lunch break.   Enter the magical $1.99 meal – the best vegan deal around town.  Heated up in just a few minutes and sprinkled (ahem, covered) with nutritional yeast, this quickly became my favorite lunch.

Until recently I’d never actually made enchiladas.  Despite my love for the TJ’s variety, which are doused in a traditional red tomato-based sauce, I went the green route when making my own.  I consulted with the king of Mexican food, Rick Bayless, who pointed me towards his Tacuba-style enchilada sauce (read: I looked it up on his website, though I wish I could say he personally advised me).  A little bit of veganization later I had whipped up a jar of gorgeous, bright green poblano sauce.

The filling was the next of my concerns.  I stuck with the corn and black bean theme that I know and love and mixed them up with a blend of tomato paste and smoky jarred chipotle. I added in a roasted sweet potato for a contrast to the spice of the sauce and chipotle.

Once baked, I topped the enchiladas with some cool, tangy cashew cream to round out the dish.

This was truly one of the best meals I’ve ever made.  Truth be told, I ate these three times in a span of three days.

And so ends the tale of my dependence on the Trader Joe’s enchilada gods.

TACUBA STYLE ENCHILADAS

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 batch enchilada sauce (recipe below)
  • Fillings of choice (i.e. beans, tofu, tempeh, and vegetables)
  • Cashew “sour cream” (recipe below)

To assemble:

1. Mix cooked protein and vegetables with 3/4 cup of the sauce.

2. Wrap tortillas in a damp towel and microwave for 30 seconds.  Keep them wrapped in the towel as you assemble the enchiladas

3. Add 1 cup of sauce to an empty baking dish large enough to fit all of your enchiladas.

4.  Working one at a time, add about 1/4 cup of filling to each tortilla.  Roll up and place inside your baking dish, sealed side down.

5.  Once all the enchiladas are rolled, cover them with the rest of the sauce.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

ENCHILADA SAUCE (Adapted from Rick Bayless)

  • 3 poblano peppers (sometimes labeled pasilla peppers)
  • 1/2 cup thawed frozen spinach
  • 2 cups unflavored, unsweetened almond milk (or other neutral non-dairy milk)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • Salt

1. Roast peppers directly under broiler until completely charred, turning every few minutes to evenly cook.  Place in a bowl and cover with a towel.  Once cooled, peel the blackened skins off of the peppers and remove the stems and seeds.

2. Heat the broth and milk together over medium-high heat

3.  In a sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions, saute for two minutes.  Add the flour and stir for one minute.

4.  Increase heat to medium-high and add the broth/milk mixture.  Whisk until the sauce boils, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.

5.  To a blender, add the spinach, roasted peppers, and the sauce mixture.  Blend until smooth and season to taste.

ENCHILADA FILLING

These enchiladas can be made with any vegetables and protein you have on hand.  Generally, you’ll want to mix your precooked filling with about 1/2 to 1 cup of the enchilada sauce.  When I made these I seasoned the mixture with a separate sauce (because I can’t pass up the opportunity to add chipotle to something), but they’d be equally delicious and simpler using just the green sauce.

Try tempeh, tofu, or beans along with a mixture of your favorite vegetables or whichever ones you’ve got on hand.

Mine included:

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon agave
  • 2 jarred chipotles
  • Sweet potato, cubed and cooked
  • Corn, cut from the cob and sauteed with a clove of garlic
  • Black beans, cooked

CASHEW “SOUR CREAM”

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least four hours
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • pinch of salt

1. Drain cashews

2.  Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and mix until smooth.  Add water as needed to reach desired consistency.