Going Vegan for 30 Days and Grapefruit Brulee

After a week of gluttony in NYC during the week of Christmas [oh, who am I kidding, it was really a month of gluttony], we realized during the last few days of our trip that we never consumed anything “green.” We ate our way through Manhattan and had some of the most amazing foods ever, but it was all “brown” as my partner would say. It was true. We had yakitori meat skewers, steamed mussels, bagels and lox, Korean food, xiao long baos, roast duck over rice and roast duck noodle soup, Indian meat curries, Cuban food, pastrami reuben sandwich, and more. So before we left NYC, we made a pact to go vegan to detox from the Holidays for 30 days.

I’m happy to report that we are 16 days into it and still going strong. There are days where we are madly craving sushi or a cheeseburger [or both :)], but the urges haven’t been as bad as I thought they would be. I’ve been trolling the food porn websites and I’m queuing up all the meat recipes to try as soon as we’re done with this detox diet.

Before this diet, I was always interested in cooking with the vegan “meats,” but I made excuses that I would do it tomorrow, and that would get pushed to the next day, and so on and so forth. Well, I’ve been experimenting with different seitan recipes and it’s been really fun and challenging. We’ve incorporated plenty of “greens” to our diet since we started this. And let me just say, we feel so much lighter, less bloated, and more energetic. My partner who usually consumes 6-8 cups of coffee a day, has cut down her coffee intake to about 2 cups a day, which means more $$$ saved from the frequent trips to Starbucks in the middle of the day! Seriously though, we feel much healthier since starting this diet. And I think we’ve even lost some weight, which is always good news :)

As we are more than halfway into our veganism, we were discussing what we want to do after we finish this diet. Our first idea was to celebrate with a HUGE sushi/sashimi dinner, followed by a greasy cheeseburger. [Although, I do worry how that's going to sit in our stomachs after not having meats for a month.] But I think we’d like to keep up this veganism on an every other week basis because we do feel better.

Anyway, I was really craving pancakes, bacon, and hash browns for breakfast this morning when I woke up. But I made grapefruit brulee instead because it was the right thing to do :)

Grapefruit Brulee

2 red grapefruits, halved crosswise
White sugar
Kitchen torch

Remove all the seeds from the grapefruit, and cut the segments with a knife so that it’s easier to scoop out. [I never knew to cut the segments with a knife until recently when my partner said that's the way people eat grapefruit.  All this time up until now, I always struggled with eating grapefruits and actually gave up eating them because it was "too much work."]

Sprinkle each half evenly with sugar. Melt the sugar with the blowtorch until the sugar becomes golden brown and crispy.

Grapefruit “broilee”

If you don’t have a kitchen torch, turn the oven to the broiler mode. Place the halved grapefruits with sugar under the broiler for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the sugar has melted to a golden brown crispy surface.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

We had a small tasting of a similar dish at a backyard wedding we recently attended.  The original was made with red and yellow beets, and butternut squash with a lemony vinaigrette with a hint of truffle oil.  The salad was very tasty, but a little mushy from the butternut squash.   So while I was consuming my large plate of food [It was, in fact, a very large plate of food... my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  But what's new?], a light bulb came on… roasted sweet potatoes.  It would be the perfect substitution flavor- and texture-wise.  And so what did I do two days after the wedding?  Well, I recreated this dish, of course, and it was perfect.

Inspiration.  It such a lovely thing.

What inspires you in the kitchen?

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

4 large beets
3 large sweet potatoes, skinned and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 small shallot, finely diced
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon truffle oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. [I usually like to double wrap mine in foil.] Drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a singe layer on the baking sheet. Place the foil-wrapped beets on the same baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender, but slightly crispy in the outside. Stir the sweet potatoes once or twice during roasting. [Watch the sweet potatoes closely, because they can go from perfectly roasted to imperfectly burnt.] Roast the beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the shallots, lemon, olive oil, and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Remove the sweet potatoes firstly from oven, followed by the beets when they have cooked through, and allow to cool just enough to be easily handled. Once cooled, peel “skin” off the beets. [They'll come off easily with just your hands... no need for a paring knife.] Slice beets into 1 inch cubes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the beets, sweet potatoes, and vinaigrette. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients. Divide onto small plates, sprinkle with chives, and drizzle with a little truffle oil, and enjoy!

Makes 4 to 6 small salad servings.

Orange, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad

I’ve been on a salad kick for the last few months because I enjoy eating them for lunch, but also because I’m watching my calorie intake to lose weight.  I’ve been addicted to my blue cheese, cranberries, and candied walnut salad for the last few weeks.  Actually, maybe even longer.  Although I haven’t gotten tired of eating it YET, I feel like I am heading in that direction very soon.  So I’ve been on the look out for new salads to mix things up a bit.  Unfortunately, my salad recipe index is very limited as making salads and wanting to eat them is a whole new adventure for me.  If you haven’t read my previous posts, I was anti-vegetables for the majority of my life.  I wanted meat and starch, and the occasional vegetable, if kimchee and pickled spicy radishes can fall into that category.  I always thought salads were a waste of stomach space, when it could rather be filled with other delicious non-vegetable foods.  Like I said before, I ate very unhealthy foods and was completely sedentary; that is, until I met my partner.

My second time visiting her (aka, our second date) in Oakland, I was greeted with a “detox salad.”  I had just finished a busy work week with lunches that consisted of either McDonald’s or Taco Bell, and she was horrified by how I ate.  So she made this salad for dinner with crusty bread.  No meat?!  I was initially disappointed, but once I delved into the salad I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it.  With a few pieces of buttered bread and a plate of salad, I was surprisingly full and felt refreshed.  And that was the beginning of my departure from just meat and starch to an enjoyment and crave for vegetables, albeit it took some time to get to this place.  But who’s keeping track anyways, right?

I came across a recipe that called for orange slices, thinly sliced fennel, and a salad topped with pomegranate seeds that immediately called for my attention.  We love oranges, we’re always looking for things that use fennel (again, limited fennel recipe index), and recipes that call for pomegranate seeds (not just to make POM juice)… so this was perfect!  We made this for our small dinner party, and the salad was a huge success.  The mixture of flavors really compliment one another.  In fact, this may just be my new favorite salad.  Yay!

Orange, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad (adapted from Good Life Eats)

Your favorite spring salad mix
2 medium oranges
1 carton of fresh pomegranate seeds (available at Whole Foods, or one whole pomegranate with seeds removed)
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Honey or agave syrup

Combine the vinegar, juice, oil, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.  Add honey or agave syrup to sweeten the dressing just a little bit.  Whisk all the ingredients together and set aside.  Add a little more extra virgin olive oil if you’d like, and conversely, decrease the amount of orange juice.  We like our dressing on the citrus-y, but on the light oily side.

Remove the peel and pith from the orange by cutting the top and bottom off, and the outside perimeter of the orange.  Cut the orange into into rounds.

Prepare salad on individual serving plates.  Arrange the salad with the lettuce, fennel slices, orange, and topped with pomegranate seeds.  Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy!

Serving size: 2 individual salads

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