Monday, January 31, 2011

Vegan Potluck February 20

EarthSave Cincinnati and VeganEarth are hosting an information session and vegan potluck Sunday, February 20, 2011 at Clifton United Methodist Church, 3416 Clifton Ave., Clifton. Khristina Martin and Kevin O'Connor of Mercy for Animals are this month's guest speakers. Their topic is "Loving Animals Locally, Making a Difference Globally."

The potluck begins at 2:30 p.m. with the program following an hour later. Attendees are asked to bring a vegan dish to share, and to bring either reusable or compost-able plates, cups, serving utensils and personal cutlery. For more information call 513-929-2500, email or visit or

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Noodles

Spicy Noodles
Serves 4
This delicious dish takes some prep work but is well worth the effort. When working with lemongrass, remember to use only the lower bulb of the stalk, and remove the tough outer leaves before chopping. I normally buy fresh lemongrass from Meijer (find it already peeled in the produce section where the fresh herbs are located) or at Jungle Jim's. If you are unable to source it fresh, Colonel De's Gourmet Spices at Findlay Market stocks dried lemongrass, Whole Foods sells diced lemongrass in jars, and I've seen squeeze tubes of lemongrass paste in the produce section of my local Kroger Marketplace.


8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
4 tsp peanut oil, divided
2 Cups julienne-cut carrots
3 Cups julienne-cut bell pepper
4 Cups thinly sliced mushrooms
3 Tbs peeled, chopped lemongrass
1 Tbs peeled, minced ginger
1 Tbs Sriracha sauce (If heat isn't your thing, decrease the amount of Sriracha sauce to a teaspoon. Substitute Sambal Oelek for an added kick)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 Cup vegetable broth
1/2 Cup water
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 Cup cilantro leaves
1/4 Cup chopped cashews

How to prepare fresh lemongrass:

Discard tough outer leaves of lemongrass

Place knife blade flat against trimmed stalk; pound to release aromatic oils

Mince finely

A mezzaluna makes easy work of the cilantro

chopped cilantro


1. Boil spaghetti; set aside and keep warm.

2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add 2 tsp peanut oil and swirl to coat, then add carrots to pan.
Saute two minutes.

3. Add bell pepper and saute two minutes. Remove mixture
from pan.

4. Heat remaining oil in pan and add mushrooms. Saute two minutes.

5. Add lemongrass, ginger, Sriracha sauce, turmeric, cumin and garlic.
Cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

6. Add broth, water, soy sauce and salt. Bring to a boil; cover and
reduce heat. Simmer for a couple of minutes.

7. Add spaghetti and carrot mixture. Cook for several minutes, tossing
to combine.

Only 400 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving!

8. Top with cilantro and cashews.

For printable recipe, click here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mellow Mushroom Pizza

Mellow Mushroom Pizza
1014 Town Drive
Wilder, KY
Tel: 859-441-6600

Funky, eclectic surroundings like a hostess station in the shape of a giant mushroom, a psychedelically painted hippie microbus, trippy bathroom floor tile, and groovy posters and paintings let diners know they are not in Kansas anymore. Then there are the mixed drink names: The Marley, The Creeper, Grateful Dead, and Dirty Bong Water, among others.

And capping it all off is their logo: "Tune In, Turn On, Pig Out."

Mellow Mushroom of Wilder

It's all a bit of sensory overload at the area's first Mellow Mushroom Pizza, but in a good way. The restaurant is family-friendly, with kids and adults alike drawn to the large glass windows where hand-tossed pizza makers create their magic. As I passed by the windows the staff were singing along to a Doors tune as dough spun through the air.

Trippy hippie bus

The food at Mellow Mushroom is very good. I ordered a cup of the vegetarian tortilla soup ($3.95) as a starter and was surprised to discover that it's a pretty good sized bowl, so keep that in mind when ordering. They don't skimp.

A friend of ours worked for years at the Mellow Mushroom in Marietta, Georgia, and she highly recommended the garlic cheese bread ($4.50), so we ordered a serving of that as well. Both appetizers were delicious. The soup, chock full of black beans, tomatoes and whole kernel corn, served with a side of avocado, sour cream and a wedge of lime, had a pleasant spiciness, while the bread - basted with garlic butter, sprinkled with basil and oregano and smothered with Mozzarella cheese - will certainly keep those taste buds happy.

A cup (yes, cup) of vegetarian tortilla soup

I know this won't mean anything to most folks, but that cheese bread took me back to my college days in the 1980's. It tasted exactly the same as the cheese bread I consumed nearly every day at the campus bar. There is a saying that you cannot go home again, and on a recent visit to my alma mater I was saddened to learn that the campus is now DRY (the horror!) and the bar where I spent much of my free time is shuttered and used for storage. I had secretly hoped to waltz in and get an order of that nom-tastic cheese bread for old times sake, and was gutted to learn that it no longer existed...until now! Thank you Mellow Mushroom!

Garlic cheese bread = holy grail

The restaurant offers plenty of vegetarian options in every area of the menu, thanks to the addition of tofu, BBQ tofu and tempeh on their extensive (49 items) ingredient list. The pizza comes in three sizes; 10"/small, 14"/medium, and 16"/large, and they also serve calzones and hoagies.

Steve got a 10" "Funky Q chicken" pizza

While diners can create their own pizzas - toppings are $1.50 each - their Mega Veggie pizza ($12.50/small) comes highly recommended. It is loaded with tofu and unique and interesting vegetables like artichoke hearts, broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes. Unlike other area pizza houses, Mellow Mushroom will let you go half and half on their pizzas, so one half can be one type of pizza and the other half can be something else. Groovy.

I simply had to try the Grilled Tofu Hoagie ($5.95/half). The sandwich is deliciously messy. I had large chunks of tofu falling out everywhere, and grilled mushrooms and onions dangling dangerously from the French bread by rubbery strands of provolone. It was divine.

Tofu hoagie half

The laid-back, hippie concept works well, although there were a few niggling service errors. For instance, we had only just received our appetizers - in fact I'd eaten exactly four spoonfuls of my soup - when our main courses came out. Due to the bad timing by the kitchen our mains were nearly cold by the time we had finished the appys. When we mentioned it to our charming but somewhat clueless server, he apologized and laughingly admitted that this sometimes happens when the kitchen is not busy.

We also were not informed of the restaurant's Beer Club until after our tab had been cashed out, which meant that the beers we had consumed could not be checked off of our Beer Club list. The whole Beer Club concept is still somewhat hazy to me because our server was a little vague on the details, but if I understood him correctly, you sign up for the Beer Club and the restaurant keeps a running total on what beers you've tried during each visit. After so many are checked off the list, you start to earn prizes (koozies, t-shirts etc). Participants do not get a card that gets punched or stamped, as apparently the restaurant keeps a running tally in their computer database. I wanted to sign up but was told that I'd have to wait until next time since we were already finished with our meal. Oh well.

The take-out signs are far out!

The restaurant runs weekly and monthly specials. Tuesday is $2 beer night, so it's a good time to rack up those Beer Club points, and they host trivia games on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. This month's Mellow Promo is the Magical Combination: A Magical Mystery Tour Pizza (pesto based with Portobello and button mushrooms, mozzarella, spinach, feta and jalapenos) paired with Magic Hat #9 beer. YUM!

Mellow Mushroom has a good vibe all around. The staff is friendly and accommodating (if sometimes a bit dense), the extensive ingredient list raises the bar for other local eateries, and the décor is fun and unique. This Georgia-based chain is a welcome addition to the area. We'll be visiting often, dude.

Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vegan Buffet this Sunday!

The Loving Hut in Pleasant Ridge is hosting a vegan buffet at 3 p.m. this Sunday, January 16, 2011. The buffet is in association with EarthSave Cincinnati and VeganEarth, which teach and support ways to eat and live which are healthful, sustainable and compassionate toward animals, humans and the Earth. There is no set fee for the buffet; rather, the restaurant is asking for love offerings of whatever diners wish to contribute.

The Loving Hut is located at 6227 Montgomery Road, in a small shopping strip next to the Pleasant Ridge branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. For more information on the buffet, call 513-929-2500.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Recipe: Balela

Serves 4

This Middle Eastern bean-based salad is simple to make and is so
delicious that it disappears quickly. I refuse to buy hot-house
tomatoes, so I swapped them out for reconstituted sundried tomatoes instead; a can of diced tomatoes would also work in a pinch. Can't find sumac at your local grocery? Try Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices at Findlay Market.


1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans
1 (15 oz) can black beans
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 Cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbs fresh mint, chopped
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp salt


1. Drain and rinse beans; add to a large mixing bowl.

2. Add tomatoes, onions and garlic.

3. Gently combine remaining ingredients and chill at least 30 minutes
before serving.


For printable recipe, click here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Recipe: Chickpea Curry

This curry recipe is easy to modify; I swapped wild rice for the brown and used canned chipotle tomatoes instead of fire-roasted. For a sweeter flavor, add a couple tablespoons of sultanas. A few tablespoons of unsalted cashews lend a nice crunch.

Chickpea Curry and Brown Rice Pilaf
Serves 4
1 Tbs Canola oil
1 Onion, finely chopped (about one cup)
1 Cup uncooked brown rice
1 Clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 Cardamom pods, crushed
1 (3") Cinnamon stick
1 2/3 Cup water
1 Bay leaf

1 Tbs Canola oil
2 Onions, finely chopped
1 Tbs Fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbs Brown sugar
1 tsp Ground coriander
1 tsp Ground cumin
1 tsp Turmeric
1/4 tsp Curry powder
4 Cloves garlic, minced
3 Cardamom pods, crushed
1 (3") Cinnamon stick
2 1/2 Cups water
1 Cup Diced carrot
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1 (15 oz) Can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5) Can fire-roasted, crushed tomatoes
1 Tbs cornstarch mixed with 1/4 Cup cold water (optional thickener)
1/2 Cup plain yogurt
Chopped cilantro, to taste

Ingredients list

Directions for pilaf:

Heat one tablespoon oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium
heat. Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, for about six minutes or
until they are soft and clear.

Add rice, garlic, turmeric, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick.

Stir constantly for about a minute, then pour in water and add bay leaf.

Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and let rice stand, covered until curry is ready. Discard cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf.

Directions for curry:

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, for about six minutes.

Add ginger, brown sugar, coriander, cumin, turmeric, curry powder,
garlic, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Stir constantly for a minute or so.

Add water, carrot, salt, chickpeas, and tomato; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until carrots are tender. After simmering time is finished, if you'd like a thicker sauce add cornstarch slurry and stir gently. Discard cardamom and cinnamon stick before serving.

Place a cup of rice mixture into each of four bowls; spoon 1 1/4 cup
chickpea mixture over rice. Top each serving with yogurt and cilantro. Enjoy!

For printable recipe, click here.