Tag Archives: vegan

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Nice Cream

If you are part of the healthy foodie world, then you may have noticed the recent craze around “Nice Creams”. Let me tell you, the craze is with good reason. If aren’t sure what a “Nice Cream” is, it is a nice cream dessert made from a base of frozen banana and flavored with other whole food ingredients like strawberries, vanilla bean, cocoa, and coconut oil. The frozen bananas once churned in a food processor and then refrozen mimic the texture of ice cream while also providing natural sweetness, and the other ingredients mixed with in it provide the true flavorings and sense of indulgence. The result is an ice cream dessert that is as nutritious as it is delicious!

I’d seen a few Buzzfeed Tasty and Food Network videos on these “Nice Creams” and had to give them a shot. After my first try, I was hooked! I couldn’t believe how well these “Nice Creams” totally satisfy the desire for a bowl of sweet and creamy ice cream, while packing on the nutrition and reducing the intake of added sugar and fat. My mind was blown.

 

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How can that just be banana? Vegan magic!

Now, Disclaimer: You do really, really have to like bananas to enjoy “Nice Cream”. Bananas are the base and so unsurprisingly, these desserts have very distinct banana notes. If you are a fan of these sweet yellow tropical fruits, however, then you are set!

After trying the recipes I’d seen in videos, I decided I would come up with my own. Keeping in mind that “Nice Cream” does taste strongly of banana, I thought the perfect flavorings would be chocolate and peanut butter! And thus, my Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream was born!

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Incredibly, all you need is three ingredients: frozen bananas, cocoa powder, and creamy peanut butter! It’s that simple! Well, it is and it isn’t. As easy as the videos make “Nice Creams” look, the frozen bananas do resist being churned in the food processor. It can be a bit of tedious process and you have to exercise some patience. It’s not traditionally hard though. Once you get going, it is so easy and you get a naturally sweet, fiber, vitamin, and protein rich dessert that anyone could love.

Vegan Nice Cream is perfect for summer time when you are looking for a cool dessert while also keeping it light! Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 3 large bananas, cut into small slices and frozen for several hours
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • Optional: dark chocolate and banana slices for serving

Directions:

Working in thirds, add the frozen banana slices to a food processor. Turn until starting to resemble crumbled butter. You may have to scrape the sides of the processor and smash down pieces of the banana several times as you go. Be patient, this could take up to ten minutes.

Once all the banana slices have been incorporated and they resemble more of a dough, mix in the peanut butter and cocoa powder. Churn until all mixed.

Remove into a freezer safe glass bowl.

Place in the freezer additional 2 hours or until ready to serve. Spoon into bowls, garnish with dark chocolate and banana slices if desired, and enjoy!

 

Why Meatless Monday?

Ciao friends! If you read this blog and/or follow me on social media, then you will know that I am a big supporter of the Meatless Monday movement that is taking the globe. This past month, the folks behind all the vegetarian magic at Meatless Monday reached out to me and have made Johnny La Pasta (that’s me!) an official representative of Meatless Monday!

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So, today, I want to talk to you a little bit more about Meatless Monday, why I practice it, and why you should try it out!

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Many reasons!

So what is Meatless Monday? It is a simple movement aiming to inspire the world to cut their meat consumption completely one day a week for our bodies and for the planet. The statistics around the benefits of what going meatless one day a week does and can do are frankly astounding.

Continue reading

Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

As you may be aware, I have recently become entranced by the fantastic vegetable that is cauliflower and all the vegan sorcery you can perform with it. Remember when I made Cauliflower Steak and highlighted the basic technique for turning a head of Cauliflower into a steak? Well, Oops I did it again, and this time got fancy!

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with the Cauliflower.

This is my original Cauliflower Steak Marsala, which I am very proud to have developed. Inspired by Italian restaurant staple Chicken Marsala and steakhouse classic Steak Marsala, I have created a vegan friendly version of these beloved dishes.

I cut a head of cauliflower into steak looking slices, season them well as you would a piece of meat, and bake them to a crisp tenderness that possesses a meaty texture which I then effectively use to replace chicken or beef. Then I concoct a near traditional Marsala wine and mushroom sauce. Since there is no meat, I have built the sauce to be even richer in flavor than the traditional with a few heartier components. My vegan Marsala sauce includes sweet caramelized onions for another added layer of flavor and texture. Rather than using cremini or button mushrooms, I use strips of hearty, meaty Portobello mushrooms to make the meal more substantial. I add thyme and garlic for an earthy note to contrast the sweetness of the wine.

i love magic

Vegan Magic!

Lastly, I have come up with another piece of vegan magic! Most marsala wine sauces call for butter to thicken the sauce, which is great because…butter. Butter, however, is not vegan and quickly adds another couple hundred calories of fat to the dish. Instead, I puree cannellini beans which are buttery in texture and taste, and add a bit to the sauce. The pureed beans dissolve into the sauce which not only thickens the sauce, but gives it a nice silky smooth texture just like a traditional Marsala sauce.

The result is a rich, hearty, and gourmet meal that is 100% vegan! Serve with your favorite vegetable sides and you will blow your vegetarian and meat-loving friends alike away! I am super proud of how this development turned out and I hope you enjoy it too!

Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy-intermediate
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Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced into ¼ inch thick strips
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ tablespoons pureed cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425̊F.

Slice the head of cauliflower into 1 ½ inch steaks. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with half the olive oil and season with the garlic powder, Herbs de Provence, and about a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, flip over and bake additional 15 minutes, until the upward facing side of the cauliflower is browned and crisped.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a pan. Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are browned and caramelized, about 7-8 minutes. Note* Add a tablespoon or so of water to the pan if onions start to stick or burn. Add the mushroom strips and season with another pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms shrink and become tender and browned. Add the thyme and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add the Marsala wine and stock to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Season with more salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow sauce to reduce for 5 minutes. Add the cannellini beans and stir into the sauce until dissolved and the sauce becomes thick and silky.

Plate the cauliflower steaks and spoon over the sauce to cover the steaks. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve!

Note: The sauce is also good for more than Cauliflower. Grill, bake, or sauté chicken, steak, or salmon and add the same sauce over the top for a carnivorous with marsala dish with an even healthier sauce!

Note: I have only made this recipe for 2, but you could easily double or triple the recipe as needed.

I Made Cauliflower Steaks – Steaks Made of Cauliflower

As you probably know by now, though I may love a good Italian meat sauce and a gourmet burger, I am a huge lover of vegetarian and vegan food, a proponent of a more plant rich diet, and an active supporter of Meatless Monday. This fondness for the veg has led me to try lots of different recipes and restaurants in search of tasty and satisfying plant-based meals! I heard whisperings (meaning I saw Instagram posts) on how some of our vegan friends have utilized cauliflower to replace even the most carnivorous of meals. So, I did what they do and I made Cauliflower Steaks.

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What? Yes! Steaks literally made from the head of cauliflower. And I must tell you, it was delicious and satisfying! Cauliflower is taking the place of a lot of meat-centric dishes these days: we’ve got cauliflower buffalo wings, cauliflower orange chicken, cauliflower calamari, and now cauliflower steak!

Now, let me answer the question that is trying to burst forth from your mind’s eye right now as you attempt to comprehend how cauliflower steak could be: no, it does not taste just like a real steak, I don’t really think there is any other food source that can without heavy processing. However, when cauliflower is cut into the shape of ribeye and cooked properly, it can emulate the texture and heartiness of a steak dinner while also heavily taking on any flavors that you add to it. In this way, it can actually be more versatile than steak.

Furthermore, it is so easy! Cauliflower Steaks are something that nearly anyone can make for minimal culinary effort. Another bonus, this is a great inexpensive alternative for a home cooked meal; a head of organic cauliflower can cost you $3 or less and give 3-4 steaks from it. For that it, will fill you up surprisingly full and be satisfying to the tastes buds too if you do it right.

So, I made cauliflower steak, and here is what I did and what happened!

I took a gorgeous head of organic cauliflower….

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And I cut it in half! It looks like I’m cutting into a brain////

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Straight down the middle, all the way through the stem.

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Then, I cut the halves into inch thick steaks.

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I laid the steaks out on a baking sheet and drizzled with a bit olive oil, seasoned both sides with ample salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Then I put it in the oven to bake!

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I made a “Fridge-Clean-Out Sauce”, taking veggies and tomato sauce from the fridge to use them up at the end of the week. This was basically a vegan mushroom and chickpea Bolognese sauce.

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I roasted the cauliflower steaks for 20 minutes, flipped them over, then let them roast another 15 minutes until they were browned and caramelized.

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I smothered them in the made up sauce and serve them with other roast vegetables!

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I know, you’re probably thinking….

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I’ll tell you! It’s VEGAN MAGIC!

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Cauliflower Steaks - Basic Technique

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1-2 heads of cauliflower, cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch steaks
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning or Herbs de Provence
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Place the cauliflower steaks on a baking sheet. Drizzle with half the olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and half of the garlic powder and herbs. Flip and repeat. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes until the face up side starts to brown. Flip and return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes until the face upside is nicely caramelized. Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Mitasie 3 Review

I have recently been having a lot of foodie fun trying more vegetarian and vegan foods. I am experimenting with more vegetarian/vegan recipes, like my Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili, and am enjoying visiting more veg-friendly restaurants (Native Foods and Veggie Grill are long standing favorites of mine).

 

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While I am not a vegetarian, I do think we need some animal protein in our diets and know that I certainly need some in mine, I am also a firm believer that we can and should cut way back on our meat consumption, utilize better practices when it comes to meat, and make better sustainable choices overall. An easy way to help our own health and the health of the planet is to enjoy some more veggie centric meals. This has led me to seek out more vegetarian establishments recently.

Enter Mitasie 3! I can’t believe it took me this long to discover this little gem of a restaurant; located literally around the corner from me in Huntington Beach, its right next to the PetSmart I take my dog to all the time. Mitasie 3 is a self-proclaimed “Healthy Vegetarian Vietnamese” restaurant serving up completely vegan versions of Vietnamese classics. My colleagues and I stopped in for lunch this past Friday for our “Cultural” lunch and were not disappointed!

A small restaurant, the space is bright with Asian décor and a definite feeling of light and freshness. Also cool, they display artworks from local artists that are up for sale! It wasn’t busy when we went and were quickly seated and attended to. The service from there continued to be superb with two very friendly servers making sure that we were happy throughout our experience.

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Now to the food! On this particular outing, we decided to order a bunch of different dishes and share.

We started with two different types of Mitasie’s Spring Rolls.

Mitasie Jimaca Rol

Jicama Spring Roll

The Jimaca Spring Roll is comprised of steamed jicama, shredded carrots, basil, and soy ham all rolled up into rice paper and served with a spicy peanut sauce. The rolls were tasty light and refreshing, perfect on a warm day!

Mitasie BBQ Spring Roll

BBQ Pork Spring Roll

The clear winner of the Spring Rolls, however, was the Soy BBQ Pork Roll. BBQ soy ham, avocado, mint, lettuce, sprouts, and cucumber, again rolled up into the strangely clear rice papers and served with the same peanut sauce. These rolls were slightly hearty and packed the great flavor of tangy BBQ while being contrasted and complimented by the fresh veggies. I would make a meal just out of these and a salad!

Mitasie Thai Salad

Thai Salad

I actually ordered another dish just for me because, food. I ordered the Thai Salad which was moderately spicy and fully fresh. Mixed greens, carrots, bell peppers, basil, a special Thai sauce, and soy chicken. This salad was a surprising amount of food. The Thai sauce really gave the dish a nice kick and the soy chicken really did look, feel, and taste like chicken! I’d order it again.

Mitasie Shaking Beef

Shaking Beef

Next we had the other clear winner of the day, the Shaking Beef. Marinated and roasted soy beef, shallots, tomatoes, peppers, and garlic in a sweet vinegar sauce over a bed of greens. I’ve had vegan chicken that tasted like chicken before, like in my salad above, but never have I ever had a vegan version of beef that tasted legit. Holy Hera! This dish beautifully danced between sweet and savory and was entirely delectable. This is another one I would order just for me next time!

Mitasie Cryspy Shrimp

Salted Pepper Cryspy Soy Shrimp

We also shared the Salted Pepper Cryspy Soy Shrimp. This baby is spicy! Soy shrimps that have been fried to a perfect and satisfying crunchiness, onions, peppers, and jalapenos. This one just had a great depth of spicy and savory flavor. Plus, it was fried! Get this one too!

Mitasie Garlic Noodle

Garlic Noodle

Lastly, we had sides of the Mitasie Garlic Noodles; spaghetti noodles, garlic, tofu, mushrooms and olive oil, as well as the Garlic Fried Rice. As you might have guessed it, both were very garlicy; and garlicy is good! The noodles can be ordered as a main whereas the rice is a perfect and cheap side order. If you like garlic and need some carbs with your meal, either of these should do nicely!

The prices at Mitasie 3 are incredibly fair. You can easily enjoy a nice, healthy meal for $10 or under. I am so used to having to pay a premium to eat healthfully that I went into the restaurant expecting to spend more than was actually necessary. How refreshing, no pun intended, to find a place where I can eat well for less!

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We left full of plant-based deliciousness and with happy hearts. Mitasie 3 is a little hidden treasure in my eyes. The atmosphere is bright and inviting, the service is friendly and quick, and the food is fantastic and equally healthy. I especially love that I have another vegan option nearby when as I begin to order more vegetarian. I hope you make a trip over to Mitasie 3 and enjoy what they have to offer!

Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

As an avid supporter of Meatless Monday and the concept that we can eat less meat and also go about the cultivation of the meat that we do eat in a more sustainable way, I am constantly looking to try new and exciting vegetarian and vegan dishes. I love eating at vegan restaurants and seeing what they’ve come up with and I myself really enjoy making vegan and vegetarian dishes; in fact, some of my most popular recipes are vegan like Johnny’s Tomato Soup.  I do, however, often get stuck in a rut when it comes to cooking vegan for myself. I usually rely on another cook’s book or blog to tell me what to do. One day, however, I decided to be adventurous and experiment in the kitchen using ingredients that I love and crossed my fingers that a great vegan dish would be born from all of it. Lo and behold this chili happened!

What I love about this chili is that it is incredibly hearty in texture, flavor, and feel when in all reality; it is an extremely light and nutritious veggie packed dish. Chunks of Portobello mushrooms mimic chunks of beef that you might find in one chili. Finely chopped cauliflower emulates ground meat that you might find in another chili. Other veggies and spices give the stew a rich and warming flavor profile. The result is a chili that is thick and filling while also bringing the nutrition without any animal products.

I loved this chili so much; I made it two weeks in a row and knew that I had to share it with you! I hope you enjoy this new vegan friendly dish from yours truly. Buon Appetito!

Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, big diced
  • 3 cups cauliflower, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Heat the olive in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery, and bell pepper with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cook until tender, another 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and sage, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Coat the veggies in the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

 

True Food Kitchen Newport Beach

Last month, I revisited one of my favorite restaurants in Orange County: True Food Kitchen. Located at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, CA, True Food Kitchen is one of twenty restaurants spread out across the country. As the name suggests, True Food Kitchen emphasizes quality food that is healthful and nutritious as well as seasonal, sustainable, innovative, and delicious.

True Food Kitchen is one of those restaurants that at once makes you feel healthier just for being present in the building while also getting you excited for a truly fantastic meal. The space is open, warm and inviting. A color scheme of bright green, soft yellow and honey woods help to convey the focus on fresh and healthy. The open dining room with high ceilings is set up to feel all at once collaborative and communal while also spacious enough for diners to enjoy conversations privately with their friends and family. Large wood islands stacked with vibrant produce and ingredients divide the diners from the visible kitchen, allowing guests a chance to see the ingredients they will be eating, the preparation of said ingredients and the chefs that make all of the magic happen. I can’t speak for the other True Food Kitchen locations, but the Newport Beach location also offers two different private dining rooms which can be rented out for private parties and events as well as a very nice, semi-private outdoor space complete with heating lamps and fire pits. The restaurant also boasts a beautiful full bar in one half of the dining room, making it easy to grab a drink while waiting for your table or to simply stop in for a cocktail and an appetizer. It’s all very casual and comfortable, but also classy and fun, and it possesses a very clean, organic feel. At any rate, I feel right at home here!

PLEASE EXCUSE THE PICTURE QUALITY – FORGOT CAMERA THAT NIGHT AND USED IPHONE!

Now, let’s get to the part you’re all waiting for: the food! One of the best parts of True Food Kitchen and its concept is that it offers a seasonal menu. So the menu options change several times throughout the year and highlight the foods that are in season and at their very peak for freshness and flavor. Remember my article on seasonal eating, its importance and why we should practice more of it? Well, True Food Kitchen has the same beliefs as I do and they help to make it easier for diners too.

I took my mom with me to True Food Kitchen for dinner before our annual Fashion Island Christmas Shopping date. We were there in mid-December so the menu being offered was the “Volume One: Winter” menu. Fall and Winter foods are my favorite: the root vegetables and hearty greens, the earthy herbs, and the warming braises and stews; so this menu was right up my alley!

True Food Kitchen Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board

Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board

For our first course, along with our wine of course, we split the Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board. A literal board of roasted winter vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, beets, mushrooms, and Brussels Sprouts, served with two different dipping sauces: an avocado green goddess dip and a pimento cashew cheese spread. To be completely honest, I could’ve eaten this entire board by myself and called it my dinner. These winter vegetables, which again are my favorite, appeared to be dressed with little more than olive oil, salt, and pepper, but were roasted to absolute tender perfection which intensifies the natural flavors of the vegetables. The dips were fantastic compliments to punch up the produce just a bit more. The pimento cashew cheese spread added a nice heat, but the avocado green goddess dip was just phenomenal as it added a nice sweet richness because, avocado. Vegan and Gluten-Free, this is a dish anyone could eat with a very happy heart.

True Food Kitchen Braised Bison Short Rib

Braised Bison Short Rib – Split Plate

Next, we decided to split the Braised Bison Short Rib. When it’s Winter and cold outside, I love a good, hearty, braised dish that fills me and warms me from the inside out. This was the dish for exactly that on a rainy and unusually cold Newport Beach night at Christmas time. A large bison short rib braised slowly with lots of flavorful cooking liquids (I think there was red wine in there) to the point where the meat was so tender it shredded at the slightest touch of your fork and dissolved in your mouth, served with a creamy and savory cauliflower mash and earthy sautéed Swiss chard that acted as the perfect light sides to the meat. This entrée was masterfully done. Honestly, I like bison, but it does sometimes taste a bit gamey and plainer than say a beef short rib; but you could not tell at all with this bison. The dish packed tons of rich and developed flavors that hit all the marks of a good braised meat dish. A generous portion, mom and I were glad we split; and the best part – they split the dish for us ahead of time so we didn’t have to fuss with it at the table! That is a great point about True Food Kitchen, they cater to all needs; these guys are more than happy to split your dish, omit an ingredient, substitute, add, whatever you want! Even the pickiest and neediest of eaters can find or create something here.

True Food Kitchen Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

You cannot go to such a restaurant and not have dessert, right? Right. A Gluten-Free Flourless Chocolate Cake was our choice this night – we are chocoholics. This decadent and moist cake is made of nothing more than cocoa, eggs, and almond butter, baked till warm and gooey and topped with a touch caramel and sweet vanilla bean ice cream. Dear Lord, Dear God. This dessert was simply perfection; it had all the things I love in a dessert and with very little guilt. Couldn’t have been happier! You simply must get dessert when you come here, they are all great and innovative, ideal with a cup of fair-trade coffee or tea that True Food Kitchen also offers.

All in all, our experience was yet again wonderful. A warm and healthy atmosphere with delicious seasonal foods that are both nutritious while also pleasing to the tongue and stomach. I adore True Food Kitchen and am a regular guest there; it really has something for everyone. Omnivores and carnivores, vegetarians and vegans, gluten-frees and special needs, the folks at True Food have something for you, and if they don’t, they will make something for you. It’s affordable for a nice-ish dinner out; great for a catch up meal with friends, a casual date, a quick cocktail and appetizer, or even a celebration. I would recommend True Food Kitchen to anyone! Here’s to hoping there is one by you!

You can learn more about True Food Kitchen here.

Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market Costa Mesa

On Wednesday December 2nd (aka Britney Spears’ Birthday, praise!) my colleagues and I went for our weekly “Lunch Bunch” outing to Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market in Costa Mesa, CA. When this restaurant was proposed as our lunch spot for the day, I really had no idea what it was. It was then pitched to me as a fast casual concept with an emphasis on local, seasonal, quality ingredient sandwiches and salads that are equally as healthy as they are tasty; “Sounds like my kind of place!” I said and with that we were off.

Mendocino Farms does two things – sandwiches and salads, that’s it! Sure, it’s only two categories, but what they do, they do WELL. Mendocino Farms sources the ingredients for their sandwiches and salads from local farmers, ranchers, and bakers who exercise best practices; the produce is fresh and often organic, the meat is free-range and vegetarian/grass-fed, and the bread is made with the best grains and baked fresh daily. And let’s not forget that the sandwiches and salads that are offered boast fantastic flavors and combinations.

The restaurant itself is both airy and earthy – very bright and welcoming. The kitchen is open for guests to see the culinary team in action. The décor has a definite artisan-feel with a big splash of health-emphasis. When you enter, you are greeted by the very friendly and helpful staff. They check to see if you have visited before, and if you haven’t, they give you an overview of the menu and their offerings. I really enjoy restaurants that have team members that speak with you about their offerings as it somehow makes you feel more connected to the food. In addition to explaining the menu, they also emphasize that they are very flexible when it comes to dietary preferences; gluten-free breads are available to substitute for other breads, they are more than happy to hold the cheese if you avoid dairy, and in general help you to order a meal that suites your tastes and needs.

A fast-casual restaurant, you order at the counter and then pick out your own table and wait for the food to be brought to you. What is really awesome, is that before you order, they are happy to offer you samples of the side salads and soups that they have available to add onto your meal so that way you can get a better feel for what you are ordering! Once you are seated, the food is brought to you on a small baking sheet and you are ready to enjoy lunch! Now, let’s get to what my colleagues and I had.

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The Blue Plate Special with Half Farm Club and the Healthiest Salad Ever

I ordered the Blue Plate Special -a ½ a sandwich with a side salad or cup of soup – with the Farm Club and the Healthiest Salad Ever. The Farm Club is masterfully comprised of local farm, free-range turkey breast, smashed avocado (always a yes), prime Applewood bacon, herb aioli, tomatoes, greens, pickled red onions and “Mom’s seeded whole wheat bread”. The bread was incredibly hearty and comforting while also remaining light, the vegetables fresh and full of their natural flavors, the avocado perfectly green, the bacon superbly crispy, and the turkey fantastically fresh and clean tasting. There was just the right amount of everything on this sandwich. The Healthiest Salad Ever included thinly sliced raw beets, ginger, carrots, and kale, black rice, golden raises, toasted hazelnuts, and chopped orange segments. It was sweet and refreshing, a perfect pairing with my sandwich. I was rather satisfied!

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Korubuta Pork Belly Banh Mi

Some of my colleagues were a bit more adventures than I was on this trip. A few of them tried the Korubuta Pork Belly Banh Mi; a play on a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, caramelized Korubuta Pork belly, a housemade pickled daikon (no idea what that is) and carrots, cilantro, cucumbers,  jalapenos, and chili on a panini ciabatta. Apparently, this sandwich was spicy and hearty all at once. A definitely good choice for meat lovers and Asian food lovers alike!

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Peruvian Steak Sandwich

The Peruvian Steak sandwich was another big hit! Spicy aji Amarillo marinated steak with Oaxacan cheese, herb aioli, red onions, tomatoes, and shredded romaine on a panini-pressed torta bun. Though I didn’t try, I was told that the steak was decadent and the premium ingredients all worked together to create a sandwich that was rich, perfectly spicy, and superbly satisfying!

Mendocino Farms Falafel

Enlightened Falafel Wrap

The Vegan Enlightened Falafel Wrap was one of the biggest winners of the day. This would probably be the one I would order the next time I return, and trust me; there will be a next time. This veggie friendly wrap is constructed from Mendocino’s housemade falafel-spiced V7 patty, Mendo’s classic hummus, a vegan tzatziki, grape tomatoes, shredded romaine, julienned cucumbers, pickled red onions wrapped in a panini pressed whole wheat tortilla. This was so fresh and zesty as well as fulfilling. It’s encouraging to see a restaurant have such great options for our vegan friends!

We also sampled sides of the various side salads. In addition my Healthiest Salad Ever, we tried the Curried Couscous and the Sriracha Potato Salad; both were surprisingly delicious! Could’ve eaten giant tubs of both! Keep in mind, some of Mendocino’s menu is seasonal and so some items may vary from time to time, but that’s part of the foodie fun!

In summary, our visit to Mendocino Farms was beyond satisfactory. It was so wonderful to find a fast-casual restaurant with a healthy vibe, foodie flare, and ethical practices. I will definitely be returning in the future for more tasty sandwiches!

For more information, visit Mendocino Farms’ website here: http://mendocinofarms.com/

 

Johnny’s Tomato Soup

Ciao all! Johnny here with my inexpensive, unbelievably simple, super healthy, and incredibly delish recipe for my Tomato Soup! There is no way around it – tomato soup is one of the most comforting dishes you can enjoy. A bowl of tomato soup comforts you when you’re feeling under the weather or helps you to cozy up with a good movie or book on a chilly evening in at home. Well I daresay my tomato soup will be your new favorite!

With budget friendly ingredients and minimal efforts, this soup is vegan, gluten-free, and overall healthy while also being rich and hearty. Cannellini beans within the soup pureed after cooking give the soup a creamy texture without the need for dairy. Rosemary, red pepper, and bay leaf give the soup earthy and warming notes.

This soup makes a great quick weeknight dinner and is perfect to take a left over cup to work or school. Hell, it’s even perfect for a Friday night with a good movie and bottle of wine! I make this soup almost every other week during Fall and Winter and anyone who has ever had it has always been thoroughly pleased. I hope you enjoy!


Johnny’s Tomato Soup

Serves: 4-6 | Prep Time: 40 minutes | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • ¼ -1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional Toppings: Olive oil drizzle, cracked black pepper, light sour cream, Greek yogurt, parmesan cheese, goat cheese

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and carrots, sprinkle with a ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes until tender. Add the crushed garlic, mix together, and sauté an additional 2 minutes.

Add the cannellini beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable stock, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir. Bring to a boil over the medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Uncover and fish out the bay leaf, discard. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth and creamy with no chunks of veggies left. You can also puree in a food processor, but be very careful! Ladle into bowls and add your desired toppings. I personally like to do an artsy drizzle of olive oil and add some crushed black pepper to keep it light but tasty. Enjoy!


Like this recipe? Let me know in the comments! Did you make this recipe? Tag me on Instagram @johnnylapasta!

Recipe Review: Tyler Florence’s Watermelon Gazpacho

Ciao friends! Are you a fan of the tasty, chilled Spanish soup known as gazpacho? Personally, I am a HUGE fan! Gazpacho is packed with fresh vegetables, is amazingly refreshing, and doesn’t even require cooking! For as much as I love gazpacho, however, there is one variant that I put off trying for a long time: Watermelon Gazpacho. This past Meatless Monday, I finally put myself up to the challenge and gave it a shot!

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