Last weekend, I braved the chilly Saturday morning and attended a cooking demo at Native Foods Cafe. Native Foods Cafe is a vegan chain restaurant with locations in Chicago, Colorado, and California. You know it must be good when the restaurant is a chain with locations in multiple states! No limpy lettuce without dressing here-they have enticing menu items like “Super Italian Meatball Sub” and “Caribbean Jerk Chicken Salad.” My favorite is their “Rockin Moroccan Bowl” with their vegan chicken replacement because it’s hearty, flavorful, and I love sweet potatoes.
Native Foods Café is one of my favorite places to eat in the city because:
I think meat tastes funny. I’m convinced my mother’s traditional Chinese cooking method of including skin, bones, fat, gristle, etc caused my aversion to meat at an early age and I never grew out of it. I can’t eat meat when it actually looks like the animal.
2.) I hate waiting for food. I’m here because I’m hungry and I want to eat now, thank you. No waiters or fancy prep at Native Foods and they make all their own tempeh, seitan, etc.
The turnout at the demo was more than I expected. I had imagined a more intimate setting where we would actually participate in making the food. Instead, it was more like a presentation with samples, but hey, the samples were good and knocked my socks off!
Of the four samples, my favorite was the vegan spin on dirt-in-a-cup.
Mhmmm…and it reminded me of another reason of why I love Native Foods Cafe so much.
3.) I can stuff my face and feel good about it. A diet devoid of animal products does not have to be bland and unfulfilling. Native Foods is incredibly creative in their approach at replicating and veganizing non-vegan foods. They even make their own vegan cheese! For those who are interested, you can find out more at http://www.nativefoods.com/
Feeling inspired from this demo, I am going to challenge myself and go vegan for a week along with my partner in crime. No dairy will be tough, but I am looking forward to getting creative with my meals and try out new and unconventional food combinations. I think breakfast will be tough because I love my yogurt and eggs. We shall see!
Before a week of adventurous eating, I decided to make something traditional from Baking Illustrated. I dare you to think of a more quintessential dessert/comfort food than chocolate chip cookies.
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking Illustrated.
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2) ounces granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate (I went with 1 1/2 cups)
1.) Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl, set aside.
2.) Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.
3.) Roll a scant 1/4 cup of dough into a ball, hold the dough ball with fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with the jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball. Place the formed dough ball on the prepared baking sheet, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
4.) In a preheated oven (325 degrees F), bake the cookies until light golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheet, and then eat!
Baking Illustrated, you’ve done well!
True to their name, these cookies were thick and chewy. Perhaps I overbaked them a bit (I’m still getting used to my new oven), but I felt like they could have been softer/chewier after cooling. The flavor was wonderful and vanilla melded well with the faint melted butter taste. Overall, this is a great basic chocolate chip recipe. This recipe will be my go-to chocolate recipe and I can’t wait to experiment with browned butter and different mix-ins.
Stayed tuned next week for updates on my vegan challenge!