Tag Archives: vegan

Malabar Restaurant Review – Santa Cruz

My first visit to a Sri Lankan restaurant.

We were in Santa Cruz visiting our college-student, and I decided to check out Malabar for the simple reason that I couldn’t ever recall having had Sri Lankan food. That turned out to not be true, I did cook Ceylonese food a couple of decades ago as part of my international food project, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to an actual Sri Lankan restaurant.

Malabar’s menu is pretty short – though that may be as a result of the COVID pandemic and the current labor shortage (they’re hiring, btw) -, and features a few dishes from India and Malaysia/Singapore, in addition to Sri Lankan ones. Mains tend to average about $20. The restaurant seems to have a nice, if generic, dining room but also has a couple of tables on the sidewalk, and that’s where we ate.

We started by sharing an appetizer of vegetable roti ($9.50). This was similar to a stuffed dosa, with a filling made from leeks, potatoes and cabbage. It was pretty tasty, even if the curry sauce it came with was not as delicious as the yellow curries you often get with rotis at Thai restaurants. It also came with a spicy tomato sauce that carried a lot of heat.

For our mains, my daughter had the mixed vegetable curry (“Mixed vegetables in a Sri Lankan style coconut curry”, $17.50) and I had the Sri Lankan Yellow Curry ($19.50). Both dishes turned out to be the same yellow curry. While my daughter’s was served with large pieces of broccoli, carrots, peppers, cabbage and kale, mine had a snapper filet as the base (you can substitute for chicken or salmon at an extra cost). Unlike other curries I’ve had in the US, the filet was served whole, rather than in chunks. The curry itself was very thin (a feature it shared with the Ceylonese curry I made myself), with a pretty mild flavor. It was tasty but it lacked both the consistency and layers of flavor you get in a Thai curry, for example. Perhaps it’s best to see it as a curry soup. I’m not 100% sure that it worked that well with the snapper, but it was a pleasant enough dish to eat, even if not one I’d rush to order again. My daughter felt pretty much the same. Both dishes were served with rice, which seemed like a medium grain type, a little on the sticky side. I don’t know that I loved it.

My husband ordered the Devil Lanka with snapper ($21.50), a dish consisting of fish cooked with “cardamom, cinnamon, clove, Anaheim papers, cucumber, pineapple, curry leaves, carrots, tomato, red onion” and “served in a sweet sour and spicy tomato sauce”. He was quite happy with his dish. It wasn’t like anything he’d had before, and he liked the flavors.

Service was very good, our servers were very attentive and friendly. They do ask you to use your phone to scan a QR code to look at the menu (which is also posted outside), but when I mentioned that I didn’t have a smart phone, they brought us a paper menu. My daughter who did have a smart phone with her felt looking at the menu on the small phone screen was very difficult, so she used the paper one instead.

In all we had a very nice time, the street wasn’t very busy (though there was a fair amount of people coming in and out of the restaurant, it’s obviously popular for take out) and we felt safe eating there.

I didn't take any pictures, however (that lack of smart phone and all).

Malabar Restaurant
514 Front St
Santa Cruz, CA
(831) 201 4438
T-Th 5pm - 9:00 pm, F 5pm - 9:30 pm, Sa-Su 12 pm - 2:30 pm and  5pm - 9:30 pm



Chipotle Quesadilla Review

Good but Expensive

I’m not the biggest fan of Chipotle – mostly because it’s boring and expensive. I understand why people might seek it in places that don’t have a great taqueria (or taco truck) in every corner, but I fail to understand its appeal in California. Still, my daughter likes it, so we ordered it for lunch a few days ago.

This time I decided to try the quesadilla, which is basically a deconstructed burrito grilled long enough to melt the cheese. It’s served with 3 “sides” which really mean the ingredients you’d otherwise have inside the burrito, things like rice, beans, salsas and sour cream Burrito extras, like guacamole, are still extra for quesadillas.

The steak quesadilla was tasty, but it felt smaller than a burrito (probably just my imagination), and having the salsa/sour cream/guacamole (the latter came in a different container) outside the burrito only made it more difficult to eat. The shape of the quesadilla, and the fact that it’s cut in two diagonally made it even more impractical, the filling kept falling out as I tried to dip it.

At $11.40 (prices vary by location*), it was a pretty poor value – though I’m sure no worse than anything else at Chipotle.

On the plus side, the ingredients were fresh and the beef has less gristle/fat than that at some local taquerias. Also on the plus side, Chipotle is very vegan friendly. Not only do they offer sofritas, a plant based protein, as a vegan alternative to meats, but their rice, beans, tortillas and chips are all vegan. Often times, Mexican restaurants use chicken broth for their rice, or lard for their beans and/or tortillas.

Chipotle – San Leandro
1505 E 14th St.(510) 667-100310:45 AM – 10 PM

* For the sake of looking at how minimum wages impacted on Chipotle’s prices, I used their very helpful website to price a steak quesadilla at different Chipotles. This is what I found:

In Seattle, WA, with the highest minimum wage in the country at $16.69/hr, a Chipotle steak quesadilla is $9.85

In San Francisco, CA with a $16.32/hr minimum wage, it’s $11

In Berkeley, CA with a $16.32/hr minimum wage, it is $10.25.

In Manhattan, NY with a $15/hr minimum wage, it’s $11.15

In my city, San Leandro, CA, with a $15/hr MW, it’s $11.40

In Fresno, CA, with a $14/hr MW, it’s $9.65

In Peoria, IL with an $11/hr MW, it’s $9.65

In Tulsa, OK, with a $7.25/hr MW, it’s $9.55

In Hinesville, GA, with a $7.25/hr MW, it’s $9.65

Apple Pie Granita – Recipe

This apple pie granita tastes exactly like frozen apple pie, and it’s absolutely delicious. I served it as a palate cleanser for my 2020 Christmas Eve dinner, though it’s probably too sweet for that. It would work just as well as dessert. Everyone enjoyed it nonetheless.

I made it using Martinelli’s apple juice rather than “natural-style apple juice” like the original recipe called for, because that’s what I had at home. If I made it again using regular apple juice, as I did, I’d probably reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup or leave it off altogether.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups apple juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a dash of nutmeg
  • a dash of allspice

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Transfer it to an 8″x8″ glass baking dish. Place in the freezer until the sides start to freeze, about 1 to 2 hours. Using a fork, break and mix and put back in the freezer for another 2 hours. Break again with a fork and transfer to small serving glasses. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

Based on Emerile Lagasse’s recipe at Food & Wine magazine.

2020 Christmas Eve Dinner

Marga’s favorite recipesMarga’s Party & Holiday Recipes

Pasta with Creamy Pesto Sauce

My vegan daughter wanted pasta with a creamy pesto sauce for Thanksgiving, and I, of course, obliged. I was fortunate to find this amazing recipe online and both my daughter and her non-vegan sister loved it. It did require a couple of adaptations from the original recipe, noted in the one below.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz pasta
  • 2 cups plain, unsweetened oat milk or another vegan milk
  • 1/3 cup vegan pesto
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

Make pasta according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, add the milk, pesto, corn starch, nutritional yeast and salt to a medium sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it starts to boil. Turn heat down to medium and continue whisking until it has the consistency you want, add more cornstarch if necessary.

Adapted from Monica’s recipe at The Hidden Veggies.

Vegan Pecan Pie Recipe

I made this recipe for vegan pecan pie for Thanksgiving, and my vegan daughter was quite happy with it. Unlike most vegan pie recipes this one didn’t use corn syrup and it wasn’t too sweet. It had the right consistency, however, and the pie set perfectly – no need for eggs.

I was cheap and made it using a Safeway refrigerated pie shell and it was horrible! There are far better vegan pie shells out there. The filling, though, was good:

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell
  • 3/4 cup canned coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp cup corn starch
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter
  • 6 oz pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pie crust for 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl. whisk together the coconut milk and corn starch until dissolved. Set aside.

Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it melts. Add the pecans and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Whisk in the coconut milk mixture, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt.

Pour the mixture onto the pie crust. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Cool on the counter for two hours and then let cool completely on the fridge.

Adapted from Ana’s recipe at Making thyme for health

Vegan Chick’n Tetrazzini

I set out to make chicken tetrazzini as part of my exploration into Italian food for my International Food Project. Alas, after doing a bit more research into the dish, I found out that it’s not Italian at all. Rather, it was apparently created by chef Ernest Arbogast at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in honor of Italian soprano Luisa Tetrazzini. I had already bought the ingredients to make it, though, as well as those to make a vegan version for my daughter, so I went along and made it for dinner last night.

The regular chicken tetrazzini I made was good, my husband in particular liked it, but not special enough for me to repeat it – so I’m not going to write down the recipe (to make it, I combined this recipe by Ciao Italia with this one by Giada di Laurentiis). My daughter would like me to make the vegan version again, however, so here is the recipe (yes, this blog is mostly for myself):

Ingredients

  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter, divided
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened oat, soy or almond milk
  • a dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp white wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 4 oz vegan chick’n strips, cubed
  • 1/2 frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan mozarella
  • 1/4 cup vegan panko breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions and set aside.

Melt 1 Tbsp vegan butter and olive oil in a medium or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook until the onion is soft, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of vegan butter to the saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until you have a thick paste. Whisk in the coconut milk and let cook a few minutes until it thickens, whisking occasionally. Add the non-dairy milk and cook a few more minutes until it thickens. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the vinegar and turn off heat.

Add reserved spaghetti, mushrooms, chick’n and peas to the sauce. Mix well. Transfer mixture onto an 8″x8″ or similar size oven-safe dish. Top with mozarella and breadcrumbs.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Adapted from Alissa’s recipe at Connoisseurus Veg

Vegan Parmesan Recipe

My vegan daughter loved this super easy alternative for Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a mini-chopper, food processor or blender and process until smooth.

Cashew Cream

This is a vegan cashew cream that you can use in place of soft cheeses in traditional recipes. To my mind, this doesn’t taste anything like cheese – but I’m not vegan. My vegan daughter loved it, however.

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ~2 cups water

Directions

Soak cashews in water for about 4 hours. Drain.

Place the cashews, lemon juice, vinegar, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, salt and 1 cup water in an electric blender and process until smooth. Add more water as needed to achieve the consistency you want.

Vegan Curried Butternut Squash Soup – Recipe

My daughter absolutely loved this recipe, and it was very easy to make. I very lightly adapted it from Minimalist Baker.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, thinly diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup

Directions

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring.

Add the butternut squash. Stir in the curry powder, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the coconut meat, vegetable broth and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is very soft.

Using an electric blender, purée until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Vegan Tomato Soup

My daughter has been asking for tomato soup for a while, and I figured tonight was a good time to make it for her – plus I had all the ingredients! I followed a recipe I found online, with a couple of modifications from the comments, and my daughter was very happy with it. It was quick and easy to do – I actually made the soup in advance, and then had her heat it up and add the coconut milk when she was ready to eat it. Note that I added a diced fresh tomato to the ingredients below – I had it and it was getting close to going bad so I had to use it.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 oz can diced or whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp vegetable broth base
  • salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk

Instructions

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute, stirring, for a minute. Add the tomatoes. If using whole tomatoes, push with a wooden spoon to break out. Add the water, paprika, oregano, basil and vegetable broth base. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.

Taste and add salt if needed. At this point, you can refrigerate if you want to use it later. Right before serving, heat the soup until warm and then stir in the coconut milk.

Adapted from Lisa’s recipe at healthy nibbles