The DC Farmers Market Scene

 In preparation for traveling to any city in which I intend to spend an extended period of time, I create three detailed lists: veg-friendly restaurants to visit, yoga studios to try out, and farmers markets to patronize. The planning for my summer move to DC proved no differently. While I’ve already introduced you to the compilation of DC restaurants that excite my gastronomic curiosity, and intend to profile the activist-oriented Yoga District at which I’ve become a summer member, today’s post regales the vibrant array of local, seasonal produce featured at three of the DC farmers markets nearest to my apartment.

In the above handy-dandy map, the blue pin represents the Aya Community Market, the yellow represents the well-known Eastern Market, and the green represents the H Street Freshfarm Market. Below, you’ll find a detailed description of each market.

Aya Community Market

Though the smallest of the three markets I’ve explored with only two booths set up on the day I visited, the Aya Community Market aspires to hugely noble goals. Founded by the nonprofit Dreaming Out Loud, the Aya Community Market seeks to further the organization’s mission to “empower the potential in under-served communities” by providing fresh produce, creating sustainable employment, and introducing resources promoting a healthy lifestyle to those living in food deserts and low-access neighborhoods. Indeed, in addition to functioning as a farmers market, Aya also provides a venue for eco-friendly living workshops, cooking demonstrations, health screenings, and live music and poetry.

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Regrettably, I missed the pleasure of experiencing any of the latter few exciting activities during my jaunt to the market, and none seem scheduled on Aya’s online calendar before I leave DC. I can only hope that Aya continues to serve the community in the manner it intends, and grow beyond its current humble size. Regardless of Aya’s questionable success, one of the two vendors with whom I interacted at the market provided me with two gorgeous bunches of Red Russian kale, a quart of fragrant strawberries, a box each of pastel green beans and squeaky sugar snap peas, and a bunch of beets complete with their greens.

Eastern Market

As DC’s oldest continually operated fresh food public market, the Eastern Market attracts a huge crowd of produce-admiring customers every weekend to its open-air farmers market. The outdoor market, open on Saturday and Sunday, boasts over twenty vendors selling fresh produce, prepared edibles such as hummus and barrel-brined pickles, and homemade body care products. Alongside these so-called “Farmers Line” vendors, a variety of arts-and-crafts merchants display their handcrafted jewelry, screen-printed t-shirts, painted ceramics, and more.

Eastern Market's "Farmers Line."

Eastern Market’s “Farmers Line.”

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"In a Pickle" vendor.

Pickles galore! A vegan’s dream.

Though its’ farmers market takes place only on the weekends, the Eastern Market houses indoor vendors every day. Some of them sell fresh fruit and veggies, but most of them sell the butchered flesh of various animals, creating a stomach-churning odor that dissuaded me from reentering the building anytime soon. Thus, I happily remained at the outdoor portion of the market, eagerly purchasing the last asparagus and strawberries of the season, a fragrant bunch of lavender that I proceeded to dry in my apartment, and one of the most beautiful bags of mixed greens upon which I’ve ever laid eyes.

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Unfortunately, judging by the cantaloupe and sweet corn available at the Eastern Market in late May—much too early for either of the crops’ seasons in this region—I would presume that not all of the market’s vendors source their produce entirely locally. Because I much prefer to eat exactly following the seasons, support a local economy as much as possible, and experience the intimate food-grower relationship of a true farmers market, I decided to visit a market slightly farther from my apartment than the Eastern Market in order to satisfy my three aforementioned criteria.

H Street Freshfarm Market

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After four weeks of my residency in DC, I finally paid a visit to what I’d consider the most ideal farmers market in close proximity to my apartment (though none can even hope to rival the absolutely impeccable Dane County Farmers Market that I’ve adored since childhood). Part of DC’s 11 producer-only Freshfarm Markets—”the leading voice[s] for farmers markets in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region, and a national leader in the local food movement”—the 9-year-old H Street Freshfarm Market operates every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The H Street Freshfarm Market also functions as a partner of the H Street Main Street Program, which works to foster the revitalization of the historic, yet currently rather downtrodden, H Street Corridor.

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I had the pleasure of biking to the H Street Freshfarm Market on a gorgeously sunny morning, discovering a farmers market modest in size yet bountiful in high-quality produce. Two rows of about five vendors each lined the 13th & H Street block, offering peak spring goods from black mulberries to squash blossoms to microgreens to loaves of artisanal bread.

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Expectedly, I filled my tote bag to the brim, particularly excited about a box of fresh young fava beans that I later transformed into the Fava Bean Cakes pictured below—crisp patties of mashed potato, fava beans, carrot greens, and Middle Eastern spices, inspired by a (not originally vegan) recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. I eagerly await my next jaunt to the H Street Freshfarm Market.

Fava Bean Cakes inspired by Ottolenghi's "Plenty."

Fava Bean Cakes inspired by Ottolenghi’s “Plenty.”

If any of you, dear readers, reside in the DC area, I’d greatly appreciate if you’d inform me as to your favorite nearby farmers markets.

Until next time, Ali.

DC Restaurant Exploration: Busboys and Poets

Checking another restaurant off of my list of vegan-friendly DC eateries, I had the pleasure of dining last week at the indie-acclaimed Busboys and Poets. Immediately upon learning the story behind the social justice-imbued restaurant, I eagerly awaited the chance to patronize it. The brainchild of prominent Iraqi-American peace activist, artist, and restaurateur Anas “Andy” Shallal, Busboys and Poets functions as a community gathering space that works to foster racial and cultural connections, a popular spoken-word poetry venue, a progressively minded bookstore, a gallery for thought-provoking art, and a scrumptiously veg-friendly restaurant. Indeed, I wouldn’t expect any less of a socially conscious establishment from the co-founder of the pre-2003 invasion group Iraqi-Americans for Peaceful Alternatives, Peace Fellow with Seeds of Peace, member of the board of trustees for the liberal think tank The Institute for Policy Studies, and recipient of the United Nations Human Rights Community Award.

With the Peace Café program—the largest Arab-Jewish dialogue group in the DC area—Shallal continues his advocacy for conflict resolution in the Middle East through Busboys and Poets. However, Shallal does not limit the activist reach of Busboys and Poets to focus solely on Middle Eastern conflict; the restaurant also offers events centered on workers’ rights, racial equality, and issues related to the LGBTQ community. Almost expectedly, Busboys and Poets donates over 15% of its annual earnings to various non-profit organizations—for example, all proceeds from book sales go directly to Teaching for Change, which seeks to create social justice curriculum in schools—and harbors an eye toward environmental sustainability with their initiatives on recycling, fair- and direct-trade, and organic food, as well as their boycotting of Canada’s seal hunt. So, um, yeah, Busboys and Poets is a pretty cool place.

Moby speaking at Busboys and Poets on his book “Gristle.”

To those of us who recognize the intersectionality between animal rights and numerous other social justice movements—such as how oppressing one group of beings desensitizes us toward oppressing other groups—it would make sense for Busboys and Poets to offer completely vegan fare. However, the restaurant sadly abides by the “humane meat” myth, advertising their “sustainable seafood” (which doesn’t actually exist), and their “grass-fed, free-range beef” (which is still slaughtered at an early age and is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale from global to local“). Fortunately, Busboys and Poets offers a slew of tantalizing animal-free menu items, attracting plenty of vegans to the restaurant, both as customers and workers (my waitress happily revealed her veganism after I inquired as to the tastiest veg options).

Busboys and Poets dining room.

Busboys and Poets dining room.

Accompanied by a longtime DC resident, spoken-word poet, and fellow vegan, I began my first Busboys and Poets experience with an extreme sense of welcoming thanks to the restaurant’s casual décor, complete with murals and plushy couches that double as dining room chairs. Overwhelmed by the bounty of mouthwatering dishes on the menu, my dinner mate Emily and I agreed to split an appetizer, as well as to order sandwiches which we would halve and share. Though the Vegan Nachos proved quite tempting, after Emily informed me of their generous portion size, I decided to wait until my return visit to B&P to sample them as my entrée. On this particular occasion, Emily and I instead opted for the Coconut Tofu Bites as our appetizer—silky smooth tofu nuggets enveloped by an impeccably crispy and subtly sweet coating of shredded toasted coconut. Served atop a sticky and slightly sour yet succulent yellow plum sauce, the tofu bites definitely constituted the highlight of our meal. Normally, I would say something to the effect of, “I fully intend to recreate these in my own kitchen,” but in the case of these tofu bites, I can guarantee that I would experience hopeless disappointment in attempting to do so—the folks at B&P have truly perfected this dish.

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While the rest of our dinner sadly did not compare to the paragon of lusciousness otherwise known as the Coconut Tofu Bites, Emily and I enjoyed our festival of sandwich-sharing, nonetheless. Emily ordered the Vegan Tuna Salad Sandwich—a mash of chickpeas, sweet pickle relish, nori seaweed bits, diced celery, red onion, yellow mustard, and vegan mayonnaise served on toasted French bread with lettuce and tomato. I frequently whip up fishless tuna salads with mashed chickpeas, avocado, and dulse seaweed flakes, and I unfortunately must say that I much prefer my own version of the dish. Harboring an overly liquefied textured with a complete absence of chunky goodness, as well as an overpowering flavor of mustard, the salad itself proved unimpressive, while the bread that sandwiched it lacked substance on the inside and supplied too much crustiness on the outside. Certainly, the sandwich did not taste bad, but I tend to become rather critical of and annoyed with restaurant dishes that I could have easily created at home with more success.

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Happily, the sandwich I ordered offered Emily and I more gastronomic pleasure that did the Vegan Tuna Salad. B&P’s Tempeh Panini boasts thin slices of juicy tempeh complimented by succulent caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, nicely wilted arugula, and vegan mayonnaise, all sandwiched between two slices of hearty, seeded, whole-grain bread. The only criticism I harbor with this dish stems from my experience as a seasoned veteran of cooking up delectable tempeh bacon (if you’d like the tastiest tempeh recipe on the planet, please follow this link). Though the tempeh held a quite pleasing, chewy, and (dare I say) meaty texture, I found it’s flavor a bit lacking in depth, with a distinct note of soy sauce predominating. On a rather nitpicky side note (haha, puns!), I also would have preferred that my side salad come a bit more well-dressed.

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Emily and I opted to forgo dessert on this particular night, but B&P does offer a tantalizing selection of vegan treats, including an out-of-this-world cheesecake, as highly recommended by our waitress.

Vegan cheesecake. Photo borrowed from the B&P website.

All in all, I found quite delightful my first encounter with the truly progressive, trailblazing, and unique establishment of Busboys and Poets. I wholeheartedly intend to pay the B&P team another couple of visits, both to enjoy their community poetry nights and to sample more of their yummy vegan fare—pan-seared basil tofu with quinoa, roasted vegetables, and tomato cream sauce, anyone?

The next restaurant on my list of veg-friendly DC eateries: Le Pain Quotidien.

Until next time, Ali.

DC Restaurant Exploration: Sticky Fingers & Sticky Rice

Ranking sixth among the U.S. cities that boast the greatest number of vegetarian restaurants, my summer home of Washington D.C. proves a bit overwhelming (in the best way possible) when one attempts to navigate through the plethora of veg eateries located within its limits. Indeed, before arriving in D.C. I had created a list of 20+ veg-friendly restaurants to possibly visit during my 12 weeks in the city, but that list has easily doubled after my modest explorations of the nation’s capital. Though doing so caused me and my gastronomic enthusiasm much sorrow, I managed to narrow down my expansive restaurant list to a mere 12—one for each week of my stay in D.C.

As it currently stands, I intend to patronize the following 12 establishments while in Washington:

Sticky Fingers

Sticky Rice

Busboys and Poets

Le Pain Quotidien

Mark’s Kitchen

Elizabeth’s Gone Raw

Everlasting Life Café

Senbeb Café


Sweet and Natural



While I’ll say no more of the last ten restaurants on my list, I’d love to regale to you my experiences at the first two, both of which coincidentally appear quite proud of their…stickiness? Regardless of the eateries’ viscosities, both of their fare proved fresh, thoughtfully prepared, and quite tasty.

Considering Sticky Fingers’ titles of Best Bakery in D.C. 2013 and Silver Medalist for Favorite Vegan Bakery in VegNews’ 2012 Veggie Awards, its two victories on the Food Network’s hit show Cupcake Wars, its successful cookbook, and its band of 11-year-long devoted patrons, it seems only fitting that I visit the acclaimed, 100% vegan bakery and café on my first D.C. dining excursion. Just two days after moving into my D.C. apartment and one day before beginning my internship with Compassion Over Killing, I met Erica Meier—director of COK and my boss for the summer—at Sticky Fingers for a get-to-know-you/welcome-to-the-city lunch. Erica chose our brunch destination quite wisely, for immediately upon entering the 1950’s-style interior of the café and unexpectedly spotting the familiar vegan, fair-trade chocolate bars from the New Paltz-based Lagusta’s Luscious, I felt snugly at home.

Sticky Fingers storefont.

Sticky Fingers storefont.

1950's stovetop functions as Sticky's condiment bar.

1950’s stovetop functions as Sticky’s condiment bar.

So happy to see Lagusta's chocolates popping up in DC!

So happy to see Lagusta’s chocolates popping up in DC!

Though the various cupcakes, muffins, and Sticky Buns featured in the store’s glass display case looked quite mouthwatering, Erica and I agreed that neither of our bodies would respond well to their high succulence levels at the early hour in the day. Instead, we both chose to partake in much more savory menu options; I ordered the Hummus Wrap and a side salad with creamy ranch dressing while Erica opted for the Breakfast Burrito. Bursting with perfectly fresh baby spinach, shredded carrots, dilly cucumbers, avocado slices, garlicky hummus, and olive tapenade, the Hummus Wrap expertly married bold, unctuous flavors with refreshing, crisp veggies inside a pleasantly chewy gluten-free tortilla. While the rather wilted lettuce beneath the veggies on my side salad disappointed me, the silky-smooth herbed ranch dressing served alongside the salad provided sufficient atonement. Unfortunately, I failed to snap a photo of Erica’s Breakfast Burrito, but I can attest that the whole-grain tortilla fat with Daiya-cheesy tofu scramble, black beans, tomato, and spinach looked absolutely scrumptious—so much so that I may just have to pay a second visit to Sticky Fingers to partake in the burrito party myself.

Strawberry Margarita, Coconut, and Carrot Cake cupcakes.

Strawberry Margarita, Coconut, and Carrot Cake cupcakes.

The infamous Sticky Buns!

The infamous Sticky Buns!

Hummus Wrap.

Hummus Wrap.

Side salad with magical ranch dressing.

Side salad with magical ranch dressing.

Before returning to Sticky Fingers, however, I had to sample the next restaurant on my 12-week tour of D.C.’s (hopefully) finest veg-friendly eating establishments—Sticky Rice. Though not a vegan restaurant by any means, the modern Asian fusion joint offers a plethora of specially marked vegan menu options, including creative sushi rolls and noodle bowls overflowing with veggies and plant-based proteins. I ventured to Sticky Rice for dinner with my fellow COK intern and vegan Katie, happily greeted by a hip, edgy restaurant interior and a top-notch musical selection (can you say 80’s pop hits from the Eurythmics and Depeche Mode?).

Katie showing off the Sticky Rice décor.

Katie showing off the Sticky Rice décor.

Behind the Sticky Rice bar.

Behind the Sticky Rice bar.

Opting to split a sushi roll as an appetizer before enjoying our respective entrees, Katie and I began our meal with the Garden Balls—spicy rice stuffed into an inari pocket, tempura fried, and drizzled with “eel” sauce (eel refers only to the name of the sauce, not the contents of it). While the menu advertised the Garden Balls as containing shiitake mushrooms, red pepper, and cilantro along with the rice, Katie and I could find no such veggies of which to speak, much to our disappointment. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the roll’s textural contrast of chewy rice and crispy coating, as well as the sauce’s succulent tanginess. After the small Garden Ball let-down, however, I do wish that Katie and I had ordered the Veggie Tempura Plate—complete with asparagus, sweet potato, onion, broccoli, pineapple, and ponzu dipping sauce—as our appetizer instead of the roll.

Garden Balls.

Garden Balls.

While our appetizer left me less than enthused about Sticky Rice, our entrees certainly redeemed my opinion of the restaurant. Katie and I both ordered soba noodle bowls; I opted for the “Dirty Vegan” while Katie partook in the Mock Chicken Teriyaki. A mouthwatering mess of soba noodles, tender broccoli, succulent red bell pepper, caramelized onion, chewy edamame, and juicy fried tofu chunks slathered in peanut-coconut sauce and topped with mung bean sprouts, the Dirty Vegan provided a spicy, wonderfully filling, and surprisingly fun-to-eat meal that I fully intend to recreate in my own kitchen. Katie responded just as enthusiastically to her Mock Chicken Teriyaki noodle bowl, which contained the same blend of veggies as my entrée, but instead featured a tangy teriyaki sauce and crispy seitan strips.

The "Dirty Vegan" noodle bowl.

The “Dirty Vegan” noodle bowl.

The Mock Chicken Teriyaki noodle bowl.

The Mock Chicken Teriyaki noodle bowl.

Despite the disappointing mislabeling of the Garden Balls and the rather slow service, our Sticky Rice experience proved quite enjoyable, reasonably priced, and inarguably delicious. I would happily return to the eatery to partake in their Veggie Tempura and other vegan sushi roll offerings…if I hadn’t already committed to visiting ten other veg-friendly restaurants in the D.C. area during my stay in the city. Next on the list: Busboys and Poets!

Until next time, Ali.

First Days Interning with Compassion Over Killing and a Tofu-Kale Benedict on Homemade Muffins

As I mentioned in my last post, last Saturday I trekked from my beloved Vassar home in New York to my summer residence in Washington D.C. Just north of the nation’s capital, Takoma Park, MD houses the headquarters of the phenomenal animal advocacy and vegan outreach non-profit known as Compassion Over Killing, for whom I’m proud to intern until mid-August.

In 1995, current vice president of the Humane Society Paul Shapiro founded COK as an all-volunteer high school club and served as its campaigns director until 2005, when my current boss and tireless animal activist Erica Meier took over the organization. Though COK has always functioned with a small staff and limited budget, it has and continues to tremendously impact the lives of farmed animals and spread the message of compassion for all beings, both human and non. In fact, COK has carved out a public reputation comparable to much larger animal advocacy organizations like PETA and Mercy for Animals. To name a handful of COK’s impressive campaigns, the organization has exposed numerous factory farms of egregiously cruel practices with undercover investigations, aired national pro-vegan commercials on MTV, worked with Morningstar Farms and Boca Foods to drastically reduce or completely eliminate (respectively) eggs from their products, and filed a successful lawsuit to end the egg industry’s continued use of the deceptive “Animal Care Certified” logo on egg cartons. Currently, COK works with Subway to provide more substantial vegan options than simply veggie subs with guacamole, hosts the U.S. Veg Week in April and the D.C. Veg Fest in September, continues their undercover investigations, and enacts strong legal pressure on the egg industry to stop misleading labeling practices. I could not harbor more pride toward working for a noble organization, uncorrupted and uncompromised in its core values thanks to its perpetually small size, and led by a strong-willed woman—one of the only female leaders in the American animal rights movement.

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While I’ve only spent a mere week interning with COK, I’ve already contacted numerous locations of a national restaurant chain to inquire as to what vegan options they offer, handed out nearly 100 leaflets, staffed the first and wildly successful Rehoboth Beach Veg Fest, which took place just this weekend, and helped launch the Twitter campaign to promote national restaurant chain Tropical Smoothie’s recent addition of Beyond Meat chicken-free strips to its menu. Thanks to help from COK, Tropical Smoothie now offers the option of substituting with no extra cost the acclaimed Beyond Meat for the animal-based chicken normally used in its salads, sandwiches, wraps, and flatbreads. If you live near a Tropical Smoothie location, from now until June 30 you can help raise money for my darling organization by snapping a photo of your Beyond-Meat-ified Tropical Smoothie meal, sharing the photo via Twitter or Instagram, and tagging both @TSmoothieCafe and @BeyondMeat in the post. If Tropical Smoothie and Beyond Meat receive 500+ posts before June 30, Beyond Meat will make a donation to COK. Yay for animal-free options in national chain restaurants!

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Though my 9:00 am-4:00 pm internship doesn’t allot me much free time, especially if I decide to attend a yoga class at my newly adopted D.C. studio of Yoga District after work, I’ve still managed to spend a good healthy chunk of time in the kitchen. My most recent endeavor in the surprisingly well-equipped kitchen of my D.C. apartment featured a vegan take on the brunch classic of Benedicts. Looking for a means of creatively employing the muffins I adapted from the Buckwheat Batter Bread recipe in Gluten-Free and Vegan Bread, I stumbled upon Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s “Tofu Benny” while paging through the COK office’s copy of her cookbook Vegan Brunch, and decided that regular muffins would prove just as delicious as the English variety normally featured in Benedicts. After adapting both Isa’s recipe for marinated tofu and Kristy’s recipe for cashew hollandaise sauce, as well as adding a succulent sauté of kale and mushrooms into the mix, I created a truly delectable dish that would put any cruelty-based eggy Benedict to shame. Indeed, since COK devoted much of its attention toward combatting the egg industry, it seems perfectly fitting that my first recipe post since beginning my internship would feature a compassionate version of a dish normally based in the suffering of hens. Erica and the rest of the COK staff—this one’s for you.

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Tofu-Kale Benedict—Nut Free, Low Sodium.

Serves 2-4.


4 Buckwheat Muffins (recipe below)
1 batch Smoky Miso Tofu (recipe below)
1 batch Cashew Hollandaise (recipe below)
1 batch Kale-Mushroom Sauté (recipe below)
4 cherry tomatoes, halved or 4 slices of heirloom tomato

Carefully slice the muffins in half horizontally, taking care not to crumble the more delicate muffin top. Toast the muffin halves to your liking. Spoon a dollop of the Kale-Mushroom Sauté on top of the cut side of both of the muffin halves. Layer each half with a slice or two of tofu, a generous drizzle of Cashew Hollandaise, and either two cherry tomato halves or a slice of heirloom tomato. Serve.

Four-Grain Muffins

Makes 4 muffins.


1/3 cup medium grind cornmeal
1/3 cup teff flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
2 tbsp + 2 tsp brown rice flour
1 tsp coconut nectar or maple syrup
2/3 cups water

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until very well combined. Cover with a dish towel and let rest in a warm spot (about 70 degrees) for 10 to 12 hours, and up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease four tins on a muffin tray and dust with flour. Pour the rested batter evenly into the four tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Smoky Miso Tofu

Serves 4-6.


1 lb extra firm tofu, sliced into about 16 slabs
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp sweet white miso
2 tsp tamari
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1-2 tsp liquid smoke
2 tbsp olive oil, divided

Combine all the marinade ingredients, using only 1 tbsp of olive oil for the marinade, in a shallow dish. Lay the tofu in the dish, taking care that each slab of tofu comes is contact with as much contact with the marinade as possible. Marinade for at least an hour and up to overnight, flipping the tofu halfway through the marinating process.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Place the tofu slices in the skillet and cook for about 5-7 minutes each side, until a golden-brown crust forms on the outside. Reserve the unused marinade (you will use it in the Kale-Mushroom Saute).

Cashew Hollandaise

Makes about 1 cup.


1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 1 hour
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Water to blend

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender, adding as much water as needed to reach the desired consistency (I used about 6 tbsp of water).

Kale-Mushroom Sauté

Serves 1-4.


1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 bunch kale, chopped
4 cremini mushrooms, sliced

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Stir in the cumin and paprika, then add the kale and mushrooms. Sauté for about 7-10 minutes, until the kale is wilted and tender.

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Recipe submitted to Waste Not Want Not Wednesdays, Allergy-Free WednesdaysHealthy Vegan Fridays and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.