NYC Vegetarian Festival

Walking into the festival - it was pretty busy so I didn't get the best pictures of the event

Yesterday I ventured to the NYC vegetarian festival to sample different vegetarian and vegan goods with a veggie friend of mine. About 15 years ago I gave up red meat and pork. I never really liked the taste of meat and I never looked back. I continue to eat chicken and turkey and I absolutely love fish. Given my diet I have always been curious about making vegetarian meals and incorporating protein into my diet to make sure I am fully replacing what I don’t eat.

My first experiences with tofu were as a camper at a sleep-away camp in Maine. The camp hippie run and the cook was amazing. At every meal there was a vegetarian and vegan option (not your typical salad bar option either real meals). I had never had the chance to eat tofu that was properly prepared and I gobbled it up. I looked forward to eating those vegetarian meals all year long and I can safely say I ate better than most sleep-away campers during the summer months. It was years before I started to make my own quality veggie meals and even longer before I started to make my own tofu that actually tasted good.

So when I heard the Vegetarian Festival was going to be in town this weekend I was excited! To add another level to my vegetable friendly diet, I developed lactose intolerance a couple of years ago and am always interested in learning about new dairy free products.

check out all that peanut butter - yum!

It was a lot of fun and I had some very tasty goodies – including my favorite treat of the day some vegan marshmallows. As someone who loves to bake I always find it interesting to see what substitutes are used to make cookies, brownies, etc vegan. My friend and I couldn’t help but find it strange that we didn’t see a vegetable the entire time we were there! There were a few tables that we didn’t make it to because of the lines like a smoothie station and vegan sushi bar, I would imagine they had some vegetables there. It seemed off to me that there weren’t more stands featuring fresh produce or resources to access these goods.

Do you have a favorite vegetarian meal or product?

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Baked Eggplant

pre-baking

Last week I made some ratatouille. I was inspired because while taking stock of my refrigerator I realized I had all the ingredients but the eggplant. When I went to the store to get the final necessity to make my dish all they had were massive eggplants. Even though I only needed half that was fine – when life give you eggplants what else can you do but make more things. This weekend as I was cleaning out the freezer I found a Tupperware full of tomato sauce. Clearly I did a total freezer overhaul this weekend. Not only did I discover the sauce, I used some bananas I found to make these muffins. This was all to make room for some new soup. Don’t worry too much the freezer is completely full once again. Left with half of a giant eggplant and a container of tomato sauce I decided baked eggplant it was. I didn’t really want to fry anything and I guess I was in the mood to get in touch with my Italian roots this week.

This dish was perfect for the grey weather we have been having. Its hearty and warm without being too heavy.

Baked Eggplant:

Thank you to Lidia’s Italy for the delicious recipe inspiration.

Half of a giant eggplant (sorry I am really bad about estimating pounds etc) I would equate this to one medium sized eggplant.

2 cups of chunky tomato sauce (my sauce has roasted red peppers in it which added flavor) if not you could add these to the dish

1/2 cup black olives chopped small

2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped

2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Slice the eggplant into crosswise pieces about a 1/2 inch in width. My eggplant was already halved so I ended up with semi-circles instead of rounds this turned out to work better for overlapping in the baking dish anyway. Sweat the eggplant by salting both side of each pieces and placing in a colander in the sink. Weight down the eggplant by placing a bowl or plate of the vegetables and putting cans on top. Allow to drain for about 30-45 minutes then rinse and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Stir together the olives tomato sauce and basil. In a square baking dish spread about 3/4 of a cup of sauce to cover the bottom. Layer half of the eggplant over the sauce – I had to overlap to get it all to fit. Spread about half of the remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant layer and then sprinkle half of the cheese over the sauce. Repeat this process to create the second layer.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil – arch the tin foil if necessary so that it does not touch the cheese. Bake for 45 minutes then uncover and continue baking for an additional 10-15 minutes. The sauce and cheese should be bubbly and golden brown on top. Let the eggplant rest for 20 minutes out of the oven then serve. This dish was very tasty warm but reheated well too.