The 5 Best Things I Ate in Capri, Italy ~ ALL VEGAN ~

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DSC07290The term “Foodie” may be fairly new, but I can honestly say that I’ve been one since birth. I learned to make scrambled eggs at the age of four (I wasn’t vegan then, obviously) because I didn’t like eggs that were even slightly overcooked. Soft scrambled eggs became my specialty, and my love of cooking only grew from there. At twelve I went to Costco with my mom and found four beautiful hard cover cookbooks detailing the cuisines of Italy, Greece, Spain, and France. Each featured beautiful photography of both the food and the cities it originated from and provided historical context about the various regions, cultures, and traditions behind the dishes. Over time, I collected all four and read them cover to cover. I now have many memories of rainy afternoons spent surrounded by my cookbooks, dog-earing pages and though I didn’t know it then, dreaming up a pretty adventurous food and travel bucket list.

Which is why visiting Capri was so special. There were so many moments, and meals really, that I wished I could phone my twelve year old self sitting in Florida dreaming of Napoli-style pizza or real Italian olive oil, and tell her it’s just as good as she’d hoped.

Here’s the run down of the 5 best things I ate in Capri:

5. Vegan Pizza at Da Isidoro 

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I had this beautiful veggie pizza at the rehearsal dinner for my best friend’s wedding. It was a traditional Napoli-style pizza crust (crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside) topped with roasted peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and spinach. It may be simple, but this pizza and a glass of good Italian red wine was truly delizioso! 

4. Green Olives at Rendezvous at Grand Hotel Quisisana

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I’m not usually an olive person, especially not green olives. I think of them and think “meh”…there’s usually a shoulder shrug that follows…but these were nothing like the olives I’ve had in the past. Not too salty, not too oily, just incredibly fresh. I could have eaten the entire bowl…in fact, I may have.

3. My Clever Breakfast Buffet-ing at the Grand Hotel Quisisanna

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We stayed at an incredibly beautiful hotel, which hosts a lovely breakfast every morning in the sunroom overlooking the pool. It’s a truly decadent way to start the day. The buffet offers fresh fruit, juices, breads, and roasted veggies. Pots of great coffee arrive at your table on silver trays along with a copy of the New York Times. It’s fantastic. I’ve always loved long breakfasts spent reading the paper and sipping coffee, so this was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

As great as the buffet is, it is mostly centered around eggs, bacon, cheese, and smoked salmon. So in an attempt to make the most of my breakfast experience, I brought my own instant oatmeal. It’s a go-to vegan travel tip of mine that really comes in handy when traveling abroad. I know it feels a bit odd, but the hotel was fine with it and kindly brought me a pot of hot water for my oats every morning. From the buffet I added bananas, fresh berries, walnuts, and raisins and it made for an incredibly filling breakfast (especially since I usually paired it with a bowl of fresh melon and a glass of juice) which gave me lots of energy to explore Capri.

2. Veggie Pasta at Al Capri

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This was our last meal in Capri, but let me tell you, we went out with a bang. Al Capri is a  beautiful restaurant that overlooks gigantic cliffs and the Mediterranean Sea, so after a long day of sailing around the island, we got a cozy table by the window and indulged in this spicy veggie pasta.

It’s not on the menu, but I asked the waiter to make me spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce and vegetables and this arrived at our table a few minutes later. Part of what makes the pasta so great in Italy is that they really understand the importance of al dente. Turns out, I’ve been overcooking spaghetti for years, but never again after realizing the satisfaction that comes from biting into a perfectly cooked fork-full of spaghetti. This one was a little too spicy, but to be fair I asked for it “spiiiicy,” so that’s what I got. It was still delicious and really, the perfect way to end our stay in Capri.

1.Brocoli Spaghetti at Rendevous at Grand Hotel Quisisana

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This may not look special (or terribly large…) but it.was.epic. I asked the server to vegan-ize the dish for me by omitting the dairy that usually comes in the sauce, and out came this glorious bowl of goodness. Broccoli, good olive oil, and I imagine a lot of garlic, created a sauce that coated each noodle in the same way pesto does. It was lemony, with a good amount of herbs, sea salt, and black pepper. Again, the pasta was cooked to al dente perfection and though the flavors were simple, it was so decadent.

For more of my trip to Italy, watch the travel vlog below and stay tuned to this blog for more vegan in Italy travel tips and pictures of my adventure in Rome!


 

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Recipe: Chipotle-style Burrito Bowl

Chipotle’s burrito bowls are one of the few foods I’m down for anytime of year (or, more accurately, any time of day.) I absolutely love having one while sitting outside in the summer sun but found them equally comforting and delicious on snowy winter days in Brooklyn. I’d eat them for a quick, somewhat healthy lunch when I just needed something fast and filling to get me through a  busy day, and I used to get one on my way home from grocery shopping at the Union Square Trader Joes as Chipotle is located across the street. There is something so nice about knowing that after trekking all the way home after a long day with heavy bags and no energy left to cook, dinner would be ready, and better, dinner would be delicious.

While I think Chipotle is relatively healthy compared to most fast food restaurants, I have found it’s pretty easy to make a DIY version of their famous burrito bowl that is even healthier than the original. And since I have recently adopted a mostly plant-based diet, I’ve been making a vegan version that is loaded with nutrients like fiber, protein, iron, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fat but most importantly, it still tastes amazing.

Cilantro Lime Rice

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1 cup short grain brown rice
2 cups water
half of a lemon
half of a lime
1 handful of fresh cilantro
salt
pepper

Note: White rice can be used,  but brown rice offers a few extra health benefits so I typically opt for brown. I like the texture of short grain, but any variety will do.

Cook the rice until all of the water is completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork and add lemon juice, lime juice, chopped cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Note: If you want it to taste more like Chipotle’s rice a tablespoon or two of olive oil should also be added.I left it out this time, but either way is good.

Corn Salsa (aka my favorite thing at Chipotle)

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1.5 cups yellow corn
half of a small red onion, finely diced
a large handful of cilantro, stems removed and chopped
one lime
half of a lemon
salt and pepper
(Optional) diced red or green jalapeño
(optional) 1 tbsp olive oil

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Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. I recommend making this ahead of time and storing it in the fridge so the flavors can marinate. Also, a tablespoon of olive oil makes this a bit more like the original version.

Note: This is something you can make a lot of and keep in the fridge for up to a week. It’s delicious in the recipe, but I also like adding it salads or as a side dish, and even eat it on it’s own with a few cherry tomatoes and avocado for a light lunch.

Spicy Black Beans

In the video I made a portion that serves 2-3 people, but like the corn salsa, I make a lot so I can keep it in the fridge. Here are the proportions I use.

2 cans organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jar mild or medium salsa
2-3 teaspoons of hot sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
(sometimes I add lime juice but everything else in this recipe has lime so I left it out this time)

Combine beans, salsa, and garlic powder in a saucepan and cook over medium heat. Gently mash until half of the mixture is mashed and leave the remaining beans whole for texture.

Cook until warmed through and serve.

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Vegetarian Serving suggestions:

  • Cheese and sour cream are nice additions to this recipe. If you’re vegan, nutritional yeast offers a similar cheesy flavor. I occasional use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream because it has a bit more protein.
  • Also sautéed bell peppers and onion seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder are great in this. I left them out because I’m allergic to bell peppers but if you like them, add them! They’re good and good for you 🙂
  • Mash avocado into guacamole by adding salt, pepper, lime, and cilantro instead of slices of avocado.
  • I love serving burrito bowls with tortilla chips and margaritas too!

Like this Jalapeño Watermelon Margarita! Click the picture for the recipe.

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Watch how I made this Chipotle-style Burrito Bowl here:

Hope you guys enjoy! Send me a pic of your burrito bowls with #MissVranHalen so I can see 🙂

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Georgetown Cupcakes, Worth the Hype?

This classic chocolate ganache cupcake is a chocolate lover's dream.
This classic chocolate cupcake is a chocolate lover’s dream.

Let’s put it this way,  I’ve had a lot of cupcakes. What began with trendy bakeries–Sprinkles, Crumbs, and Magnolia eventually made it’s way to some of NYC’s unsuspecting but out-of-this-world corner bakeries. From classic red velvets to cheesecake filled, cupcake-brownie hybrids, I have mentally catalogued the various tastes, textures, and toppings of every cupcake I’ve encountered (and by mentally catalogued, I mean Tweeted about.) Because of this, I have earned the (totally legit, not at all self awarded) title of Cupcake Expert.

As a cupcake expert, I feel it is my duty to sample as many cupcakes as I possibly can, in every city I visit (somebody’s gotta do it. le sigh.) Subsequently, my “job” required that I try one of the trendiest bakeries in DC, Georgetown Cupcakes, this past September and again whilst visiting Bethesda last weekend. Continue reading