Review: Bake the Difference – Lisbon, Portugal

After returning from our awesome vacation to Portugal (see photos and what we did here), life has been hella busy, thus my patheticly infrequent posts of late. Hopefully I’ll find the time to get back up to speed soon!

In between life’s hecticness, I did manage to squeeze in some time to go through photos from our trip and wanted to share one of our favorite restaurants. It’s called Bake the Difference and it’s an entirely vegan restaurant in downtown Lisbon. It’s in a great location and the food is warm-in-your-tummy hometown-good.

Particularly the empanadas. They were off the hook! Not only was the filling tasty, but the best part was the crust. In all of our empanada-consuming years, we’ve only come across ones with a heavy, doughy crust and, don’t get me wrong, they too have been fantastic, but the light, melt-in-your-mouth crust of these were an awesome change. It’s not that it was thin or flaky, just light and delicious in a way that didn’t weigh you down. Alex could eat three or four of them in a sitting and still have room for another dish and a dessert!

The ones above were filled with red bell pepper, seitan, and coriander.

While this one was carrot leek. Again, all of them were delicious and at 1.50 Euros each you cannot beat the price!

Their salads were also good and a very welcome change from the desiccated, cardboard treats we’d been served by Air France the prior 24 hours. This particular salad was specially created by the owner for me. That was the other noteworthy thing about Bake the Difference is that the owner, waitstaff, and cooks, all of whom we interacted with, were such wonderful, friendly people. So wonderful, in fact, that I ended up leaving a 33% tip—they totally deserved it!

For dessert we had to try the salame de chocolate. Yes, that’s right CHOCOLATE SALAMI! It’s a traditional Portuguese dessert and is a gooey-chocolatey slab with bits of cookie crumbles mixed in, which resemble the white fat in salami. I know these photos don’t provide the best view of the entire slab, but you can kind of see the similarity, no?

I have big plans for chocolate salami and am going to try recreating it this weekend. I will definitely share how it turns out!

Bake the Difference also does amazing juices. We had a fantastic carrot-apple-ginger juice as well as fresh-squeezed orange juice.

As if the chocolate salami was not enough, we ordered more dessert—a chocolate cake with strawberry filling. And since I am dreadfully afflicted with an ice cream addiction and was dying to try the non-dairy ice creams of Portugal, I had to order a scoop of raspberry swirl on the side.

It was soy-based and had a super creamy consistency—very, very good. The cake, too, was amazing, but left Alex with an itchy mouth after discovering the frosting was topped with hazelnuts, not peanuts. D:

Vegan Portuguese Seafood Mushroom Dish

On another visit to Bake the Difference, we had this sauteed mushroom and garlic dish over rice. The owner explained that it’s based on a traditional Portuguese seafood dish, which was why we decided to give it a try even though neither of us are huge mushroom fans. The plate went back to the kitchen empty, which says a lot for a mushroom-hater (Alex) and a mushroom meh-er (me.)

On another occasion we tried the vegan hot dog, which was solid. A fairly standard veggie dog with a dazzling array of toppings.

On our last day in Lisbon I finally had my beloved plain Provamel soy yogurt. I absolutely adore this stuff—it’s tart and tangy just like plain yogurt should be and I look forward to having it every trip to Europe. It’s similar to Whole Soy Plain Unsweetened and Wildwood Plain Unsweetened found in the states as well as Plain Sojade, which is another brand found in Europe. They’re all amazing, yet slightly different.

Raspberry and French Vanilla Soy Ice Cream

Also, on our last day, I was forced to get a couple scoops of ice cream—this time French vanilla in additional to another scoop of raspberry swirl. And then I was, god forbid, forced to eat it all. Tragedy! 😛

Alex ordered a slice of carrot cake, which turned out to be a major bummer of a slice. Not because it wasn’t super delicious (because it was!), but rather because instead of making it with almonds like they usually do, that day it was made with walnuts. It took us awhile to figure out what exactly he was allergic to because, in addition to the unusual substitution of walnuts for almonds, the Portugese word for walnut (“noz”) is often used to refer to nuts in general and also appears in the word “noz-moscada” (nutmeg!), which the cake did contain. The scene somewhat resembled a Monty Python sketch! But the good thing is that his walnut allergy isn’t terribly severe and after taking a Claritin he was fine for the rest of the day.

Bake the Difference Lisbon Portugal

Here’s a shot of what it looks like when you enter. It’s such a cute little cafe and, I swear, it’s always busy—clearly a popular place in the neighborhood and, I’d imagine, a Lisbon attraction for vegan tourists like us.

Everyone at the restaurant was so apologetic about the nut mix-up. The cook, who happens to be from California, even came out of the kitchen to tell us how sorry he was (did I mention the people there are awesome? Because they are!) and that he wanted to give us a couple slices of chocolate salami for the road. And when delicious chocolate salami in a cute little to-go bag is being presented to us, how can we refuse?

Five stars all-around for the stellar food, service, atmosphere, and price at Bake the Difference!

Bake the Difference Lisbon Portugal

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Roasted Tempeh Cauliflower Quinoa

Roasted Tempeh Cauliflower Quinoa

The other weekend Alex had a potluck to attend. The last potluck he went to with this particular group of people, he brought along marinated tempeh at the request of several people who had never tried it before. Since it was so well received and devoured in minutes, he considered bringing it again but wanted to add something to turn it from a snack into a full dish, so he asked me for advice. This ever-so-tasty Roasted Tempeh Cauliflower Quinoa dish is what I came up with. The bowl came back empty with nothing but positive reviews so I’d say we can chalk this one up as a winner!

Roasted Tempeh Cauliflower Quinoa

Don’t be afraid of the seemingly long list of ingredients as it’s actually quite easy to put together. You first want to make your marinade for the tempeh by whisking all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.

While you’re making the marinade, steam the tempeh for 10 minutes. When it’s done, place it in a medium bowl or pan and while it’s still warm, pour the marinade over the tempeh. I find that when it’s steamed, it plumps up a bit and is able to absorb the marinade better than if you marinade it straight from the package.

Make sure to cover all of the cubes by stirring it a few times. Then chop your cauliflower into florets, meanwhile stirring the tempeh every few minutes so that the bottom ones get rotated to the top and there is an even distribution on each piece.

Then lay the tempeh on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and place in a preheated 375 degree oven.

Marinaded Tempeh

Place your florets in the same bowl you used for the tempeh, drizzle toasted sesame oil and sprinkle salt on them, and toss to combine it all. Place the cauliflower on a separate parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and place it in the oven along with the tempeh.

Measure and rinse your quinoa with cold water in a fine sieve and then add it and the water to a medium saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Red and White Quinoa

Chop the rest of your veggies. Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat, then add the onion and saute for 7 minutes. Add the carrot and saute for another 5 minutes. Finally, add the bell pepper, peas, and corn and saute for 4-5 more minutes.

After 15 minutes of roasting pull the tempeh and cauliflower out of the oven and turn them all over. Place back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Once the quinoa is done, your veggies are sauteed, and your tempeh and cauliflower roasted, whisk together the second marinade and pour it over the quinoa. Mix well and then add the sauteed veggies and cauliflower, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well again. Lastly, fold in the tempeh.

Roasted Tempeh Cauliflower Quinoa

Roasted Tempeh Cauliflower Quinoa

Ingredients

Marinated Tempeh

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 8-ounce package tempeh, cut into small cubes
 Quinoa
  • 3/4 cup white quinoa
  • 3/4 cup red quinoa
  • 3 cups water
Veggies
  • 1/2 small head cauliflower, broken into small florets
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 small yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed (I simply place them in a colander and run them under warm water for a minute)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Dressing
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Steam Tempeh: Cut the tempeh into small cubes. About 1/8 inch square. Place it in a steamer and steam for 10 minutes.

Whisk Marinade: Meanwhile, measure and place the water, soy sauce, extra virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, and paprika in a small bowl and whisk together.

Marinate Tempeh: When the tempeh is done, place it in a medium bowl and pour the marinade over it. Make sure to toss a few times so that every piece is coated. Empty the bowl of tempeh onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet.

Cauliflower: Chop your cauliflower into small florets and place them in the same bowl the tempeh was in. Drizzle about a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and sprinkle salt on top of the cauliflower. Toss to evenly coat all of the florets then place on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet.

Roasting: Place both the tempeh and cauliflower in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes stirring and turning over halfway through.

Quinoa: While the tempeh and cauliflower are roasting, thoroughly rinse the quinoa in a fine sieve and then add it to a medium saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer and then cook until all of the water is absorbed—about 15 minutes.

Saute Veggies: Chop your onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 7 minutes. Add the carrot and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, peas and corn and saute for another 4-5 minutes.

Put it All Together: Whisk the ingredients of the second marinade and drizzle it over the quinoa. Stir thoroughly so that the marinade is well incorporated. Add in the sauteed veggies, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir so that everything is well combined. Lastly, add the tempeh and gently fold it into the dish.

Roasted Tempeh Cauliflower Quinoa

Weekend Trip to LA and My First Bar Mitzvah

I feel so terrible for neglecting this blog over the past couple weeks, but it’s been impossible to post since Alex and I have been off on an epic Shanghaied adventure on the other side of the world! We’ve been having an amazing time and I have a lot to talk about regarding all of the tasty vegan food we’ve had here when I get back. But for now, I wanted to post about our trip to LA that happened right before we left the country. I had written this the day before we left, but just realized that I had forgotten to post it. Ugh!! So here it goes…

Alex and Luis Veggie Grill

This past weekend we took a little road trip to SoCal to attend a Bar Mitzvah. This also happens to have been my first Bar Mitzvah ceremony so I was curious to see what it all entailed.

We started the drive Thursday after work, stayed the night in San Luis Obispo, and then continued on Friday morning to meet our friends, Luis and Anna, for lunch in Irvine.

Alex met Luis years ago at the Game Developers Conference where they discovered that they had not just video games in common, but also veganism, anarchism, punk rock, and comics. At the time, Luis was living in Boston, but soon after got a great gig working at Blizzard on World of Warcraft in Irvine and has been living there ever since, which has been super convenient for weekend visits with him and his family 🙂

Anna and Lucia Veggie Grill Irving

Anna and Luis have two girls, Lydia, who was at school and Lucia, the adorableness you see pictured here. We ate at Veggie Grill, which is an awesome vegan fast food restaurant chain in SoCal. Boo on me for not taking any photos of our delicious food, but at least I didn’t forget to take some of our friends.

Aaron Toast

After lunch we drove to LA, checked into a hotel, and headed to Ruth and Aaron’s house for a shabbat dinner in celebration of their son Isaac’s upcoming Bar Mitzvah. It also happened to be Isaac’s grandfather’s 80th birthday so there was much toasting to his major life milestone as well.

Birthday Toast

A shaker was passed around the room giving everyone an opportunity to say something about the birthday boy.

And then there was much singing, which was very lovely considering the room was full of talented voices, such as the lady below who happens to be the adult singing voice for Nala in the Lion King.

Isaac's Shabbat Dinner

The next morning we got ready and headed to the Bar Mitzvah that began at 10am. As I mentioned before, this was my first Mitzvah (Bar or Bat) and I’m pretty sure everyone who participated set a really high bar for any future Bar Mitzvah’s I attend. Isaac gave a very thoughtful, funny, and wise-beyond-a-13-year-old speech which made sense when it was time for his parents to speak because they both gave very beautiful, eloquent, and humorous speeches about her outstanding son. Aaron is a comedic writer and his words provide the world with many weekly laughs on the television show, The Office, so I suppose I should have expected he’d provided us all with some good laughs.

Mary Pat and Christina Bar Mitzvah

After the ceremony Ruth and Aaron hosted a reception with lots of great vegetarian food since Isaac himself has been vegetarian of his own volition since the age of six. See what I’m talking about? This kid is wise!

Christina and Ruth Bar Mitzvah

They had a klezmer band play through the entire lunch, which was so much fun and impossible not to dance to.

Aaron and Sylvie Dancing

The last dance of the afternoon was saved for Aaron and his daughter, Sylvie.

Aaron and Sylvie Dancing

After saying our goodbye’s we drove to the Century City mall in Westwood as I needed to stop by an Aveda store to stock up while my birthday discount was still active. I had to photograph the parking garage as I’d never seen this before and perhaps it only needs to exist in the land of cars that is LA. The screen told you how many open spaces were available in each direction and above each parking spot was a light indicating whether it was taken or available so that you could quickly glance down the entire lane and know whether it was worth your time to drive down it or not. In theory this is a great idea, however, I didn’t find a single stall marked green where it was actually free—a few bum sensors or a broken system? I didn’t spend enough time investigating to figure it out.

Century City Parking Garage

Then it was on to visit my eccentric aunt Edith who lives near the UCLA campus in Westwood. Every time we’ve gone to visit her “for dinner” she stashes $50 in our pockets, send us off to eat dinner without her, and then meets back up after we’ve eaten. So Alex and I enjoyed a delicious meal together sans Edith at Native Foods.

I had the Moroccan Bowl and added some red beans on top. It was made with quinoa instead of the usual couscous, sauteed veggies, slivered almonds, currants, and a very flavorful sauce topped with tofu skewers. Soooo good!

Moroccan Bowl Native Foods

Alex had the Oklahoma Burger which had sliced “chicken”, tempeh bacon and cheese topped with deep fried pickles and sweet potato fries on the side. This was also phenomenal!

Native Foods LA Oklahoma Burger

I wish I had taken more pictures of the inside because the restaurant had such a nice feel to it. The hanging lights give you somewhat of an idea as the overall modern, yet rustic decor.

Lights at Native Foods

After satiating ourselves we met back up with Edith and took a walk around Westwood. I wanted to mark the occasion with some photos and at first she resisted taking any because she’s a “71-year-old hag” (her words, not mine) and was wearing an unflattering sweatshirt (again, her words, not mine.)

Christina and Edith Westwood

Eventually she warmed up to the idea and even gave us a wide open smile.

Christina and Edith Westwood

Despite being such a short trip, it was action-packed and heaps of fun!