My parents and I decided to go for a special vegetarian restaurant outing (since I’ve got a 20% off discount for October Vegetarian month from being involved in a NZ Animal Rights organization). We settled with once again The Lotus Heart Cafe where European servers wear saris. Previous post here http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/delicious-vegetarianvegan-restaurant-outing-mate-tea-review/
This was my option of vegan pizza $14 – small with vegan cheese ($2 addition)
Red pepper pesto, roast vegetables, caramelized onion and brie pizza
I’ve never had non-homemade vegan cheese before, so this pizza was an interesting menu choice for me.
(I also had a ‘cheese-less’ pizza craving. Although cheese – apart from the crispy base and tomato paste – is the fundamental component of the traditional pizza, I never really enjoyed pizza because of the copious amount of melty mozzarella on top)
I wasn’t going to order with the addition of vegan cheese, because to me cheese = excessive calories but my mum egged me on, so I decided to give vegan cheese a try.
Later, I asked the waitress what the cheese was made of, and her answer was: she wasn’t sure what the exact ingredients were because they’d ‘ordered’ it (I doubt they haven’t checked the ingredients list) BUT the main component was “PEA PROTEIN” (Keywords)
This was great news for me! A dairy-free, high-protein paste! Sounds perfect!
PEA PROTEIN VEGAN CHEESE
The taste – quite sweet, a bit savoury – tastes similar to cashew cheese i.e. the ones I make http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/yummy-and-super-easy-vegan-cheese-recipe-cashew-nuts/
A bit like peanut butter with tomato paste .
The texture – It seems to have melted with heat, but underneath the surface it was very fluid.
SUMMARY – The taste is great (a tad sweet to be called cheese though) nevertheless will make a very addictive household spread i.e. as commercial substitute for cheese spreads. I could eat a whole bottle of it!
Pea-protein cheese shouldn’t be too hard to make.
1. Just purchase a sachet of unflavoured pea protein powder i.e. clean lean protein.
2. Mix with nutritional yeast flakes (for easy-to-achieve cheese flavour)
3. Add a bit of water i.e. 3-4 tbsp.
4. You should now get a vegan cheese paste. I don’t know what they put in to obtain the melted cheese appearance though.
OR you can sweeten whilst at the same time thicken up the cheese with some sort of syrup i.e. agave or golden, or honey for non-vegans. Add some ketchup? The cheese tasted a bit of tomato paste…
ABOUT THE PIZZA
A bit disappointing in terms of the ‘roast vegetables and caramelized onion’ overstatement; I’d expected a colourful assortment of pepper, carrots, courgette, aubergine, sweet potatoes etc. all I got were 12 tiny yam pieces. *Yams and sweet potatoes difference?? Yams a type of sweet potato?
The entire pizza tasted too sweet to be called pizza (You’d expect savoury + crispy) It was as if the chef making the pizza had mistaken ketchup for tomato paste. *They take turns serving and working in the kitchen at this restaurant…
But most importantly…
THEY DIDN’T USE FRESH PIZZA BREAD.
I was disappointed they don’t make their own pizza base from scratch, since this dish makes up such a large portion of their menu.
The taste – Really delicious nevertheless! (I’m into sweet/savoury cross foods i.e. anything with ketchup, sweet chili sauce). Loved the peanut-buttery taste of the vegan cheese!
Onto my mother’s option..
She’s been very healthy in ordering chef’s salad for nearly all her meals at The Lotus Heart Cafe.
But don’t be fooled by the word salad… I’d say my mum’s dish would have roughly equal amounts of calories to mine (more of my nutritional rant on this later)
Chef’s salad – Middle Eastern Quinoa Kibbeh
Organic quinoa, roasted eggplant, tomato, halloumi, red onion, cashews, parsley and mixed spices on a bed of organic rocket and baby spinach
(Totally pushing the ‘organic’ label)
The taste – kind of bland. Quinoa provides that grainy yet chewy texture and slight sweet taste (still sad about my quinoa sprouting fail… can never look at quinoa the same http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/quinoa-sprouting-day-3-fail-and-cooking-kale-shoots-with-zero-calorie-noodles/), roasted eggplants were slightly oily and sweet. Chewy and yum. Overall, the dish was what I’d call a rather under seasoned healthy and hearty salad.
So what supports my claim that the SALAD has roughly the same amount of calories as my PIZZA?
Chef’s salad – 1 cup of quinoa (in fact there seemed to have been more than one cup) = 120 cal, 2 tsp olive oil (I suspect they may have used even more in roasting the eggplants, or just drizzling over the quinoa + from, tossing everything together) = 80 cal, a handful of cashew nuts = 157 cal, the veggies don’t count.
In total = 357 calories.
Pizza – 1 pita bread = roughly 165 cal, vegan cheese = roughly 100 cal (1 sachet is around 80 cal, don’t know what else they have in the cheese), the yams don’t count ’cause there was so little, all the sugar in the pastes + caramelized onions = around 48 cal?
In total = 313 calories.
As you can see, salads may not always be the lowest calorie option at restaurants or fast food chains, especially when doused in a creamy or oily dressing. But healthy and low-calorie are completely different entities.
Salads are one of the most unrefined meals you can get at restaurants i.e. fresh veggies simply tossed in a bit of dressing, the amount of calories from my mum’s salad came mostly from super healthy grains (well, they’re technically not grains but what you call “goosefoot”) a source of complex carbohydrate, and one of the best source of essential fats out there; olive oil. And also the cashew nuts *More rants about the ‘overly exaggerated calories of nuts’ to come! (excited to write about this)
While my meal – although lower in calories – contained refined carbohydrate like white pita bread (just look back at how stark white and seemingly un-complex it is *hint of criticism about the lack of browned crispiness) which quickly raises the blood-glucose level, is quickly digested by the body while offering a little nutritional value, plus processed protein powder, tomato paste and very sweet flavorings.
So despite being higher in calories, my mum’s option would be better for your wasteline/health on the long run.
In summary, if you want to choose the healthier, low-calorie options at restaurants, salads would still be a good option. Just pick the dressing with minimal dairy, sugar and vegetable oil i.e. olive oil (fat still needed for absorption of some nutrients in veggies i.e. calcium in baby spinach or fat-soluble vitamins E, A, K in various colourful vegetables) or vinaigrette (vinegar to boost metabolism) rather than a mayo-ey caesar salad.
My dad’s meal option
Curry Aloo Palak
Yam, spinach and potato in a cumin and coriander masala sauce. Served with basmati rice
*Aloo means potatoes for those few who hadn’t known.
The taste – What I adored about this curry is the minimal amount of oil they used in cooking it (and it was dairy/coconut milk free). Possibly one of the lightest Indian curries I’ve ever had. You can clearly taste the blended spinach in the curry which was to the salty side. The cumin and coriander flavours definitely came through.
My dad’s critque – Said he’s had a fair share of Indian curry from authentic to commercial and he believed the curry wasn’t TRULY Indian. That’s because they’d used a base of tomato paste for the curry and this, my dad said was more of a Western way of cooking.
I agree. The taste did reminded me a bit of casserole, but with less fat (i.e. butter, cream, coconut milk) and lighter, the better for me. It’s more refreshing this way.