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Easy Vegetarian Empanadas

In Appetizers, Editorial, Englewood, Local Eats, meat substitutes, Recipe, Restaurant Experience on December 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm
Vegetarian Empanadas

Vegetarian Empanadas

I fell in love with Spanish food about 10 years ago.  Before then, my passion was Mexican food ranging from  simple tacos to enchiladas.  Some would say it was Tex-Mex but no it was really Mexican to the point I would hunt out authentic Mexican restaurants. Then one day, while walking down Palisade Avenue, I glimpsed into Fonda de Paisa , a Columbian restaurant.  Curious I went in and ordered their $6.00 special which was a meat, rice, beans or soup and salad with friend plantain   I was shocked that they were offering real knife and fork  food for less than a burger combo meal at the local fast food restaurants down the street.  Finally I had discovered a better alternative than eating fast food for lunch.  As I was checking out, I saw the empanadas and bought one for only$1.  For those of you who don’t know what an empanada is, they are a small turnovers that can be filled with beef, chicken or cheese  and usually deep fried.  In Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and places like Costa Rica and Panama they are call pastelillos often made with ground beef and raisins.  Being the person that I am, I decided to imitate a healthier version for vegetarians.  The following recipe is what I came up.


  • 1 Package of thawed  pre-made empanada skins (Goya)
  • 2 cups or re-hydrated TVP or frozen soy crumbles
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 package of taco seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons of  defrosted sofrito
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of Adobo (1/2 teaspoon if using frozen soy crumbles)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil for sauting
  • canola or vegetable oil for frying
  • Spanish green olives, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of water

*Empanda Skins are the turnover dough already colored and cut into circles and sold in packages of 10 by companies like Goya.

*Sofrito is a blend of cilantro, onion and garlic with spices that can be bought frozen in the Spanish section of your freezer department.

Preparing the Filling

  1. Warm saute oil in a medium frying pan
  2. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and saute for 2 minutes
  3. Mix in TVP or soy crumbles and heat thoroughly
  4. Season with taco seasoning and adobo, mix well
  5. Make a well in the filling mixture and spoon in sofrito and tomato paste
  6. Mix all ingredients together well in the pan, add 1/2 cup of water ( if it look dry, add another 1/2 cup)
  7. Stir in chopped olives and cover over medium-low heat for 10 minute
  8. Remove filling to cool for 15 minutes before filling the pastry

Preparing the Empanada

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  3. Take one empanada skin and fill 1 tablespoon of filling on one side of the circle
  4. Fold over the other half
  5. Crimp with fork
  6. Brush lightly with milk (soy milk for vegans)
  7. Bake for 10 -12 minutes until brown

Visit La Fonda de Paisa

95 West Palisade Avenue

Englewood, NJ 07631


taken by Louis M. on

taken by Louis M. on


Restaurant: Sushi Anyone?

In Editorial, Restaurant Experience on June 14, 2011 at 12:29 am

Most people don’t think vegetarian when they think Sushi, but sushi is not only raw fish.  If you are a Pescatarian, this may be your go to fast food.  I recently visited Food for Life Sushi and Deli Bar in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.  I was intrigued by their name; Food for Life sounds healthy doesn’t it?  Food for Life is half deli selling the usual variety of sandwiches and salads, half sushi bar serving both raw and cooked sushi. 

Food for Life

As I looked at their menu, I became indecisive because of the options available for vegetarians.  I was pleased to see cooked sushi as an option because a lot of sushi bars only serve fish raw. I don’t eat shellfish and the kitchen was willing to customize their usual rolls without shellfish upon request.  As much of a foodie as I am, I just can’t get my mind around raw fish for some reason. I have been known to try a piece  of  my friend’s tuna roll but do not really find the appeal in raw fish.  Smoked salmon on the other hand is a favorite of mine and they makea roll with it.  Even with my love for lox, I still opted to try an all vegetable roll for only $3.25. 

Most vegetable rolls range from $3.00 to $3.25.  If you want a Philadelphia roll which has smoked salmon and cream cheese, it is only $4.50. On my next visit, I want to try the AAA Roll which has asparagus, avocado and cucumber.  All rolls come in  8 pieces, with the usual condiments of pickled ginger (yum) and wasabi. 

Food for Life is a vegetarian friendly establishment . Not only are the sushi rolls vegetarian friendly, they also have sandwiches, Paninis and wraps too.  To take it over the top they sale fresh juiced carrot juice and smoothies that range from $2.95 to $4.95.  Some of their smoothies include:

  • Caribbean Passion: passion fruit, mango, strawberry, peach, fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Tropical Tango (vegan): banana, mango, strawberry, fresh squeezed orange juice

So next time you are in the neighborhood for fresh, inexpensive sushi or smoothie, check out Food for Life located at 801 Anderson Avenue which is off of Sylvan Avenue in Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07624.

Restaurant: Panera Bread

In Restaurant Experience on January 27, 2011 at 12:19 am

You know why I really like eating at Panera Bread?  I like Panera Bread because it is a vegetarian friendly, cafe style, eatery that provides quality goods and great service.  Really people?  I love Panera because it taste so good.  From the freshly made pastries to a great panini, if I could eat there everyday I probably would.  Unfortunately that quality comes with a price that only allows me to treat myself on pay-day. 

While sick with Bell’s Palsy, I introduced my mom to Panera for the first time.  My mom is a picky eater. Hardly is any restaurant up to her standards but she was willing to take my recommendation, especially because I was paying for it. My sister had always raved about their ice green tea, which I agree is very refreshing.  When she tasted her fresh sandwich with real meat and the creamy tomato soup, she realized why we love this place.  It is now a place where we can eat worry free. 

Remember I am not a vegetarian so finding a place for both Alvin and I to eat is always tricky. At Panera,  their vegetarian friendly menu offers a variety of dishes that allow me to eat meat while he eats what he likes.  He particularly enjoys the”Pick Two” option which let’s you pick  1/2 portions of 2 of their items which include soup, salad and any sandwich on the menu.  The sandwich option may not have much variety for a vegetarian but you can pick from 3 of the vegetarians soup which include the Creamy Tomato Soup, Black Bean Soup and the Garden Vegetable soup with Pesto.  You can pretty much have every salad, just tell them to hold the meat.  If you get the soup in a bowl, you will be filled by the end of the meal.

Trying to lose a few pounds?  Panera has adopted the public calorie count system which post how many calories are in each item on their menu and in their bakery.  Having this information made me change my choice from the Creamy Tomato soup to the Garden Vegetable soup which has 1/2 the calories.  I opted to have the dressing on the side of my Greek salad as another way to control my calorie intake.  Weight Watchers would be proud of my newly adopted conscious eating habits, definitely better than going to McDonalds.  A typical meal averages out at $7.50 but isn’t your health worth it? 

Don’t forget that Panera is open for breakfast too.  Unfortunately, it is too far from my house for me to enjoy but the bagels are great.  While you are there for your meal don’t forget to pick up a loaf of freshly baked bread.  We especially love the Honey Wheat loaf which I toast and top with Nutella. For more information, please visit Panera at

Restaurant: IMHOTEP’S

In Local Eats, New York, Restaurant Experience on November 28, 2010 at 12:59 am

 You probably are wondering why my restaurant reviews outside of NJ are in Brooklyn?  My in-laws live in Brooklyn, so I have become comfortable in that neck of the woods. 

“IMHOTEP’S” is a vegan restaurant and health food store with West Indian roots.  It is set up like Boston Market with the food already prepared, all you have to do is choose which meal you would like.  After speaking with the owner, I disclosed that “IMHOTEP’S” stands for “He Who Comes With Blessings.”

 So let’s rate IMHOTEP’S.

Appearance: misleading – it does not look like a restaurant.  The front of the establishment is a store which sells vegetarian products.  Prepared foods are served in the back.

Food: There is a variety of dishes.  The most interesting were the mock chicken drumsticks which were made of a soy product formed around a thin wooden rod.  The mock drumstick came fried or bbq’d.  Other dishes included a veggie chunk stew, rice and peas and stewed squash.  They also serve homemade vegan cakes.  The day I visited, they were serving carrot cake.  I love carrot cake, but not vegan carrot cake.  I always find it dry and this version was no different. I tried a few spoonfuls of the meal and gave the rest to Alvin, not to say that is wasn’t good it just wasn’t for me. 

Cost: affordable – I bought a complete meal for $8.00. 

Overall review:  An occassional vegetarian as myself may find this type of vegan fare daunting.  I think that I may have mentioned that I am not a lover of mock meats and they serve more than I like.  I prefer my vegetarian food to be light and fresh.  IMHOTEP’S serves comfort style food that sticks to the bones.  If you are a vegan…this is heaven.  If you are me…it is a new experience worth having.


734 Nostrand Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11216


Restaurant: Evergreen

In Englewood, Local Eats, Restaurant Experience on November 17, 2010 at 3:55 am

Most think that Greenline on Palisade Avenue in Englewood, NJ is the only place where a person can get fresh food fast.  Contrary to popular belief Evergreen has been offering fresh quality food in Englewood since 1995.  Evergreen’s logo is Fine Fresh Foods & Juice Bar.  I first learned of Evergreen while temping at a local communications company in 2000.  It wasn’t till visiting my favorite chocolatier, Matisse that I remembered this popular lunch spot.  Since then, everytime I want to treat myself to a $10 lunch, this is were I go.

What should vegetarians and meat-eaters order at Evergreen?  The roast vegetable foccacia with fresh Mozzarella cheese and Balsamic vinegar is the best vegetarian sandwich I have ever eaten.  For $6.50 you can have a quality sandwich that will fill you up without a doubt.  The sandwich consist of roasted onions, peppers, mushrooms and eggplant drizzled with quality Balsamic vinegar.  For a while, I haven’t been enjoying lunch because my taste buds where tired of the same hum drum options, but this has changed my mind about lunch. 

There are many vegetarian options like the Pesto Grilled Vegetable Panini, Veggie Burgers, Hummus Pitawich and of course salads.  I want to say that the next time I go to Evergreen I will try one of the other vegetarian options available to me, but just thinking about that sandwich makes me want one. The Capri which is a focaccia sandwich made with homemade Mozzarella cheese, house marinated sun dried tomatoes and fresh basil leaves with Balsamic vinagrette does sound tempting; it all depends on how I feel.

The other aspect of Evergreen that I am ready to try is the juice bar. They can boast that they are the only juice bar in Englewood.  They offer everything from organic wheat grass shots to strawberry and banana smoothies.  The drinks range from $2 for a fresh homeade lemonade to $6 for “Totally Green” (a combination of green apples, spinach, celery and cucumber juice).  Evergreen is more than sandwiches and salads they offer homemade Mozzarella cheese, sesame noodles and fruit salads.  They alsooffer catering packages for your next office party or get together. 

Evergreen is located at 260 Grand Avenue, Englewood, NJ and for more information visit them online at

Restaurant: Tapas as Carino

In Local Eats, New York, Restaurant Experience on October 18, 2010 at 4:14 am

Carino of Brooklyn is a cozy eatery off the beaten track.  As you enter, it is not hard to imagine yourself taking a siesta in Spain because the atmosphere is so relaxed.  The service greets you with a smile and helps to explain the menu.  The menu is a Mexican based but familiar to the average foodie and vegetarian friendly.  Since the lunch service is mostly tapas, it is a great experience for a bunch of friends.  Sharing is encouraged, so don’t worry about if you don’t like it, chances are someone at the table will. 

The only salad on the lunch menu is the Carino salad made of carrots, celery, jicama, beets and baby spinach dressed with a jalapeño dressing topped with smoky pumpkin seeds.  The salad is so pretty, you feel bad destroying it.  Trust me this salad will be destroyed! The dressing isn’t overly spicy and the smoky pumpkins seeds add an interesting note of flavor which confuses your taste buds. 

Small plates include Picaditas which are tortillas topped with salsa verde and a Mexican cheese similar to queso blanco. These are not tortillas as you know it; they are crunchy outside with a smooth and creamy inside.  If all your friends are not vegetarian, they offer Taquitos Dorados which come in potato or chicken.  The prices range from $4 to $10 for each dish. 

Oh don’t forget to try the Elote which is grilled corn on the cob rubbed with butter and rolled in chili powder.  Can you say YUM?  While you are there, don’t drink the same old thing; try their imported Mexican soda or their fresh juices. 

As for dessert, ask the waiter what is available because not everything on the menu is prepared for the lunch service.  By the time the meal is over, the small plates make you feel like you ate a great plate.  Tapas are a great lunch break from homemade salads and vegetarian frozen meals.

Vegetarian Friendly: Teaneck ,NJ

In Editorial, Local Eats, Restaurant Experience on October 1, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I always brag about how vegetarian friendly Englewood, NJ is.  I guess it must be contagious because the neighboring town of Teaneck offers vegetarians a variety of great places to eat.

Meat Substitute King

 My Veggie Heaven is located right on Cedar Lane, the main shopping street of Teaneck, but they have a location in Montclair, NJ too.  Vegetarians can choose from tofu to mock shrimp at this place.  Veggie Heaven is the king of meat substitutes.  The first time I went to this restaurant, I ate a plate of mock fish, lobster and shrimp in a garlic sauce over brown rice.  I am still not a fan of  brown rice but I was pleased with the meat substitutes.  As a person who is not a vegetarian, I would suggest Veggie Heaven because it looks like meat but is a lot healthier.  The prices are moderate, you definetly need a few bucks to eat here.  I do not suggest the vegetable rice, it lacks flavor and a variety of vegetables.  When you order here, order things you wouldn’t make at home.

Indian Cuisine

As a lover of international eats, I have to suggest Taj Palace which offers Indian cuisine.  It is public knowledge that Indian cuisine is vegetarian friendly because of their Buddhist beliefs.  According to everyone I know who has eaten there, they would refer it to their friends.  I have not had an opportunity to eat here, but definetely have it on my list of places to try.  

Kosher Vegetarian Eats


Shelly’s offers kosher vegetarian cuisine, which makes this place unique.  What is so great about Shelly’s is that you can order homestyle food to go.  When I am short on time to create dinner, I depend on Shelly’s and places like it to help me get dinner on the table quickly.  The prices are moderate, but the food is quality.  They offer fish on their menu which is great for pescatarians. One day I aim to eat in their dining area which reminds me of a 1950’s soda shop.

 A lot of the times when I go out with friends or my husband, it is out to eat.  I am always challenged to find places where both carnivores and herbivores can share a meal that they can both enjoy.  Over the last couple of years, I have had some real luck finding some great place to eat.  If you know of local eateries that are vegetarian or vegetarian friendly, please share in comments.

Restaurant Review: Blue Plate Special

In Englewood, Local Eats, Restaurant Experience on September 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Last week, my coworkers went out for lunch on Palisade Avenue in Englewood, NJ.  In previous articles, I have mentioned the abundance of vegetarian friendly restaurants in Englewood, NJ and today was no exception.  We chose to go to the franchise Blue Moon Cafe which offers Tex-Mex cuisine.  I went to lunch with a game plan of paying no more than $10 bucks for lunch.  I know you want to know if that is possible? Yes it is.

After looking over their lunch menu, I almost gave up on my budget of $10 but then there it was…the blue plate special. I was able to order a mixed vegetable enchilada with black beans and yellow rice.  The trick to eating at Blue Moon is not to fill up on the salsa and chips before the meal comes.  I love their salsa, it is not too heavy for the chips or too spicy my palette.  Most of the time when you go to a Tex-Mex restaurant you have to be weary if the sides because they can be cooked with lard or chicken stock but Blue Moon’s sides are vegetarian.  In my mixed vegetable enchilada, I expected onions and peppers but I was nicely surprised.  The enchilada had broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms with peppers and onions rolled in a flour tortilla topped with a nicely seasoned sauce and lovely melted cheese that I topped with salsa.  By the time I finished that meal, not having meat was not a concern.  Because the meal is so seasoned, I did not want a sugary drink, I drank water with lemon wedges which was free.  This meal cost me $8 and I contributed a $2 tip. 

Success, I was able to order a filling vegetarian meal for $8.  This just goes to say that a restaurant does not have to be vegetarian to feed a vegetarian.  As I always say, vegetarians always have more options when they eat international.  Blue Moon offers a good variety of  vegetarian alternatives that also include vegetarian chili.   I suggest ordering the sampler which allows  you try 2 or 3 dishes for $13 bucks. 

My Blue Moon is located at 21 East Palisade, Englewood, NJ.  For more locations and information please check out


In Englewood, Franchises, Local Eats, Restaurant Experience on September 13, 2010 at 5:57 am

Curious about Indian food?  Do you think that Indian food is all curries and heat?  I have a solution for your curiosity, Namaskaar.  Namaskaar is a well known Indian restaurant with locations in Soho and Englewood.  The Englewood location at 120 Grand Avenue offers a cozy atmosphere to try new dishes.  How is Namaskaar a solution?  Namaskaar offers a lunch buffet that lets you sample their curries, dahl, naan and rices.  Please keep in mind that the buffet is not only for vegetarians but is vegetarian friendly. The bonus is dessert which is included in your $10 buffet (please try their version of rice pudding).  Namaskaar is also convenient, you don’t have to eat there; the buffet is also to-go.  You can fill a small foil pan with all that will fill and a separate container with your dessert. 

If you can’t make it for lunch, there is always dinner.  I suggested that Alvin and I go out to dinner at Namaskaar for a date night and we were pleasantly surprised to see a section of the menu called “Vegetarian Dinners”.  I fell in love with their Coconut Cauliflower which is cauliflower in coconut sauce infused with Indian spices.  I loved it so much that I am working on a version for NOT JUST TOFU.  Alvin had Kofta Saag Masala, mixed vegetable dumplings cooked in a creamy spinach sauce.  I loved his dish but not as much as mine.    

What some of you may know or not know is that Indian food is very vegetarian friendly. A lot of their dishes are made from vegetables and peas and are not always curried.  Don’t assume that the food is always spicy; there are a multitude of flavors and textures involved in Indian cooking.  The major spice is in Indian cooking is garam masala which is the Indian version of seasoning salt without the salt.  If you add garam masala to your rice or lentils, you can introduce your taste buds to Indian flavors.  McCormick spices make garam masala widely available to the curious cook in the grocery aisle.  I purchased garam masala for myself and have made a multitude of dishes, similar to the channa masala found at  If you feel daring and don’t want to do the work, find a great restaurant near you and get to ordering.  It is nice to give yourself a break from the ordinary, visit Namaskaar for lunch, for dinner or just for dessert.

To find out more about Namaskaar, visit


Where Is This?

In Englewood, Local Eats, Restaurant Experience on August 24, 2010 at 1:25 am

Do You Know This Address? 

The building in the picture is known by a few herbivores and carnivores in the Englewood, NJ area.  It has been acknowledged in both the NY Times and the Bergen Record as a great place to eat.  Why? This little gem is “Best Dumplings” and has the greatest dumplings I have ever tasted.  I used to order my dumplings from the Chinese food restaurants but not anymore.  These Korean dumplings are light and full of flavor.  I recommend the vegetable dumplings that are filled with cabbage, carrots, scallions, lo mein noodles and are wrapped in dumpling wrappers that can be steamed or fried. 

Today I introduced my little dumpling spot to two of my coworkers who are dumpling eaters but have never had them from Best Dumplings.  I ordered my usual of 8 fried vegetable dumplings with ginger dipping sauce for $5.00.  One coworker ordered steamed kim chi dumplings and the other ordered dumpling soup but with chicken dumplings.  We shared and sampled each others’ dumplings and invited our other coworker who was intrigued by the aroma.  After she sampled the different dumplings, she too wanted to find Best Dumplings.  For the first time, I sampled kim chi dumplings and LOVE them!  They are a little spicy and full of flavor and worth every bit of the $6.00 she spent. 

My husband and I love Best Dumplings.  I have never regretted going into the restaurant that didn’t look like a restaurant.  If anything, I think that it is one or the best find in Englewood.  The costs are low; 8 pieces for $5.00 or 12 pieces for $7.00.  They also have freshly made frozen dumplings available for you to cook at home.  Besides the dumplings, I also like the buns which I never had before trying them at Best Dumplings.  Another product that I find necessary to have in my pantry is their Ginger Dipping Sauce made in house.  This stuff is not just for dumplings, I used it in stir fry, over home made lo mein and even vegetable egg rolls.  It is a little bit spicy but not to the point where you have to run to a glass of water.

You know a place is good when your non-vegetable eating 7-year-old tells you that he likes them.  Another sign of a good restaurant is when you see the police make it one of their spots.  I am telling you, try Best Dumplings, you will not be disappointed.  You may never eat a dumpling from the Chinese food restaurant again.

Best Dumplings located at 16 Humphrey Street, Englewood, NJ 07631

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