NORWAY — The Taste of Eden Vegan Cafe offers up some interestingly healthy and fabulous food — for vegans and non-vegans alike. Their recipes might just inspire you to start the New Year by eating a little healthier.

The two owners of the cafe,which is located at 238 Main St., are Michael and Sonya Tardif. They offer a rotating menu of home-made, freshly cooked soups, casseroles and desserts for both dine-in and take-out. Their cooking incorporates substitutes of some sort for milk, eggs and meat — no animal products are used at all, but I doubt you’ll notice. “Most of our customers are actually not vegan, “Sonya said, “they just like our food.”

Open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., their most popular items include a tamale pie (a slightly Mexican casserole made with corn meal, corn, tomatoes, olives, peppers and onions), which also happens to be a gluten-free meal, and veggie burgers made from scratch. For under $5, the veggie burgers are popular enough with the lunch crowd to often sell out before the day is through. Most menu items cost $7 or less.

Michael explained, “What we do here at the Taste of Eden is a holistic approach — body, mind and soul.” One of their goals is to help make people well by way of food, he said, adding that “a whole-food, plant-based diet has been known to stop and reverse many ailments.” He said he has seen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, diverticulitis and fibromyalgia disappear when customers changed their eating habits. He likes to challenge people “to follow his diet for a 30-day test trial.”

“Grains, fruits, nuts, veggies and seeds — that’s all you need to be healthy,” he said. “And full,” he added.

Michael and Sonya both share in the cooking responsibilities for the restaurant. For sweeteners they use maple syrup, molasses and organic evaporated cane juice, which they find to be the healthiest sweetener because it goes through the least processing and has no chemicals. For $1.50, I sampled an oatmeal raisin cookie made with whole wheat. “Sweetened partly by evaporated cane and partly by orange juice,” Sonya said, “it is also low in oil and contains flax seed.”

They also do not use what they consider “harsh” spices, including red, black or white pepper, cinnamon, allspice or nutmeg, mostly because they can be irritants to the lining of the stomach. Instead, they focus on lots of herbs and use Bragg Liquid Aminos as a flavoring in many recipes.

Sonya is periodically available upon request for cooking classes for small groups of people interested in learning vegan ways. Her instruction usually includes how to make healthy mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard, whole grain breads and the veggie burger. She has also taught how to make a “nut cheese,” a dairy-free alternative to regular cheese.

Other items on the menu last week included a black bean burrito, an almond butter sandwich (made with their own almond butter, topped with fresh vegetables), a vegan BLT (using a vegetarian soy bacon), tomato rice soup and “Better than Beef” stew. The “beef” stew is made with homemade seitan (a protein-rich meat substitute, also known as “wheat meat” or “gluten meat”). Sonya explained it is made with gluten flour mixed with water, broken into small pieces. They are baked for roughly half an hour, and rise a little bit like traditional bread dough. Once baked, they are soaked in a flavored broth and added to the stew.

Need to feed a crowd? Most of their menu items are available by special order in a 9-by-12-inch pan, and soups available by the gallon. All you’d need to do is make the salad!

Earlier this winter I ordered the Chick-in-Pot Pie, the Taste of Eden’s take on a chicken pot pie made with chick peas. Loved it! Now I need to try their Cheezy Macaroni, Carrot Loaf and Chick Pea Al Fredo. The vegan list goes on!

Recipes:

Tofu Chili

1 pound kidney beans (dry)

1.5 teaspoons oregano

1 chopped onion

1.5 teaspoons onion powder

1 chopped green pepper

1.5 teaspoons garlic powder

1 pound firm tofu that has been frozen

1.5 teaspoons cumin

1.5 teaspoons paprika

1.5 teaspoons basil

2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos

2 tablespoons molasses

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Sea salt

Soak beans overnight completely covered in water. Drain off water. Put beans in a large pot with all except last three ingredients. Cover with water and simmer until beans are soft. Then add remaining three ingredients, salt to taste, and cook about 10 more minutes. May cook down to desired thickness. May be served over brown rice, in a taco salad or in a bowl as a thick soup.

Cashew Pimento Cheez Sauce

1 cup raw cashews

1.5 teaspoons onion powder

2 cups water

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon sesame tahini (optional)

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/3 cup pimentos or roasted red pepper

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Blend all ingredients in a blender until cashews are smooth. Cook in a small sauce pan, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, until thickened. Add cooked macaroni to make Mac and Cheez, or add to cooked broccoli and rice to make a soup. Or just use whenever you need a cheese sauce.

Bean Stroganoff

8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms

1 chopped onion

1 clove minced garlic

2 cups cut green beans, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos

1/4 cup apple juice, or 1 tablespoon concentrate

1 teaspoon summer savory

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1 cup water

3 tablespoons tapioca flour

2 cups cooked kidney beans or 1 15-ounce can

3/4 cup soy sour cream (may use Tofutti brand, or  learn to make your own or buy some from Taste of Eden)

Saute first five ingredients until vegetables are tender. Add next four ingredients. Mix the flour and water then stir it in while still cooking to thicken. Last, add beans and soy sour cream. Serve over brown rice or brown rice noodles.


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