One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

How to Make A Vegan Part 4: The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Chocies Matter

Peter Singer might be a controversial figure within the AR movement but there is one thing for sure, Peter Singer (along with co-author Jim Mason) solidified my position as a life-long vegan. Vegan Freak's helped me realize that being vegan was more than just an extremely healthy choice but an ethical one as well. The Way We Eat made veganism more than about just being good for my health, but good for the earth, animals and the globe. Arden's Garden laid the foundation, PPK gave me the materials to build the house, Vegan Freak built the house and The Way We Eat put a roof on it .

Peter and Jim delve into the kitchens of 3 families. A family eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), The "conscientious" omnivore and a vegan family. They spend a day in the life of each family, delve into their shopping baskets and then even farther to where exactly the food comes from that each family buys. It's an incredibly insightful look into how our food choices affect a large global conscientious and how the little things we do each day have such a big effect. More importantly it empowers the reader to know exactly where their food comes from and what all the labels and claims such as "all natural" and "free range" really mean.

At the end of the book it became clear to me that being vegan was more than just a healthy or ethical choice but a vote that I am making to corporations, elected officials, and so on about what I do and don't like and what I will and won't accept. I've sworn off a lot of companies that pose an ethical dilemma for me and do my best to support local, organic, ethical and vegan companies and individuals whenever possible.

The Way We Eat by Peter Singer and Jim Mason is a must read for anyone who eats, it's even on audiobook if you don't have time to read it.

And that, my friends. Is HOW TO MAKE A VEGAN!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How to Make A Vegan Part 3: Vegan Freak

I’m a happy healthy vegan, running around the streets of Atlanta in my happy little vegan bubble. Then come the nay-sayers, the vegan haters, the meat lovers (you would think these people were having a torrid affair with meat and cheese or something), and I just wanted to scream.

One day, in the middle of one of my “I hate omni’s” moods while looking up some vegan cookbooks I came across Vegan Freak by Bob & Jenna Torres. The book summary made it seem like an all encompassing guide on how to maintain sanity in a non-vegan world. The books is that and more. I became a vegan for health reasons and although I was always taught that animal cruelty was wrong I never really thought of it in terms of the animals that are raised for human consumption. Vegan Freak made the connection for me. How could I be completely and totally against animal cruelty and at the same time support, in anyway, the factory farming industry? I couldn’t, and from the day I turned the last page of this book I was not only a vegan but an ethical vegan.

Bob & Jenna also take a realistic view of everyday vegan issues. They anticipate the questions of a new vegan and pretty much cover the majority of them. My big question was, “What do I do with all this leather stuff I have, including my couches, loveseats, etc.?” Bob & Jenna already had the answer. Transition slowly and when you can. So when I say I’m vegan and the vegan police do their “leather scan” I’m no longer afraid (mostly because I’m probably wearing pleather).

My favorite parts of the book: Perfection & the Vegan Police, Speciesism, and basically all of Chapter 3 (titled “Hell is Other People”)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How to Make A Vegan Part 2: The & Vegan with A Vengeance

So now I’m a vegan. I became a member of the local vegetarian co-op and I suddenly realized there is a whole vegan hot bar at Wholefoods (I have since realized this is not the case everywhere). I start to veganize all my favorite recipes and then I run into a little snag. What do I use instead of eggs? Isa to the rescue! On the (that’s post punk kitchen for you newbie’s) I found answers to that question and then some, and there forum’s are sooooo helpful! It seems like they are just full of people waiting to talk about whatever is going on in your vegan brain. So, of course, after practically printing out every page of the website I had to get Vegan with a Vengeance, which should basically be handed to every new vegan. It wasn’t my first vegan cookbook but it was the first vegan cookbook I actually cooked out of (I tend to be a bit of cookbook collector). I knew that Isa and I must be a match made in heaven when her carrot raisin muffin recipe almost mirrored my own. My all time favorite recipe of Isa’s is her Mango Ginger Tofu.

It’s definitely a recipe for people who love to cook, it has a lot of moving parts but it also was my confirmation that vegan food is good food not just tofu in a box. I’ve subsequently bought all of Isa’s books and still lean on her forum’s for support when I need it (ok, I’m on them everyday, I’m addicted!)

You can also watch her show, The Post Punk Kitchen on the website or from Isa’s myspace page. Other highlights of the PPK are: vegan ice cream (ridiculously easy), vegan sushi, and of course there’s a blog on the PPK too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How to Make A Vegan Part 1: Arden’s Garden

This is where it really all began in a little juice & smoothie shop in East Point, GA. There was a sign hanging in the window for fasting classes with Arden Zinn the namesake of Arden’s Garden. Arden’s fasting classes came highly recommended to me and so I thought “why not, I’ll give it a try”, never knowing the experience would change my life.

July 8th, the night before my first fasting class. I had no idea what to prepare for. I thought I’d be starving for the next 21 days. One thing I knew for certain was that I wouldn’t taste my beloved cheese for almost a month. So my last meal that night was Cheese Enchiladas, my all time favorite dish. The next morning I met with Arden and 2 other eager soon-to-be-fasters.

After I told Arden that my last meal was Cheese Enchiladas she said this “Milk is not for humans. Cow Milk is to grow calves into 2,000 pound cows.” I don’t know what it was about her statement but it immediately resonated with me. After 21 days of juice and raw foods fasting with Arden my allergies to mold, cats and dogs disappeared, it was so unbelievable that I had it confirmed by an allergist by skin allergy testing to be sure they were really gone. All my life I suffered with allergies to a variety things and I had been on every allergy medication every made. My allergist shared with me that he believed my recovery from my allergies was because I’d cleansed my body of dairy products, which can throw off the immune system creating allergic responses to seemingly normal things around us. That solidified my decision, I was now a vegan.

Arden’s Garden is a local fresh juices and smoothie shop with 5 locations throughout the Atlanta area. All their juices are made from freshly pressed fruits and vegetables and their smoothies are all natural just fresh fruit juice and your choice of fruit. Learn more at

I thank you Arden for being a powerful mentor, friend and guide to my journey for better health and the best quality of life available to us all!

How to make a vegan…

I became a vegetarian for no good reason really. I just started eliminating meat slowly but surely (and by slowly I mean once every 6 or 7 years) and then one day I woke up and I was a vegetarian. I became a vegan, and have remained a vegan, for very purposeful reasons. I didn’t do it on my own (and I don’t know if I ever would have, but let my mother tell it she knew I would be a vegan all along). I had a great mentor, read some incredible books, tried some amazing recipes in equally amazing cookbooks, and had (and still have) an extremely supportive family, even if they do think I’m crazy sometimes.

My next 4 blogs will be homage’s to all the things that have made me into the happy and healthy vegan I am today.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Let's go milk an Oat!

When you first go vegan everything is soy. Soy milk, soy yogurt, soy ice cream, soy chicken, soy hot dogs, the list goes on forever. One day I looked up and I realized I was having something soy at nearly every meal. Variety is the spice of life and my diet definitely needed some spice.

Although I've found a ton of alternatives to soy out there I couldn't seem to find one that really worked well as a full time soy milk alternative. I tried almond milk which is WONDERFUL but it didn't have the protein content I was looking for. I tried hemp milk (and still keep my pantry stocked with it) but it's extremely high in sugar and the nutty flavor doesn't lend well to baking. Then Oat Milk went on sale at my co-op and I thought, why not?!

Who would've thunk it! Oat milk is amazing. Oats are actually a natural source of calcium and oat milk provides slightly more calcium than cow's milk without all the fat, cholesterol, puss and cruelty. The brand I've been using (Pacific Natural) has also been fortified with vitamin D and riboflavin. Oat milk works everywhere soy milk does including baking (which is where I usually use it). So take a pause from your soy or rice milk and try something new! It has protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin A, iron, vitamin D and a phenomenal taste.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Vegan Citus Sparerib Cutlets (Vegeusa)

I've been sitting at the computer for 5 minutes trying to figure out how to describe VegeUSA's Vegan Citrus Sparerib Cutlets. The problem is that every time I start thinking about them I want to start eating them, so I'm going to make this quick or I'll end up drooling all over my new computer.

These "spareribs" are 100% omnivore and herbivore approved (hence a perfect dish to introduce your omni friends to the wonderful of Vegan!). They have a sweet citrus flavor that is at the same time spicy. And the plum vinegar sauce...there just are no words. Not only that but the texture is perfect and it cooks very quickly on the stove top, the oven (or toaster oven) and microwave.

On the back of the box it says that this is VegeUSA's best selling dish, and there is no doubt in my mind why. The taste and texture are amazing and the ingredients are simple and uncomplicated with no high fructose corn syrup in sight. If you're grocery store or co-op doesn't carry these you need to demand them immediately.

If you happen to be in the area try Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe (672 Highland Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30312). They have this, the Black Pepper Steak (a little too close to the real thing for me), and Orange Chicken (not my favorite but will do in a pinch). Some Asian grocers will also carry this brand but make sure it's vegan, VegeUSA has a vegan and a vegetarian line.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Evolution Vegan Cat Food

Helen's Kitchen Tofu Steaks were so horrible that I had to quickly follow up my last blog with a happier blog. I am writing to you on behalf of my big happy 7 year old SPCA cat Johnathan. I would just like to add that even people who hate cats love my Jonathan.

But back to the subject at hand. About 6 months ago, after experiencing some of the most mind-numbing smells from his litter box, I decided that it was time that my cat go vegan. Jonathan pretty much eats anything so I knew it wouldn't be a difficult job switching him over. What I didn't anticipate was how much my dogs would love the food too. It's been fun trying to keep them away from his food. It's finally gotten to the point where they just sneak it when I'm not looking instead of just outright eating it in front of me.

Possibly the fact that Evolution Vegan Cat Food taste like cheese is the reason for the mass hysteria around the house amongst the animals. Whatever it is, my cat is in love with this food. The only downside to it is that I have to order it online from so I really have to stay on top of the amount of food that's left so I can order in time. (Just an FYI vegan essentials can usually get you what you need in about 2-3 business days so that should help you plan your ordering schedule).

According to Jonathan, Evolution is the best. I got really busy one week and didn't notice that the cat food supply was running dangerously low. I called around town to every health food store and finally one stocked a vegan cat food from this company called Wysong. Jonathan, who will literally eat anything, went on a hunger strike. He would not eat for days! At first I thought he was getting sick because he was losing weight so rapidly then one night I heard a rumbling in the kitchen and there was Jonathan. He ripped open the bag of Evolution Cat Food I just got in the mail that afternoon and was devouring it. Like lion on the Serengeti devouring it. I switched his food back to Evolution and he was a happy healthy eating machine from that day forward.

Here's the particulars. I get my cat food from It's available in 1lb bags for $2.95, 8 lbs for $22.95 and 40 lbs for $78.95. I know the prices seem steep but a little of this food goes a long way and it can be used wet or dry. also has it available a bit cheaper 8 lbs for $20.95 and 40lb for $69.95. It also comes in a gourmet pasta flavor. But after the Wysong fiasco I'm going to stick with the cheese.

Helen's HORRIBLE Kitchen Vegetarian Chicken Tofu Steaks

I knew this streak of good vegan vittles was bound to come to an end. Thanks to Helen's Kitchen Vegetarian Chicken Tofu Steaks it has.

I was wandering through the freezer section of my co-op and the picture on the box looked so delicious that I just had to try it. It's been sitting in my freezer waiting for that perfect moment when I was just too tired to cook and needed good food fast. Helen offers three different ways to cook these monstrosities. In the skillet, the grill or the microwave. My first turn off was that it says in bold letters do not cook in the toaster oven. I hate the microwave and didn't feel like dragging out the the indoor grill so the skillet was my last choice.

I can't imagine how this stuff would ever cook on a grill because the second I flipped it over it began to crumble. But, it still smelled fairly promising so i just pushed all the crumbles together and kept on cooking.

I was all ready for it. I was going to have a divine "chicken" sandwich. Spelt bread, sprouts, the whole nine. I took my hot crumbled tofu and tried to get it on the bread without it completely disintegrating. I took a bite and IMMEDIATELY spit it out. I think I also made some funny noises because even my cat raised an eyebrow at me. Honestly, plain uncooked tofu straight out the package would've been better than these chicken tofu steaks. There's no way you could dress these little nuggets of horror up to make them even kind of decent.

My recommendation: STAY AWAY! STAY FAR AWAY!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jessica Seinfeld's Aloha Chicken Kebabs - VEGANIZED

It seems like every house wife in America is a buzz about Jessica Seinfeld's new cookbook Deceptively Delicious. Celebrity cookbooks aren't really my thing and I've been spending so much time working on my own cookbook that I vowed to take a break from my cookbook buying addiction to just concentrate on my own recipes. But...bored in an airport I ran across this book, thumbed through it and realized that although it is a book for omni's a lot of the recipes can be easily veganized with just a little soy milk or seitan.

The recipe that first caught my eye is for Aloha Chicken Kebabs. I veganized the recipe easily with chicken flavored seitan. The recipe alone lacked that "aloha" flavor I was looking for so I created a sweet pineapple-sweet potato sauce out of the left over puree's I had. The combination is perfect. I also left out the kebab part of this recipe, it really wasn't necessary but if you happen to have some wooden skewers hanging around feel free to add them. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Veganized Aloha "Chicken" Kebabs
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1/4 cup pineapple puree
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 egg equivalent egg replacer ( i used Ener-g)
1 pound chicken flavored seitan (I used the recipe from La Dolce Vegan), cut into strips
1/4 cup canola/olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit)
In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the flaxseed meal. Set aside
In a second wide, shallow bowl, combine the sweet potato and pineapple purees, soy sauce, egg replacer and coconut. Stir to combine and set next to the breadcrumbs.
Dip the seitan into the puree mixture and then roll it in the bread crumbs until completely coated.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with oil.
Add the seitain in a single layer and brown for 3-4 minutes on each side. The breadcrumbs brown quickly so check often.
Remove seitan from the oil and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for an additional 20-30 minutes depending on desired texture.
Alicia's Pineapple-Sweet Potato Sauce
1/2 cup pineapple puree
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1 tablespoon shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup plain soy milk
In a blender or food processor add all ingredients except soy milk until completely combined.
Add soy milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
Either dip the aloha "chicken" into the sauce or drizzle a little sauce over each piece of "chicken"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Verdict On Cheezly

Let's just start with the bottom line. Cheezly is better than Sheese. If you're going to shell out over $7-8 for a faux cheese product I would choose Cheezly over Sheese hands down. Sheese has held the long time advantage of being available in more flavors in the U.S., but the fine folks over in Cheezlyland are starting to catch up. Currently Cheezly is available in mature white cheddar, mozzarella, garlic & herb, nacho and cheddar with faux bacon bits.

I taste tested Cheezly straight out of the package, in a loaded baked potato soup and in cheese enchiladas. By itself it was surprisingly good. The texture is perfect, it's not soggy or wet (like other meltable cheeses) and it is true to the flavor it represents. My omni friend even tried it more than once and he didn't go running for the hills so that's a good sign. In the other two recipes it was definitely good but, the flavor didn't really stand out. Frankly, this had more to do with the flavor of Cheezly I used (mature white cheddar) rather than the product itself. I really wish that the traditional cheddar flavors were available in the U.S. The white cheddar was delicious but it had a very subtle flavor that I wish was a bit more bold. But the white cheddar would go perfect for a panini or even mixed with other faux cheeses in a man & cheese dish or casserole. The mozzarella was dead on and perfect! I'm actually going to order some more and try my hand at making mozzarella sticks.

Not only are the flavors spot on but Cheezly melts like real cheese as well. If you've ever used Follow Your Heart brand melting cheese then I would use the same guidelines with Cheezly when baking - always bake at 450 degrees and give it a couple minutes under the broiler if it doesn't completely melt. In my loaded potato soup, it melted immediately but still left little pieces for me to get a burst of flavor as well, just like real cheese.

So if you're going to shell out $7-8 (plus shipping and handling) I would say go for Cheezly. If you're looking for a more bold cheddar flavor then you might want to stick to Sheese or even Follow Your Heart's cheddar flavor for now until Cheezly's version becomes available in the U.S. But if you know of anyone smuggling cheddar Cheezly across the pond let me know! :)

If you live in the Atlanta /Marietta area Cheezly is available at Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe and online at it is also available at Vegan Essentials.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Restaurant Review: Little Peking Fresno, CA

Growing up in Fresno, CA I always assumed it was one of the most boring places on Earth (which is a pretty fair assumption if you ask around). However, one thing that has never been boring about Fresno is the food. The rich land and agriculture lend to fresh, local and organic produce that is literally the best I've ever tasted. When I think of home I think of Mexican food and my favorite pizza parlors. Now, my second time coming back home as a vegan, I've realized there is more to Fresno than just my old standbys.

After doing some research on I discovered that there are a fair amount of restaurants and bakeries that cater to vegans in the area. Literally, the moment I got off the plane I asked my mom if we could go to Little Peking (7975 N. Cedar Ave, Fresno, CA) because I heard they had vegan orange chicken and I just had to try it (my exact words).

Walking into the restaurant I could tell my mother was a bit wary. It's a humble and simple restaurant with not too many frills. But what they lack in decor they fully make up for in food and service. The extensive vegetarian/vegan menu had over 30 options (some do contain eggs but the staff at Little Peking will help you identify what's what).

The food was extremely inexpensive (my orange chicken dish was only $5.95) and the taste was phenomenal! After having a bite of my veggie orange chicken my mother immediately lost interest in her real sesame chicken and we ended up ordering another veggie orange chicken to-go as well as a vegan version of the sesame chicken my mom had been eating earlier (they were also very flexible about letting us add more veggies instead of steamed rice to our meal at no additional charge).

Later on that night, my hardcore meat & potatoes father had a plate full of the veggie orange chicken and proclaimed it a success as well. So from one vegan and two life long omnivores it can be said, without a doubt, that Little Peking is a must try.

Sunday, October 28, 2007's General Tao's Tofu

Amazing! That's the first thing you should know about this recipe. There are so many vegan recipes on the web and they are not all great but this recipe for General Tao's Tofu came very highly recommended and with it's own video demonstration so I had to try it. And let me repeat this is amazing!

True enough, it's not the healthiest thing in the world, but no one is saying that you should eat fried food dipped in a sugary sauce every day (unless you're feeling hormonal and then you have free license to do what you please!).

I would only make two small modifications to this recipe: double the sauce and double the amount of egg replacer. The directions were a bit vague on how long you should cook the sauce so I prepped all my ingredients ahead of time (the day ahead actually) and made the sauce at the same time I fried the tofu and let it cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally. I also recommend that you freeze your tofu ahead of time to give it a better texture.

To make this recipe a little more healthy I plan on trying this recipe with half the tofu and adding a ton of vegetables or just omitting the tofu all together and using the sauce for a vegetable stir-fry.

Without futher ado here's the recipe:
1 box of firm tofu
egg substitute for 1 egg
3/4 cup cornstarch
vegetable oil for frying
3 chopped green onions
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2/3 cup vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoons sugar
red pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon sherry (optional)
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
steamed broccoli
For Tofu:
Drain, dry and cut tofu into 1 inch chunks. You can freeze tofu the night before to get a more chicken-like consistency, but it isn't necessary. Mix the egg replacer as specified on the box and add an additional 3 tablespoons water. Dip tofu in egg replacer/water mixture and coat completely. Sprinkle 3/4 cup cornstarch over tofu and coat completely. Watch out that the cornstarch doesn't clump up at the bottom of the bowl.Heat oil in pan and fry tofu pieces until golden. Drain oil.
For Sauce:
Let me just repeat, I strongly recommend doubling this sauce.
Heat 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil in pan on medium heat. Add green onions, ginger and garlic, cook for about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn garlic. Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper and vinegar. Mix 2 Tablespoons water with 1 Tablespoon cornstarch and pour into mixture stirring well. Add fried tofu and coat evenly.Serve immediately with steamed broccoli over your choice of rice.
To check it out the video demonstration of this recipe go to:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Cheezly Has Landed....

Yep. I did it, I shelled out the $7.49 (temporary price) plus shipping and handling and bought two packs of Cheezly Vegan Cheese Alternative in the Mature White Cheddar Flavor. In all I spent $20.93 for two Cheezly's (I really just like saying the name). I'm leaving the country next week for a couple weeks so I'm not going to crack them open and give them a try just yet but, as soon as I get back I'm lining up a complex Cheezly obstacle course full of panini's, casseroles and pizzas to give you guys the full scoop.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Restaurant Review: Amalfi Ristorante Norfolk, VA

Located just a little less than 1.5 miles away from PETA'S headquarters in Norfolk Virginia is Amalfi Ristorante (2010 Colley Ave, Norfolk, VA), an Italian restaurant that can cater to the needs of vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike.

From the moment I bought my ticket to travel down to the Hampton Roads area I’d been researching the restaurant options in Norfolk. After all, it is the home of PETA so I expected nothing short of spectacular vegan dishes that I’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. I ran across the menu for Amalfi and I immediately knew this restaurant was "the one". I think that Amalfi and I just might be soul mates! (If restaurants had souls of course).

Amalfi offers an array of options that I have seen nowhere else. Vegan versions of Chicken Marsala, Fettuccine Alfredo, Chicken & Vegetable Panini, and Roasted Vegetable Risotto just to name a few. Since I'm usually only in the area for homecomings I knew it would be awhile before I was back again so I chose a dish that I loved from my first bite as a child and hadn't had in over 2 years: fettuccine alfredo.

Let me start by saying that once I ordered, my dish was out in record time. I barely had time to read more than 2 pages in my book (The Way We Eat: Why our food choice matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason just in case you were wondering). I immediately dived into the fettuccine and it was superb! A perfect marriage of cream, butter and cheeses. But, of course, the best part was that there wasn’t any real cream, butter or cheese in sight (and somewhere in the Midwest a dairy cow is breathing a sigh of relief. lol.)

The portion sizes were extremely generous and I’m embarrassed to say as I’m writing this blog from the Newport news airport I’m digging into this amazing alfredo cold and it’s still delicious. And although I’m not a huge fan of chocolate ( I know, I know I’m the only woman on Earth who isn’t fanatical about chocolate) their chocolate cheesecake is also a MUST HAVE.

If you’re in the Hampton roads area or if you’re ever even kind of close to Virginia I highly recommend Amalfi Ristorante. It is worth the gas, plane or train ticket - I promise.

To check out Amalfi Ristorante and their menu go to their website at

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Shells & Chreese Please

For the last 3 weeks I’ve been working out like a maniac and eating like the perfect vegan in preparation for my 5 year reunion homecoming this upcoming weekend at Hampton University. But after sitting in a nutrition class for 3 hours I came home starving and all I wanted was mac & cheese and French fries.

Lucky for me I already prepared for such a moment. I had one lonely little russet potato and a box of Road’s End Organics Dairy Free Shells & Chreese tucked away in my pantry. At the beginning of my vegan experience I tried their dairy free Fettuccine Alfredo and it made me swear off of boxed foods forever. In a moment of weakness I picked up these Shells & Chreese and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting bland and boring but what I got was a subtle yet delicious flavor. It reminded me of a toned down (much quicker) version of The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook’s Mac & “Cheese” Casserole.

I made a couple modifications to turn up the subtleness of flavor in this dish and make it stand out. I added about 1 tablespoon margarine, and although I don’t usually add salt to things just a pinch of salt really made this dish phenomenal. Next time I might even add another tablespoon or two of soy milk.

With these little modifications you have a great side dish (or main dish if you’re being bad). Now that I think about it, I’m going to go have second helpings right now!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Enchiladas are back!

The very last meal I had before I went on a 21 days fast and subsequently became a vegan was Amy’s Kitchen Cheese Enchiladas. Anyone who knows me knows my obsession with cheese enchiladas runs deep. As a vegetarian the first thing I would do when I went back home to Fresno (yes, Fresno) is head to Bobby Salazar’s and get my cheese enchiladas, literally the first thing I would do.

Now that I’m a Vegan with a capitol “V” I still want my enchiladas and I found the answer in Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean Vegetable Enchiladas, they are absolutely perfect! Not only do they come in a pack of two that are ready in 5 minutes but they also come in a complete meal with beans and rice or in a low sodium variety as well. Even better it’s certified kosher (just in case you were wondering) and it’s gluten free.

On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s this weekend I came across their version of these enchiladas and they were equally fantastic and much cheaper. If you happen to have a Trader Joe’s near you I recommend stopping by and trying their enchiladas as well.

Ahhhh yes, the enchiladas are back!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Restaurant Review: Karyn's Cooked Chicago, IL

Well, I'm stuck here in Chicago with a delayed flight so I thought to myself "no better time than the present to blog about my culinary experiences in Chicago". I've been Chicago for meetings all week and last night I was at my whits end with the Luna bars, soy milk, veggie jerky and instant oatmeal I packed as rescue food just in case the veggie selections at the hotel and throughout the meeting were horrid (which they were). So instead of settling for hummus and fries one more night for dinner I took to the streets of Chicago and found Karyn's Cooked (738 North Wells Street Chicago, IL).

From my internet research I'd already heard a lot about Karyn's other restaurant, Karyn's Raw, and it seemed absolutely delicious so I had to try Karyn's cooked. The reviews online were all pretty mixed but what was standard throughout every online review I read was that the service was 300% horrible so I opted for take out to avoid that issue. I can offer you this tip, it does seem like they are a lot faster with their take out orders than their dine in my food was ready in about 10 minutes.

As far as the food goes it was unimaginative, and at times unpalatable. Since the reviews were mixed on the food I decided to keep it simple and order the basics, but some of the sides and desserts I just couldn't resist so I got a little bit of everything. Let's start with the vegan cheeseburger. No real complaints with this one except for the fact that it was CLEARLY a Boca burger. I would expect this from a chain restaurant that doesn't cater to vegans but not from a vegan restaurant. So this was disappointment #1. Next came the bland coleslaw which was basically just cabbage and nayonaisse, disappointment #2.

So at this point I'm getting frustrated but then i remember I have mac & cheese, collard greens and carrot cake left to eat so i dive in! Vegan mac and cheese is a rare treat and I was unbelievably excited to taste Karyn's version. The trouble was that there was only macaroni noodles in the container, i couldn't even catch a hint of anything that seemed like it could be construed as a sauce, let alone a cheese sauce. Disappointment #3. The collard greens were good, so no complaints there and the carrot cake was decent as well, so I didn't completely waste all my hard earned money. I looked in the bottom of the bag and remembered I'd also ordered the cornbread as well. I took one bite and immediately spit it out, and not even like a cute dainty lady like spit into the napkin move, I just spit it out into the nearest trash can, plate or surface available. It tasted like the list of ingredients for the cornbread were as follows: sawdust, cornmeal, flour, water. In that order. I now see why they serve alcohol, you've got to be 6 steps beyond drunk to enjoy most of the food on their menu.

Nonetheless, next time I'm in Chicago I'll still stop by Karyn's Raw and give it a try. And from reading the other online reviews it seems like the lasagna might be worth giving Karyn's Cooked a second try. To find out what other people are saying about Karyn's Cooked check out the links below:

Monday, October 8, 2007

Faux Cheese Frenzy!

I've received a lot of emails from skeptics about my claims to have found good vegan cheeses. In the world of vegan cheese one size definitely does not fit all and I use different brands for different functions. So here we go, my picks for the best vegan cheese out there right now.

Galaxy Nutritional Foods makes two of my favorite faux cheese slices. I use these for sandwiches they go great with a tuna tempeh sandwich or faux chicken salad sandwich. But they do not melt so don't rely on these babies to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Both the mozzarella and the American slices are amazing. I'm fortunate enough to have a Whole Foods and a Vegetarian co-op in my city but if you're local health food store doesn't carry them these perfect slices are available online too. My favorite website

Stop reading this blog immediately and go to your nearest health food store and pick up this cheese. I'm serious. Well actually, finish reading this first then go. This faux cheese came out around the same time I became a vegan, talk about perfect timing. Although I love my traditional Italian pizza without the cheese (yep, real pizza doesn't have cheese on it!) I have to admit when I'm stressed out and in the middle of a craving this stuff is a lifesaver for a perfect cheesy pizza. It's also perfect for enchiladas, nachos, and anything else that requires melted cheese (although I wouldn't recommend this one for grilled cheese either). The only drawback of this particular "cheese" is that has to be heated to at least 450 degrees for it to melt correctly. For things like nachos this means that the cheese should probably be pre-melted on the stove top (mix in a little bit of soy milk when melting). I'm still experimenting with the perfect way to melt the cheese for different recipes but overall this is a wonderful product. My favorites of this brand are the mozzarella and Monterrey jack. I'm not a big fan of the cheddar and I've never tried the nacho.

So I've told you over and over again what you can't use for a grilled cheese sandwich now let me tell you want you can. The first time I had Tofutti mozzarella cheese was at Asylum (a very rock and roll bar/lounge) in DC. I was floored! I had to ask them 4 times if this was really cheese. I'd never tasted something that was so close to cheese before. I ate the grilled cheese sandwich and then sat and waited to see if my body would reject it, because I just knew this couldn't be faux cheese it tasted too much like the real thing. Well, as luck would have it they run a good business over there at Asylum and it was in fact vegan cheese after all, so I went back and had another one immediately! I'm a bigger fan of the mozzarella than the American slices and I only like to use these when I'm looking for a melted cheese slice. I know it sounds crazy but after not having real cheese in so long tofutti's brand cheese can taste a little too much like real cheese and somewhere in my subconscious I can only have a little before my mind takes over my body and I can't take another bite. Nonetheless, I can't wait to try this on a tuna tempeh melt!

Last but not least there is Cheezly. Cheezly has created more buzz than Beanie Babies in the 90's. and Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe both carry Cheezly in the U.S. and it is in incredibly high demand. I've actually been reading about this on blogs for over a year now and everyone in the UK claims it is the best. I've been on the waiting list to get this stuff for months (I feel like such a groupie) so if you've tried it let me know what you think and let me know if it's worth the $7-8 price tag as well (not to mention shipping and handling). UPDATE: Check out the new review of Cheezly here.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

First Post...Let's Just Jump Right In!!!

This is my first post, so I'm just going to jump right in! This whole blog came about because of the product I'm about to highlight today: Organicville Dairy Free Ranch Dressing. Omni's (those pesky omnivores) always try to insist that a vegan or vegetarian diet is super expensive which is 200% false. But the trial and error of trying to find decent veggie substitutes can be. As a vegetarian for 5 years I thought I'd mastered everything, but once I transitioned to a vegan lifestyle a whole new world opened up to me. Imagine my joy when I discovered there was a vegan cheese! Fast forward to 4 months and $50 later when I finally found the one I liked, with a trail of wasted money and faux cheese to show for it.

So here I am! Your vegan guinea pig. I'll try darn near anything at least once (don't worry we're still talking about food). And this blog isn't exclusive to just store-bought goodies, but cookbooks, recipes, etc.

Ok, back to Organicville's Dairy Free Ranch Dressing. I was jumping in the aisles of the grocery store (literally) when I saw this. I picked up my $4 bottle of salad dressing and ran and picked up every type of lettuce and salad topping you could imagine. I got home, made my perfect salad, turned on my tivo and took a bite. DISAPPOINTMENT! It was like a vinegar/soy milk combo. I checked out the website and there are a lot of great testimonials so I'm willing to give their other dressings a try but as for the ranch I recommend just googling a vegan ranch recipe and trying that one. In fact, here's one I googled. I'll try it and let you know how it goes...

Vegan Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk

Whisk all ingredients together and chill before serving. Add a little more soy milk if you need to thin dressing.

For the nutrition info check out
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