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, 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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