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!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Golden Era Vegetarian Cuisine San Francisco, CA

Forgive me if this is slightly incoherent. I have been traveling all day and trapped in a banquet hall listening to corporate bs all day. The first piece of joy in my day has come in the form of Sweet and Sour Chicken, Spicy Gourmet Chicken, Golden Rolls and Chicken Salad (all vegan of course). Yes I'm a pig, no I didn't eat all of this in one sitting. Right now I have made it half way through the sweet and sour chicken and the only thing that i keeping me from devouring it is writing this blog. I had two bites of the Spicy Gourmet Chicken, which isn't exactly spicy but is perfect in every other way. The texture of the "chicken" is amazing. Golden Era is definitely a place to take your omni friends to convince them that vegan food is good food.

The Golden rolls are your standard egg rolls (minus the eggs) but what really makes them soar is the sauce that goes with them. It's akin to the sweet and sour sauce with sesame seeds, it's just decadent. The chicken salad was purchased intentionally to be eaten tomorrow at lunch (because I know I'll be stuck eating from a horrible hotel buffet line).

The bottom line is Golden Era Vegetarian Cuisine is one of the best Chinese restaurants I've ever had. The only place that has come close thus far is Zen Palate in New York (which I will be blogging about soon). The only thing that is wrong with this place is that it's closed on Tuesday's and I still want to try their soups! But for now I'm just going to sit back, rub my belly and rejoice over the magnificent meal that I just had.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Skinny Bitch in the Kitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

If you haven’t read the book that precedes this “Skinny Bitches” then you are missing out. It is the top selling vegan book of all time, most likely because the title gives no hints of what is really inside. I loved the book so much I got it on audio book and paperback so I wouldn’t have to waste one moment of idle time without it. The follow-up cookbook companion to the book, however, falls miserably short. As I turned each page my anticipation and joy changed to pure boredom. On three separate occasions I thought to myself “Is it too late to return this book?” “I mean, I haven’t even really put a dent in it yet, you think they’ll notice?” The honest woman within me is the only reason that this book is still sitting next to me right now.

Where could everything have gone so terribly wrong? Well, I’ll tell you. If you’re looking for creativity you will not find it in Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. When I was in the bookstore I got excited when I saw recipes like Eggplant Parmesan and Cheezy Cream of Broccoli Soup. But once I got home and read further I discovered that this book should really be called “So you have a bunch of vegan cheese sitting in your refrigerator…here’s what you do with it.” Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with faux cheese, I have plenty of recipes in my own cookbook that use it. But it seems like every single one of the recipes in the book calls for it (aside from the smoothies of course). Then there are lackluster recipes that make you question if they can really be considered recipes at all. Case in point the recipe for Spicy Mixed Nuts. Hmmm…Spicy Mixed Nuts, they must have been up all night thinking about that one.

Many of the other laughable recipes include Macaroni and Four Cheeses which, you guessed it, uses every single type of faux cheese that your local natural foods store has to offer: vegan cheddar, vegan Monterey jack, vegan cream cheese and of course vegan parmesan cheese. Would it be too much to ask Rory and Kim to make their own cheese sauce like the rest of us? Another recipe that sends me to the floor laughing is their Chef’s Salad. You’ve got your standard issue lettuce then it all goes downhill from there: vegan cheddar cheese, vegan Swiss cheese (didn’t even know that existed), vegan ham, vegan turkey, vegan ranch, vegan egg salad. The only whole vegetables in this entire salad are the lettuce, a tomato and 2 tablespoons of Italian parsley.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are a couple recipes in Skinny Bitch in the Kitch that do hold tiny bits of promise. The Crabby Cakes with Remoulade sauce, Garlicky White Bean Spread on Crostini, Spicy Sushi Rolls with Avocado and Cucumber, Summer Garden Pasta, and a good portion of the Sauces are all pretty good. Outside of these and a few other notable recipes you could get more bang for your buck by taking an omni cookbook you used to like and putting the word vegan in front of everything that comes from an animal (i.e. ground beef is now vegan ground beef, Swiss cheese is now vegan Swiss cheese, chicken nuggets is now vegan chicken nuggets…actual examples from the book verbatim).

If you really want to take a dive into the world of the Skinny Bitches I recommend picking this one up from the library and not wasting your $14.95 ($17 in Canada and £8.99 in the UK just in case you were wondering)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fulfilling the Stereotype: Granola

What did you think about vegans before you became one? Did you think they were granola eating, hemp wearing hippies? Maybe super radical AR freaks? Did you think that every vegan in the world went around throwing red paint on fur coats? Well, the truth is that vegans (like everyone else) come in all different shapes and sizes and we all march to the beat of our own drummer. What we do have in common is compassion and respect for all living things, and an extremely healthy diet to go along with it.

With all that said, I hate to post a blog about the joys of granola because it's just soooo stereotypical vegan but...this is some good stuff. While in Whole Foods earlier today I ran across a man giving samples of Feed Granola Co. brand of granola. I tried the blueberry almond crunch, raisin nut crunch, and the cranberry coconut crunch (it also comes in bittersweet-ness and apple a day). I feel in love off the first bite. I tried each with and without rice milk and soy milk and I was in heaven (yes I was the greedy girl at the samples table). This granola is not that super hard, break your jaw type of granola, it really taste like homemade (better actually). And the ingredients are pure and simple. There isn't one thing on the list of ingredients you couldn't buy yourself in any grocery store.

Although it was a little pricey ($5.49) I bought a bag of each one of the flavors I tried and I can't wait to tear them open. I'm taking the bluberry almond crunch with me to class tonight to help me get through 4 hours of microbiology. Tomorrow I think I'll try it in some vanilla ricera. And this is definitely going to find a place in my breakfast routine.

But before I forget it not only taste good but it each bag also contains Omega 3 rich flax seed and 1/4 cup serving has 4 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein. It is also organic, and of course it's just one more way to sneak whole grains into your diet.

It's available at most health food stores. Their website says it's available at Whole Foods, Earthfare, Fresh Market, Fairway Market, Westerly and Zabars. It is also available for orders on

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lentin Soup is Mental Fruit

I hate lentils. I just do. But I want to like them. What's not to like about them? 1 cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, 38mg of calcium, 7 mg of iron, 2.51 mg of zinc, 5.5 mcg of selenium as well as magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin A and E.

Since lentils are so nutrient dense I've made it my mission to at least try to learn to like them. Once upon a time I hated tofu and now I can't live without tofu scramble. So I know that my love/hate relationship with lentils is about to become all about the love.

In a brave attempt, I picked up Trader Joes's Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup. It was one of there only soups that wasn't laced with parmesan cheese so I thought I'd give it a try. The crazy thing is, I actually like it! I like it so much that I ate the whole can of soup. And I wish I had more. Not only does it taste good but it's ready to serve. Just heat it up and eat it up.

If you hate lentils, just try the soup it might change your mind. If you love lentils then you'll absolutely 200% salivate over this soup.

Friday, January 4, 2008

My Ricera Obsession

Back in my vegetarian days strawberry yogurt was a staple in my refrigerator. It was perfect for breakfast with a little granola or a great snack when I got home from work. However when I went vegan my favorite little snack was corrupted by well meaning soyogurt companies. You name it, I hate it. Picture a toddler spitting out everything you put in it's mouth or throwing it on the floor. That's me with soyogurt. Well...there is one exception I love love love Wildwood plain soyogurt in my smoothies, but that's another blog.

When I saw Ricera on the shelf I was, of course, skeptical. But, being the adventurous vegan I am, I bought the blueberry, strawberry and peach flavor to give it a whirl. HEAVEN. The second I tasted Ricera I was hooked! The best part is it helps me with my New Year's Resolution of cutting down the soy in my diet.

And what could be better than getting in more whole grains? Ricera has 1 1/2 servings of whole brown rice in each little cup. It also has 3 grams of protein and is certified organic. Right now it's only available at Whole Foods, local co-ops and natural food stores. Lately I've seen it on sale a lot and since it has such a long expiration date you can stock up for about a month if you catch it on sale. If your local co-op or natural health store doesn't carry this, you must demand they do. It will change you life...seriously. :)
***UPDATE***My Ricera Retraction:
Oh Ricera, Oh Ricera! How I loved thee! Rice based, soy and gluten free, full of whole grain goodness, what wasn't there to love about you? But as is the case with so many relationships, around the one year mark you made a change on me. You went missing from the shelves of my co-op and then from Whole Foods. I asked for you but no one knew where you were. Finally, while back home in California, I found you again. Hanging out at the local Whole Foods. I jumped for joy! My love was back! I scooped you up in my arms and carried you home. And then, the honeymoon was officially over. You changed in your absence. You were no longer that little piece of heaven that I remembered. You've turned into an overly sweet, runny mess. I guess it was inevitable. Not all relationships were meant to last forever. I just thought we had what it took to make it last forever.
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