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, February 24, 2008

La Dolce Vegan's Faux Chicken Seitan

If there is a such thing as a Seitan Snob then I am a card carrying member of the club (if not the president). I hate store bought seitan (picture me eyes closed, wringing my first in anger at store bought seitan). I've tried a couple versions of homemade chicken seitan but, by far, the best that I have ever made or had in life is the Faux Chicken recipe from La Dolce Vegan! by the wonderful Sarah Kramer. The recipe for Faux Chicken actually comes from one of Sarah's readers (Cori from Missoula, MT) who adapted it from a recipe in Simply Heaven. I have since adapted the recipe from the one in La Dolce Vegan! to take down some of the salt in the recipe and accommodate my pantry (I never have celery seed lying around).

So here it goes. The BEST Faux Chicken Recipe you'll ever try. In my estimation the recipe, as is, yields about 1 pound of Faux Chicken Seitan. I usually double the recipe (to make 2 pounds) and cut it into "chicken breast", nuggets and strips to use for various recipes later. This usually makes about 16 "chicken" nuggets or 4 "chicken" breast.

Basic Instant Gluten
1/2 cup instant vital wheat gluten flour
1/2 cup water

In a medium bowl, stir together the wheat gluten and water until it becomes elastic. The original directions say to knead for 5 minutes but I never knead it longer than 1 (out of pure laziness, but I like the texture better too). Cut into you desired shapes and sizes.

Faux Chicken
2 cups water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons Bragg's liquid aminos
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 heaping teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

In a medium sauce plan, bring all of the broth ingredient to a boil. Add prepared seitan into broth. Reduce heat and cover with lid. Let simmer for 50-60 minutes stirring every 10 minutes, until broth has reduced completely. (watch it closely I've had cooking times range from 20 minutes to 70 minutes). Use chicken immediately in your dish of choice or store in the refrigerator (for up to 6 days) or the freezer (for up to 6 months)

Thanks so much to Sarah Kramer for giving me permission to reproduce this recipe. Check out her website at

Friday, February 8, 2008

3 Hot Tamales

I am California born and raised and although I now live in Atlanta nothing can take away my love for REAL Mexican food. Aside from enchiladas, tamales are my next favorite Mexican food. You could put rocks and sand in a tamale and I'd still love it. My weakness is the masa. I could eat a tamale made entirely out of masa (but then I guess it wouldn't be a tamale...oh well!) When I ran across 3 Hot Tamales brand tamales at my local co-op, at first I was excited but then my excitement turned into apprehension. I've been down this road before. All excited about a veganized, quick and convenient version of my favorite food just to taste it and immediately spit it out in disgust. But...I thought of you guys and thought if nothing else it would make a great review for the blog so, I bought a box.

3 Hot Tamales come in 4 varieties, 3 of which are vegan: black bean chiptole pepper, potato green chili cheese (not vegan), Burger style red chili and chicken style/salsa verde. At my co-op they were close to $6 for a pack of 3 tamales. At around $2 a tamale the price is a bit steep but on the upside the tamales were very filling so it can last you a couple meals.

I tried the Burger Style Red Chili Tamales and I have to say they just weren't for me. The flavor of the filling was good but not great and very spicy but on the upside they were extremely filling (I was only able to eat 1 1/2 tamales for lunch) and at 130 calories a tamale it's a great low calorie meal. But, as I mentioned before I'm a fan of masa and these tamales just aren't made from authentic masa. The texture of the "masa" was softer than traditional masa which was turn off #1. The second turn off was the taste, it just taste like a thick flour tortilla with a mushy texture. This could be the reason why the ingredients read "tamale dough" instead of masa.

Overall, if you weren't raised on Mexican food then you would probably think these tamales were just fine. But if you're from California or anywhere in the southwest you'll probably be disappointed by 3 Hot Tamales.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Millennium Restaurant San Francisco, CA

I just don't know where to begin. Millennium Restaurant (580 Geary St., San Francisco, CA) opened my palate up to amazing new taste, textures and even scents. In my 27 years of living I have never tasted such exquisite food. Since transitioning from a long time vegetarian to a vegan I thought that many of the culinary treats I experienced at Millennium where just a thing of the past. Let's start at the beginning.

The Oyster Mushroom appetizer came highly recommended to me so I had to try it. Traditionally I'm not a fan of mushrooms but this dish is an exception to the rule. The texture was light and the mushrooms almost melted in my mouth. They were almost reminiscent of a calamari dish, but 1000 times better. My omni cousin, who I dragged along for the ride, was shocked at how delicious they were. Needless to say we quickly emptied the plate.

Our entrées came a bit later than I would have liked. I tried not to watch the clock and just enjoy the conversation I was having with my cousin but judging from the time we sat down to the time we left it took upward of 45 minutes to an hour for our food to come out. However, when our food did arrive any complaint I would've been inclined to make went out the door. I ordered the Risotto Tamale, prepared in a banana leaf. I ordered the Emerald Rice Cake with Jerk Seitan for my cousin. The creative mind that created the Risotto tamale deserves a noble prize. Everything about this dish was pure perfection. I can't even tell you exactly what was in this tamale, the flavors were unique and new to me yet had a familiar hint of the southwest. The Emerald Rice Cake with Jerk Seitan made me proud to be a vegan. Although the rice cake portion of the entrée was a bit larger than I expected the seitan was expertly seasoned with a perfect Caribbean mixture of sweet and spicy that makes jerk food so delicious. My only complaint was that there wasn't enough of it.

Thankfully desert came much faster than our entrées. When I saw that creme brulee was on the menu I almost had a heart attack. I just assumed that creme brulee was one of those things that I would never have again. This creme brulee was so rich and decadent that from this day forward I vow to make it back to San Francisco at least once a year to have it again. My cousin had the winter apple crisp with vegan ice cream. I was too involved in my creme brulee to get a taste of his desert but from the rapid rate at which it disappeared I would have to say that it was a slam dunk as well.

I capped off this superb evening with another one of my favorites that I didn't think existed in the vegan world: Port. I'm a huge fan of Port wines and surprisingly Millennium had one on the menu. A perfect ending to a perfect meal.

All this scrumptious food does come with a hefty price tag. The tamale was $23.95 and the Emerald Rice Cake was $22.95. Both desserts were 8.25 and the Oyster Mushrooms appetizer was $9.75. Although the price tag is steep it is well worth it. If you are in the area you must stop by Millennium. Reservations are definitely recommended as the place was packed! You will not be disappointed.
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