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!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Not-So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt

I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that Turtle Mountains So Delicious Ice Cream made with coconut milk is just as the name states "purely decadent". The bad news is this same great taste does not translate into their coconut milk yogurt.

The blueberry and raspberry flavors were good but not great, certainly not worth the $1.99 spent on each of them. In general they were way too sweet and had a bit of an after taste that sticks with you until your brush your teeth. The vanilla was completely inedible. The slight aftertaste of the blueberry and raspberry flavors was the entire taste of the vanilla flavor. Everything was wrong with it. Too sweet and yet tart at the same time. I was starving so I tried to finish it but I just couldn't bring myself to do it, instead I just brushed my teeth to get the taste out of my mouth and left the house hungry.

If you feel like shelling out $1.99 for yogurt that is just ok then I would recommend the blueberry and raspberry flavors. Steer clear of vanilla. But honestly, that money can be better spent elsewhere.

Update: It's very rare that I reject a comment on this blog but I have to say for this particular review I've had to reject at least 4 from people with some really mean-spirited comments regarding my review. And trust me using the term "mean spirited" is an extremely watered down version of what has been written - all this over a little coconut yogurt review. I wanted to take this time to clarify my review, especially for those who just read the title but not the entire review. I really liked the blueberry and raspberry flavor (hated the vanilla). But overall I don't recommend this yogurt not based on the taste but on the cost. I had a little extra food income this month so I splurged and bought some blueberry, passionate mango and strawberry banana flavored coconut yogurt. At Whole Foods it was about $1.89 and at Publix/Krogers it was $2.59! And that's just for one little cup of yogurt! Frankly, that's absolutely ridiculous.

What makes the whole situation even worse is that I'm now head over heels in love with the strawberry banana flavor and in a semi-like with passionate mango. I wake up in the morning wanting a cup but who can afford $2.59 each morning for just yogurt? I've also heard rumors that there's a pina colada flavor out there that I would love to try. Really the only flavor that I don't like is vanilla. As you read above. It makes my tastebuds revolt against me.

So hopefully this has cleared up my position on coconut yogurt and the hate mail can stop now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Restaurant Review: Village Pizza Company Atlanta, GA

I've always been jealous of cities like New York and Chicago where a vegan slice of pizza is not terribly hard to come by. Little did I know that right here in my backyard of Atlanta I had access to great vegan pizza by the slice or a whole pie.

Village Pizza Co. ( 186 Carroll St., Atlanta, GA 30312) , nestled in the heart of the Cabbage Town district of Atlanta, has an excellent assortment of vegan ingredients including soy based vegan cheese, vegan sausage, vegan beef and vegan pepperoni in addition to just about any other type of veggie you like on your pizza. The prices are low and the slices are huge. For me one slice of the Village Vegan Supreme Pizza (pictured above with vegan cheese, vegan sausage, vegan pepperoni, vegan beef olives, bell peppers and onions) is more than a meals worth. Here’s a quick guide to all things vegan on the Village Pizza Co. Menu:

21 different types of vegetables (and fruit) including: mushrooms, onion, green peppers, red peppers, Roma tomatoes, black olives, green olives, broccoli, baked eggplants, artichoke hearts, garlic, jalapeño peppers, banana peppers, pepperocini, pineapple, sundried tomatoes, zucchini, basil, spinach & summer squash

Vegan Meats: beef, pepperoni, sausage

House Salad (minus the mozzarella) with balsamic vinaigrette – romaine lettuce, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives & Roma tomatoes

Green Salad (minus the feta cheese) – mixed field greens, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, red peppers, broccoli, Roma tomatoes, black olives, cucumbers and pepperocini

Spinach Salad (minus the feta cheese) – spinach, Roma tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette

Specialty Pizzas:
Veggie – mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, green olives, Roma tomatoes, garlic and cheese (make sure to ask for soy cheese)

Veggie Supreme – spinach, eggplant, sun dried tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, Roma tomatoes, garlic and cheese (make sure to ask for soy cheese)

Village Vegan Deluxe - vegan cheese, vegan sausage, vegan pepperoni, vegan beef, mushrooms, black olives, green olives, green bell peppers and onions

The Village Calzone (minus the ricotta and Parmesan cheese) – garlic, Italian spices and your choice of filling from the toppings selection (ask for soy cheese instead of mozzarella)

Village Pastas:
Classic Marinara – Roma tomato sauce made with extra virgin olive oil, sautéed onions, garlic, red wine, basil herbs and spices

Panini Sandwiches:
Veggie Delight – mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers, green peppers, artichoke hearts, black olives, tomatoes (ask that they replace all cheese with soy cheese)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pillsbury Pizza Crust (Vegan Calzone Recipe)

Pillsbury is one of my favorite mainstream brands that has a wide range of accidentally vegan products. Two of my newest favorite products are Pillsbury’s pizza crust in original and thin crust. Although I love to make my pizza dough from scratch it’s nice to have a low cost back-up when you’re low on time. With the Pillsbury original pizza crust I made a classic vegan pizza with loads of veggies like broccoli, spinach, tomato, onion and bell pepper with no cheese just a little nutritional yeast sprinkled on top of the veggies. It cooked up in 10 minutes and made a perfect quick lunch between classes.

I used the thin crust pizza dough to make a gooey cheesy vegan calzone and the leftover dough to make garlic knots. Recipe follows:

Vegan Spinach Calzone
Yields 2 Calzones

1 package Pillsbury Thin Crust Pizza Dough
½ cup vegan mozzarella
½ cup tofu ricotta
½ cup steamed spinach
Canola oil spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Roll out Pillsbury thin crust pizza dough on a lightly floured flat surface. Cut dough in half with pizza. Divide vegan mozzarella, tofu ricotta and steamed spinach evenly amongst two sides of pizza dough. Fold dough over to cover cheese/spinach mixture and use the pizza cutter to round out the edges dough. Crimp the ends of calzone closed with the tip of a fork all the way around dough.

Lightly spray a foil lined baking sheet with canola oil. Transfer calzone’s from working surface to baking sheet and spray tops lightly with canola oil. Bake for 10 minutes allow to cool slightly and serve.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Veganism Made Simple: 24 cupcakes, 3 minutes, $5

Vegans have a special obsession with cupcakes. There’s even an entire cookbook dedicated to Vegan Cupcakes. The thing is, sometimes you want cupcakes and you just don’t feel like dragging out 10 different ingredients and taking the time and money to bake delicious vegan cupcakes. Like most of you, I grew up on boxed cakes, as a vegan I really stopped paying attention to everything on the baked goods aisle besides sugar, flour and shortening. But I sold myself, and veganism, short! You would be surprised at the arsenal of products on the shelves that are vegan, many of which you have been eating all your life.

My new favorite is Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Cake Mix. Despite the name there isn’t an ounce of butter or any other type of animal products in this cake mix. In fact, nearly the entire line of Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Cake Mix is vegan including:
  • Banana Supreme

  • Butter Recipe Golden

  • Butter Recipe Fudge

  • Classic Yellow Cake

  • Dark Chocolate Fudge

  • Devil’s Food Cake

  • German Chocolate

  • Lemon Supreme

  • Orange Supreme

  • Pineapple Supreme

  • Red Velvet Cake

  • Spice Cake

  • Strawberry Supreme

Now here’s the trick. The back of the box calls for 2/3 cups water, ½ cup softened butter and 3 eggs. This can be easily veganized. Try the following substitutions:

  • Replace the ½ cup softened butter with ½ cup softened Earth Balance

  • Replace the 3 eggs with 3 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer whisk together with ¼ cup warm water, ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce and ½ teaspoon baking powder

Follow the directions on the back of the box and within 3 minutes you have yourself a full batch cupcakes or a mouth-watering cake.

I topped it off with Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Chocolate Fudge icing (many of Pillsbury’s frostings are also vegan, but always do a label check just to be sure).

All in all these cupcakes cost me less than $5. The cake mix was $1.07 (but I had a coupon for 50 cents off so it only cost me 57 cents!), frosting $1.50, cupcake liners $0.99. Everything else I already had around the house bringing my grand total to $3.56.

Cooking Notes:Be sure to only fill the cupcake liners somewhere between 1/2 - 3/4 full. If they are too full you'll end up with cupcakes that are delicious but look disastrous. If you accidentally fill up the liner too full then wait until cupcakes are completely cooled before you take them out the pan then let them sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight to stiffen up a bit. You can proceed to ice them from there although the center will still be a bit crumbly.

Also in place of 3 eggs you can also use ¾ cup pureed soft silken tofu or 4 ½ teaspoon Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons warm water

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vegans Guide to the Universe Part 5: Egg Replacer 101

After 4 years of being a cheese-obsessed vegetarian I finally went vegan. It wasn’t hard taking the cheese out of my diet, mainly because after 21 days without it I no longer had a taste for it, but it was hard to figure out how to replace eggs. All of a sudden it seemed like everything I made needed eggs in some way shape or form.

After a good deal of trial and error, Google searches, triumphant tries and complete culinary flops I finally came up with a working list of egg substitutes for nearly every recipe.

Baking (1 egg equivalent):
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce + ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup pureed soft silken tofu (plain)
1 tablespoons ground flax seed simmer in 3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons water + 1 tablespoon canola oil + 2 teaspoons baking powder

Scrambled Eggs:
1 pound firm or extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled – find your favorite tofu scramble recipe and you’re off!

Quiches, Omelettes and Frittatas:
Firm of Extra Firm Silken Tofu should be used in place of eggs. Popular Recipes are the Papa Chorizo Frittata, Susan V.’s Vegan Omelette for One and Susan V.’s crustless Quiche

Ener-G Egg Replacer is also an excellent choice for replacing eggs in baked goods. 1 ½ teaspoons + 2 tablespoons warm water whisked together equals 1 egg. 1 box has over 113 servings! So it’s a great low-cost way to replace eggs in baked goods.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Restaurant Review: Healthful Essence - Caribbean Vegan Restaurant (Atlanta, GA)

I'm always excited when a new vegan restaurant opens in Atlanta. Like every restaurant, you go in praying it will be good but brace for anything. The grand opening of Healthful Essence Caribbean Vegan restaurant (875 York Ave, Atlanta, GA) was October 18 and my first visit to the restaurant was the 22nd. I've been to several restaurants in their first week of business and its always usually a bit scattered and manic but the opposite was true for Healthful Essence.

When I walked in I was immediately greeted by several members of their helpful staff and was elated to see that the food was served in a "hot bar" style where all the food was already prepared, piping hot and just waiting for me. Meals ranged from $2-$10 (choice of 1 item to 4 items respectively). And the serving sizes are very generous. For my first meal I went conservative with brown rice, barbeque tofu and plantains ($8 and enough for two meals). The brown rice is not your typical brown rice it was beautifully seasoned and mixed with a variety of different color bell peppers. The bbq tofu was the perfect texture and the sauce was amazing! Definitely homemade, I've never tasted sauce that good coming out of a bottle. Of course the plantains were perfect, it takes a lot of effort to mess up plantains.

For my second trip I moved away from my comfort zone and into unknown territory. There was something on the menu I thought I'd never hear of at a vegan restaurant - curry goat. I never had this dish in my omnivore days and two out of my 6 companion animals are goats (one of which is named Curry) so the thought of eating anything that might even closely resemble the taste of my beloved goat just grossed me out. But...with much hesitation I tried it. It wasn’t bad and if there wasn’t a goat named Curry in my backyard right now I probably would have liked it.
Other must try items on the menu are the Jerk UnChicken, Fried UnFish Cakes, Curried Vegetables and Collard Greens. The only thing that Healthful essence is missing is my all time favorite, the Jamaican Veggie Patty. But the rest of the food is so delicious that I will forgive them on this one point.

Update!!! After taking a brief hiatus I found myself back at Healthful Essence and the food is better than ever! With some delicious additions to the menu including...drum roll please...Veggy Patties! Not only that but you simply must try their raw foods bar as well. The Spicy Kale Salad and Nori Rolls are worth every penny and will literally make you want to lick your plate clean. And don't get me strated on the Chickpea Patties. I dreamt of them last night and woke up craving them this morning. If a dish is able to make it into my dreams then it truly holds a special place in my heart.

They also now take credit and debit cards for orders over $10 so no need to run to the ATM before venturing down to Healthful Essence.

Hours of Operation:
Monday 2pm - 7pm
Tuesday 11am - 7pm
Wednesday 11am - 7pm
Thursday 11am - 7pm
Friday 12pm - 8 pm
Saturday 12pm - 8pm
Sunday 12pm - 6pm

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Papa Chorizo Frittata: The Recipe

As you may or may not know this little Guinea Pig has been working on a cookbook for over 3 years now. I finished my first one in February ’08 and am currently in the process of getting it published (which takes a whole lot longer than I ever imagined!) In the meantime I have started to work on books number 2 & 3. Unfortunately there are no frittata or omelette recipes in my first book but there will be in books 2 and 3. But instead of making you wait another 2 years for either one of those books to come out I’m going to go ahead and release one of the favorite recipes now (by popular demand).

Note: If these pictures seem a bit familiar it’s because I blogged about this recipe during Vegan Mofo (I just failed to provide the actual recipe that went with it)

24 ounces extra firm silken tofu
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons potato starch
½ teaspoon stone ground mustard
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon onion powder

Combine all frittata filling in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.

3 tablespoons canola oil
2 red potatoes cut into ½ inch cubes
½ cup white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 link vegan chorizo, crumbled (I pulse in a food processor for about 30 seconds)
¼ cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons flat lead parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

In a large sauce pan heat warm oil over medium to medium high heat. Add potatoes and onion and cook until potatoes are tender (about 8 minutes). Add garlic and chorizo and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in roasted red peppers and parsley.

Stir filling into frittata mix.

Lightly oil a 9 inch spring form pan or a quiche pan. Pour frittata mix into pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until filling is firm and you can run a clean toothpick through it.

Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Remove frittata from pan and serve. (Can be served warm, room temperature or cold)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Purely Decadent Ice Cream (made with Coconut Milk)

I’m the kind of girl who likes a good cup of hot tea in the summer and ice cream in the fall & winter. What can I say, I’m weird that way. The folks over at Turtle Mountain (the makers of Purely Decadent Coconut Ice Cream) must have felt my autumn cravings emerging and in turn created a new line of vegan ice creams made out of my latest obsession coconut.

Growing up I hated coconut with an unnatural fervor. However, when I became vegan my taste changed and all of a sudden me and coconut’s were BFF’s. I started experimenting with everything I could get my hands on from Thai curries and soups to raw coconut ice cream. Although I love the taste of raw homemade ice cream it does require that you crack open 2-3 Thai coconuts. After doing this about 4 or 5 times I realized that I had wasted at least an hour of my youth cracking open coconuts. Even though the rewards were great it ultimately wasn’t worth it.

Purely Decadent’s Coconut Ice Creams, although not raw, are a dream come true! When I saw them in my grocers freezer I immediately wanted to try every flavor but opted for trying their Vanilla Bean (because if you can’t make a good tasting vanilla then what’s the point?!) & Cookie Dough. The vanilla bean was perfect. I mean perfect. There was a light hint of coconut taste but otherwise it tasted like a traditional vanilla bean ice cream. This says a lot considering that I don’t like the soy based Purely Decadent Purely Vanilla. With a couple spoon full’s of vanilla bean settling down happily in my stomach I moved on to the Cookie Dough. After the first taste it was like finding your one true love. Fireworks went off, a gospel choir appeared in my living room and began singing “O Happy Day” and I swear the pups started doing the electric slide. Did I mention that I liked it?

Aside from the amazing flavor this new line of ice cream offers it also has a huge plus for those who suffer from allergies. The chocolate, coconut and vanilla bean flavors are all soy free and the cookie dough is gluten free. As an added plus, all flavors are made with agave nectar which has a low glycemic index.

In Atlanta, this frozen treat runs about $4.99 for a pint. If you’re on a budget, like most of us are, the Turtle Mountain website does offer coupons so check it out at
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