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, December 18, 2009

The Gardein Saga Continues - New Seasoned Bites

My parents are the best. Home for the holiday’s and the refrigerator is stocked with soy and almond milk and the pantry with nooch (nutritional yeast), vital gluten, quinoa, soy flour, not-beef and chicken broth and the list goes on and on! My mom was also nice enough to buy a couple gardein products for me. One I haven’t tried before is the new Gardein Seasoned Bites. Since the box didn’t offer much direction on what dishes to use these little bites in I decided to make tacos with them. I sautéed some red onion and green bell pepper, chopped up the bites to smaller bites and added a couple teaspoons of my taco seasoning.

It looked divine, smelled like the most delicious tacos ever created (mind you I was starving so just about anything would have smelled delicious at this point). I toasted my taco shells, and stuffed them with the seasoned bites, lettuce and fresh salsa. It was so beautiful that I spent 5 minutes looking for a camera to take a picture of my magnificent lunch but the growling from my stomach said that photos would have to wait for another day and it was time to chow down. I took my first excited bite and was disappointed. The texture was fine, and my taco seasoning is always amazing but there was one fundamental problem that I’ve begun to notice with gardein products – all the sauces taste the same. These seasoned bites tasted just like the Gardein Tuscan Breast. Basically, these were just the Tuscan Breast cut up and repackaged. I was expecting a clean slate to work with but that’s not what I got. I’m really disappointed at the lack of originality in the sauces that Gardein uses. These would’ve been perfect if they were just lightly seasoned, with no sauce, and allow the bites to be a clean palate that are versatile enough to incorporate into any dish or recipe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Angels and Demons – Gardein edition

Let me tell you for a fact, I will try just about anything for you guys and blog about it. I was nearly food poisoned by a bad batch of Gardein Tuscan Breast but tried them one more time only to find out that the issue had been resolved and those little cutlet’s of vegan happiness were delicious. Although the folks are Gardein were kind enough to send me samples of some of their other products (reviews to come on those soon) I got so excited after trying the Tuscan Breast that I went out and bought the crispy tenders (vegan chicken tenders) and the classic style buffalo wings.

I have to admit, it was hard for me to turn my back on Boca (the brand that made me a vegetarian) to buy Gardein's crispy tenders but it was a necessary betrayal for the sake of my readers! As I sit here, writing this, thinking about the last time I took a bite of these Gardein crispy tenders I just get a warm and fuzzy feeling all over. Like little vegan nuggets dancing through my head. I’m sad to say it but those boca nuggets are a thing of the past. Gardein’s crispy tenders are AMAZING! The taste, the texture, they’re crispy and juicy and perfect in every way. And did I mention they’re only 90 calories a serving?! If there weren’t laws against women marrying soy products then I would be Mrs. Crispy Tender, but you could call me Tender for short ;)

After a great 2nd impression with Gardein’s Tuscan Breast and a phenomenal first impression with their crispy tenders I was more excited than a 13 year old girl on the opening night of Twilight New Moon to try their classic style buffalo wings. But from the moment I opened the package I knew this was going to be an awful experience. All the “wings” were clumped up together in one big ball of soy and gluten. I microwaved them for about 30 seconds to separate the wings only to realize that there was only sauce on about ½ of them and out of those half the sauce was only on half the wing. But I soldiered on. I decided to bake them, hoping that the sauce would defrost slowly and begin to coat the entire wing, but that was simply wishful thinking. There was one wing that had a decent amount of sauce on it so I decided to try it out before I added my own buffalo sauce to the rest. IT WAS DISUSTING. Awful. Horrific. I spit it out immediately. The texture was slimy and just plain strange. The sauce was like a really bad enchilada sauce. It didn’t even closely resemble a buffalo sauce let alone a classic buffalo sauce. The whole thing was just one big disaster. As I attempted to brush every speck of these disgusting wings off my tongue all I could think is “why didn’t they just add some buffalo sauce to the crispy tenders? It would’ve been so perfect!” Well, perfect as long as they didn’t use whatever buffalo sauce was on their current wings.

So the final verdict is Gardein’s Crispy Tenders – Angel!!!! Gardein’s Classic Style Buffalo Wings – Demon!!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Joys of the TofuXpress

Howdy! I have been on quite a hiatus for much of the month of November but never fear your Vegan Guinea Pig is back and eating and reading up a storm to give you guys some great new reviews. First on deck, TofuXpress.

When TofuXpress first showed up on the market a little under a year ago I was ecstatic! I've never been the greatest at pressing all the water out of tofu. Wrapping it in towels, then weighting it, changing the towels and weighting it again or attempting to squeeze it as hard as possible without breaking the form of the tofu were both unattractive options but there has never been alternative. I headed to the TofuXpress website to buy my very own and then saw the $39.95 price tag and decided that for nearly 40 I would just suffer through the weights and towels.

But then I got frustrated. I’m a sucka (yep sucka with an “a” not an “er”) for Thai food. The first time I ever had tofu and liked it was from a Thai restaurant, the texture is just so perfect. I wanted to make some panang curry at home with that perfectly textured tofu but it just wasn’t happening for me. Inevitably my mind wandered to the Tofuxpress again but I still wasn’t quite ready to make the jump. As it turns out you guys were starting to think the same thing as me. In the last 3 months I've received at least 20 emails asking me my opinion of the TofuXpress. So I finally decided to give it a try and I am so happy that I did!

My first time using the Tofu Xpress I placed my tofu inside and let it sit in the fridge while I went off to work and class. 8 hours later I came back only to see that my block of tofu had shrunk by half and there was over ¾ cup of water waiting to be trained from the top! You can guess what happened next – Panang Curry here I come! It was so amazing, the texture was perfect. Just a little pan frying, added the sauce and veggies and voila! Authentic Thai food at home.

Once I started I couldn’t stop. Tofu Kebabs, Filet O’Tofish sandwiches from my book Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food, and of course Tofu Scramble. When making tofu scramble I like a lighter press so I just popped my tofu in the Tofuxpress for about 10-15 minutes while prepping the other ingredients and that was enough time to drain out at least ¼ cup of water from the tofu! The Tofuxpress is also great for marinating but here’s the secret – once you’ve pressed all the water out, take the tofu out and cut it into 4 sheets or cube it while still I the tofu express. Then marinate for desired amount of time and press out a little more before using in your recipe. If you don’t cut up your tofu before marinating then the marinade won’t go all the way through your tofu.

The biggest downside to the TofuXpress is the price, because really if you have a family you’re going to need more than one of these things at spending $71.95 (there’s a discount for buying two) just to press out your tofu can seem like a bit much. But when you think about it, if you’re a kitchen gadget lover like myself you’ve probably spent double or triple the $39.95 price tag of TofuXpress on other kitchen gadgets. I only use my pressure cooker to cook beans but I know I spent at least $80 on it without thinking twice, or my French Mandoline that I only use twice a quarter or so, and don’t get me started on the new Convection Oven I just bought myself for my birthday. So in the grand scheme of things $39.95 for one or $71.90 for two TofuXpress’ isn’t really that bad after all. So go on out and get yourself one!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gardein's Tuscan "Chicken" Breast

The folks at Gardein emailed me to inform me that they had a bad batch of their Tuscan chicken breast out there in circulation. I was extremely skeptical, it's easy to blame a bad experience on a "bad batch" but on the off chance they were telling the truth I accepted their offer to try another batch of their Tuscan chicken breast.

With skepticism written all over my face I baked up one breast, plated it with a salad again and took a bite. OMG!!! (Yes I just said OMG) It was sooooo yummy. I'm going to be honest with you, it’s been so long since I had actual chicken I couldn't tell you if it did or didn't taste like chicken but what it did taste like was one damn delicious meal. The taste, the texture, the sauce, everything was perfection! And for only 150 calories and 22 grams of protein how can you go wrong! I now officially know what all the fuss is about. Gardein's Tuscan Chicken breast will now and forever be the go to convenience food in the fridge.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hooray for the Vegan Mofo Swap!

Oh VeganMofo, it’s so sad to see you go but it’s been a wonderful month of vegan food. For the last day of VeganMofo I’ve decided to highlight one of the most fun parts of Mofo’ing this year – the PPK Mofo Swap. Where long-time members of the PPK forums swap vegan goodies from around the country and globe. It just so happens that my swapping partner lives in my hometown of Fresno, CA which was extremely exciting since I’ve never lived in Fresno as a vegan – only visited.

When I opened my box I nearly fell to the floor, she left no stone unturned! 98% of the things she packed in my Mofo care-package, as I’d like to call it, I’d never seen before let alone tried. She gave it a “college student” theme and packed tons of great snacks, quick & easy meals, comforting treats and most importantly wine!

Here’s the skinny on what was in my glorious box of VeganMofo happiness:
· Muncheros Japanese Peanuts w/Chili, Garbanzo Beans with Chili and Lemon and Chili Mango
· Smoked Sun Dried Tomatoes
· Carmel Valley Roasting Company Casa Munras Coffee
· Trader Joes Seriously Seedy & Nutty Wafers (cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds)
· Rice Dream Chocolate Chai
· Trail Mix
· Berries and Cherries Crunch Mix
· Amy’s Organic Split Pea Soup
· Hazelnut Cream Filled Wafers
· Kashi Fiery Fiesta Pilaf and Moroccan Curry Pilaf
· A bag chock full of vegan candies
· Cacao Nibs
· Sun maid Raisins (straight from the source)
· A bag full of great vegan lotions and Alba pineapple quench lip balm (yep, this one is vegan!)
· Walnut Oil and last but not least……
· A lovely bottle of Red Burgundy Wine :)

Whew! My swapping partner truly went above and beyond! And I hope she loves her package of vegan vittles as much as I’m enjoying mine. Happy VeganMofo Everyone!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fool Your Friends Tacos

As a native California girl my idea of comfort food is anything Mexican. I could literally eat refried beans (minus the lard of course) and Mexican rice for the rest of my life and not get bored with it. The first recipe that I ever veganized was tacos and in fact it was this very taco recipe. This recipe is also featured in my book Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food. Enjoy!

Fool Your Friends Tacos

I like to just enjoy what I call “the essence” of the taco and top only with tomatoes and taco sauce. If you like other toppings feel free to pile them on!

1 cup vegetable stock
1½ teaspoons hickory liquid smoke
1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP)
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ cup diced red onion
½ cup diced red bell pepper
½ cup diced yellow bell pepper
1 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Taco Seasoning Mix (recipe here)

12 taco shells or corn tortillas
½ medium tomato, chopped
Taco sauce of your choice (I like Ortega)

Bring the stock and liquid smoke to a boil in a small pot. Remove it from the heat, add the TVP, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add red and yellow bell peppers and sauté for an additional minute.

Add the rehydrated TVP, Taco Seasoning, and water. Cook until all the water has been absorbed and Taco Seasoning has been evenly distributed.

Lightly toast the taco shells or soften the corn tortillas in a microwave for 30 seconds. Fill with the TVP mixture and then top with tomatoes and taco sauce.

Photography by Lori Maffei

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

I swore by one particular brand of store-bought taco seasoning mix until one day I turned it over, looked at the ingredients, and realized that it was laden with MSG. Needless to say my heart was broken. In the middle of a major taco craving, I took whatever I thought might go into a taco seasoning mix and threw it together. Thank God it turned out right the first time or I would’ve eaten just the taco shell that night.

Taco Seasoning Mix from Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food
Makes 1/3 cup

3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Return of the Papa Chorizo Frittata!

If you follow me on twitter then you know of my adventures in the kitchen last night whipping up a little vegan brunch for dinner. Last year during VeganMofo while playing around with my new found love, Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausage (which I use a chorizo), I created my favorite brunch recipe of all time - The Papa Chorizo Frittata.

I used to make this at least once a month and would sometimes devour the entire frittata within 24 hours. However over the last year I've been working hard on my book, Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food, which means there hasn't been much time to repeat recipes that are tried and true. But last night the Papa Chorizo Frittata came roaring back with a vengeance. This time I used a medium-large Yukon gold potato instead of 2 red potatoes and I used 2 teaspoons of dried parsley flakes instead of 2 tablespoons of fresh.

You can find the recipe here. Enjoy!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food Cookbook Giveaway - And The Winner Is....

Thank you all for your submissions to the Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food Cookbook Giveaway! Reading through each of them made me hungrier and hungrier by the minute. Vegan Mac and Cheeze as well as anything with potatoes in it seemed to take the lead as all time favorite vegan comfort foods and has inspired my meal planning for next week - Mac and Cheeze with Daiya and Au Gratin Potatoes (look out for the reviews and recipes to come soon).

But without further ado the winner is G.I.! Congratulations G.I. I will be contacting you shortly to get your signed copy of Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food to you today.

Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food is currently available at most major and independent bookstores as well as online retailers like,, and Get your copy today!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food Cookbook Giveaway!

I’ve been a bad vegan mofo’er this week but today I plan on making it up to all of you by doing my first giveaway of the month. My new cookbook, Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food is officially available in stores and to celebrate I’m giving away a signed copy to one lucky reader.

Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food is perfect for new vegans, long-time vegans, or meat eaters trying to bring more healthful options into their diets. Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food has more than 150 go-to recipes for those looking for the tastes of home. The book opens by debunking myths that sometimes get in the way of eating vegan and introduces readers to favorite ingredients, cooking tools, and my love of quick, easy and tasty veganized comfort classics.

Dishes include Southern favorites such as Fried Chik’n Seitan, Collard Greens and Sweet Potato pie, Midwestern Tuno Casserole and Sloppy Josephs, while recipes for Black Bean Enchiladas and Fool Your Friends Tacos represent the Southwestern classics. There’s something for everyone and best of all, it is all animal-free.

To win your copy of Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food simply leave a comment below telling me what your favorite comfort food is, along with your email address so that I can contact you if you win. On October 22nd I’ll pick one lucky person using a random number generator to win. Good Luck!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gimme More Gimme Lean Breakfast Sausage!

I have searched high and low for the best breakfast sausage that money could buy since going vegetarian back in ’02. Some pretty good options have come my way over the years, my favorite was the now discontinued Publix vegan sausage patties followed by Tofurky’s Breakfast Links while Lightlife’s Smart Links ran a very distant third. I’d seen Lightlife’s Gimme Lean Breakfast Sausage for years but nothing really drew me to the thought of sausage in a tube, the idea just seemed a bit gross to me. Sure, the picture on the package looked great but don’t they always look great? Well I had a coupon for $1 off Gimme Lean sausage so I thought, what the heck, might as well give it a try. This was, hands down, the best decision I have made for myself this year – hands down. I have never, ever, in my entire lifetime tasted a breakfast sausage so damn good! It is perfection. I can’t believe I ever doubted it and that I spent almost 29 years of my life without this glorious sausage in it.

I can assure you that Gimme Lean will never leave my side from this day forward. I bought three more tubes yesterday just so that I can be sure to never go without it. The taste isn’t the only dynamic thing about Gimme Lean Sausage its nutrient profile is fantastic. Only 60 calories per serving, fat free, low in sodium and high in protein. Trust me, you need this in your life.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Improvised Udon Noodle Stir-Fry with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

There’s only so much studying one girl can do, and after a week of non-stop studying, paper writing and very little time in the kitchen I decided to show my pots and pans some love today and make myself a real dinner that took more than 10 minutes to make.

I looked around the kitchen and found a pack of udon noodles I’d been meaning to use for probably a year now (thank God for the long expiration date), picked up a bottle of pre-made Thai peanut sauce by San-J, pulled out some veggies and some tofu and the process began. Unfortunately, this was all improvised so there’s no set recipe but this is how I made it.

You’ll need:
8 ounces of udon noodles
2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
Frozen peas (I didn’t measure but I think I used about ¾ cup or so)
½ red onion, thinly sliced
About ½ bell pepper, cut into thin strips (I used frozen, pre-sliced tri-colored bell peppers)
Canola oil
Red pepper flakes
Agave nectar or maple syrup
1 block of firm tofu, cut into 2 inch strips
Flour for coating
Deep Fryer

First off you need to start boiling those udon noodles. Cook for about 6 minutes and then add carrots and peas to the water and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse the noodles and veggies and set aside.

While noodles are boiling, place about ½ cup of flour in a plastic bag, add tofu strips and toss to coat. Fry until golden, remove from oil and place on a paper towel lined plate to absorb any excess oil.

Warm oil in a large wok (I used about 2 tablespoons of canola oil) and add thinly sliced onion and bell pepper along with red pepper flakes if you would like a spicy sauce. Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until onions are tender. Add noodle/veggie mix and toss to distribute veggies.

Pour ¾ bottle of San-J Thai Peanut sauce over noodle mix and toss to coat. Add maple syrup or agave nectar to taste (for a sweet and spicy sauce) – I only added about 1-2 teaspoons. Sprinkle approximately 1-2 teaspoons or arrowroot over noodle mixture and toss to combine. Cook until sauce has thickened. Divide noodles among serving plates straight from the wok.

Now, take that fried tofu and add it to the wok. Pour the remaining ¼ bottle of San-J Thai peanut sauce over tofu and toss to coat. Top noodles with tofu and voilà. You’ve got yourself a great dinner.

The whole process still didn’t take me more than about 20 minutes from start to finish including chopping time and I am stuffed!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Quick & Easy Dinner Solutions

Keeping with the quick and easy theme of this week (and likely next week too), I did some very strategic grocery shopping on my way home from class this week. After my disappointing dinner the other night I wanted to make sure that I stocked the house with nothing but convenience foods that I know I can depend on for an amazing meal time and time again. The criteria – must be ready in under 10 minutes, low in calories (since I’m not really hitting the gym like I should be right now), and a good source of essential macro- and micro-nutrients.

Well tonight’s dinner came from an oldie but goodie Chicken Free Buffalo Wings. I warmed them up in the microwave for one minute then stuck them in the toaster oven on broil for 2 minutes while I whipped up a little extra buffalo sauce and vegan blue cheeze dressing on the side (which took about 2 minutes). Then I threw about 2 cups of mixed veggies in the steamer and steamed them for 3-4 minutes and voila! A delicious meal with a solid protein source, veggies, and tons of vitamins and minerals. I didn’t have time to rustle around the house and find my camera so my camera phone had to shoot today’s food porn and I have to say I’m quite proud of my little blackberry curve.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dinner Dissapointment - Gardein's Tuscan "Breast"

!!!UPDATE: Read this first!!!! For an update on this review head here

Howdy Vegan Mofoers! In case you’re just tuning I’m in the middle of a ridiculously hectic week of test, papers, quizzes, etc. The latest tally is one test down, one paper turned in and a quiz and test ahead of me tomorrow and somehow I’m still maintaining a small shred of sanity. As I mentioned earlier in the week right now if a meal takes more than 10 minutes to prepare it isn’t happening around the Guinea Pig household so I thought this would be a great time to try all those new pre-packaged meals and meal starters I’ve seen pop up around my grocers freezer and refrigerator section. First up was Gardein’s Tuscan Breast in tomato and basil sauce. The box proclaims all you need is rice or salad and you’ve got a meal in 2 minutes. How could I refuse with such an enticing box?!

I’m not a huge fan of the microwave so instead of zapping it for 2 minutes in the microwave I decided to use my full 10 minutes of allotted time to prepare dinner and opted for warming the “breast” on the stovetop then grilling it for about 1 minute on each side to give it a bit more texture. The Tuscan breast on the box looked like it was doing a dead-on impersonation of actual chicken while the Tuscan breast in front of me was gray. I thought the grayness would fade while I was cooking but it stayed throughout the cooking process. When it comes to world of faux meats you learn to be ready for anything so I wasn’t completely turned off by the gray food sitting in front of me just yet. It smelled good, and a quick taste of the tomato and basil sauce was promising. I made a hearty green salad with some homemade balsamic vinaigrette and was ready to sit down for a delicious meal in less than 10 minutes. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. These breasts were horrible. I mean awful. I mean disgusting. I literally became ill at the thought of taking another bite somewhere around bite two. I had to throw it away outside so I didn’t have to smell it anymore as even the smell started to nauseate me. This is definitely going on my rare DO NOT TRY list. I ended up resorting to an Amy’s Burrito for dinner (always a good back-up) after I brushed my teeth twice and gargled with salt water to get the Tuscan breast taste out my mouth. I’ve got one more Gardein product sitting in the fridge waiting to be tested – let’s hope it doesn’t disappointment me as much as this one did.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quick & Easy Chik’n Curry

After years of being wary of Indian food I’ve finally decided that it’s time to give it a chance once again. I find the best way to learn to like something is to make it yourself and so I decided to start with a simple vegan chicken curry. Typically I’m not a fan of Morningstar brand products (because there is egg in so many of their products) but I do fancy Morningstar Chik’n Strips and they are great to keep in the freezer when you’re in a culinary pinch and don’t have a ton of time to whip up some homemade chik’n seitan or any tofu in the house.

They lent themselves perfectly to my quick and easy Chik’n Curry recipe and made my first experience in the world of Indian cooking a fantastic one. Unfortunately, this chik’n curry was so delicious that I accidentally ate nearly all of it before it occurred to me that I should have taken a picture of it to show you fine folks. But just imagine it to be beautiful, golden strips dotted with golden raisins atop a bed of brown rice with a little curried cauliflower and potatoes on the side. Just in case your imagination isn’t that great here’s the recipe for you to try it for yourself!

3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne
8 ounces Morningstar Chik’n Strips Meal Starters, defrosted
2 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
½ small onion, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup vegetable stock (I use Swanson)
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 ½ tablespoons ketchup
Oil for Frying

Combine flour, salt and cayenne in a shallow dish or large plastic Ziploc bag. Add chik’n strips and toss to coat. Deep Fry for about 1-2 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Warm oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes or until onions become tender. Add curry powder and stir until onions are coated. Stir in vegetable stock, raisins and ketchup. Cook for 5 minutes then add chik’n strips and cook until sauce has thickened. Serve over brown rice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Cheesy Vegan Mofo - Chick Cheeze Spread Recipe

Whew! Just making the midnight deadline on this Monday Mofo! I’m knee deep in a week full of tests, papers and quizzes so everything I put in my mouth for the next 7 days must take no more than 10 minutes to prepare unless I happen to have a little extra time on my hands then I can stretch it to 15.

A little more than 3 years into being vegan and the thought of the taste of cheese kinda makes my stomach turn. I’ll be doing a review of Daiya cheese later but that stuff is so much like real cheese I can barely stand it at times – mine actually turned to mold before I could finish a full pack of cheddar and Italian blend. But on to the subject at hand. A great hybrid of a cheeze spread that isn’t overpowering with the cheeze flavor and hummus. I’m in love with Jo Stepaniak’s The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook because I think it has perfect cheesy recipes that aren’t too cheesy for my current liking. This Chick Cheeze is an adaptation of her recipe. I added flax oil to give myself a quick and easy way to get some omega 3’s in without having to think about it. Enjoy!

2 cups cooked chickpeas
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons light miso
¼ cup flax oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dry mustard

Combine all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides when necessary. Can be eaten immediately but is even better when it’s had a chance to chill for at least 8 hours.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Roasted Root and Gourd Soup

There’s this great little urban farm in East Point, GA called Truly Living Well that has incredible organic produce. I’ve been meaning to check it out for awhile and finally had the opportunity to stop by last week and pick up some of fruits and veggies. A huge basket of butternut squashes was calling me by my first, middle and last name so I had to go over and get a few. I’ve never worked with butternut squash before but have always wanted to. I have at least 10 recipes that involve butternut squash scrolled down in my little recipe notebook or on a one side of an envelope or as a note in my blackberry always reminding me to try it one day.

I thought the easiest way to experiment with butternut squash for the first time was a soup, but I didn’t want to make just another butternut squash soup so I decided to mix up a few things and thankfully it all turned out well or I would’ve spent nearly an hour of my life roasting roots and gourds for nothing. I decided to make what I call Roasted Root & Gourd Soup with roasted sweet potatoes, butternut squash and carrots with minimal, yet bold, seasoning so I didn’t take away from the flavors of my fresh from the farm roots and gourds. Although I’m still tempted to add a little bit more ginger I’ll leave that up to you. If you feel like playing around with the dish a little more other spices that might go well with it are allspice and cinnamon. Oh and did I mention it is also soy and gluten free? Cause it is! But without further ado…here’s the recipe:

Roasted Root and Gourd Soup
Makes 6-8 Servings

1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded (about 3 pounds)
2 medium garnet sweet potatoes, halved (about 1 ¾ - 2 pounds)
2 medium carrots, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 ½ cups rice milk
2 cups vegetable stock (I use Swanson)
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Arrange quash, sweet potatoes and carrots flesh side up on a baking sheet covered with foil. Lightly brush canola oil over the vegetables. Roast for 45-55 minutes or until tender (you can easily stick a fork into the flesh). Carrots might be done a little earlier so check on them around 20 minutes.

Once vegetables are roasted scoop out the flesh of one side of the butternut squash, one carrot and one sweet potato and add to a blender. Puree with ¾ cup rice milk until smooth and transfer to a medium stockpot or Dutch oven. Puree with remaining vegetables with the last ¾ cup of rice milk and transfer to the stockpot.

Stir in vegetable stock, brown sugar, ginger and nutmeg over medium heat and cook until just warm (about 10 minutes). Ladle into serving bowls and enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vegan Brunch at Stone Soup Kitchen Atlanta, GA (and the start of VeganMofo III)

I'm writing this blog while sitting on the back patio of Stone Soup Kitchen (584 Woodward Avenue Atlanta, GA 30312 ). Enjoying a perfect Thursday morning, not too hot, not too cold, just enough breeze and the birds are chirping (but not in an annoying way, just right). The perfect way to start a day and to kick-off Vegan Mofo III (the Vegan Month of Food). All month long I'll be blogging overtime bringing you recipes, giveaways, and tons of vegan food porn. But for today, it’s all about Stone Soup Kitchen.

Stone Soup Kitchen is a phenomenal breakfast/brunch restaurant, only open to 3pm. They have plenty of indoor seating but my favorite place to be is their outdoor patio which is hidden away from the street and always peaceful and quite (except for the birds of course).

Stone Soup is an omni-restaurant with vegan options. If you're lucky enough you'll get a server who asks u if you're vegan and will point out to u potential pitfalls in the menu - like the soysage which is Morningstar brand and therefore has eggs in it. And will make sure they give you the vegan butter for your toast not the regular butter. Thankfully my server was amazing and made sure all my food was 100% vegan to the letter.

Stone Soup is one of those rare places in which I love everything vegan on their menu. I honestly don't have a complaint about one item and could eat their food for breakfast or brunch everyday for the rest of my life if my budget allowed. Their vegan menu consists of:

Oatmeal (steel cut)
Blueberry cornmeal flapjacks
Vegos Rancheros (veganized juevos rancheros)
Tofu Scramble (pictured above)
Home Grilled Potatoes (pictured above)
Cuban Black Beans Soup
Lil’s Favorite Sandwich (avocado, lettuce, tomato, sunflower sprouts, and Dijon mustard)
As well as daily specials

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food Book Signing

It's here! It's here! Well...almost. My first cookbook, Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food, is now available to purchase online and will be on the shelves of your local bookstore within the next 2 weeks. However, if you live in Atlanta (my adopted hometown) you can come by this Saturday to pick up your copy of Quick & Easy Vegan Comort Food at my first booksigning this upcoming Saturday, September 26th at 8pm at Charis Books & More located at 1189 Euclid Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30307. Of course no vegan event would be complete without vegan desserts and this one shall be no exception! Come taste some of the yummy desserts from the book and a couple new one's at the event as well.

What - Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food Book Signing & Launch Party
Where - Charis Books & More 1189 Euclid Ave, Atlanta, GA
When - 8pm
Contact - (404)524-0304

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vegan Pizza In A Box

With a Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s, Papa John’s, Round Table, Me N’ Eds, or Domino’s on every corner it’s easy to forget that pizza actually be made at home, with little effort, and in the same amount of time it takes for delivery to arrive. Not only that but making your own pizza means you don’t have to worry about sitting in the house starving for 30 minutes, running to the door at the first sound of the delivery car door slamming shut only to realize that they put cheese on your pizza even after you said “no cheese” 30 times or they slathered some type of buttery mixture all over your crust or accidentally let a slice pepperoni or piece of sausage find its way onto your all veggie pizza.

There’s something about the accomplishment of slaving away in the kitchen, kneading dough, making pizza sauce from scratch, chopping up my veggies, etc. that makes me feel all accomplished. Like I’ve just made the Mona Lisa of pizzas. I’m a sucker for a good pizza sauce and I’ll just toot my own horn by saying I have one darn good recipe for pizza sauce hidden way in the back of my new cookbook Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food. The trouble is out of my entire cookbook of Quick & Easy Vegan Meals my pizza sauce is one of the few recipes that actually does take 45 minutes to simmer to perfection. It would still be good if simmered for 15 minutes but once you’ve tasted it after 45 minutes, you can just never go back!

With a full 18 credit course load in school right now, work, a new cookbook out and a bakery to run time is not what it used to be in the Guinea Pig home and I like to cut corners whenever I can. Enter from stage left – Ian’s Pizza Kits. Quick, easy and fun to make they come with everything you need to make a perfect pizza except the toppings – pizza dough mix, pizza sauce, and spice packet. It also comes in gluten free and organic varieties. Not only do they make great pizzas but you can quarter the dough and make calzones with this kit as well! And with a price under $5 you can't help but throw a box or two in the shopping cart for a rainy day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cookbook Review: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World by Jennifer McCann

I've been a fan of Jennifer McCann's for years now. I've got a signed copy of her first book Vegan Lunch Box from when she was self-publishing, before DaCapo Press stumbled upon her genius. On a personal note I have to say that Jennifer McCann is a phenomenal person who, when I had a million questions about self-publishing my own book, patiently and thoroughly answered my every question. And now look at us, two published gals!

When my copy of Vegan Lunch Box Around the World showed up on my doorstep I became giddy like a school girl, literally. I carried it around campus from class to class and somewhere between Biochemistry and Biological Anthropology picked out my preliminary list of must try recipes.

Even though the recipes in the book are super kid friendly they are perfectly suited for the adult palate as well. Plus I figure if I start practicing now by the time I have kids old enough to take lunch to school I'll be an old pro at these recipes. For now my 4 legged children are pretty easy to please - a stalk of broccoli and they will each follow me to the ends of the Earth! If only human children were so easy to please.

With Vegan Lunch Box Around the World even your most picky eaters will be satisfied. How can you go wrong with vegan goldfish crackers or Pad Thai?! Plus I've always dreamed of having an ultra sophisticated kid who has a better palette than most adults - with this book it won't be hard to accomplish that goal. But now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty, my top 5 favorite recipes from the book (in no particular order):

Fish Crackers (aka Vegan Goldfish crackers)
Jennifer’s Omega-3 Protein Bars
Carrot and Daikon Salad
Plantain Wraps with Tangy Black Bean Spread
Martie’s Gumbo

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And The Winner Is....

I had an absolute ball reading all the entries for the Tom's of Maine 24 Hour Long Lasting Deodorant Giveaway! Turns out that most of you love the summer just as much as I do. But I'm trying my best to still welcome in the fall with open arms, after all I am an autumn baby so I guess I need to show more love for my birth season. But without further ado the winner of the Tom's of Maine Giveaway is HeyitsBeth!!!

HeyitsBeth please forward me your information to and you'll have a lovely stick of Mountain Spring Deodorant before the end of next week. Congratulations! And look out for another giveaway towards the end of September.

Monday, September 7, 2009

3 More Days Left in the Tom's of Maine Giveaway Contest!

The Tom's of Maine New 24-Hour Long Lasting Deoderant Giveaway is on for just 3 more days! Remember you can enter as many times as you like.

The rules of the giveaway are very simple - leave a comment on the "Tom's of Maine New 24-Hour Long Lasting Deoderant Giveaway" Blog telling me why you love (or hate) summer and on September 10th I’ll pick one lucky person using a random number generator to win. Please remember to leave your email address in the comment so I can contact you if you win. You can enter as many times as you like over the next week. Good Luck!

Do not leave your comments here as they will not be counted in the giveaway. Only leave comments here

Thursday, September 3, 2009

GIVEAWAY!!!! Tom's of Maine New 24 Hour Odor Protection Natural Deoderant

In great sadness I must announce that summer is almost over, just in case you didn’t know. Temperatures here in the great state of Georgia have quickly dropped from the high 80s and 90s in August to the low 60s and 70s as soon as the calendar changed to September. But before summer officially ends I have to slip in one more natural deodorant review and a GIVEAWAY!

The crafty folks over at Tom’s of Maine have come out with yet another new natural deodorant. The new 24 Hour Odor Protection Long Lasting Deodorant Line in Beautiful Earth and Mountain Spring scent. If you’re an experienced purveyor of the natural deodorant section of your local store then you’ve probably seen Tom’s of Maine’s older version of this product called Long Lasting Deodorant. The older model was good but not great. Your experience wearing it all hinged on what you defined as long-lasting as opposed to what Tom (yep, we’re on a first name basis) believed was long-lasting. But now Tom is boldly throwing out a defined time frame 24 whole hours. Well, I put Tom to the test. After all, 24 hours of odor protection in Maine during August is a little different than 24 hours of odor protection in Georgia in August.

If you follow me on twitter then you know that I spent a solid 16 hours (a girl does have to sleep) sniffing my armpits every hour on the hour through a day of class, work, errand running and a light outdoor workout in the middle of August. To my surprise this stuff really does work! I was a little unsure of the scents at first (nothing compares to my Bay-Lime love) but as the day wore on it worked out perfectly. My only complaint is that after a few uses this solid stick begins to turn into a semi-solid. Kinda ½ gel ½ solid and begins to feel a bit slimy when you first apply it. The slimy feeling goes away as the deodorant begins to work but it does take a bit of getting used to.

So now it’s time for you to try Tom’s of Maine’s new 24 Hour Odor Protection Long-Lasting Deodorant for yourself. But wait…I did say something about a giveaway didn’t I? The good folks over in Tom’s magic deodorant factory were nice enough to send me over a sample of each scent and I’d love to pass one on to you! I tested using the Beautiful Earth scent so the Mountain Spring is up for grabs!

The rules of the giveaway are very simple - leave a comment below telling me why you love (or hate) summer and on September 10th I’ll pick one lucky person using a random number generator to win. Please remember to leave your email address in the comment so I can contact you if you win. You can enter as many times as you like over the next week. Good Luck!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kiss My Big Beautiful Vegan Lips! (A Review on Beeswax Free Lip Balm)

Honey is one of those things that is a tiresome topic of debate in the vegan world. If you’re a new vegan then you’ve probably seen conflicting information on different blogs, websites, etc. For me, the answer was very simple. Donald Watson, the “father of veganism”, included honey as one of the foods that vegans should avoid. As the founder of the Vegan Society he defined a vegan as “…someone who tries to live without exploiting animals, for the benefit of animals, people and the planet. Vegans eat a plant-based diet, with nothing coming from animals - no meat, milk, eggs or honey, for example. A vegan lifestyle also avoids leather, wool, silk and other animal products for clothing or any other purpose.” I don't see why I should go around ruining a good thing so I'll stick with Donald’s definition of veganism - he did create the word after all. As far as I'm concerned if you're not a bee, or Winnie the Pooh, you have no real need for honey in your diet.

Well, the same principal is extended to beeswax. Just as vegans don't use byproducts like leather or wool we also don't use products containing beeswax. Now usually I would say that it’s super easy to eliminate non-vegan things from your life but beeswax is an interesting one because we think so little about it from day to day but it’s in so many beauty products. I’m not really a lip balm kinda girl. I like my lips to have a little tint (or a lot depending on my mood). I usually buy 3 sticks of lip balm every 2-3 years and use it only at night before I go to bed. Right before going vegan I bought 3 sticks of Burt Bee’s lip balm. My unopened sticks of Burt Bee's were triumphantly given away to a friend as soon as I went vegan ,and I headed to Target to get myself a nice new stick of lip balm – beeswax free. I had been using Alba products for a while and they all proclaimed themselves to be “vegetarian products”, not tested on animals and all that other good stuff. So, without hesitation, I made a bee-line (pun intended) to the Alba section. I did a quick ingredient check, everything looked vegan, and off I went with 3 new sticks of Alba lip balm in all sorts of tropical flavors. I put one by my bedside, one in my purse and one in my travel bag - I was all set and ready. Then one day, out of sheer boredom, I did another ingredient scan only to realize that there was in fact beeswax in not one but all three of my Alba lip balms! Argh! I was so upset. But by now all three were opened and used. No one wanted a tube of half used lip balm so I kept them and decided to use them until they were gone. 2 1/2 years later I've finally managed to use all 3 (obviously I don't use this stuff often) and I marched (well drove) on down to Cosmos's Vegan Shoppe to pick up 3 new tubes of lip balm.

Cosmo’s has more choices of lip balm than any store I’ve ever been to. The brand that I kept going to time and time again was Crazy Rumors. They had several little “themes” for their flavors like Brew for tea flavors, Fresh Squeezed for Citrus Flavors, Hibiskiss brining flower power to your lips with a hint of color, Perk for yummy coffee flavors, A La Mode ice cream inspired flavors and Gumball to make your lips as sweet as candy. The choice was impossible to make but I picked out my 3 flavors that I will be spending the next 3 years of my life with: Spiced Chai (wearing it right now), Limeade, and Peppermint Lemongrass. Not only is Crazy Rumors an incredible vegan brand but the ingredient list is filled with all natural simple products like organic jojoba oil, organic extra virgin olive oil and organic shea butter there’s even a little stevia for sweetness. The flavor and texture is so amazing that I find myself putting on a little lip balm under my lip-gloss so I can smell the sweet scent all day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cookbook Review: The 30 Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray

I’m a huge cookbook nerd, and not just because I have one of my own. Every time I get a new cookbook I sit down with it like it’s a Jane Austin novel and read through it cover to cover before I try one recipe. I scope out all the dishes that I think will be dynamic and tab them off. I get my grocery list together in my head and then mentally check off everything that I already have in the pantry to see what I can make right then and there.

As I sat down with Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray’s latest cookbook The 30-Minute Vegan I quickly realized that I did not have enough vegetables in my kitchen arsenal! Although I fancy myself to be a very healthy vegan who eats my recommended 5-7 fruits and vegetables a day I realized after reading through The 30 Minutes Vegan that I am missing out! Every recipe is jam packed with a cornucopia of veggies. Mark and Jennifer take you on a whirlwind tour of your grocers produce section utilizing vegetables from all corners of the globe. If you ever stood in the produce section handling a large bunch of bok choy and wondered what to do with it, this book will give you at least 50 recipes to answer that question in your head and many more.

I found this book to be an amazing book for the novice cook and for anyone who is in a culinary rut. There are recipes from all over the world from dishes as simple as popsicles and smoothies to Thai Green Curry and Tofu Saag. What I love about this book is that the dishes are really versatile and easy to make your own. The basic structure of the dishes are so strong that if you take out a little broccoli here, add a little more carrots and bok choy there or if you don’t happen to have an ingredient on you the recipe will still come out great.

My one criticism of this book is that the whole cooking process is not as easy and quick as it sounds. The authors of this book don't tend to use common foods found in the average pantry or refrigerator. I personally like to look in my pantry see what I have then find a recipe that will accommodate. So when I've come home from a long day I don't have to head back out and go grocery shopping before I cook. Things like fresh Thai Basil Leaves, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Fresh Lemongrass, beets, and purple potatoes typically aren't staples in my pantry. So you definitely need to sit down and plan your meals ahead of time. But the great thing is, once you’ve got these items in your pantry you are good to go! I froze my Kaffir leaves so I can use them at will, and same goes for the lemongrass and basil leaves. At the end of the day, I have a newly expanded more international pantry to draw from and an arsenal of new recipes to add to my monthly rotation. Now, without further a-do, my top 5’s from The 30 Minute Vegan. Now get cooking!

Popsicles (Antioxicles, Tropsicles & Fudgsicles)
Thai Coconut Soup
Baked Plantains
That Green Curry
Baked Apple Crisp

Monday, August 10, 2009

Veganism + Carribean Food = True Love

Back in October of 2008 a Vegan Caribbean Food Restaurant called Healthful Essence opened up in the West End area of Atlanta. A lot has changed since the restaurant first opened and things are only getting better! Check out the updated review

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mouth Full Of Marshmallow’s And Not Ashamed Of It!

With a cookbook coming out in a little over a month, I tend to fancy myself to be a pretty decent cook. Baking for and running a successful vegan bakery, you think, would make me a pretty decent baker too. But…after all the food I have cooked, all the cookies, pies and cupcakes I have made. Nothing has brought more “ooohhh’s” “ahhhh’s” and “how did you make these?” than when I made Rice Krispies Treats for a friend’s birthday party.

At first all the omni’s were apprehensive. They know I’m vegan, love my food, love my deserts but something about the idea of a vegan marshmallow made them uneasy. Mostly because most of them didn’t know what was in a marshmallow to make it not vegan in the first place! (It never ceases to amaze me how clueless people are about what they put in their bodies! But I digress…)
One of my friends skeptically picked up a little Rice Krispies Treat square. He looked at it, smelled it, and then cut it in half just in case he didn’t like it. Then he took a small, timid bite. Within 10 milliseconds of his first chew he was grinning from ear to ear, had devoured the first half of the square, was reaching for the other half and was eyeing the tray of treats to assess how long it would take him to finish the whole tray! Next came the questions…”what did you put in these?”, “Tell me your secret!”, “Did you use an egg?”, “You had to have used real butter right?” The questions kept coming and when they finally stopped I simply said “Earth Balance, Rice Krispies and most importantly DANDIES!” This, of course, led to an exhaustive explanation of what Dandies are, what are in regular marshmallows and why being vegan is the best thing since the invention if the wheel! I must say, the Chicago Soy Dairy has outdone themselves this time. I would like to personally give the inventor of dandies a kiss on the mouth! And I mean that, so wherever you are get your lips ready!

I’d dibbled and dabbled in the world of vegan marshmallows but was never very impressed. But the bag of dandies just looked so light and so fluffy. Plus there’s a little marshmallow man on the bag smiling and beckoning you to come eat him. How could I resist? If you follow me on twitter then you know my initial reaction to these glorious morsels of sugar fluff. I dare not repeat it here for fear my mother or grandmother might run across this post one day! But let’s just say. I liked them a lot. If you haven’t tried these yet, then it’s time to get out your wallet and get to it!

Oh and of course I wouldn't leave you without the all important recipe for Rice Krispies Treats.

Rice Krispies Treats

3 tablespoons Earth Balance Margarine

One, 10-ounce bag of Dandies

6 cups Rice Krispies

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add rice Krispies cereal. Stir until well coated.

Evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Favorite Deodorant To Smell, Lick And Swoon Over.

Not long ago Tom’s of Maine came out with a new line of Sensitive Skin Natural Deodorants. When I stumbled upon them at my local Whole Foods I was a bit wary. I had just dedicated 3 years of my life to trying every natural deodorant I could get my hands on and finally had my favorite. I just didn’t know if I had it in me to try one more!

But that pale green packaging lured me in and next thing you know I had a stick of deodorant stuck so close to my nose I swear some particles of it are still permanently embedded in my sinuses. There are two new scents, Bay Lime and Cucumber-Grapefruit. The budget wouldn’t allow me to get both so I had to go with the one that made me salivate the most (drum roll please!) Bay Lime. I know…I know…A deodorant making you salivate seems like a bit much, but just smell it once and you’ll understand! It’s one of those scents that smells so good that you kinda want to lick it when no one’s looking just to see if it taste as good as it smells. I will not confirm or deny if I did this myself. Let’s just say, don’t try this one at home kiddies.

It’s always a gamble to try a new natural deodorant in the midst of a sweltering hot, humid summer in Georgia. But I took the brave leap and tried it one day when the temperature was well into the 90s with an unmentionable heat index. Let me tell you, you will not be disappointed by the performance of this deodorant! Traditional Tom’s of Maine natural deodorants are good and all but this new sensitive skin line is incredible. It far surpasses the power of their original line and it’s the only deodorant I’ve ever worn that has garnered me compliments. I’ve had nearly a dozen people comment that I smelled like a beautiful tropical island or that standing next to me made them feel like they were on vacation in Hawaii. But the all time best, and most awkward, moment came when I was sharing an elevator with a stranger. The stranger was a nice older woman. Probably in her late 60s-early 70s and she asked me what kind of perfume I was wearing. Before I could answer she went on and on about how she was more of an Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds kinda girl but that her daughter would absolutely love the scent I was wearing. When she finally stopped telling me her life story I told her it was just my deodorant and I kid you not, that woman tried to sniff my armpits to see if I was telling the truth! Thank God just as the moment got unbearably uncomfortable the elevator doors opened and I bolted out – unfortunately in my hast I ended up getting off on the wrong floor but my armpits escaped the nose of a stranger and that’s what’s important.

Awkward elevator moments aside, you must try this deodorant. And ladies, it is the perfect deodorant to use right after you’ve shaved under your arms. Both scents contain soothing aloe, witch hazel and chamomile to make you underarms feel like the happiest place on Earth!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cookbook Review: Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Who can make you go from having the occasional tofu scramble for breakfast every morning to eating your weight in tofu on a daily basis just at breakfast alone?! Isa Chandra Moskowitz that’s who. Isa’s latest book Vegan Brunch is the best thing that has ever happened to your morning meal. If you want to wow someone with your culinary capabilities in the kitchen then these are some great recipes to start with. Isa has everything in this book – tofu scrambles, fruit flavored waffles and pancakes, quiches, crepes and signature dishes like Tofu Benny (a veganized Eggs Benedict), Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes, Puttanesca Scramble (my favorite dish in the whole wide world), Chorizo Sausage, and even homemade English Muffins and Bagels!

As with all my cookbook reviews I have a top 5 favorite recipes from Vegan Brunch. And here they go…

  1. Puttanesca Scramble
  2. Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes
  3. Classic Broccoli Quiche
  4. Pumpkin Pancakes
  5. Beer Batter Tofu

You can check out a few sample recipes from the book on Isa’s Blog and below is my favorite favorite favorite recipe from the book, Puttanesca Scramble. I literally made this 3 times yesterday. Why? Because I kept on eating the entire batch! Yep, that’s right, I ate over 2 ½ pounds of tofu yesterday, and to think there used to be a day when I thought tofu was the worst food item ever invented! Obviously those days are long gone.

I made a couple changes to the recipe to make it a bit more economical. Instead of fresh tomatoes I used canned whole Roma or plum tomatoes and diced them up. Instead of fresh herbs I used dried herbs and took the quantity down to 1 teaspoon of each. I also hate olives so I upped the capers by ½ tablespoon. The original recipe is below but if you’re on a budget the substitutions leave it tasting just as good!

Puttanesca Scramble

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 - 8 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb extra firm tofu, diced
4 roma tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1/2 cup mixed olives, roughly chopped
1 tablespoons capers
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Preheat a large heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic in the olive oil until lightly browned, but be careful not to burn. 3 minutes ought to do it. Add the red pepper flakes and the tofu and sauté for about 10 minutes, until tofu is browned. Add a little extra oil if necessary.

Mix in tomatoes, thyme, oregano and oregano and cook for about 5 minute, until tomatoes are a bit broken down but still whole. Add olives, capers and salt to taste. Cook just until heated through.

Excerpted from the book Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, published by Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Vegan Mock Crab Cakes

Vegan Mock Crab Cakes
Makes 9-10 Cakes

4 Boca Chik’n Patties, warmed in the microwave
¼ cup vegannaise
1 teaspoon vegan worchestershire sauce
½ teaspoon old bay seasoning
1/3 cup diced bell pepper of any color
2 tablespoons canola oil

Add cooked chik’n patties, veganaise, worchestershire and old day seasoning to a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are incorporated.

Empty contents into a large bowl. Add bell pepper and stir to combine. 2 tablespoons at a time form into little balls then flatten into cakes.

Warm canola oil on a griddle or large sauce pan. Add cakes and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes each side. Top with Remoulade and serve.

Remoulade Sauce:
¼ cup veganaise
¾ teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon ketchup
½ teaspoon white wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon vegan worchestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon hot sauce

Whisk all ingredients together, cover and chill for an hour.

Boca Chik’n Patties and Nuggets

It seems that almost all my life I have been eliminating one form of meat or another from my diet. As a kid it was pork, as a teenager beef and during my senior year in college I temporarily gave up chicken for Lent. It’s funny how those little things we do, that don’t seem to mean much, change so much of your life. While on my 40 days and 40 nights without chicken I decided to try out the mock chicken products that I had started seeing in the frozen foods section.

I picked up a couple packages of Boca Chik’n Nuggets and Chik’n Patties. At this point, chicken had been the only meat in my diet for nearly a decade so I knew chicken pretty darn well. But I was open to trying something new while chicken was temporarily out of my life. From the first bite I was amazed. It was better than the real thing! For the first time ever I actually contemplated going vegetarian. Within 3 months I had taken the plunge and was a full fledged, card carrying vegetarian. All thanks to these Boca Chik’n Nuggets and Patties. That was over 7 years ago. Now as a vegan I am so excited to hear that all Boca will be egg free by January 2010! For now as long as it’s in the red box it’s most likely vegan (but do a quick check on the side of the box and it will let you know for sure). For Boca Burgers there is a specific vegan burger, also in the red box.

As I said earlier, it’s been 7 years since I first went vegetarian and although I do love me some Chik’n Patties and Nuggets every once in awhile I like to change it up. I created these Vegan Mock Crab Cakes from my beloved Boca Chik’n Patties. Give them a try if you’re looking for something new.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Chicken-Free Buffalo Wings

When I first went veg, 7 years ago, Gardenburger had a brand of meatless Buffalo wings that were good enough to make you cry! I remember buying them in bulk. I was never one for Buffalo wings as an omnivore but as a vegetarian I just had to have them. Then one day they just disappeared. I checked the companies website and it was like they never existed. I even wrote a letter to the company to inquire about them but my letters went unanswered.

Over the years I've learned how to make my own meatless Buffalo wings (I prefer to call them buffalo bites) and my recipe is included in my upcoming book Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food. Although it doesn't take more than 30 minutes to put my Spicy Buffalo Bites together, sometimes, after dragging in the door after 9pm after a long day of work, school, working out and trying to maintain a semblance of a social life I just don't have the energy for it.

I've been eying Health is Wealth's brand of Chicken-Free Buffalo Wings for about a year now. They didn't look like they had the deep red spicy sauce of Gardenburger's meat free Buffalo Wings but since Gardenburger had decided to abandon me years ago it was only right that I give another brand a try.

5 wings only took 2 minutes to cook in the microwave. Then I threw them in the toaster oven on broil for a couple minutes to get them nice and crispy on the outside. They smelled wonderful. I got out a little vegan blue cheese dressing, carrot sticks, celery sticks, and was ready to sit down to a perfect meal. Unfortunately, these buffalo wings didn't deliver. The texture was fine, and the taste would have been fine if all i wanted was regular meatless chicken nuggets. But I was expecting buffalo wings, at least a little heat, but there was no spice to be found. Thankfully I had some hot sauce sitting around and I whipped up a bit of the sauce that I use to make my Spicy Buffalo Bites and dipped each of the buffalo wings in it. Perfection! It gave them the kick that they needed. I finished the entire package of 12 nuggets in two days using this method.

Even though these chicken-free buffalo wings weren't exactly what I was looking for I would still buy them again if I had a coupon for them or they were on sale (which happens quite often). They definitely weren't bad, they just lacked that characteristic spicy buffalo sauce.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Beat it! Natural & Herbal Insect Repellent (DEET Free)

Ever since I was a child there was just something about me that mosquito's loved. On my first trip to the south I remember being covered from head to toe in mosquito bites by day 2 and soaking in a bathtub of Avon's Skin So Soft to try to relieve some of the pain and swelling (needless to say that didn't work). As a child and even as a young adult it never occurred to me to even use any type of insect repellent. But, after I woke up one morning looking like Quasimodo with a big swollen mosquito bite over my right eye I decided it was time to take some action.

I started using all the popular brands you find in convenience stores. I used sprays, lotions, wipes, the whole gamete. They worked fine but I soon realized why my mom had kept these things from me my entire childhood. They were full of DEET, a known carcinogen. The EPA says that if you use products with DEET as the label says then you should be fine. Well, that wouldn't solve my mosquito bite on the eye issue. For years I had been slathering this stuff all over my face, behind my ears, and on every nook and cranny of my body to make sure that I stayed bite free. According to the EPA you shouldn't even put it on your hands! So after I completely freaked out and threw out everything in my house containing DEET I started searching for alternatives.

A lot of natural insect repellents tend to leave you smelling like a huge citronella candle. And that just isn't very sexy to me. Plus, somewhere in my mind, I wasn't 100% convinced that a natural/herbal product could do the same work as the heavy chemicals. When I saw Beat it! I figured I would give it a try. After all, the label claimed that it was "Jungle Strength" so that had to be some good stuff right?

I tested Beat it! in every scenario possible. Hiking trails, backyard BBQ's, the Costa Rican rainforest. Wherever I went, Beat it! went with me. And I have to say that, in my opinion, it worked even better the conventional brands of insect repellent. Plus, since it is a herbal formula, you can spray it on your clothes too, creating a nice barrier between you and the bugs that love to bite you.

Another huge advantage of using Beat It! is that it works great on animals too! I spray it on my dogs, goats and even my rabbit when he's outside. It gives me one more layer of comfort in knowing that I'm protecting my dogs from mosquito's and heartworm while not using toxic chemicals on them.

Beat it! is carried in some natural food stores and Whole Foods but can always be purchased online at

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Coconut Bliss - 7 Minutes in Ice Cream Heaven

It's official. Coconut is the new soy. Everywhere you turn there is some new hot coconut based product. Coconut ice cream, yogurt, milk and even coconut flour. Luna & Larry have thrown one more hat into the coconut crazy ring with the addition of their Coconut Bliss line of dairy free, soy free and sugar free ice creams. I must admit as I tried each one of their 8 flavors and slipped into a soft, happy, place somewhere between the feeling of a 2 hour massage and sleeping on a bed of soft feathers (faux feathers of course. Down is so not vegan!), I started to feel like I was cheating on Purely Decadent's Coconut Ice Cream. I started to wonder how I would explain myself to you guys. How I could go from loving Purely Decadent's Coconut Ice cream more than newborn puppies to being lost in a sea of love and emotion over Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss. But then it all came to me. You can love them both equally and feel unashamed.

Coconut Bliss and Purely Decadent Coconut Ice Cream have 4 flavors in common: coconut, vanilla, chocolate and mint chocolate. But they also each have 4 unique flavors as well. So you can try Coconut Bliss' Cappuccino, Cherry Amaretto, Strawberry Lemon Love, or Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge while still being able to enjoy Purely Decadent's Cookie Dough, Mocha Almond Fudge, Passionate Mango and Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl (I've also seen a snickerdoodle flavor out there once but only at Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe).

So you see, there's enough coconut ice cream love to spread around between both brands. And this summer my freezer will be well stocked with a little of both. Ice Cream party anyone?!

Update: June/July 2009 Coconut Bliss is adding 3 new flavors to their arsenal. Chocoalte Peanut Butter, Naked Almond Fudge and Pineapple Coconut. I can't wait!!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Guinea Pig Updates: So Delicious Coconut Yogurt

This little guinea pig has managed to stir up quite a lot of emotion from the Purely Decadent coconut yogurt lovers out there. Here's an update on my purely decadent coconut yogurt review. Hopefully this clarifies some things. Also there are a couple new flavors that I've tried as well.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Brownies Are For Lovers...

Ghirardelli brand chocolates is not only a chocolate lover's dream but a vegan's dream as well. For all those people who think being vegan is inaccesible, hard and you have to go to a bunch of special stores to get good vegan vittles I say nay to you! I picked up a box of Ghirardelli chocolate double chocoalte brownie mix (with chocoalte chips in the mix) for $1.50 at Target. Ghirardelli's brownies were almost good enough to make me stop making brownie's from scratch all together...almost.

The add in ingredients to the mix are 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 1 egg. You can easily substitute out 1/4 cup pureed soft silken tofu or 1 egg equivalent Ener-G egg replacer for the egg in the mix. Both ways come out great. You will need to increase the cooking time by about 2-3 minutes (you can tell it's done when a toothpick passes through clean).

Aside from the phenomenal taste, texture and ease of veganizing this brownie mix has the best directions of any mix I've seen. It not only has directions for metal pan baking but glass pan baking as well. I only have glass so for me this is a huge help as I'm always left with the task of trial and error trying to translate baking times to fit the pan I'm using.

There's also a great recipe for Seven Layer Brownie Bars on the back of the box, which can also easily be veganized by trading out Earth Balance margarine for the butter and oat milk for the sweetened condensed milk to make yummy Seven Layer Brownie Bars.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Restaurant Review: The Last Carrot Miami, FL

Two weeks in Miami sounds like the ultimate vacation to some but for me it was nothing but endless meetings, a bad hotel exercise room and an endless stack of take out menu’s to pick out my dinner from. Inevitably that means a choice between pizza or Chinese. After alternating between the two for days I finally had to branch out. Thankfully a kind spirit took pity on my poor soul’s yearning for fresh vegetables and “real” vegan food and shuttled me down to The Last Carrot (3133 Grand Ave, Coconut Grove Miami, FL).

The Last Carrot isn’t much to look at, but from the second I walked in the door I knew that I had made it to a little slice of vegan heaven. Instead of trying to decide between Chinese take out classics like Buddha’s Delight and Bean Curd & Eggplant or pizza (no cheese) plus a meager list of toppings from the local pizzeria, I had a full menu to choose from including vegan desserts! It had only been a week since I dined at an ultra vegan-friendly restaurant but it seemed like an eternity and I took my time looking over the menu. Would I try the Spicy Tofu Pita Sandwich? Maybe the Hummus Pita? Homemade Veggieburgers are always a safe choice. Or did I want to go for one of their ginormous (yes that’s a word, because I say so!) salads. Maybe some hearty soup and a salad. Then there was the prospect of having a smoothie made from real fruit, not concentrated fruit juice or syrups. As I tried to make my decision I looked down to see a huge vegan cake beckoning me to come closer and a full case of vegan cookies and brownies. What’s a little Vegan Guinea Pig to do with such choices put in front of her?

Well after mulling over the menu for at least 10 minutes I finally decided on the Spicy Tofu Pita which turned out to be one of their ginormous salads complete with bean sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbal dressing (which was also a bit spicy) topped with two generous portions of baked spicy tofu. It was one of those sandwiches that begins to fall apart as soon as you eat it, so there is no attractive way of going about devouring it. I just went for it full force. Salad dressing on my cheeks, I think some of it even got on my nose. Lettuce and sprouts falling onto my plate. I didn’t care. It was all just too good to care who was watching or what they were thinking. I would have never imagined that I could ever be this excited to eat fresh vegetables! After the sandwich I was already 99% full. I knew there was no way a smoothie was going to fit in my stomach so I gave in to temptation and decided to go for the vegan cake that had been whispering sweet nothings in my ear since I walked in the door. It was a chocolate, coconut, ganache-ish cake. Mind you, the name of the cake didn’t sound as great as the looks of the cake but I thought I’d give it a try anyway. Boy am I glad I did! All the flavors blended together seamlessly and I found myself scraping the crumbs of it off my plate.

The bottom line is, next time your in Miami get yourself down to The Last Carrot. Your belly will thank you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yummy Yummy For My Tummy - Amazing Grass/Amazing Meal

As a vegan, it can be a bit of a pain in the butt to travel especially when you have no car, are living out of a hotel room and only have a short stack of take out menus to choose from. Because I tend to find myself in situations like this more often than not, I've grown accustomed to bringing my own food, no matter how long or short the trip. Anything that can be popped in the microwave, only requires hot water to cook or can be easily mixed in with soy milk (which I also bring) or juice fits the bill.

Lately I've been bringing cups of cereal and soy milk for breakfast or the occasional packets of maple and brown sugar oatmeal. But on my most recent trip I just couldn't bring myself to have one more bowl of cereal or oatmeal. In walks Amazing Grass' Amazing Meal. Its nothing more than a little orange packet but its chocked full of greens, protein, fruits and vegetables. Not only that but it is organic, raw, gluten free, soy free and, of course, vegan.

Each packet is 110 calories, packs 10 grams of protein (from rice and hemp), 6 grams of fiber, and is a natural source of a variety of vitamins and minerals. Its hard t believe so much green happy goodness is packed into a little 29 gram packet but its true. For the greens, they blend wheat grass, kale, barley grass and alfalfa. For protein they use rice and hemp. For the fruit and vegetable blend they use acai, carrot, blueberry, goji berry, rose hips, maca and banana as well as flax seed powder. It also contains negligent amounts of digestive enzymes and probiotics.

Amazing Meals comes in chocolate, original and pomegranate mango. It seems like every powder, shake or supplement comes in chocolate so I'm kind of getting sick of it and I didn't want to take a chance on what the "original" flavor was since the list of ingredients didn't seem like it would blend seamless into something my taste buds would enjoy. The appearance of the pomegranate mango flavor intrigued me, and I knew it would take a lot of hard work to make that combination of fruits taste bad together. I enjoyed mine 3 different ways: once stirred into some orange juice, once shaken up with vanilla soy milk or hemp milk as a quick smoothie and once blended into a mango, pineapple, peach smoothie for a little extra nutrient boost. All 3 ways were absolutely divine! I did a little truffle shuffle as I drank it.

Mind you this stuff is a little pricey. With tags like "raw, organic and gluten free" its not surprising that it is. A 10 pack cost me $29.99. And singles are around $2.99 each. In the long run its cheaper and better for you than a lot of the other things available for the morning warrior or the travel mavens like me. It sure beats a bagel and banana and is much more filling. And, when you look at the total cost, is comparably priced to my travel standby of soy milk and cereal cups or oatmeal packets. All in all I'd say if you have a little extra money to spend or if you're on the road and not exactly sure where your next complete meal will be coming from or if its coming at all, I would go for this Amazing Meal. Hands down.

Where to find: Whole Foods has exclusive distribution.
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