One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just In Time For The Spring/Summer: A Review of Natural Deodorants

Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, for me, was about doing what was right for the animals, my own health and the environment all at the same time. I started investigating the ingredients in not only everything in my kitchen cupboards but also in my medicine cabinet and bathroom drawers. I discovered there were a lot of scary ingredients lurking in many of the skin care products I was using including my deodorant. Then one day I came across this startling statistic Over 60% of what you put on your body goes in your body. Meaning that the ingredients in your lotions, deodorants, perfumes, etc. actually are absorbed into your body tissues far beyond just your skin. Deodorants and lotions have even been found in biopsied breast tumors (although there is no link between the two it does illustrate that what you put on your body goes in your body).

The more research I did the more important it became to me that the products that I put on my body were natural, free of preservatives, dyes, aluminum and a most importantly their ingredient list doesn’t read like a chemistry textbook. Over 3 years of testing I have come up with a list of some of my favorite and least favorite natural deodorants. I tend to use different ones based on the season as some are better at masking the stench of a southern summer than others.

I also polled the good folks over at the PPK to see what their favorite and least favorite natural deodorants were and the reviews were definitely mixed. Check out their perspectives for the best and worst natural deodorants.

Earth Science – Liken Plant in Herbal Scent *** this is my all time favorite. It offers complete protection even when the heat index is hitting 100 and the humidity is 70%. The scent is close to a baby powder scent so it isn’t over powering. It is also long-lasting so you don’t have to reapply it all day. This was the PPK runner up.

Jason – Tea Tree, Aloe Vera, Herbs & Spice, Wild Yam. As a product line I love Jason’s natural deodorants. They have a great line of unisex scents that are long lasting and smell great.

Tom’s of Maine – Calendula, Honeysuckle Rose, Apricot (long lasting and regular) Calendula and Honeysuckle rose are my two favorite scents from the Tom’s of Maine line. I’m still not in love with the smell of apricot on me but I’ve actually received compliments about how great I smell when I wear it so I keep using it. My only problem is that in the summer you tend to have to reapply them several times a day, even if using the long-lasting variety. This was also the folks of the PPK’s favorite and least favorite natural deodorant. I think it largely depends on the scent you are looking for, or if you’re looking for a scent at all.

On the Fence:
I have trouble saying that these scents and brands weren’t good because I think it came down to body chemistry more than anything else when trying these deodorants. They smelled great in the package but after wearing them for about an hour I absolutely hated the smell. But I still think they are worth a try and will probably go well on you, it just depends on how your body chemistry reacts with the natural scent.

Earth Science – Tea Tree/Lavender

Thai Crystal – I have personally never tried this one but the folks on the PPK forum either raved about it or said it was the worst thing they ever tried. So I’m putting it in the on the fence category. Personally, since I’ve been through so much trial and error I can’t say that I’m going to try out the crystal but please let me know your experience if you do!

Jason – Naturally Fresh. I didn’t understand the concept of a scentless deodorant but I decided to give it a try anyway, just in case there was something I was missing. Well I wasn’t missing anything. This is nothing more than a moisturizer for your armpits. Since I have it around and it takes years to expire I just use it after I shave under my arms as a moisturizer at night but never when I’m actually looking for odor control.

Tom’s of Main – Unscented. I had the same issue with this as I did with Jason’s naturally fresh. I just don’t see the point.

Alba – Tea Tree. The smell starts off good but once you start to work up a sweat this stuff turns from the scent of the gods to the hind part of Satan within minutes. This one was almost unanimously hated on the PPK by all who had previously tried it.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Creamy Black Bean Soup

I’ve been doing my best to eat solely out of my pantry, refrigerator and freezer to keep the cost of food low. As creative as I am in the kitchen it helps to have a guide when you’ve got 1 pound of dry baby lima beans and just don’t know what to do with them. is my go to website for looking up recipes by the ingredients that I happen to have on hand. While looking for something to make with the dry beans I have in my pantry (black beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black eyed peas and pinto beans) I ran across this amazing recipe for black bean soup. I love black bean soup so much that in my upcoming book Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food I have two recipes for it. But I’m always looking to try new taste and techniques. This recipe came highly rated so I thought I’d give it a try. I can’t express what an amazing recipe this is! It does take a while to cook but it is well worth the wait. One bowl is enough to make a full meal, and although the original recipe recommends cheese, green onions and sour cream as garnishes I liked it just the way it is straight from the pot to the bowl. I changed the recipe slightly based on what I had on hand in the kitchen. For the original recipe check out this link. Here’s my adapted version of this creamy black bean soup recipe.


2 tablespoons canola oil
¾ cup diced white onion
¾ cup diced carrot
1/3 cup diced bell pepper of any color
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups cooked black beans
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon hickory liquid smoke

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium/low heat.

Add onion, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic to the oil and cook for 15 minutes or until the carrots are just becoming tender.

Keep the heat low enough that the veggies don't brown and be careful not to burn the garlic or it will be bitter.

Measure 3 cups of the beans into a food processor with 1 cup of vegetable stock. Puree on high speed until smooth.

When the veggies are ready, pour the pureed beans, the whole beans, the rest of the vegetable stock, and remaining ingredients to the pot.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes or until soup has thickened and all the ingredients are tender.

Friday, April 17, 2009

BBQ Tempeh Hoagies with Chipotle Mayo (Made with new Tempeh-Tations)

Although I love Lightlife’s traditional tempeh when it comes to their flavored varieties like "fakin bacon" I haven't been so pleased. Naturally, I was a bit of a skeptic when I decided to try their new, multi-flavored ready to eat tempeh called Tempeh-tations.

Lightlife's Tempeh-tations come in three different flavors Classic BBQ, Ginger Teriyaki and Zesty Lemon. They are all organic and come presliced into little cubes. As soon as I saw the BBQ flavor my mind went straight to making hoagies. I had a couple chipotle peppers left from making my Wilted Kale Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing and decided it was time to make a BBQ Hoagie with chipotle mayo. I have to say that it was love at first bite. I was surprised how spot on the BBQ flavor was! These truly are "ready to eat" and cut my cooking time down considerably. I highly recommend giving these BBQ tempeh-tations a try. My only complaint is that I wish they came in a bigger size. My little 6 ounce package was gone in no time!

BBQ Tempeh Hoagies with Chipotle Mayo
Makes 2 Hoagies

1 package BBQ Tempeh-tations
¼ cup sliced white onions
½ cup sliced bell pepper, any color
2 hoagie rolls, lightly toasted
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil

Chipotle Mayo:
½ cup vegan mayonnaise (I prefer vegannaise)
1 teaspoon vegan worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 chiptole pepper in adobo sauce
¼ teaspoon dried oregano

In a medium saucepan warm canola oil over medium heat. Add onions and bell pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add BBQ Tempeh-tations and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until tempeh is warmed through, stirring often.

While tempeh is cooking, add all chipotle mayo ingredients to a mini-food processor and process until smooth.

Spread desired amount of chipotle mayo on each side of the hoagie roll and fill with BBQ tempeh-tations mixture. Enjoy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Restaurant Review: Café Sunflower Atlanta, GA

Year after year, Café Sunflower always manages to win the top marks as Atlanta’s best vegetarian restaurant. Because of this I find myself trying to like it, even though there are at least ½ a dozen better vegetarian restaurants in Atlanta. Over the last 3 years I’ve tried just about everything vegan on the menu. I have never been completely disappointed but then again I’ve never been completed inspired either, at least not with the entrees.

I do have to admit that there are two items off the Café Sunflower menu that I will order, to go, every time I’m in the neighborhood – their Vegan Spinach Dip and the Vegan Carrot Cake. The serving size on the vegan spinach dip is much much smaller than what you typically would think of for a spinach dip. It is really an appetizer for one. Nonetheless it is perfectly creamy and cheesy and always makes me second guess whether or not it’s vegan. There are no words to describe the vegan carrot cake. It is hands down the best carrot cake I have ever had. It was actually recommended to me by one of my omni friends who also thought it was the best carrot cake she’d ever had. But other than these two items I tend to be pretty unimpressed with the Café Sunflower menu. But, if you find yourself drawn there a couple times a year, as I inevitably do. Here are my recommendations:

The nightly specials are usually always good. Much better than what is on the regular menu and much more inventive. So I recommend giving whatever is on the specials menu another look.
Of course you have to try to spinach dip and the vegan carrot cake.

The fajitas are actually pretty good, and really even better the next day as leftovers.
Another plus of Café Sunflower is that, unlike most vegetarian restaurants, they do actually have wine and beer on the menu. So even if you’re not in love with you entrée by your second glass of pinot noir you won’t care anymore!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Restaurant Review: Govinda's To Go Philadelphia, PA

No trip to Philadelphia is complete without a visit to Govinda’s To Go. I was on the hunt for a good vegan chicken philly cheese steak and I was pointed straight to Govinda’s To Go. What no one told me was that, if you don’t come in with willpower of steal, you can leave Govinda’s To Go at least 5 pounds heavier. The only thing that saved me was that I gave up sweets for lent, but trust me the next time I head to Govinda’s I’m preparing a 10 mile run before and after so that I can eat at will, guilt free.

Not only did Govinda’s have the best chicken cheese steak I ever tasted but they also managed to make me a partial fan, or I guess I should say less of a skeptic, about the infamous ham tube. I just might invest in a ham tube of my very own after my omni friend declared that it was delicious in Govinda’s version of a ham and cheese hoagie.

But Govinda’s To Go is more than just great sandwiches they have an amazing assortment of vegan cakes, cheesecakes, tortes and pies. Not to mention 7 flavors of vegan ice cream, including my all time favorite butter pecan. And just when I thought that was enough I noticed a box of vegan donuts of every flavor on the counter. If there was ever a test of my ability to stick to my lent sacrifice then this was it. But somehow I made it out of there without a bite of one of these tasty treats.

Here is a complete list of their menu offerings:

Chicken Cheese Steak
Pepper Steak Sandwich
Kofta Sub
Ham & Cheese Hoagie
Grilled Vegetable Sub
Chicken Salad Sub
Zucchini Melt
Chicken Burger (single or double)
Chicken Quesadilla
Fish Sandwich

Burritos & Wraps:
Tuna Salad Wrap
Sabji Warp
Burger Lovers
Ham & Egg Salad
Seafood Salad Wrap
Golden Tofu
Sloppy Joe

Yellow Split Pea
Chicken Salsa
Soup of the Say

Fried Shrimp, Scallops or Chicken
French Fries

Desserts (selection may vary, I saw a couple one’s there that were not on the traditional menu):
Brownie Cheesecake
Cookies and Cream
Coconut Vanilla
Boardwalk Fudge
Lemon Zest Key Lime
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Chocolate Strawberry Torte

Vegan Ice Cream:
Butter Pecan
Cookies and Cream
Cherry Vanilla

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