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

Sunday, 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.
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