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!

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.

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