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, 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
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