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 28, 2011

GIVEAWAY! Win a free, signed copy of Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations

Wowzers. Vegan Mofo went by so quickly this year! I didn't get in half  or even a fourth of the blogging I planned to and now the Vegan Month of Food is almost over and I have yet to have one giveaway! Well that's all about to change. With a new baby on the way and my latest cookbook Quick & Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food off to the publisher I have a lot to celebrate and want to share my joy with all of you so what better way to do that than to have a giveaway of my sophomore book Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations.  This giveaway is running not only on the Vegan Guinea Pig blog but also on my new blog The Lady and Seitan and if you win and you happen to be a newsletter subscriber then you get a special bonus gift as well (more information to come in today's upcoming newsletter). The rules are simple. Just post, in the comments section, on either blog or both blogs your favorite celebration of the past, present or one you're planning for the future and I'll randomly select a winner from the bunch! If you post on both blogs you double your chances! Contest ends 10/31/11 the last day of Vegan Mofo and my last official day of blogging for the rest of the year (but rest assured I've stock-piled some great reviews and recipes that are scheduled to post throughout the rest of the year). Good Luck!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Royal Harvest Flavored Flax Oils

A little over a year ago, by happenstance, I found myself having lunch with a man that had been vegan for 30 years. I picked his brain about the evolution of the vegan diet from the whole foods diet (which was all that was available when he went vegan) to the tower of processed foods that are now staples in many diets. The conversation was absolutely fascinating and as he got up to leave he turned and gave me one word of caution "don't forget your fatty acids or you will pay the consequences to your heart health later. I wish I had know that decades ago." As a masters of nutrition student I already know of the countless benefits of essential fatty acids but something about this real life example of how important they are turned a light on for me. Ever since that moment I've been obsessed with making sure I get my essential fatty acids in everyday and now as a pregnant vegan growing my own little one I find it even important and don't go a day without incorporating several types of essential fatty acids into my daily routine.

You might have heard about the omega 3's, 6's, ALA's and GLA's that seem to be the buzz words of the moment? Those are all essential fatty acids or EFAs and can be found in nuts, seeds, blue green algae and variety of other oils and fats. One of my favorite ways to get these EFAs is through ground flax seed and flax oil. Royal Harvest has just come out with a new line of flavored flax oils and super fine ground flax to help fill this need. And when I say super fine this ground flax is feather light and practically dissolves into smoothies, over cereal or into baked goods. It comes in chocolate, which I like to stir into almond milk for a healthy chocolate milk. Coconut flavor, which I put in smoothies and make one mean virgin pina colada with. Caramel, which I drizzle over vanilla ice cream (vegan of course). And lastly, Banana which I either blend into a smoothie with frozen strawberries or drizzle over ice cream to make a healthy version of a banana split. Stay tuned for my virgin pina colada recipe and a giveaway!

Currently, Royal Harvest products are sold online and at select natural food and grocery stores including Hannaford, Shaws, Earth Fare, Mom’s Organic Market, Roots Market, Dave’s Marketplace, Feel Rite Fresh Markets, Mrs. Green’s Natural Market, Wild by Nature Market, and Whole Foods Markets in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Florida. Made by Shape Foods, Inc., headquartered in the heart of North American flax country, Royal Harvest Flax Oils and Flax Meal are gluten-free, vegan friendly and Kosher certified.  Suggested retail price is $9.99 per bottle and $3.99 per bag.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vegan Snack Bar Alert! - New Orchard Bars

I can't tell you how many food and energy bars I receive to taste and review for this blog. Typically they're all seeds, twigs and berries and not worth mentioning and nearly always they are so packed with calories that they could almost be considered a meal and definitely not something I would recommend as a snack. Orchard Bards kin of fall outside of the realm of a snack bar or a meal replacement bar and remind me more of a dessert bar of treat. I don't think this was the intention of the company but, for me, the sweet fruity taste of these bars are the perfect treat at the end of the day and a much healthier alternative to my new favorite candy bar - Jokerz (but by no means am I giving my Jokerz up!)

Every Orchard Bar is 100% true to the taste of the flavor on the package. The pineapple macadamia nuts has candied bits of real pineapple pressed with generous slices of macadamia nuts. It's so sugary sweet I could only eat half the bar at a time. Even though it taste like sugar dipped in sugar there are only 18 grams of sugar per bar which is half that of an average 12 ounce can of soda. Plus the Orchard Bar is packed with natural vitamins and minerals and made of real food products, no mystery ingredients on the label. The strawberry raspberry walnut flavor taste exactly like strawberry fruit roll up and the blueberry pomegranate almond taste like a you dipped yourself head first in a blueberry orchard.

My parents were it own when these arrived at my doorstep and became completely obsessed with them. They would ask me everyday where they could buy them but unfortunately the current distribution is quite limited to just a few retailers in the west - check to see if you're near one of the lucky locations here Thankfully they are available online - and my parents took full advantage of this stocking up on cases of the bars. Hopefully this great brand will expand to more retailers nationwide soon.

Currently, Liberty Foods (the makers of Orchard Bars) are selling a sample pack of 3 bars for only $2.50 on their website with free shipping so even if they aren't available at a store near you give them a try!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hazelnut Hot Cocoa

Wondering what that chocolatey beverage is steaming in the mug behind my Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Pancakes. It's Hazelnut Hot Cocoa and here's the quick and easy recipe.

2 tablespoon Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
1 cup plain almond milk

Whisk hazelnut butter with 1/4 cup almond milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining milk and continue to whisk until warm. And there you go!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Pancakes

Once I started experimenting with Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter I just couldn't stop. Pancakes, cookies, hot cocoa. I've been eating this stuff everyday since I bought it! Here's my recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Pancakes.

Makes 11-12 Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup plain almond milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup canned pumpkin

Warm  a griddle or large skillet over medium heat.

Add flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a medium bowl and slowly stir in almond milk, canola oil, pumpkin and hazelnut butter until smooth (I did all this in a standing mixer  with the whisk attachment to cut down on time).

Brush warmed skillet or griddle lightly with oil and pour a about 1/4 cup worth of batter for each pancake. Once edges dry and bubbles start to form lightly check the underside to ensure it is golden brown then flip and cook the other side. Serve immediately with a little maple syrup or powdered sugar.

As an added bonus here's the nutrition information per pancake:
124 Cal (38% from Fat, 7% from Protein, 55% from Carb); 2 g Protein; 5 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 2 g Mono Fat; 17 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; 3 g Sugar; 91 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 248 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (Move Over Nutella)

There's a lot of things that I never had as an omnivore or a vegetarian - a Philly cheesesteak, a Reuben and I never had nutella.Now in my vegan life I have fallen so in love with a vegan chicken philly that I actually took one on a plane wrapped up in foil back from Philly to Atlanta and I make tempeh Reuben's at least twice a month. Now that I have found Justin's chocolate hazelnut butter I will be adding a new vegan experience to make routine.

When I look at the nutrition facts label of Nutella I see why I was never allowed to have it as a child and why I steered clear as an adult. It's basically frosting disguised as a nut butter. I honestly can't believe they advertise this stuff as a breakfast food with toast. A 2 tablespoon serving has 20 grams of sugar in it! To put it in perspective Pillsbury's Chocolate Fudge Frosting has 18 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoon serving. No wonder everyone loves this stuff so much. Who doesn't love sugar on a spoon?!

Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter has only 7 grams of sugar and double the protein of Nutella and it's damn delicious. And of course, unlike Nutella, Justin's is 100% vegan. Made of hazelnuts, almonds, cane sugar, organic cocoa cocoa butter, palm fruit oil, vanilla and sea salt. It is a bit pricey, I've seen it at Kroger and Whole Foods and both retail prices hovered near or over the $6 range for a 16 ounce jar. The taste is so good that the price doesn't dissuade me from buying it, it just ensures that I will use it conservatively and cherish every bite of it.

So far I can't stop cooking with it. Stay tuned for my Hazelnut Chocolate Pumpkin Pancakes and Hazelnut Hot Cocoa recipes!

Oh! I can't believe I forgot one of the best parts! This wonderful spread also comes in little individual packets so you can take it anywhere with you. I always keep one in my purse  now. You never know when the moment strikes that you just need a little chocolate and hazelnut.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's Vegan Mofo Time!

Welcome to the Vegan Month of Food 2011! Better known as VeganMoFo. What is VeganMofo? It’s an entire month dedicated to, you guessed it, vegan food. I’ll be blogging like crazy on both Vegan Guinea Pig and TheLady and Seitan Blogs all month long. I’ll be sharing with you new cookbook reviews, vegan bakeries, great new vegan convenience foods all month long on the Vegan Guinea Pig blog. Over at the Lady & Seitan Blog I’ll be doing what I always do, whipping up veganized versions of Paula Deen classics all month long.  Not only that but there will be weekly giveaways running on both blogs simultaneously so stay tuned! 
Unfortunately this will be my last month of blogging until 2012 as my family and I prepare for the arrival of our first child (hooray for vegan babies!) I will do my absolute best to pack in a month full of amazing blogs for you guys. Thank you so much for your support!
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