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, January 28, 2013

The Magic of the Madras Simmer Sauce

Before I became a mother my life was impossibly crazy - working, going to school full-time (for 2 degrees at once), interning, writing books, maintaining two blogs and trying to preserve my sanity with zero time left for myself at the end of the day. Cooking has always been a way for me to release stress at the end of a busy day so making quick and easy meals became my obsession - and helped me create 3 phenomenal cookbooks , if I do say so myself J. After I had my daughter all the things that made my life crazy were still in place but now there is a tiny person who my whole world revolves around. When she started eating solids it was an easy transition, she just ate whatever I ate – never any pureed, smashed or mushy foods just full, bold flavors and lots of variety. In the last 3 months she went from dabbling in food to eating portions that rival my own and suddenly I found myself stressed out about dinner time. When it was just me I could grab some Taco Bell on the way home and call it dinner, or graze on snacks all night long while finishing up homework or writing a new chapter. But now, I have to have a wholesome, nutritious, home cooked meal on the table every night and the pressure of the “have to” can make life crazy sometimes.

Thankfully, I’m starting to find a balance. Cooking double portions of everything and freezing half for the times when I just have no time to cook has been a life saver. My other secret to stress free cooking is a good store-bought simmer sauce. I have a growing list of favorites which I will share over the coming year – all low sodium, no crazy scientific ingredients and full of flavor. With a good simmer sauce you simply throw whatever protein and/or vegetables you have hanging out in your freezer or fridge in a pan, sauté them with a little oil, add the sauce and voila! You have a home cooked meal.

Last night’s simmer sauce of choice was Seeds of Change Organic Madras Simmer Sauce. It was surprisingly difficult to find a vegan Indian simmer sauce. Many of them have some form of dairy in them but this one is a pure simple sauce. Just tomatoes, onions, and a laundry list of spices. And that’s it, no other crazy ingredients or preservatives. The label says it is a “red hot curry” so I was a little worried it might be too spicy for my little one but it actually doesn’t have much heat at all. So if you’re looking for a spicy sauce you might want to add a pinch of red pepper flakes to it. I sautéed a bag of Garden chik’n strips, frozen broccoli and frozen peas together in a large sauce pan with canola oil, poured the sauce over everything and stirred until it was warmed through and then spooned it over a bed of brown basmati rice. Pure heaven! And my little one gobbled it up! In fact, she ate more of it than I did. You can find the Seeds of Change simmer sauce down the “ethnic” (I hate that word) or international food aisle. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cookbook Review: The MILF Diet

A few months back I got an email about a new book called The MILF Diet by Jessica Porter. I thought "Ha, cute title for a book, but I'm sure it's full of grass-fed beef and organic chicken" so I didn't really give it too much thought. But then I decided to read further and saw that I couldn't have been more wrong. The MILF Diet is actually a cookbook that praises the joys of a plant-based diet and takes readers on a journey to wellness and MILF status through the book.

As a mother myself, and a vegan of course, I can attest to how a vegan diet helped me stay at a healthy weight during pregnancy and kept me very healthy overall during pregnancy, helped me bring a healthy child into this world and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle after she was born. In fact, thanks to a combination of a healthy diet and breastfeeding I'm seeing numbers on the scale that I haven't seen since my freshman year in high-school.

The MILF Diet is a diet free of dairy, eggs, meat, refined sugars and processed foods. Although I would love to say that refined sugars and processed foods haven't been a part of my diet anyone who follows me on Facebook or twitter knows that would be a lie! :)  But it sure is a nice goal to have. The recipes are wholesome and delicious featuring dishes like Tempera Vegetables, Super Delicious Mystery Cheesecake, and Garbanzo Bean Burgers. But the thing is, there weren't that many of them. The book is largely a book about how to eat healthy, and the benefits of foods like beans, seaweeds and veggies. I think, for someone who is just making the intial leap into a plant-based diet and hasn't been eating that great for a while the recipes in this book might be a lot to take in at once. Dishes like Arame with Onion, Carrot and Corn or Umeboshi Tonic might seem a little out there and unappetizing but they're not nearly as intimidating as they sound - although I'll have to admit, I won't be trying either dishes anytime soon. Ultimately, as with most items I review, it comes down to price. What are you getting for your money. This book retails for $35. For me, that's a bit steep for a cookbook especially one that isn't stuffed from first to last page with recipes. On it's around $23 and the Kindle version is a much more reasonable $14. At the suggested retail price you're not really getting the most bang for your buck with this book but if you discount shop around you can definitely make it worth your while. One more thing! There are two books out there with the title The MILF Diet and only one of them is vegan so make sure you're picking up the one by Jessica Porter. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Product Review: EZ Tofu Press

Back in 2009 I did a review of the TofuXpress a product that has changed the way I eat tofu and prepare tofu and one that I truly love. But the TofuXpress had and still has one big problem - its price tag. At $41.95 (nearly $50 with shipping and handling) it hits the wallet pretty hard for just pressing water out of tofu, no matter how great of a job it does at it. It’s been nearly 4 years and nothing new has made its way to the market to compete with the TofuXpress until now.

Last year the EZ Tofu Press was introduced as an alternative. Instead of a spring loaded system like TofuXpress the EZ Tofu Press is two plates anchored by two large screws and bolts. You simply place your tofu in between the two plates and adjust the sides to the tension you desire slowly to press the water out of the tofu. It comes with instructions, that can explain it better than I ever could (and frankly that I didn’t read past the first few lines). I’m going to be honest with you. To me, something like a tofu press should be intuitive to use. And when I opened the box it was about 30 minutes until dinner time and I just needed to get this tofu pressed, cubed and into the oven quickly so reading through the directions was unappealing to me. Besides, how hard could it be to press tofu between two plates? After the first time I used it I noticed that my tofu was not pressed to a firm, nicely textured block like I’m used to with the TofuXpress. Instead only a little water was pressed out the tofu and there were cracks in it from the tension of the plates. Also, my block was uneven because I was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to make sure that each side was precisely screwed down the same. By this time my directions were already in the recycling bin so I shot myself in the foot on this one!

On my second try, I had a bit more time and took care to make sure the sides were even and increase the tension slowly. I decided to try to do a side by side comparison of the amount of water removed from each type of tofu press. With the TofuXpress I was able to get out ½ cup of water from a block of firm tofu (who knew there was that much water in tofu!) From the EZ Tofu Press I was able to get out ¼ cup. Once again, I’m sure if I took the time and read through the directions thoroughly and used the little ruler they enclose in the package I would have gotten similar results to the TofuXpress. My impatience is probably the biggest flaw of the EZ Tofu Press. I’ve gotten used to just plopping my tofu into the TofuXpress, snapping on the top and walking away. Also, I’m not a fan of having to let the tofu drain over a plate or the sink, it’s just one more thing for me to clean up and with a 14 month old running around the  house I need every second I can squeeze out of the day. BUT…the fact is the EZ Tofu Press is only $26.99 and if you have an amazon prime account shipping is free. That makes the EZ Tofu Press half the price of the TofuXpress, which makes a huge difference. Overall, it’s hard for me to say one is truly better than the other. I have my personal preference between the two but the list of pros and cons with both is equally long. If it’s ease you’re looking for and you have a little extra money lying around then the TofuXpress is for you, if you don’t mind taking a little extra time to get everything right and save about $25 then the EZ Tofu Press is for you. Either way you really can’t go wrong!

Monday, January 7, 2013


Happy New Year! Recently my mother declared that she was going on a "journey." Not a literal journey to an island of white sand and pina coladas but a journey to health, wellness and self-love. At first I laughed her off but then I sat down, and really absorbed what she was saying and the changes she's making in her life.  The more I thought about it the more I realized she is really on to something. And so, 2013 is the year of the Journey. It's hard to argue with health, wellness and self-love. We all need a little bit more of these three things in our lives. I can't help you with the self-love part (except to tell you that you are phenomenal!) But I can help you kick off your New Year's Journey with a gift of health. Whether you resolve to go vegan in 2013, commit to a Meatless Monday or just want to eat better and feel better there's no better place to start than with a collection of go-to, tried and true recipes that remind you of home and happiness. To that end I'm starting off the New Year by giving away a signed copy of Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food. Every recipe in the book is under 350 calories with generous portions and real food ingredients - no fake sugar or anything chemically. Just real food that's really healthy and will help you get on the road to a new you and your own journey. To enter to win a free signed copy of Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food just enter your information in the box below. One lucky winner will be announced Wednesday, January 16th!

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