Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Florentine Tofu Scramble

This past weekend, I made a spinach and basil pasta salad for a veggie hikers potluck. It was a pretty good pasta salad, although nowhere near as delicious as some of the other food that people brought. It left me with a good deal of leftover basil. One day I'm going to get myself a window box and plant some herbs in it, so that I can avoid the mess of having to buy such a huge package of basil. I've literally used basil every day this week: pesto pasta salad on Sunday, pesto sauce on my pizza on Monday, basil on top of my stir fry on Tuesday, and today I used it in my tofu scramble. 
Catherine de Medici is credited with introducing the term "florentine" into french cooking. In 1550, she declared that anything with spinach would be refered to as florentine. Unfortunately, it has come to traditionally refer to a dish with spinach AND a creamy sauce. My tofu scramble has no such creamy sauce, but I'm going to stick with Catherine on this one and call it Tofu Florentine. The important thing is that it is absolutely delicious. I've tried making tofu scramble before and was not 100% impressed with the flavor profile that I put together. This scramble, however, is exactly what one would expect. It's made light by the spinach and grape tomatoes, but is still delicious and filling. I served it on top of an english muffin, and it is probably the best breakfast I've had so far this week.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cupcake Wars

Sometimes I like to have days where I put a few recipes in direct competition with one another. It's really the only way to determine which particular recipe is the best. It's difficult, for example, to remember whether the cupcakes I baked last time were better or worse. Also, trying several different recipes at once feels a little bit like science. I like science. If I were to put together a cooking show, it would vamp on this concept and be some sort of recipe showdown. It's just like Iron Chef, except there is no secret ingredient, and the only person I am competing with is myself. OK, so maybe it's nothing like Iron Chef. Maybe it's more like "Nicole Likes to Screw Around in the Kitchen". That doesn't right either :). I'm just going to call it Cupcake Wars and leave it at that.
Anyway, I've put together an expert panel of vegans, foodies, and friends who I subject to my culinary machinations. Two weeks ago their mission was simple: test and report back on three different cupcake recipes. There was one clear winner, a Red Velvet cupcake that I will be using for my birthday party this Thursday. It's going to be at the Daily Pint on Pico in Santa Monica, right by the intersection of Pico and Cloverfield. The party starts at 7 pm, but possibly earlier. Feel free to stop by if you like, since I'm an internet celebrity now. Actually, I'm not an internet celebrity, and I don't even have that good of a track record for friends showing up to my parties. So, if you are reading this blog and live in the greater Los Angeles area, you should probably make an attempt to drop by. Here are the two losing recipes, which were still very good cupcakes and excellent vegan cupcakes. The winner will follow in a post where I wax poetic on growing up and what it means to be 25, which I have always seen as the beginning of real adulthood.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

100 Calorie Vegan Muffins

I am always a woman on a mission. My ongoing goal is to develop a vegan baked good that is low in calories and fat while still being delicious. My idea is that once I find this perfect baked good, I will be able to open a vegan bakery in the Cayman Islands and retire for the rest of my life. That, or I will be able to eat it for every meal until I get sick of it (which would probably never happen). Last week, my mission was to find a great blueberry bread recipe. I ended up not being able to make it to the potluck where I intended to bring said  recipe, but I still consider last weekend's study in blueberries a success. One might think that I would be sick of blueberries after working with them all last weekend, but the fact of the matter is that I had one more recipe I was dying to try.
I have had a recipe for weight watchers 1-point blueberry muffins for awhile now. I used to make them all the time before I went vegan, so I have been meaning to re-work the recipe to eliminate the eggs and milk. The recipe also calls for vegetable oil, and I wanted to experiment with replacing it with applesauce. This time around, I decided to try using almond milk and complemented it with an almond and date crumble on top of the muffins. I also cut out the sugar from the muffin batter, prefering to harness the natural sweetness of the dates. I used my new favorite flour for this recipe: Arrowhead Mills Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. It's got the fiber of whole wheat flour, but the lightness of a good pastry flour, which leads to delicious and hearty baked foods. The frugalistas out there will be happy to know that it's available in the bulk section of Whole Foods for I believe $1 a pound. Now that's cheap. 
These muffins are delicious and they weigh in at only 99 calories each, with 1.5 grams of fat (from the almonds and almond milk) and 3 grams each of protein and fiber (not bad for a little muffin).

100-Calorie Vegan Muffins
  • 1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • ener-g egg replacer for 2 eggs, pre-mixed
  • 3/4 c. almond milk
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 c. blueberries
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 dates
  • 20 almonds
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  1. Pre-heat over to 400 degrees and line a muffin tin with liners. Because these muffins tend to stick, I also spray the inside of the liners with a little cooking spray. 
  2. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  3. In a separate bowl, combine ener-g, almond milk, vanilla, and applesauce and mix well. 
  4. Add all of this mixture to the dry ingredients at once and stir until moist.
  5. Fold in he blueberries
  6. Drop by heaping tablespoons into muffin cups and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes
  7. Combine the dates (be sure to take the pits out), almonds, and cinnamon in a food processor and blend until it resembles a slightly sticky crumb.
  8. Sprinkle the crumble on top of the muffins and then bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Yields 12 muffins at 99.3 calories, 1.5 g fat, 3 g. of fiber, 3.1 g. protein.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I am a big baby when I get sick. My ex-boyfriend knows this because he used to have to bring me red Gatorade, ginger-ale, and crackers while I laid miserably on the couch watching shitty reality television. The snacks may have changed, but when I am sick I still get pretty miserable. I came down with a cold on St. Patrick's Day of all days, and continued with my plans against my better judgment. Come Thursday morning, I was starting to feel really awful. Luckily, I had taken a bunch of vacation days to spend time with my sister. I always seem to get sick when I have already taken off of work for something important. I powered through a day of visiting on Thursday and managed to get my sister to the airport on Friday afternoon, but afterward I was completely wiped. I spent my Friday night in bed watching Garden State with soy ice cream, but at least I also had this amazing soup. It's made in a slow cooker, so it's really easy to throw everything in there and turn it on. Then, you can go back to sleep and wake up to the smell of health in a bowl. If you don't have a crockpot, feel free to use a heavy-bottomed pot on low. I use lots of carrots for their vitamin c and a healthy dose of garlic.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


WTF Bethenny

Here is a picture of organic chef (and size 0) Bethenny from the Real Housewives of New York City. Come on Bethenny, who do you think you're kidding, holding that cupcake up to your mouth?
On the other hand, here's a business idea I wish I had If Bethany eats cupcakes, even one cupcake, even once a month, then I am Santa Claus.

Carrot and Parsnip Soup

Towards the end of January, I was lucky enough to spend Saturday morning perusing the farmers market across the street from my apartment. The Virginia Avenue farmers market is relatively small, but it's 100% organic. I'm really blessed to have one right across the street. On this particular morning, it was a little cold outside and I bundled up in a jacket, hat, and scarf. These are things that one doesn't usually get to wear in Southern California, so when it gets even a little chilly, I seize the opportunity. In line with my winter fantasy, I decided that I really needed to make a slow-simmered soup.
I went without a shopping list or any agenda in hand with the intention of browsing the produce and letting something "speak to me". Of course, the produce that did the most speaking was located in the stall of a man with a very cute British accent. In addition to the Queen's English, he also had a bin full of very tiny carrots and parsnips. Now, I wasn't sure that I really liked parsnips, but I do like carrots and I do like accents, so I was willing to take a chance. I also picked up some ginger. While I have only just begun to appreciate ginger for its medicinal qualities, I have always loved the taste. When I used to be able to hold my liquor, my signature drink was a whiskey and ginger ale with a maraschino cherry.

Monday, March 22, 2010

You Can't Go Wrong With Chocolate and Fruit

I stumbled onto an absolutely sinful recipe on for dark chocolate fondue. It's not healthy or good for you by any means, except in the sense that it uses animal-free ingredients. Chocolate on its own has a lot of calories. When you add earth balance, corn syrup, and liquor into the mix, you end up with a dessert that is really delicious fattening.
However, there are certain times in a woman's life when she just needs chocolate. These can include: after a breakup, Valentine's Day, certain times of the month, or whenever Breakfast at Tiffany's or Steel Magnolias is on.
This fondue is perfect for those special times. I usually serve mine with quartered strawberries, apples, and orange slices. The last time that I made it, I also included some graham crackers for dipping.
I'm all about multi-purposing recipes. In addition to being great for those days when all a girl wants to do is wear sweatpants, this recipe is also great for a romantic date. The original recipe calls for Kahlua, but I had amaretto on hand anyway and decided to try it instead. I've been meaning to see how this would turn out with a ribbon of peanut butter instead of the liquor. If anyone out there is brave enough to try it, I would certainly like to hear about the results.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Daiya, Daiya, Daiya

Daiya cheese is , from what I can tell, one of the hottest new vegan trends. Any place that is serious about making vegan pizza carries daiya.  Whole Foods sells it both as blocks and shredded. There are countless blog posts about it. Hell, they even have it in my hometown of Belmar, NJ.  When I tell people I'm transitioning to veganism, and they actually know what that means, one of the first things they mention is daiya. It's pretty easy to feel like daiya is your pretty, popular, older sister who is dating the big man on campus, and that you are just a shy kind of awkward middle sister. But, before you go out and buy an unflattering black afro wig, let me share a secret with you. The reason why everyone is talking about it is because it is THAT good.
Daiya is a cheese that is free of soy, casein, gluten, egg, and even nuts. It melts to a deliciously gooey consistency. And it has less fat than regular cheese and no cholesterol. One of the reasons why I stopped at 28 days of veganism (the first time around) was my dislike of most soy cheeses. I was stocking up on Follow Your Heart mozarella for my pizza, but it just wasn't doing the job. If I had only had the foresight to buy daiya from Whole Foods and stock it at home, I don't think I would have ever run into that problem. They make an italian blend and a cheddar, which means that you can use a daiya replacement for just about any dish involving cheese: lasagna, pizza, tacos, fondue (I would use the italian), and my favorite: macaroni and cheeze. 
I've been making baked macaroni and cheese for years, so I improvised a recipe that made a pretty filling meal for one. I'm always on the lookout for good weeknight meals for one, because I am single, I live alone, and I'm on my way to turning into a crazy cat lady. This was a great comfort food meal and a perfect end to a very looooong day. 

Rotini and Daiya 
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened soy milk (it's very important to use unsweetened when you are cooking)
  • 1/3 c. shredded cheddar daiya
  • 1/4 tsp. earth balance
  • 1 tsp, flour
  • pinch of fresh ground black pepper
  • dash of garlic powder
  • breadcrumbs (make sure they're vegan, because a lot of manufacturers like to try and get fancy and use parmesan cheese. you want the no-frills version, or try a panko)
  1. Boil a pot of water and add pasta. Cook for 5 minutes until just tender.
  2. Transfer to a baking dish and add the daiya, mix well.
  3. Return the empty pot to heat and melt the earth balance. Add pepper and garlic powder and whisk until smooth. 
  4. Add soy milk and flour and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly. 
  5. Pour hot milk over the pasta and stir well. Sprinkle with a handful of breadcrumbs. 
  6. Pop into a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs brown. I left mine in for 10 minutes and it was a little darker than I had hoped. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

30 Days

Today is March 18, 2010. Today I have been vegan for 30 days. It might not seem like a big milestone, but since last time I cracked after 28, it's kind of a big deal for me. I feel amazing. I've especially been focusing on packing my diet full of vegetables, and I really feel like I'm doing it right. I take a daily multivitamin for my B-12, fill up on spinach and leafy green vegetables, and have, for the most part, been able to resist the call of vegan chocolate chip cookies.
My 25th birthday is coming up, and as an ex emo-kid, I like to get a little retrospective around this time of year. I have really had a trans-formative couple of months. I want to thank all of my friends for being so supportive and for all of their positive thoughts. I don't think that I would have been able to get this far without their help. I'd also like to thank all of the vegans that I've met lately. They're a great bunch of people and are always ready to offer recommendations for grocery stores, restaurants, recipes to try, etc. It's a great community and one I am looking forward to being more a part of. You know, before I went vegan I thought that being vegan was about avoiding food and missing out. Now I realize that most vegans love to eat, we just choose to put the right things in our bodies.
I know that I originally went vegan for Lent, which is over in 10 more days, shortly after my birthday. However, I have no intention of going back. I have no desire for any of the meat or cheese that I used to enjoy. My energy is up despite a recent shoulder injury. I'm slowly but surely getting back into my workout routine, and I feel like my new nutrient-packed diet is going to be instrumental in getting into even better shape, inside and out. I would recommend that anyone who feels sluggish or depressed at least consider going vegan for a set period of time. To use a project management term, you should time-box it to start. That helps you dedicate yourself fully to the new routine, because you can always take comfort in the fact that you can go back when you are done. Sometimes it's hard, especially in the beginning. However, your body will eventually let go of its unhealthy cravings and you will see a happier, healthier person in the mirror every morning.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tea Party Treats

I love baking. There's nothing more satisfying than the smell of baked goods filling up an apartment. I was looking for a good scone recipe for my Valentine's Day tea party, specifically something that would pair well with pumpkin butter. I found a great recipe online at recipezaar. It incorporates raisins, oatmeal, and cinnamon. Cinnamon has been my number one secret ingredient lately. I use it every morning in my coffee, and I jazz up almost every recipe with a sprinkle here or there. Cinnamon has been scientifically proven to help reduce fasting blood sugar in diabetics (that's a good thing).In Ayurvedics, it's used to soothe indigestion and colds. I've been doing some reading about Ayurvedics lately (I am a Kapha in case you were interested),
Scones are great candidates for being veganized. Regular scones are made without eggs, and it is easy to replace the butter and milk with earth balance and soy milk. This recipe will create scones that are crumbly and dense, which is exactly what we are looking for. If you're daring, you could probably incorporate some almonds, pecans, or walnuts. It makes 8 large wedge-shaped scones that clock in at 248 calories each, which is significantly less than the average 400 calories in those scones from Starbucks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luck O' The Irish

Well kids it's St. Patrick's Day, and I am auto-publishing this post because chances are I am out somewhere expressing my Irishness. Please note that Irishness is expressed through the following: wearing kelly green, shouting fuckass in a Boondock Saints-esque accent, drinking Killians Irish red, and eating corned beef and ....... wait a second. As I celebrate more holidays as a vegan, I get more and more excited about turning out healthier versions of my favorites. Last year, I celebrated St. Patty's by baking Irish soda bread and making a Guiness beef stew. Now I know that Guiness uses fishscales in its clarifying process and I have decided that beef is no good. However, I was still looking for a way to celebrate my ill-considered Shamrock tattoo.
The good news is that Killian's is listed on Barnivore as vegan-friendly. Barnivore is a great site to check out if you want to know more about what animal products might be lurking in your favorite liquid treats. I also decided that instead of trying to make some sort of elaborate corned tempeh, I would go with a Shepherds pie. The funny thing is that I remember my mom making this once and I turned my nose up at it. Now, however, my palate has refined, and I absolutely devoured this recipe. It made ALOT of food, so I was glad that my sister and her boyfriend were in town to help out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tofu Taco Tuesday

This post goes out to Carolyn, Carolyn Dempsey, who has been holding very successful taco nights in her Brooklyn apartment. She was telling me how much fun it was, and I got pretty jealous. However, I decided to use my jealousy as a motivator (which I read about doing in a Cosmo article) and make my own tacos. Beans were obviously an option, but I feel like that one has been played out. I've had tofu burritos before and always thought that they were delicous, so I decided to give tofu tacos a spin.
A note on tortillas: This is a situation where you need to check your labeling. The tortillas that I buy from Trader Joes have 2 ingredients corn flour, water, and lime. These are good tortillas. Some tortillas are made with lard. Lard comes from baby animals. Eating baby animals = not vegan. Also, who really wants to be eating lard anyway?
Which brings me to my semi-sequitor of the day. Did you know that Guiness beer is not vegan? It's finished with something called isinglass, which is a nice way of saying that they add fish scales to the beer during post-processing as a clarifying agent. I've had a lot of fun over the past couple of days pointing this out to people and watching them make faces. Now, I'm not usually one of "those" vegans who tells you about how bad your food is, but this one really grossed me out. Also, I love random trivia and anything involving beer clarification gets filed under random trivia.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vegan Potstickers

 I was left with some bok choy from the farmers market (where it is super cheap by the way, so don't get lured in by the expensive stuff in the produce section of the grocery store. I bought 3 heads of baby boy choy for like a dollar). Bok choy is one of those vegetables that I didn't know existed until very recently. I read about it in Skinny Bitch, but what really sold me on the whole idea was a list of super foods that I saw hanging in the Whole Foods elevator one day. It listed out foods along with their nutrient score. Since you are wondering, Dr Joel Fuhrman is credited with calculating the nutrient score for different foods. Nutrient density is based on vitamins and minerals in a food and ranks them on a scale of 1 to 1,000. Bok Choy scores a whoping 824. Soda scores a 1. Any questions?
This got me to thinking that someone really should team up with some sort of health food company or government organization to build out a video game where kids learn about nutrient density by scoring points for collecting certain foods. It could be just like pac man, but where they have to avoid the cans of soda and chomp up all of the boy choy, kale, and collared greens they can get their little pac-mouths around. If any of you develop such an idea, just remember that I have it timestamped here, so you might as well save us a costly litigation and cut me in on royalties from the get-go.
So I had all this bok choy, and didn't feel like another stir fry. I wanted something....sassier. I really love potstickers. I actually love just about any bite-sized food. New Years eve is my favorite holiday as far as food is concerned, because everything fits so nicely on a cocktail napkin. So, I threw some stuff together to resemble a filling and work it out. The one issue with this recipe is that it made about twice as many potstickers as I wanted, but some friends were happy to take them off of my hands.

Vegan Potstickers
yields 31 potstickers at 32 calories each
  • 1/2 lb. tofu, rinsed, drained, dried, cubed, then mashed
  • 1/2 c. shredded carrot
  • 1/2 c. chopped bok choy
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pot sticker wrappers (check the label to ensure vegan goodness)
  1. Take a block of tofu and run it underneath some cool water, then place it in between two paper towels and squeeze it to remove excess moisture. Cut it into 1/2" cubes and then mash it with a fork. It doesn't have to be super smooth.
  2. Shred carrots, chop bok choy, and mince garlic.
  3. Coat a pan with cooking spray and add garlic. Sautee for 1 minute before adding vegetables. Cook for about 3 minutes and remove from heat. 
  4. Combine vegetable mixture, tofu, sesame seeds, and soy sauce. 
  5. Place 1 tsp. of the filling in the middle of each potsticker wrapper
  6. Moisten the sides of the wrapper and seal shut
  7. Spray a frying pan with nonstick cooking spray and arrange potstickers in a single layer. Cook over medium-high heat until thy are golden brown. Flip and repeat. 
  8. Add 1/2 c. of water, cover, and steam for 1 minute. Take off the cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Easy Daiya "Quesa"dilla

The quotation marks are to appease a certain smart-ass coworker of mine who claims that the word vegan quesadilla is an oxymoron.
By now it's no surprise that I am a big advocate of Daiya cheese. This tapioca-based wonder tastes so good, that I would choose it over regular cheese any day. Lately, I've been experimenting a lot with Mexican Food, which is weird because I never used to really care for it. Vegan mexican food is like the holy grail, because most Mexican restaurants are not very vegan friendly. Pure Luck in East Hollywood has a to-die-for burrito, but I have yet to find a vegan quesadilla anywhere but in my very own kitchen. I punch up this quesadilla with sauteed mushrooms, roasted corn, and some garlic salsa. It's very, very easy to make and a great pack-ahead lunch for work.

2 corn tortillas
1 oz. cheddar daiya
3 medium sized mushrooms
1/4 c. frozen corn
1 Tbsp. of your favorite salsa

Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray and place the first quesadilla inside. Layer half the cheese, vegetables, salsa, and then the rest of the cheese. Place the second quesadilla on top and press down gently.
Cook 2-3 minutes each side over medium heat, or until cheese is melted.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Grrl Scout Cookies: Mint-Core

As far as my grrl scout cookies went, these were by far the best recreation of the original, which is why I had to save them for my last post. I used a simple chocolate wafer cookie dough and added a bit of peppermint extract. Then, I further "minted" them out by pouring a little of the extract into the dark chocolate topping. The cookies were perfectly crunchy and deliciously chocolate-y. They had a strong minty flavor, but it was not overpowering. It was very much like that sensation that comes from eating a peppermint patty. Hmm, maybe that's what I'll do with the rest of that peppermint extract.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this particular baking project. I had a tough week last week and I very much used last Friday night to take refuge in my apartment and devote a couple of hours to something I really love. I'm also always glad to have cookies to share with friends and co-workers, because I like to think that it brightens up their day.
This week really got me thinking about going into business and selling some of these cookies. I'm always looking for ways to monetize my life. So, if any of you know of any good commercial kitchens with time to rent, or about the permits and licenses you need to sell baked goods, please, please, please hit me up.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tell All Your Friends

Continuing on with my week-long salute to vegan cookies, I am pleased to present my next recipe, a vegan twist on the tagalong. 
The girl scout cookie website describes them as vanilla-flavored cookies topped with peanut butter and coated in milk chocolate. It sounded delicious to me, and substituting dark chocolate for the milk seemed like it would only improve the cookies. As usual, I was right, and the dark chocolate added a layer of complexity and sophistication. I was surprised that these were my smallest cookies, but also packed in the most calories. We're talking 105 calories a cookie here, which means that as soon as they were baked I had them packaged up and ready to go to friends' houses and work. I've got pretty good will-power when it comes to eating, but I was not about to live under the same roof as these.

Notyourfriends (because nobody likes a tagalong)

  • 3 tbsp. earth balance
  • 2 tbsp. applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. agave
  • ener-g egg replacer for 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 c. unbleached whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
peanut butter filling
  • 2 tbsp all natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. earth valance
  • 1 tsp sugar
chocolate coating
  • dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp. soy milk
  1. In a mixing bowl, beat together earth balance, applesauce, and agave until smooth. Add the ener-g and vanilla, mixing well. 
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together until well incorporated. 
  3. Add the dry mixture to the wet, 1/2 at a time. Don't overwork the dough. 
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. 
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Lightly flour a surface and roll out the dough. Separate it into golf-ball sized pieces then flatten and place on the cookie sheet. 
  7. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Immediately after taking them out of the oven, use the back of a spoon or your thumb to make an indentation into the cookie. Let them cool.
  8. In a small pan, warm 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tbsp. earth balance, and 1 tsp brown sugar. Spoon into the holes you just made in the cookies. Place cookies in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  9. Melt together chocolate chips and soy milk, then dip the tops of the cookies into it. 
18 cookies at 105 calories each

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Words I Never Want To Hear Again

    and finally.....
    and finally

    Grrl Scout Cookies: Do-si-dont's

    And the grrl scout cookie party continues. I wish that this whole idea didn't probably violate a million intellectual property laws, because I really think that this could take off as a business. I'm also having a great time employing my friends to re-name cookies and brainstorm ideas. All of the clever cookie names can be attributed to my friend Carolyn. Check out her blog here. Today we are talking about Do-si-does. Do-si-does are oatmeal sandwich cookies with a peanut-butter filling. I love oatmeal cookies, and I had a great recipe using bananas and plenty of steel-cut oats. I like this particular recipe because wet and dry ingredients get mixed in the same bowl. This means less dishes, and for someone who does not have a dishwasher, that is a very, very big deal.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    A Study In Grrrl Scout Cookies

    February and March mean that spring is almost here, but they also mean that it is what used to be my favorite time of the year: Girl Scout Cookie Season. I am not alone. I meet very few people who were raised vegan all their lives, so most vegans that I have talked to in the past couple of weeks have, like me, fond memories of Girl Scout cookies. These delectable little treats are loaded with sugar and fat and peddled by adorable little girls in uniforms. Make no mistake though, these girls are ruthless in their pursuit of a sale. Besides fund raising, the primary reason for selling cookies to to teach Girl Scouts entrepreneurship and business savvy. Think about that the next time you get puppy dog eyes outside of the grocery store. I bought 3 boxes this year, and promptly disposed of them by opening them during a morning stand-up meeting. There is nothing like a sugar rush at 10 oclock in the morning. The next few days, though, were the toughest. Everywhere I went, people had boxes of cookies out on their desks. It took a great deal of willpower, but I managed to resist. Still, I had cookie fever and I had it bad. But, I had a fantastic idea for my next baking project.

    From the producers who brought you Blueberry Bread Bake-off, Christmas Cookie Extravaganza, and Pancake Palooza, I am proud to present:
    A Study in Grrrl Scout Cookies: Cruelty-free Versions of America's Favorite Treats.

    I tried 4 recipes. I ended up with 3 batches of delicious cookies and 1 batch that I royally screwed up. I will leave it up to the taste testers to decide which batches were which. I will be posting 1 recipe per day for the entire week, so check back often and while you are at it, click on some ads from my wonderful sponsors.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    Yes, she's talking about pancakes AGAIN

    I know, I know, you probably thought that I had moved on from blogging about pancakes. One more post about them, and I might as well just rename the whole blog Mis-Adventures on Vegan Pancakes. I can't help it, I really love making breakfast in the morning and vegan pancakes always seem to hit the spot. My particular recipe is low in calories and fat, so when I top them with fruit I am actually creating a well-balanced breakfast. A good pancake recipe, like the one here (Return of the Pancake) is an important cornerstone to any cooking repertoire. It opens you up to a world of possibilities: Blueberry pancakes, banana pancakes, chocolate-chip pancakes, blue-corn pancakes, you get the idea.
    I was talking about Apple Cinnamon Cheerios the other day. Apple Cinnamon Cheerios used to be one of my favorite breakfast cereals, and as a kid, they were probably one of my only sources of anything even resembling a fruit or vegetable. I had an apple left over and could tell that it was going to turn soon, so one Saturday morning I decided to get a little crazy and make apple-cinnamon pancakes. The addition of an apple gives this recipe a nice boost and will take care of one of your daily servings of fruit. I love eating fruit in the morning, because it's easy on your digestive system. Just ask Skinny Bitch.

    Apple Cinnamon Pancakes
    1. Prepare vegan pancake batter as directed.
    2. Dice half an apple, then add half of your apple chunks into the pancake batter and pulse together in a food processor for about 5 seconds. 
    3. Add the second half of the apple chunks to the batter and cook as normal.
    Now you have half of an apple and are wondering what you're going to do with it. You probably want to eat it, but you are probably also thinking "Damn, it would be great to harvest the natural sugar in this apple so that I don't need maple syrup on these bitchin' pancakes."  What's a vegan to do? I personally love fried apples, like the ones you can get at the Cracker Barrel. However, I've created a healthier way of cooking them that is the equivalent eating an apple, instead of being just like eating an apple, half a pound of butter, and a cup of sugar.

    Poached Cinnamon Apples
    • 1/2 an apple, sliced
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/4th c. water
    1. Place sliced apples in a frying pan over medium heat.
    2. Cover with water and cook for 5 minutes, until most of the water is evaporated and the apples are tender.
    3. Sprinkle with cinnamon and stir until the apples are coated evenly. 
    4. Drain off the water and serve.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Water, Water Everywhere

    Here we are for the next installment of weight-loss "secrets", and this time I'm going to devote an entire post to mother nature's candy. Folks, I'm talking about water.
    I never used to drink enough water, probably because I went to a Catholic grammar school and our bathroom breaks were severely monitored. There was a complicated sign-out process, and often our class would forget our sign-out sheet, so no one would be allowed to use the bathroom until we returned to our home-room. It's a wonder we didn't all end up with bladder infections. I almost never drank water, but I sure did get my fill of all things liquid from diet coke and beer. This was a big mistake and something that I set out to change in August, on the advice of a friend.

    If you are serious about losing weight, chances are that you already know you should be drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. Well, I take it further than that. Most days I drink 4 liters of water; that's 16 glasses. I know that right now you're thinking about some news story on the dangers of overhydration, or that woman who died in a radio station promotion holding "her pee for a wii". What happens in those situations is that some idiot drinks so much water so fast without peeing that they dilute the electrolytes in their body. I've got faith in my readers to use your heads here, but here is a disclaimer: don't try to drink all 16 glasses in one sitting or in some kind of chugging contest. Also, don't be an idiot.

    There are a few reasons why I drink so much water.

    The first reason is that water is very important for your kidneys. Keeping constantly hydrated takes the stress off of your kidneys, which creates an anotomical chain of events that makes your liver function better. Your liver is the most important organ in your body when it comes to metabolizing fat. So, if you are looking to break down fat into energy, you'd better be drinking your H20.

    Another reason why I drink so much water is because it is great for flushing out your body. Your fat cells store toxins, so as you break them down, detoxing becomes very important.Toxins have a nasty habit of hiding out in your fat cells, and when those cells break down, those toxins are released into your body. You need to flush them out.

    Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger. So, we end up eating when our body isn't really hungry, it just needs water by any means necessary.

    Water is great for your skin. I have fewer breakouts and generally a radiant glow. Also, keeping your skin hydrated is very important for its elasticity (it's ability to spring back into place). One of the biggest hurdles to major weight loss is excess skin, so you can see where I'm going here.

    Did you know that drinking water actually helps combat water-retention? It's true. When I know I'm carrying some extra water weight, I'll drink an extra couple of glasses to jump start my body's flushing it out. Also, when you are bellying up to the bar, you want to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink. Not only will it keep you from drinking more than you intended, but it will also help with the hangover the next morning.

    So there you have it. H2O, that means 2 molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen. It's tasteless, odorless, and readily available. Maybe if American schools weren't trying to make up budget deficits by hosting coke and Snapple machines  more people would know about it.

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Vegan French Toast

    Special consideration and thanks have to go out to my friend Carl, who makes one mean Vegan French Toast, and was nice enough to share this nearly-perfect recipe with me.

    I love breakfast. It is my most favorite meal of the day, and I would indulge in breakfast foods for lunch and dinner if I could (and to be honest, I often do). One of my favorites is French Toast, but by the time I finish dipping the bread in eggs and slathering it with butter and maple syrup, I might as well have just eaten a Big Mac and washed it down with some orange juice.

    I believe that a certain advertising campaign touts the beauty of the incredible, edible egg. An egg contains 54 calories,33 of which are from fat. It also contains 52% of your daily recommended cholesterol. My ener-g egg replacement powder contains a mere 15 calories per serving. Eggs are gross, they're just little baby chickens who never got fertilized. Think about that the next time you're confronted with a buffet's omelet station.

    I love French Toast, and when I was at the peak of my dieting, I used to wish that I could have it every day for breakfast. But, I shied away from it because of the cholesterol associated with the eggs, the carbs from the bread, and the sugar from the maple syrup. Vegan french toast addresses the egg problem, and the substitution of whole wheat bread instead of worthless white will provide you with important fiber. I like this recipe because it includes lots of cinnamon and vanilla, which makes the end result sweet enough that I use less syrup. Voila, french toast every morning.

    A note on the bread: you can use any kind of bread you want with this recipe, with special consideration given towards whole wheat. This morning I tried it with Country Harvest Bread. It's a special kind of bread that I buy from the farmer's market across the street, and it's full of carrots, raisins, whole grains, and nuts. Nuts are a little fatty, but the health benefits far outweigh any caloric short-comings.

    Vegan French Toast
    1 1/2 tsp. egg replacer (I use less than the original recipe, which calls for 2)
    3/4 c. soy milk
    1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp vanilla
    3 slices whole wheat bread
    2 tbsp. earth balance

    1. Add egg replacer directly to the soy milk. Add vanilla and cinnamon and stir with a whisk. You may need to stir pretty hard, because you need to make sure the egg replacer completely blends with the soy milk.
    2. Dip each side of the bread in the "egg" mixture. I like to let it sit for a few seconds so that it really soaks up some of the liquid.
    3. Bring a pan to medium heat and coat the bottom with 1 tbsp. of earth balance. This is not the time to be stingy with the earth balance, as it is very important in getting a good crust on your french toast.
    4. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until you have a nice golden brown crust on the bottom.
    5. Flip the french toast, adding the second tbsp. of earth balance to your pan as you are flipping. It's a technique that requires some practice, but again, you need the earth balance to get a perfect french toast.
    6. Serve with fruit, powdered sugar, maple agave, or whatever else floats your boat. I've been meaning to try pumpkin butter.
    Servings: 2 at 307 calories each

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    What a Lush

    This picture pretty much sums up my sophmore year of college.
    Cigarette, jet black hair, drink in my hand, and some weird ribbon-y bow on my head.  No wonder why I felt like crap all the time. Anyway, I lifted this picture from Facebook, because today we are talking about Lush.
    This is my second tango with veganism, and one of my resolutions is to focus on cleansing my entire life of animal products. In order to make that a reality, I had to start with my bathroom. I was doing pretty well with vegan shampoo, conditioner, and shaving cream, but I just couldn't get behind the tea tree oil cleanser that I bought at Trader Joes. I have very sensitive, easily irritated skin, and it usually left my face way too dry. I knew that I needed a new cleanser, and I knew that I needed to go to Lush.
    Lush is a company that makes fresh, organic, hand-made cosmetic products. While I have been there before for bath bombs and gifts, I had never really taken a look at their skin-care line until just this week. They helpfully label all of their vegan products, which was great. Instead of everything coming neatly packaged in 5 layers of cellophane, they treat a lot of their products like bulk bins, and they will cut off or scoop out however much you need. For example, I bought half a pound of cleanser and it came packaged in a clear plastic container with a cute little label.
    The salesgirl there was very helpful as I explained my needs, and pointed me towards their Angels on Bare Skin, which is a clay-based cleanser. It has almonds to exfoliate as well as rose and lavender to balance out the skin. You basically scoop a little bit of this dry clay into your hand, mix it with a little bit of water, and rub it all over your face before rinsing. She suggested that I follow it up with their rose water toner, and I (always the sucker) bought both. I've been pleasantly surprised by how smooth and soft my skin is after cleansing, and a definitely see some of my redness going away. The only downside is that it doesn't seem to be any good at deep-cleansing. They have a black charcoal clay as well, and I might try that one next time. Apparently my $15 supply is supposed to last about a month, but I don't think I've been going through it that quickly, even though I use it twice a day.
    Veganism is sometimes a double-edged sword. On the one hand, your body starts to detoxify itself and that's great. On the other hand, all of the toxins and crap that used to reside in your body seems to rise to the surface and manifest itself in clogged pores. I was reading up on fasting and found out that a very common side effect is seeing your skin break out. The article reccomended daily exfoliating, which I am obviously doing with my new cleanser. I need to keep reminding myself that it's only temporary until my body flushes everything out. In the meantime, I'm putting a lot of faith in Lush and we will see what happens.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    When The Moon Hits Your Eye

    Since the revolution (which is how I refer to me becoming a vegetarian), I have been bringing my own lunch to work almost every day. Sometimes, my co-workers get lunch envy, and nothing gets them gathered around and asking questions like when I show up with a home-made vegan pizza.
    Now, I am from New Jersey, which means I know more about pizza than you do and I make better pizza than you ever will. I spent a summer working at Vesuvio's Italian restaurant in Belmar, NJ, where they made some of the best thin crust pizza I've ever tasted.  I picked up a thing or two while working there, and now you, gentle reader, get to reap the benefits.

    Step 1: The Dough
    Now, the reason why New York, Boston, and New Jersey have the best pizza in the world is supposedly in the water. However, the real reason why it's a thousand times better than those Papa Huts and Pizza Johns is that the crust is rolled out until it is as thin as possible. A good slice of pizza is a 1-to-1 ratio between crust, sauce, and cheese. That being said, you can recreate some of that pizza magic in your own kitchen by just taking the time roll out your dough to the proper thickness.
    I like to use Trader Joes' pizza dough in whole wheat, although their garlic and herb is also very tasty. They sell it refridgerated in big bags, and I will bring it home and freeze individual servings of dough. When it's time to make a pizza, I defrost my dough and then roll it out onto a cutting board with plenty of whole wheat flour. You should knead it a few times before gently stretching the dough in your hands until it is no more than 1/4" thick. Be liberal with your flour, because the dusting of whole wheat on the bottom of the pizza is really going to make your crust.

    Step 2: The Sauce
    A good pizza sauce should be very, very thin. One shortcut that I use sometimes is to take canned tomato paste and mix it with a little bit of water and some spices. Another real shortcut is probably to just buy the stuff in a jar. Either way, you want to get a nice thin layer of sauce on top of your dough.

    Step 3: The Garlic
    I'll usually mince two cloves of garlic and sprinkle them on top of my sauce layer. I eat a lot of garlic.  It probably really sucks to kiss me, but I'm selfish so I really don't care. I'm going to continue to eat as much garlic as I want. It's a natural antibiotic. It's good for your cardiovascular system.It has antioxidants. I'm worth it.

    Step 4: The Cheese
    When making a vegan pizza, you have a few options. One is Follow Your Heart Mozarella, a soy-based cheese that actually melts. Another is Daiya cheese, wich is tapioca based and featured at Pizza Fusion (in Santa Monica and San Diego). A third option is to forgoe cheese altogether and just sprinkle a pinch of nutritional yeast over your sauce and top with a bunch of veggies. My favorite is the Italian Daiya, which you can probably get at Whole Foods, I know that we can out here.

    Step 5: Toppings
    This is a great way to use up whatever vegetables you have lying around in your fridge. My favorite pizza topping is frozen spinach, which I will defrost and saute in a little bit of cooking spray before topping my pizza. Another good option is to use mushrooms, which are especially nice if you are foregoing cheese altogether. I also love fresh basil, but can never seem to use an entire package of it, so I rarely keep it on hand. I've had great success with Tofurkey's sausage. Check the label very carefully, because they only have one vegan variety.

    When I was in college, we had a Wolfgang Puck Express in the middle of campus, and I cannot tell you how many times I had their pesto and sausage pizza for lunch. No wonder why my jeans didn't fit. I have recreated the flavor combination, though, by using a low fat vegan pesto, soy cheese, "sausage", and fresh tomato slices. It's absolutely amazing, and sometimes it's fun to go wild and use something other than classic tomato sauce.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Tofu McMuffins

    Sure, being a vegan means being healthy. It means raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains cooked in vegetable broth. It means nutrition and treating your body like a temple. However, some mornings, usually after a night of drinking, your body feels more like a temple of doom. You are hung over and feel awful and just want something heavy and greasy in your stomach. I used to rely on egg McMuffins from McDonalds to fill this void in my life. After a rough night, there was nothing I craved more than a delicious fried egg covered in gooey cheese and served on an english muffin. I could pair it with 1 or 2 (OK, usually 2) hashbrowns and some orange juice from concentrate (you know, to be healthy). What the hell was I thinking ?!?!?
    It's one thing to want something salty and carb-laden, but an egg McMuffin is a cholesterol, fat, cruelty circus that is too much for me to even contemplate now. It all goes back to my blog's tagline, that there are no bad foods, just bad ingredients. This became my mantra as I set about making my own animal-free breakfast sandwich. It's not the healthiest breakfast ever, but it comes in at around 300 calories instead of 600 or whatever is in those little yellow wrappers of death. Let's face it, if this is going to be your breakfast, there's a good chance that you spent the night before doing some damage to your body. Just because you feel like crap doesn't mean you should eat crap. So, the next time that you get a little boozy, try this as your hangover cure-all along with a cup of strong black coffee.

    Editor's note: It has been pointed out to me by my incredibly talented, intelligent, good-looking, scrunchie-wearing, meat-aterian, co-worker that a McDonald's egg McMuffin only has 300 calories, and a sausage egg mcMuffin has 450. Since mine comes in at just under 300, your real savings are not caloric, but rather fat, cholesterol, and karmic.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

    We did it! Today I hit 1,000 unique page views for my little blog. I have received a lot of positive feedback, and that is motivating me to come up with new ideas for posts, better vegan recipes, and most importantly, to keep writing.
    I just wanted to say a big thank you to the people who I know are coming back time and again (you know who you are), and also to those of you who are posting links on your facebooks, twitters, and blogs. It means a lot to me to be able to get the word out about the benefits of a plant-based diet and lifestyle.
    So again, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. 

    Fat Free Carrot Cake!

     Editor's Note: we are up to 991 uniques as of 9 AM Tuesday morning. Please keep coming back and posting links on your facebooks, twitters, and the like. I started posting on February 6th, so this is a huge milestone for me. 

    That's right ladies and gentlemen, I am suggesting that there is a way to have your cake and eat it too. Fat Free Vegan is one of my favorite resources to find new vegan recipes.When I needed a cake recipe a couple of weeks ago, it was my first stop. I found a carrot cake recipe that is absolutely out of this world. It doesn't use any fat or butter, and incorporated unsweetened apple sauce and fresh grated carrots. It is the densest, richest, moistest cake that I've ever baked, and no one can believe that it's vegan or fat free. It does use a bit of sugar, but I'm not really sure that you can ever have a completely healthy baked good. However, if any of my readers know anything about that, I would very much like to be clued in.
    Now, the reason why I love carrot cake so much is because of the cream cheese icing. The original recipe recommends a lemon glaze, but that would be total bullshit. Everyone knows that the best part of carrot cake is that delectable cream cheese icing. I would eat bowls and bowls of it if I could. So I consulted several different frosting and vegan frosting recipes online, and finally settled on my own combination of soy cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla soy milk, and earth balance.
    I've made this cake three times now. The first was for a birthday and was a huge success. The second time I tried to make cupcakes for work, but I got lazy and bought this weird, sticky vanilla frosting from Whole Foods. That was a disaster. The third time I went back to basics, but made a double batch so that I could put together a layer cake for my tea party. That was a win as well. This cake keeps great in the refrigerator, and doesn't lose any of its moisture or deliciousness. In fact, I think that I like it better slightly chilled.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Indian Night: Part 2

    Continuing with my Indian themed recipes, I would like to present to you two side dishes that I served last week on Indian night. After planning out the chana masala and the batata nu shaak, I realized that my meal was lacking a vegetable side dish. I needed something easy, green, and spicy. I'm not sure if broccoli with tomatoes is an actual Indian side dish or not, but the tomatoes complimented the other ingredients really well and I used just enough chili powder to give it a little heat without being overwhelming. Just as I was about to start cooking, I realized that I needed chickpeas, so I had to make a Whole Foods run. It was there that I learned chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans. See, I'm always telling people I know nothing about cooking. While at the store, I tried to pick up some naan. I love having naan to soak up all of the liquid that's left behind on my plate. Also, I am a total wimp about spice, so it's good for me to have something non-spicy to gnaw on. All of the naan at Trader Joes had milk and eggs in it, but I was hoping the WF would come through for me. Guess what? Just like the guy who stood me up on Valentines Day, my favorite grocery store fell through on me. So, I i-phoned a recipe for the bread. Unfortunately, I cannot find the original site where I found the recipe, so if you recognize the one I've posted below, please let me know so that I may properly attribute it. I probably should have written it down or bookmarked it, but in the heat of the moment I completely forgot myself.