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Monday, January 31, 2011

I would marry a pizza if I could...

That's right.  The hardest thing I had to give up when I became vegan was pizza, hands down.  Cheesy, carb loaded, delicious pizza.  I almost broke down several times, but I held fast.  All vegan cheese pizzas I had tried were sub par until now!  With Daiya you can make any of your old favorite cheesey dishes guilt free!  In case you've been living under a rock and haven't heard, Daiya is the coolest thing since sliced bread.  Seriously.  It melts, stretches and tastes like real cheese, without all the greasy fat oozing from it!  You can find this cheese in your co-op or Whole Foods.  If they don't carry it, then request it! 

Last Saturday, January 29, was national Vegan Pizza Day.  Never heard of it?  Yeah, well, neither did I.  A friend told me about it and invited me out for pizza.  I didn't need to be asked twice.  I had heard through the grapevine that if you called ahead you could have the cooks at Glass Nickel make you a vegan pizza with Daiya if you brought it in.  Well, sure enough, it's true!  It was absolutely delicious!  Courtney and I went a little nuts when building our pizza and got a ridiculous amount of toppings, and it was great!  So next time you want great cheesey vegan pizza, you know where to go! 

*Word be warned, Glass Nickel does use refined sugar to make their crust.  Since the amount used is very neglibile and not all refined sugar is processed with bone char, I let this one slide.  Stricter vegans might object, but I don't think this is something to get up in arms about.  As always, we do the best we can, and some battles are more important than others. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Courage is often mistaken for insanity

That quote was taken from the movie Iron Jawed Angels, which is about the women's suffrage movement.  While they were trying to claim Alice Paul was insane, the doctor simply said "In women, courage is often mistaken for insanity."

This is a universal statement, not exclusive to women.  Anyone that has courage to stand up for what they believe is right, even though it may go against popular belief, are deemed crazy.  How many times have you been called crazy as a vegan?  It takes courage to not take part in the willed ignorance and excessive cruelty that goes into the consumption of animal products.  It's courageous when you talk to your friends and family about your veganism and stand your ground when you are faced with scoffs, ridicule and unfounded claims.  Every time you sit down for a meal, you are acting courageously.  Like any other social justice movement, we will struggle, but we have truth and justice on our side.  We are fighting for the rights of not just animals, but for the people working the the agriculture industry, the environment, our health, and the millions of starving people in the world.  We start with our plates and we take these ideals out into the world.  If you haven't started becoming an activist, then start now!  Sure, you're saving about 90 animals a year by not consuming animal products yourself, but think of all the animals you can save by influencing those around you?  Veganism is entering the vocabulary and it's not going away.  We need to give these animals a voice, because they can't speak up for themselves.  Please, do what you can to help.

A simple thing that I do, (other than this blog), is use my Facebook page for my advocacy.  How many friends do you have on Facebook?  Hundreds, right?  Well, think of how many people will see the articles or comments you post every day if you just write something about veganism or animal rights?  Post pictures of your favorite foods even!  I post at least one article and "like" many posts by animal advocates.  All your favorite activists are on there.  One of my very favorites is Erik Marcus'  He is one of the best advocates out there.  He blogs about articles in the media pertaining to animal rights and veganism (especially food stuffs!).  He wrote Meat Market, which is about dismantling the meat industry.  here It's a great read!  It was one of the first books I read when I moved out of the kitchen and onto my soap box.  

Here are some great sites to get you started:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Cupcakes and cookies, that is!  That's right.  Once again Courtney and I have come up with masterpieces in the kitchen.  Saturday has become my very favorite day.  I look forward to it all week.  I start out my day with hot Power Flow yoga, followed by volunteering at Heartland Farm Sanctuary.  I love all the wonderful farm animals that founder Dana Barre has saved!  Each one has a unique personality and it's such a joy to see them living their lives freely.  Ever see a pig joyfully run about and wiggle it's butt in little bounds like a dog?  It's quite the sight!  After my volunteering I head off to Courtney's to bake all afternoon followed by another hot yoga class.  The double classes are so I don't feel so bad for consuming all the baked goods we just made!  You really can't stop at just one!  This past weekend we made S'mores Cupcakes and Snickerdoodle cookies.  Once again these are Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero creations from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  (Can you tell I love these books?)

First, a little note.  Any vegan knows it's damn near impossible to find vegan graham crackers.  I have never been able to find them.  Apparently Keebler's makes some without honey, but who wants all the processed and hydrogenated crap in their crackers?  Not me!  So just make your own!  I'll include the recipe here.  Also from VCIYCJ.

Graham Crackers
Makes 12 crackers

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
A scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup nondairy milk

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a light colored baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Make a well in the middle and pour in oil, molasses, and vanilla.  Give the liquid ingredients a quick whisk with a fork and then continue mixing until everything is well combined and crumbly.
Drizzle in the nondairy milk and combine.  Use your hands to knead the dough a few times until it holds together; add and extra tablespoon of nondairy milk if needed.  You should be able to form a pliable ball of dough.
Line a work surface with parchment paper.  Place the dough on the parchment and work into a rectangle.  Flatten it a bit with the palms of your hand and sprinkle with flour.  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle that is roughly 10 X 14 inches.  The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick.  If the edges look crumbly, that's okay.
Cut the edges off so that you have a relatively even 12 X 8 inch rectangle.  Cut the dough into eight crackers; to do this evenly, use a sharp paring knife to slice the dough in quarters.  Then cut width-wise again on either side of the center width-wise cut.  That probably made it sound confusing; read it slowly.
Use a very thin, flexible spatula to transfer the crackers to a baking sheet.  It helps if you spray the spatula with cooking spray so that it slips off the crackers easily.
Gather up the scraps of dough and form them into a ball, then roll it out into a 4 by 8 inch rectangle or whatever size you can manage.  We were able to get four more crackers out of the deal, but your mileage may vary.  Cut the edges evenly and slice into four crackers, then transfer them to the baking sheet.
Score each cookie with a fork four times in two columns.  You don't need to poke all the way through.  Bake for 12 to 14 minutes - 14 minutes will give you nice crispy crackers, 12 will be better for making ice cream sammiches.
Let the crackers cool completely on the baking sheet.

S'mores Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup soy yogurt
1 1/4 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

For the topping:
Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)
6 graham cracker rectangles, broken in half
Extra graham cracker crumbs

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Mix the brown sugar, oil, molasses, yogurt, soy milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a separate bowl and mix.  Add the graham cracker crumbs and mix it up.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches.  Mixing well after each addition.  Fill cupcake liners full.  (They don't rise much.)  Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before decorating.

Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening 
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance!)
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.  Add the vanilla and soy milk, beast for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.

To assemble the cupcakes:

Spread or pipe a thick layer of the vegan fluffy buttercream frosting onto each cupcake.  We like to use a wide decorating tip to create a swirly mountain of yumminess.  Sprinkle the cracker crumbs over the frosting.  Drizzle with ganaches'mores warm chocolate thing or allow to set.  It tastes yummy either way!  We also put Dandie's Vegan Marshmallows on top to make it even more fancy!

City Girl Snickerdoodles 
(slightly modified with almond extract)
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 cup nonhydrogenated margarine, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons nondairy milk
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon sugar for rolling:
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons white decorator sugar, or any large crystal sugar
1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
A big pinch of nutmeg

In a large bowl cream the margarine and sugar together until light and creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary.  Add the nondairy milk and vanilla and almond extracts and beat until combined.  Sift the flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt and beat mixture until a soft dough forms, about 4 minutes.  Dough will be soft and fluffy.  Chill dough for 30 minutes.  Or, if desired, cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a small shallow bowl, combine the sugar, decorator sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Scoop 1 tablespoon of dough, drop it into Cinnamon Sugar, and gently roll it into a ball.  Place the dough balls on cookie sheets about 3 inches apart.  Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a little additional Cinnamon Sugar.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes.  Cookies will be puffed and will deflate after removing from the oven.  Allow the cookies to cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets before moving to wire racks to complete cooling.  Store in a loosely covered container.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Eat your kale and get your calcium too!

 Post courtesy of Courtney Mayhew.

Another frequent question I get as a Vegan (even from my healthcare provider) is "aren't you worried about not getting enough calcium?"  This is followed by, "you must have to take a supplement, right?"  Most people assume that the best and only way to get enough calcium in our diets is through the consumption of dairy products.  We are taught at a very young age to "drink your milk for strong bones".   In my nursing masters program, we learned to assess people's calcium intake by asking "how many servings of dairy do you consume each day?".  I could ask any of the nutritionists that I work with today, "what's the best source of calcium for my patient?"  and they are going to tell me, "why (cow's) milk of course".  Do you really think that cows are just born with a lot of calcium?  Now, stop and think about it for a minute.  Why is cow's milk high in calcium?  Cows get calcium from the grass they eat--they are not born with calcium to spare.  Now think about this.  Are dairy cattle allowed to even eat grass anymore?   Nope.  They are confined to feedlots and milking stalls where they are fed a diet fortified with steroids, antibiotics, and yep, you guessed it, calcium.

We are smart people, so why are we, as a country, so brainwashed into believing that dairy products are supreme sources of calcium?   The National Dairy Counsel (AKA Dairy Management Inc.) is a well organized and very well funded group that has been promoting the consumption of milk as far back as 1915.  Their marketing budget in 2003 was 165 billion dollars!  I have to include this excerpt from the China Study by T. Collin Campbell because it enrages me!  I know I've said it before, but this book is a must read. 

The three major program areas for the 2003 Dairy Management Inc. group...

Fluid Milk: In addition to key ongoing activities in advertising, promotion and public relations efforts targeted to children ages 6 to 12 and their mothers, 2003 dairy checkoff efforts will focus on developing and extending partnerships with major food marketers, including Kellogg's, Kraft Foods, and McDonald's.

School Marketing: As part of an effort to guide school age children to become life-long consumers of dairy products, 2003 activities will target students, parents, educators and school food-service professionals. Programs are under way in both the classroom and the lunchroom, where dairy checkoff organizations look to widen the success of the school milk pilot test...

Dairy Image/Confidence: This ongoing program area aims to protect and enhance consumer confidence in dairy products and the dairy industry.  A major component involves conducting and communicating the results of dairy nutrition research showing the healthfulness of dairy products, as well as issues and crisis management...

Are you mad yet?  Well, you should be!  It is absurd to me that as a nation, we allow the dairy industry to come into our schools and teach our children that consuming milk and ice cream is healthy.  They forget to mention that the consumption of increased animal protein increases rates of obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis, just to name a few.  Whoops, that's not really important, now is it?!
As I mentioned in my earlier post on protein, consuming a diet high in animal protein, changes the balance of our bodies, making it more acidic.  In a more acidic environment, calcium is actually leeched from our bones and excreted in our urine.  Thus causing a higher incidence of osteoporosis, bone fracture, kidney stones, and kidney disease.

These health implications are very important and they definitely influence my decision not to consume animal products.  However, the main reason, I do not consume dairy is because of the implications it has for the cows.  I already touched on this in one of my prior posts "Veganize it", but I think that its worth repeating.

"We are the only species that drinks the milk from another species and we are the only species that continues to consume milk after we are weaned from our mothers.  Cows make milk for the same reason we make milk--to feed their own babies.  Instead, we take away their babies, feed them a milk replacer, and sell their milk.  Cows are repeatedly impregnated in order to keep up with milk production and they are milked twice daily every day of their lives. A cow will naturally produce 16 pounds of milk per day, enough to feed her baby.  Contrary to popular belief, cows actually don't need to be milked!  When left alone, cows produce the perfect amount of milk to feed their calves, which means milking them is unnecessary.  Dairy cattle today are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics in order to increase their milk production to an average of 50 pounds per day!  Guess where those hormones and antibiotics end up.  That's right, in their milk!  Not only that, but the overproduction of milk causes half of these cows to develop mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder.  Cows are milked regardless of whether they are afflicted, so you're also getting some pus in that milk.  That's right.  Got pus?  Cows have a natural lifespan of 25 years and are typically able to produce milk for 8 to 9 years.  Because of the stress caused by factory farms, dairy cattle in the US are deemed worthless by the industry at age 4 or 5.  They are then sent for slaughter--over one third of the ground beef consumed in this country comes from spent dairy cows.  You must also face the fact that the veal industry is directly connected with the milk industry, so if you are still consuming dairy products you are also supporting the slaughter of malnourished, inhumanely confined calves.  The male calves are tethered to their stall, which is not even large enough for them to turn around.  They become caked in feces and are often found with open sores.  They are fed formula, because that milk which was meant for them was stolen for human consumption.  They are purposely made to be iron-deficient, for the white coloration of their flesh.  These practices are so cruel that they are banned in Europe."  Do you really want to be responsible for any of this cruelty?  I sure don't!  

So, how does a vegan get his/her calcium?!  Its simple--eat a diet high in green veggies, beans, and tofu and you will have no problems.  The average adult should consume roughly 1000 mg of calcium daily.   There has been some discussion that those eating a vegan diet require less calcium because of better absorption but this has not been supported by any research to date.  

1 cup boiled collards                        ~358 mg calcium
1 cup fortified non dairy milk (soy, almond)        ~300 mg calcium
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses                    ~200 mg calcium
½ cup cooked collard greens                    ~200 mg calcium
½ cup calcium-set tofu                        ~200 mg calcium
1 ounce of fortified breakfast cereal            ~200 mg calcium
½ cup cooked kale, turnip greens, or broccoli    ~100 mg calcium
½ cup cooked soybeans                    ~100 mg calcium
¼ cup soy nuts                            ~100 mg calcium
1 package of instant oatmeal                ~100 mg calcium
5 dried figs                                ~100 mg calcium
1 cup boiled swiss chard                    ~102 mg calcium
1 cup butternut squash                        ~84 mg calcium
1 cup chickpeas                            ~80 mg calcium
1 cup sweet potato                            ~70 mg calcium
1 cup green beans or 8 brussels sprouts        ~ 50-60 mg calcium
 2 tbsp almond butter or tahini                ~50-75 mg calcium
½ cup prepared textured vegetable protein        ~50-75 mg calcium
½ cup cooked bok choy                        ~50-75 mg calcium
½ cup tempeh                                ~50-75 mg calcium
1/2 cup cooked navy, black, great northern beans~50-75 mg calcium
1 orange                                    ~50-75 mg calcium
2 tbsp almonds                            ~50-75 mg calcium

I have so many favorite recipes that are chock full of calcium so it was difficult to decide which one to share with this post.  One of my favorites comes from Lauren Ulm's Vegan Yum Yum here--Creamy Sweet Potato Bake.  Both Rachel and I made this for our families over the holidays this year and it was a huge hit.  The "alfredo" sauce is rich, but not too rich, and really creamy.  It pairs nicely with the sweet potatoes and kale.  This dish reheats really well.  You will love it!
Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday

Creamy Sweet Potato Bake

Makes 3-4 servings (but I would argue it makes at least 6 servings)

3 cups pasta
1 head kale divided and chopped (~ 300 mg calcium)
1 1/2 pound sweet potatoes peeled (~210 mg calcium)

Alfredo sauce (Double this recipe)
1 1/4 cup soy milk (~ 450 mg calcium) 
1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 T tamari
2 T earth balance margarine
1 T tahini (~50 mg calcium)
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t dijon mustard
1/4 t powdered ginger
1 pinch nutmeg
3/4 t dried thyme
1/2 t paprika
black pepper to taste

bread crumbs for topping (optional, I did not use)

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the pasta.  Two or three minutes before the pasta is completely cooked, add the chopped kale to the boiling water.  When the pasta is cooked and the kale is bright green but tender, drain and set aside.  Chop the sweet potatoes into bight size chunks and boil until tender but not falling apart.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  To make the alfredo sauce, blend the above ingredients until smooth and creamy.   Combine the pasta, kale, sweet potatoes with the sauce and stir well.  Place in a casserole dish and top with bread crumbs if desired.  Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Enjoy!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Choose, But Choose Wisely.

I read a great response by Evan Kleiman on KCRW Good Food blog to the question "What does it mean to write about food today."  "I would say that food writing today is an intellectual and emotional funnel to some of the most fundamental issues of our time."  Beautiful.  It's so true.  Eating is so much more then the basic function.  Our emotions our completely wrapped up in food along with relationships, memories, traditions, etc.  It is a part of how we express our humanity.  There's nothing better then getting together with friends and family and sharing a meal and stories and making memories.  No get together is really complete without eating, if you think about it.  This is why it's so important to really treasure this experience.  We need to understand what goes into putting that food on our plate.  The resources used, the people who planted the vegetables that we now enjoy, or, for many, the animal who endured a life of only pain and suffering, then robbed of it's short life to bring it's flesh to your plate for your enjoyment.  Enjoyment.  Your rejoicing in an unsustainable, wasteful industry consumed with misery.  When you're ingesting that flesh, you are inviting all of those emotions and cruelty inside you.  So next time you sit down to a meal, think of your intention.  Don't you want to enrich your life by feasting on delicious food that will provide you with essential nutrients?  We do have a choice.  "Choosing the default today with the knowledge we have of the general unsustainability of current food systems is almost an amoral choice."  It's not almost.  It is.  Connect the dots.  All your choices really connect to the greater whole.  "Whether that whole is sustainable and delicious or horrifying and degenerative is a choice."

My favorite part of her break down:
"Different Expressions of the Discipline

Yummyness vs. Yuckiness
Cooking Food vs. Buying Food
Health vs. Ilness
Life or Death?  Connection vs. Disconnection?
Participating in a Huge Chain of Injustice vs. Sleeping at Night?"

I choose to sleep at night with a clean conscience and a healthy, strong body.

Read the whole article: here

Now for another sustainable, delicious meal to keep you warm on these cold days.  (High of 4 degrees today...jeez.)  There's nothing better than a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter's day.  I love Isa's Bistro Broccoli Chowder from Appetite for Reduction.  (Yes, I'm completely addicted to this cookbook right now, if you didn't notice.)  The addition of potatoes and parsnips to thicken this soup is great!  And for 150 calories a serving, have at it!

Bistro Broccoli Chowder
 Serves 6

1 medium-size onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic (I double mine, of course)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (don't peel)
1/2 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into slightly less than 1/2 inch chunks
5 cups chopped broccoli, the stalks chopped into thin slices, the tops cut into small florets
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat.  Saute the onion in the olive oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until softened.  Add the garlic, rosemary, pepper, and salt and cook for a minute more.  Pour in the vegetable broth and add the potatoes and parsnips.  cover and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lowe the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the broccoli and cook for 20 more minutes.

Add the almond milk and heat through.  Use an immersion blender to blend about half the soup, keeping it a bit chunky.  If you do't have an immersion blender (get one!), then transfer about half of the soup to a blender and puree, then add it back to the soup.  If you're using a blender, be careful not to let the steam build up while you blend.  Taste for satl and seasoning.  Serve!

Calories: 150, Calories from fat: 10, Total fat: 1.5g, Saturated fat: 0g, Trans fat: 0g, Total carb: 30g, Fiber: 7g, Sugars: 6g, Protein: 7g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 600mg, Vitamin A: 10%, Vitmain C: 150%, Calcium: 8%, Iron: 10%

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vegan Fest!

I am very proud to announce Madison's first annual Mad City Vegan Fest will be this June 19, 2011 from 10am-6pm at Goodman Community Center!  Mark your calendars and tell everyone you know to come!  We want this year to be a hit, so we can get even bigger next year.  I'm one of the core group coordinators, so please let me know if you would like to volunteer your time or money to help us make this an event to remember.  Please feel free to give us suggestions for what you would like to get out of this year's Vegan Fest.  We are still in the very early stages of planning the event, so any input is appreciated!  You can visit our webpage:  You can also become a fan our our Facebook page: here.  A very special thank you to Hannah West for taking the lead on this very special event!  For the animals, your health and the environment.  Widen your circle of compassion.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Being bad tastes soooo sweet!

It has been a dream of mine for quite some time to open a vegan bakery.  Luckily I found another amazing woman who shares this dream of mine.  Courtney and I met at one of the Veg Meetups, the vegan baking meetup to be exact.  Go figure!  ;)  We love to bake and share our creations with everyone.  A lot of people who have never had vegan food before are shocked by my baking.  "I can't even tell it's vegan!" This is the popular response.  I'm not really sure what that means, or what people expect, but I'm pleased as punch when I get positive feedback.  It gets people interested and it gets your foot in the door.  I mean, let's face it, everyone loves sweets.  Everyone.  If you say you don't, you are a dirty, dirty liar and you know it!  You just say you don't, because then you think you can trick yourself into not tasting that sweet, decadent tiramisu cupcake I just made.  Or maybe a peanut butter chocolate pillow?  How about a lazy somoa, toasted coconut cookie dipped and drizzled in chocolate.  No?  Well, you're nuts!  For all of the other sane people, these treats are little pieces of heaven that melt ever so sweetly on your tongue and fill you with warm delight.  Erm.  I'm still talking about the treats people.  Focus! 

Well, Courtney and I are well on our way to making our vegan bakery dream come true.  Every Saturday we've been getting together for an afternoon of baking.  Don't worry, we followed it with Bikram Yoga to offset the amount of sweets we consumed.  ;)  I also make sure to always make food from Appetite for Reduction, so I don't have to feel so guilty.  Anyway, last weekend we decided to make Lazy Samoas from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar here and Tiramisu cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World here, both by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  The Lazy Somoas are very similar to the Coconut Delight Girl Scout cookies, sans the caramel.  Don't worry, we'll be sure to add the caramel when we make them again.  The toasted cocnut gives these cookies a nice texture.  The tiramisu cupcakes are decadent.  The cream cheese forsting is silky, the cupcake moist, and the flavors meld wonderfully.  They taste better if you let them sit for a couple of hours after assembling, but I must admit, that is literally impossible to do! 
Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone's Favorite TreatsVegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule

Lazy Somoas
Makes 2 dozen cookies

2 cups grated unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup nondairy milk
1 T ground flax seed
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

For decorating
1 cup chocolate chips
2 T unrefined coconut oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Pour the coconut into a large heavy skillet and toast over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until the coconut is a light golden brown (about 8 minutes).  Be careful not to burn the coconut.  If it continues to brown after you remove it from the heat, transfer it to another dish and spread it around to help hasten cooling and stop cooking.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut oil, brown sugar, non dairy milk, flax seeds, and vanilla until well blended and smooth.  Sift in the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix to form a thick batter.  Fold in the toasted coconut.

Scoop about 1 tablespoon of dough 2 inches apart onto your baking sheets. Flatten each cookie with the back of a measuring cup and then use your fingertip to make a small hole into each center.  Bake for 8 minutes until the cookies are golden on the edges.  Let the cookies cool and then transfer them to wax paper. 

While the cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate chips using a double boiler (or in the microwave), then stir the coconut oil into the melted chocolate. Allow this chocolate mixture to cool for about 5 minutes so that it can thicken slightly.  Then dip the cookie bottoms into chocolate and return to the wax paper. Next, drizzle the remaining chocolate over the cookies (we did this using a very small pastry tip, but it can also be done using a fork).  Chill the cookies for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Store them in a very cool place (I'm keeping mine in the fridge). 

Tiramisu cupcakes

Makes 12

1 cup soy milk
1 t apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups flour
2 T cornstarch
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t almond extract (or additional vanilla)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pan with cupcake liners.

Whisk the soy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes until it becomes curdled. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the soy milk mixture, oil, sugar, vanilla, almond extract. Sift in flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix until no large lumps remain. 

Fill the cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Let them cool completely before frosting. 

Cream Cheese Frosting (We recommend doubling this recipe.  You will have a little left over, but its delicious on its own by the spoonful--not that we tried that or anything!)

1/4 cup non hydrogenated margarine, softened
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, softened (we used tofutti brand)
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 t vanilla extract

Cream together the margarine and cream cheese.  Use a mixer to whip while adding the confectioners sugar in 1/2 cup increments. Mix until smooth and creamy and then add in the vanilla. 

Kahlua Coffee mixture

1/3 cup espresso or strong coffee mixed with 1/3 cup Kahlua (we doubled this also)

To assemble

Use a paring knife and a measuring spoon to carve out a small cone in the center of each cupcake.  This should be approximately 1 inch deep.  Try your best to keep the chunk in tact so that you can use it as a topper. 

Use a spoon to pour the Kahlua and coffee mixture into the cavity of the cut cupcake, making sure that all sides are drenched, using up to 2 tablespoons of the liquid per cupcake. 

Scoop two tablespoons of cream cheese frosting into the cavity and smooth over with the back of a spoon.  (We used a pastry tip to decorate ours).

Dip the bottom of the cutout chunk in the Kahlua coffee mixture, keeping the top part dry, and gently place it on top of the frosting, patting it in place. Dust the cupcakes with cocoa powder and cinnamon. Dollop a small amount of frosting on top and place a chocolate chip or chocolate covered espresso bean on the dollop.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

But where do you get your protein?!

 Post courtesy of Courtney Mayhew

The most common misconception about a vegan diet, is that it is lacking in protein.  Every vegan has been asked a million times, "but where do you get your protein?"  Sometimes I want to wear a label on my forehead that lists my protein sources, but that might be taking it too far!  Or maybe, I will just carry around a pamphlet spelling out all of my protein sources and hand that out...Seriously though, it is really sad that from a young age, we are all taught that we must consume animals and their secretions in order to have enough protein in our diets.  It is so far from the truth!  If anything, the average American diet, high in animal protein, is making us one of the fattest, unhealthiest countries in the world.  Disgusting!    

So, what is protein? why do we need it?  and how much do we need?

Protein is a very important nutrient that is required for the building, maintenance, and repair of our bodies.   Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and can either be synthesized by our body or ingested from the food we eat.  Our body can make 11 amino acids but none of them are the essential amino acids.  We must obtain the remaining 9 essential amino acids from food.  At one time, it was believed that certain plant foods had to be eaten in the right combination with other plant foods in order to obtain their full protein value.  We now know that this concept of protein combining or protein complementing is not necessary.  We can easily obtain all of the protein we need by consuming a diet full of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. 

As Americans, we consume way too much protein to begin with and most of this protein comes from animal sources which are high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. The average American consumes double the amount of protein needed by his/her body in any given day.  To figure out how much protein you require simply take your body weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.36.  This requirement is a little higher if you are pregnant, breast feeding, or really active.

What is wrong with a high protein diet?

A diet high in animal protein contributes to disease and health problems.   These health problems include, but are not limited to: osteoporosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, impaired kidney function, kidney stones, and multiple cancers.  

-Osteoporosis.   A diet high in animal protein increases the acidity of our body.  Our body uses calcium (a strong base) to neutralize this acidity.  The calcium is pulled from our bones and excreted in our urine.   The United States has one of the highest rates of hip fractures related to osteoporosis in the world (New Zealand and Australia have higher rates).  We consume more cow's milk and its products per person than most populations in the world, with the exception of New Zealand and Australia.   You do the math. 

-Heart disease.  Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.  The key components of heart disease are inflammation and plaque.  Plaque is a greasy layer of proteins, fats, and immune system cells that accumulate along the walls of our arteries.   Risk factors for heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and tobacco use.  Multiple studies have shown that eating a diet high in animal protein increases total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.

For a more in depth look at how our diet impacts our health, I recommend reading The China Study by T. Collin Campbell.  here This is definitely a book that you need to read more than once.  There is a lot of information and some of it is very scientific and complex--but not too complex to understand.  Some of the information will piss you off because you have been (we all have been) so brain washed by our government and the meat and dairy industries into believing that animal sources of protein are healthy and necessary for us.  Use this anger to empower a healthy change in your diet--a diet void of all animal protein.  Your body and the animals will thank you!

So, where do I get my protein?  I eat a well balanced diet of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes on a daily basis.  I am a very active person and I have never found my performance lacking because of insufficient protein. 

Here are some great sources of protein.
4 oz seitan            24.0 grams
1/2 cup firm tofu        19.9 grams
1/2 cup tempeh        15.7 grams
1 cup lentils            17.9 grams
1 cup black beans        15.2 grams
1 cup chickpeas        14.5 grams
1 cup cooked quinoa     11.0 grams
2 T peanut butter         8.0 grams
1 cup spinach         5.4 grams
1 cup broccoli         4.6 grams
1 slice wheat bread         2.7 grams

Another special thank you to Courtney for the wonderful rundown on protein!  Now for an excellent meal packed full of protein from tofu, rice, and veggies: Red Thai Tofu, Bhutanese Pineapple Rice and Green Beans with Thai Basil.  Yum!  I just made this today and it is hands down my new favorite recipe from Appetite for Reduction.  The rice has a great texture.  I had never had red thai Bhutanese rice before, but it's a must have!  I love the texture and the flavors all meld together so wonderfully in this recipe.  You must use the thai basil as well.  Just go to your nearest asian grocery store and they'll have some.  I had actually never been to one of these groceries before, but the basil was surprisinly easy to find.  Just avert your eyes from the weird assortment of meats that may be accompanying the veggies in the refrigerated section.

Red Thai Tofu

Serves 4
Gluten free if using tamari in place of soy sauce (I always use tamari)

1 block extra-firm tofu (about 14 oz) cubed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
1/2 cup sliced shallots
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste*
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon light agave nectar
15 leaves fresh Thai basil

*Make sure to check the label to make sure the paste you get is vegan.  Thai Kitchen's red curry paste is vegan and is stocked at most grocery stores.

Preheat a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Spray it with a little nonstick cooking spray.  Add the tofu and cook for about 10 minutes, fkipping it with a thin spatula once in a while, until it is browned on most sides.  The thin spatula is important, because you should be able to slip it underneath the tofu and flip it easily, keeping the tofu intact.  (Press the tofu beforehand, and this will ensure the pieces don't fall apart when cooking.)  About midway through, drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the soy sauce and toss to coat.

Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.  Saute the red pepper, shallots, garlic and ginger in the oil, using a little cooking spray if needed.  Cook for about 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the curry paste, water, remaining soy sauce, and agave.  Add the tofu back to the pan along with the curry paste mixture.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the Thai basil and toss to wilt.  Serve!

Per Serving:
Calories: 110, Calories from fat: 45, Total fat: 5g, Saturated fat: 1g, Trans fat: 0g, Total carb: 10g, Fiber: 2g, Sugars: 4g, Protein: 10g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 780mg, Vitamin A: 25%,
Vitamin C: 70%, Calcium: 25%, Iron: 15%

Bhutanese Pineapple Rice

Serves 4
Gluten free if using tamari

1 cup Bhutanese red rice, prepared per package directions
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small red onion, dice small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 1/2 cups dice pineapple (about 1/2 inch dice)

Preheat a skillet over medium heat.  Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger in the oil with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the curry paste, water, soy sauce and agave.

Add the cilantro to the skillet an saute just until wilted, about a minute.  Add the cooked rice and drizzle in the curry paste mixture.  Toss to coat completely and cook for about 3 more minutes.  Add the pineapple and cook just until heated through.  Serve garnished with extra cilantro.

Per serving: Calories: 230, Calories from fat: 15, Total fat: 2g, Saturated fat: 0g, Trans fat: 0g, Total Carb: 49g, Fiber: 3g, Sugars: 8g, Protein: 5g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 430mg, Vitamin A: 8%, Vitamin C: 50%, Calcium: 6%, Iron: 8%

Green Beans with Thai Basil

Serves 4
Gluten free if using tamari

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot
2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound green beans, ends removed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
About 15 leaves fresh Thai basil

Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Saute the shallot in the oil for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the garlic and ginger and saute for about 30 seconds more.  Add the green beans and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the red pepper flakes, soy sauce, agave and lime juice.  Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring often.  The green beans should stil have some crunch.  Stir in the basil, turn off heat, and let the basil wilt.  Serve!

Per serving: Calories: 60, Calories from fat: 10, Total fat: 1.5g, Saturated fat: 0g, Trans fat: 0g, Total carb: 13g, Fiber: 4g, Sugars: 2g, Protein: 3g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium 260mg, Vitamin A: 20%, Vitamin C: 40%, Calcium: 8%, Iron: 10%

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snack Attack!

So I've noticed there's been a lot of talk lately in the vegan blog scene about junk food.  Sticking to that theme, I'd like to share one of my favorites.  Besides OD'ing on Muhammara and whole wheat crackers from Trader Joe's, I've been having a love affair with Nacho Mom's Ultimate Vegan Queso.  Vegan queso?  Hell yes!  Made from nutritional yeast and an array of spices, this queso has the kick you want and really hits the spot.  Dunk your favorite chips or, my personal favorite, Newman's Own Spelt Pretzels.  Yum!  At only 10 calories a serving (160 for the entire jar) you can mow down guilt-free!  Unfortunately not many stores seem to carry it.  I haven't been able to find it anywhere around here and only came across it at the vegan boutique Ethique Nouveau in Minneapolis.  You can buy it on amazon here.  They seem to be out of it at the moment, but I'm sure they'll stock up soon.  Since Courtney and I have been baking up a storm in preparation for our vegan bakery dream, it's nice to have a low cal/low fat snack to offset the ridiculous amount of baked goods we've been consuming.  Snack away!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Out and About

One of the hardest things you'll find when you become vegan is the lack of options you have when eating out.  This can be extremely frustrating, especially when you get invited to a place like Magnus or a similar upscale steak joint.  You'll often find yourself with a heaping plate of vegetables that aren't cooked well, or some sad looking lettuce that's being passed off as a salad.  The great thing about this is that it's a great motivator to get you to learn to cook your own meals, but sometimes you just want to be lazy and let someone do the work.  Believe me, I know!  Well, no fear, because I'm here to give you some tips on how to eat out!

1.  Ask questions!  If you know you'll be going to a restaurant, then call ahead.  Usually the staff is extremely friendly and will accommodate your dietary needs.  If they don't normally offer something vegan, simply request something that's closest to it and ask them to eliminate the offending ingredients.  (A dressing, extra egg, cheese, etc.) 

2.  Be nice!  Nobody likes someone who's pretentious, but there's something even more irritable about a pretentious vegan.  Remember, you weren't always so knowledgeable, and you'll just piss people off if you act all high and mighty.  Kill people with kindness!  You'll find they'll be more willing to listen to a smiley, cheerful person rather than someone who thinks they're better therefore you should listen!  Also, as someone who has worked in the food service don't fuck with the people who make your food.  Seriously.  So be nice and they'll probably be more willing to make you a delicious vegan meal. 

3.  If you're not sure and you get conflicting answers from staff, just don't eat there.  I know this is hard to do sometimes, but better safe than sorry.  After being vegan for a while, your body will make it known when you made a mistake.  Plus with all the restaurants out there that do have vegan options, there's really no point to throwing caution to the wind.

4.  Check out this site for some great options in your area:

5.  Look at your local meetup groups and see if they have a Vegetarian Meetup Group.  Many cities have these groups and most of them have vegan options.  It just so happens that Madison has a great Veg Meetup Group that always has vegan meals and usually some gluten free options.  This group has a great coordinator, Dave, who comes up with some great venues with amazing menus.  You meet great people and eat amazing vegan food.  What's better than that?  Check out for a Veg Meetup in your area or check out ours:

If you get dragged to a restaurant and your friends aren't very understanding about your vegan diet, then just eat a little bit beforehand.  I had to do this with two weddings I went to last summer, and it's really not that big of a deal.  If someone offers you some meat and cheese laden dish, just kindly decline and don't spout off about your vegan diet unless they're being obnoxiously persistent.  You don't want to alienate someone who's just trying to be nice. 

Now for my recommendations!  I normally don't eat out that often, but it just so happens I have quite a bit recently. 

1.  Green Owl.  Located at 1970 Atwood Ave in Madison, this is our only all vegetarian restaurant!  They boast a menu chock full of vegan options.  My personal favorites are the Crabby Cake Po' Boy, TLT, and the Stuffed Red Pepper.  They have great potatoes or kale chips as sides as well as decent soups.  I haven't been the happiest with the soups recently, but sometimes they have a good one in there.  I'm not a fan of the fake meats too much, so it's a little disappointing that they rely on those a bit too much.  It's great for appealing to omnivores, though.  They do have amazing vegan desserts, though!  I recently had the mulled hot cider, TLT with "chicken" noodle soup, the crabby cakes for an appetizer, and the chocolate lava cake for dessert.  Yum!  (Didn't care for the soup, but the rest was great!)  They also have a good selection of tea, which they bring out in individual french presses.  I love the atmosphere and the good music that they play.  Definitely a favorite of mine.

2.  Bunky's.  Located at 2425 Atwood Ave in Madison.  Bunky's serves Italian and Mediterranean fare.  I've only been here on three occasions, so I haven't had the chance to sample many things, but they have really good falafel with a yummy tahini sauce that I particularly enjoy.  I went there last week for a Veg Meetup vegan pizza party!  This sounds all great and exciting, but I was actually a little disappointed.  When I think pizza party, I think all you can eat pizza with big slices loaded with cheese.  Instead we had to wait around for a while for the pizza and we were only given two or three tiny slices at a time with hardly any cheese on the top.  The cheesey garlic bread was awesome, but I wanted those thick slices of pizza.  Very sad.  The soup was good, but there wasn't even enough salad to go around.  I didn't even get any!  The dessert was also on the table first, which I thought was odd but it was good.  It was some kind of chocolate cake that was really moist and had a nice chocolate frosting.  This was a particularly large meetup, and they're usually not this big or this disappointing, so please don't be deterred!  I actually met a great friend, Courtney, through the vegan desserts cooking class meetup and I've already signed up for two future meetups.  Bunky's has also been good when I've been there in the past.  I just don't think they were prepared for our group. 

3.  Lao Laan Xang.  Located at 1146 Williamson St and 2098 Atwood in Madison.  This place is great!  You just simply request your dish to be made vegan.  I love, love their food!  I always get the Spicy Peanut Sauce with Broccoli and Mock Duck substituted in place of the tofu.  I don't like their tofu, but their mock duck is delicious!  They have tofu spring rolls that you can also request to be made vegan.  I just ate there this evening because I had been craving it for two weeks.  Seriously delicious.  They don't make their dishes that spicy, so I always order native but be wary because sometimes they surprise you and make it so spicy your eyeballs sweat!  But that's the best kind, right? 

I will post more restaurant recommendations as I gorge myself with more food about town!  Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oleamidopropyl Dimethylamine Hydrolyzed What?

Do you know what that ingredient is?  Have you often found yourself reading nutrition labels in udder bewilderment trying to decipher ingredients you can't even pronounce?  STOP!  If you can't pronounce it, odds are you don't want to eat it!  In fact, this ingredient is...animal protein.  Could have fooled me. 

This post is courtesy of Courtney Mayhew.  Thanks again!

Last night while playing games with friends,  we got on the topic of hidden animal byproducts in so many of our foods.  One of the guests kindly brought over chips that had whey in them, not realizing, as many people don't, that whey comes from cows milk.   It was a good reminder to me that when first becoming vegan, it was difficult to know what was "safe" to eat.  My husband even made a cheat sheet in his I Touch so that he could use it as a reference.  When it comes down to it, every last part of the animal is used in the production of something for human consumption/use.  Read your labels and if you are not sure, then don't eat it!   I wouldn't recommend eating something with an ingredient you don't recognize anyway.  It's your body and your health!  What is more important than that?  So if the ingredient list is longer than 5 items, it probably isn't all that good for you regardless, vegan or not.  And be easy on yourself, it's a learning process.  You will make mistakes as you go and that's okay, as long as you learn from them.   Remember, this isn't about "purity."  This is about trying your best to not do any harm.  For the animals, your health and the earth.  Just do the best that you can and you will get better at it.  And always remember that whole foods are the healthiest option.  You will never have to worry about those nasty hidden animal byproducts when you're  eating your veggies!  

Did you know...

that blood from slaughtered animals is used as an adhesive in plywood, found in cheese-making, and is used in many medicines?

that gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling the skins, tendons, ligaments and/or bones from cows and pigs?  it is used in jello, candies, marshmallows, ice creams, yogurts, shampoos, and most cosmetics.

that glycerine is animal fat?  it is used in cosmetics, chewing gum, and many foods.

that lanolin is a product of the oil glands of sheep?  it is used in many skin care products, cosmetics, and chap stick. 

that rennet (rennin) is an enzyme obtained from calves' stomachs? it is used in cheese-making as well as many coagulated dairy products.

that stearic acid most often refers to a fatty substance taken from the stomach of pigs?  it is used in many cosmetics, soaps, chewing gum, and food flavoring.

that tallow is rendered beef fat?  it is used in wax paper, crayons, margarines, soaps, cosmetics, and many food items.

My husband's "cheat" sheet.

Do Not Eat or Use:
isinglass--fish bladder
lanolin--sheep sweat
gelatin--horse hoofs/tendons
tallow-beef fat
stearate--animal fat
glycerine--animal fat
glyceride--animal fat
casein--milk protein
whey--milk protein
sodium stearyl lactylate--animal fat

This is by no means, an all inclusive list.  There are several more in depth lists available online.  I like the one from the International Vegetarian Union and it can be found here.  Animal Ingredients A to Z is also a great guide.  You can purchase it here.  Do I carry this list around and check it often?  Never.  I just want you to know that lists like this are available for your reference.  And let me say it again...if you eat whole foods and minimize your intake of processed or packaged foods, you will not have to worry about it!

I have the perfect recipe for you to get started with!  This red and white cauliflower bake from Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm is awesome!  The tofu ricotta has an excellent flavor and consistency while the "cheesy" cauliflower and tangy marinara contrast each other perfectly.   Don't let all of the recipe steps overwhelm you.  It isn't that difficult to make and the end product is really worth it.  We have made this twice in the last month already. It is great served with greens such as broccoli or kale and it heats up excellent for left overs.  It can be made gluten free by using Bob's all purpose GF flour.

Red and White Cauliflower Bake

Serves 4 (though I think it is actually closer to 6 or 7)

Simple marinara
1 T olive oil
2 t dried Italian herbs (I used basil, marjoram, and oregano)
2-4 cloves garlic minced
14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes, blended
1/2 t salt

4 cups cauliflower chopped small and steamed

Herbed Tofu Ricotta
1 package extra firm tofu pressed and crumbled
1/2 t salt
2 t dried basil
1 t dried rosemary
1 t dried marjoram
1 T lemon juice
2 T nutritional yeast
1 T olive oil (optional, I did not use)
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
2 T cornstarch mixed with 2 T water

White Sauce
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 T tahini
1 T lemon juice
1 t stone ground mustard
2 T nutritional yeast
1 cup non dairy milk
1/2 t salt
black or white pepper to taste

1 cup bread crumbs

Start by making the marinara.  Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Once hot, add the herbs and saute for 1-2 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes and salt and then simmer until the sauce has the consistency you like (about 15 minutes).  The longer you cook it, the thicker it will become and you want it thick.

While your sauce is cooking, chop the cauliflower into small pieces and steam.

Now make the herbed tofu ricotta. In a blender or food processor combine the tofu, salt, basil, rosemary, marjoram, lemon juice, yeast, olive oil (if using), pepper, and cornstarch/water mixture. 

Next, make the white sauce.  Whisk the margarine in a saucepan over medium low heat until melted.  Add the flour and whisk into a paste. Add the tahini, lemon juice, mustard, and the yeast and whisk well.  Slowly add the soy milk, whisking well to make the sauce smooth. Add the salt and pepper and whisk over medium high heat until mixture is thickened.  This takes around 10 minutes or longer.

Assemble the casserole
Place the tofu ricotta in an oiled 1 1/2 quart casserole dish (shallow and long works better than deep and narrow), press it down to form an even layer.

Mix the cauliflower with the white sauce and spread it over the tofu layer. Add the tomato sauce on top of the cauliflower, then top with the bread crumbs.  Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and browned. 

Let this sit for at least 10 minutes so that it can firm up. It tastes just as good all mashed up though,so if you can't wait, go for it!  and it heats up really well, holding its shape much better the second day. 


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Veganize it!

Post courtesy of Courtney Mayhew, with some minor additions added in.

How to Veganize your baking and why it's so important.

Yep, it's true can make amazing baked goods without any butter, eggs, or milk.  It's easy, delicious, and best of all, cruelty free!  I have never met a vegan dessert that I didn't like and I am willing to bet that you won't either. One common misconception, is that vegan treats are healthy, "so I can eat as much as I want, right?"  Wrong.  Vegan treats ARE healthier.  They are not made with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and cholesterol laden dairy products.  But, they still include sugar and oil and can be high in calories just like any other dessert.  I love to bake and end up making multiple desserts each week.  I often bring them to work to share or send them with my husband to his shop.  And my favorite thing to do is bake with a friend and then split the batches.   

Here are some simple ways to ditch the dairy and eggs for a cruelty free delicious vegan baked good.

Instead of eggs use flaxseed, silken tofu, or Ener-G egg replacer.

WHY? 95% of the chickens in the Unites States raised for egg laying are confined to small battery cages with less than half a square foot for living space.  Their beaks are clipped without anesthetic to prevent them from pecking at other hens.  They are not able to spread their wings, roost, dust bathe, create pecking orders, or forage; they are denied all of their natural instincts, never even seeing the sunlight.  The inhibited movement often causes their feet to actually grow around the hard, mesh wire of the cages.  Because a factory farm shed often houses hundred of thousands, if not millions of hens, there will be many dead birds lying in cages among the living.  Some have even been found petrified before they are removed!  It's not surprising that these animals are then forced to eat antibiotic laced feed in order to keep disease at bay.  Egg laying is a cyclical process and waiting for this natural process does not allow for maximization of profits.  Thus, many egg farmers use a process called "forced molting" in which hens are starved for up to 12 days.  This cruel starvation stresses the hen's bodies into another egg laying cycle.  Not convinced yet?!  Egg laying chicken breeds have been genetically engineered to provide maximum egg production.  They do not grow large enough to be profitable in the meat industry.  Because of this, hundreds of thousands of male chicks are killed each day through cruel methods such as suffocation in plastic bags, gassing, or being thrown alive into grinders.   And once the hens productivity is no longer profitable, they are killed in the same manor. Some are even slaughtered for low grade chicken meat products.  I hope this has convinced you.     


HOW?  1 tablespoon finely ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons water replaces one egg.  Simply grind the flax seeds in your blender or coffee grinder then transfer to a bowl, add the water, and beat or whisk until the mixture becomes gooey.  Be sure to buy whole flax seeds and grind them yourself.  The nutrient quality quickly diminishes after they are ground. 

WHEN?  Flaxseeds have a slightly nutty taste so I tend to use them in whole grain muffins or cookies where they add nice flavor.    I also add them to smoothies.  Flax seeds are abundant in most B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants.  Flax seeds can promote better digestive health, decrease inflammation, and lower cholesterol.

SILKEN TOFU   (I recommend Mori-Nu extra firm)

HOW? 1/4 cup of blended silken tofu equals one egg, make sure it is creamy without any chunks.  Silken tofu can make your cookies more fluffy, so add 1 teaspoon arrowroot or corn starch in these recipes. 

WHEN? It works best in dense baked goods such as brownies or cakes.


HOW? 1 1/2 teaspoons ener-g plus 2 tablespoons warm water is equivalent to one egg.  I whisk this together in small bowl or my food processor until frothy. 

WHEN? It works really well in cookies and in cheesecake.  I love this stuff and use it all of the time.  The box may seem a little pricey, but it lasts a really long time. 

Banana.  One half mashed banana equals one egg.  This works well in breads, muffins, or pancakes.  Sometimes the flavor of banana can be overpowering, so I tend to use this only when I'm making something banana flavored-makes sense.

Soy yogurt.  1/4 cup soy yogurt is equivalent to one egg.  This works really good in cupcakes and make them super moist. I have even used coconut milk yogurt with the same results.   I use non dairy yogurt as an egg substitute in waffles also.   

Instead of milk, use a nondairy milk such as soy, almond, or rice milk.  I like Almond Breeze but also use a lot of Rice Dream for baking.  I always get the unsweetened original but the vanilla flavors work well also (they just have a little more sugar).   If you need buttermilk, just add one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your non dairy milk and let sit for about 5 minutes (lemon juice will work as well).  There are also several non dairy creamers available and I have mostly used these in scone recipes. 

Instead of butter use a non dairy butter such as earth balance (it comes in sticks for baking and shortening sticks too)!  You can also use canola oil in place of butter.  1/2 cup butter is equivalent to 1/3 cup oil.  The latter will make your baked goods really moist and yummy!

WHY?  We are the only species that drinks the milk from another species and we are the only species that continues to consume milk after we are weaned from our mothers.  Cows make milk for the same reason we make milk--to feed their own babies.  Instead, we take away their babies, feed them a milk replacer, and sell their milk.  Cows are repeatedly impregnated in order to keep up with milk production and they are milked twice daily every day of their lives. A cow will naturally produce 16 pounds of milk per day, enough to feed her baby.  Contrary to popular belief, cows actually don't need to be milked!  When left alone, cows produce the perfect amount of milk to feed their calves, which means milking them is unnecessary.  Dairy cattle today are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics in order to increase their milk production to an average of 50 pounds per day!  Guess where those hormones and antibiotics end up.  That's right, in their milk!  Not only that, but the overproduction of milk causes half of these cows to develop mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder.  Cows are milked regardless of whether they are afflicted, so you're also getting some pus in that milk.  That's right.  Got pus?  Cows have a natural lifespan of 25 years and are typically able to produce milk for 8 to 9 years.  Because of the stress caused by factory farms, dairy cattle in the US are deemed worthless by the industry at age 4 or 5.  They are then sent for slaughter--over one third of the ground beef consumed in this country comes from spent dairy cows.  You must also face the fact that the veal industry is directly connected with the milk industry, so if you are still consuming dairy products you are also supporting the slaughter of malnourished, inhumanely confined calves.  The male calves are tethered to their stall, which is not even large enough for them to turn around.  They become caked in feces and are often found with open sores.  They are fed formula, because that milk which was meant for them was stolen for human consumption.  They are purposely made to be iron-deficient, for the white coloration of their flesh.  These practices are so cruel that they are banned in Europe.   

So, yesterday, Rachel and I got our vegan bake on.  We made two different recipes from Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  Then we also made peanut butter ice cream from Veganomicon (same authors).  I also love their cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. And I must not forget to mention another one of my favorites, The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  The first cookies, Ooh La Las, resemble your favorite choclate sandwich cookie.  Yes, oreos are vegan, but isn't so much better to make your own superior version?  They are absolutely delcious, with soft choclate cookies and a cream filling that tastes identical to the originals.  We also made Deluxe Cocoa Brownies.  These beauties are super fudgy and great served with the peanut butter ice cream! 

Ooh La Las  (I dare you to eat just one!)

For the cookies:
3/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening at room temp (we used earth balance)--make sure it is soft enough before using
1 cup sugar
2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup nondairy milk (we used rice milk)
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/4 cup black cocoa powder (we just used more of the regular)
2 t cornstarch
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda

For the filling:
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated margarine at room temperature
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening  at room temperature
2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
1 t pure vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening and the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, add the vanilla and non dairy milk and mix. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until the dough holds together (it is a little sticky).  We sifted in our flour and cocoa powder to prevent clumping.  We recommend refrigerating for at least 10 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Divide the dough into four pieces and roll each one into a ball. Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface, flatten a ball of dough onto the parchment paper, and place another piece of parchment paper over it to prevent sticking.  Roll out your dough into a circle that is approximately 10 inches in circumference, making it about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter, make circles in the dough, leaving about 3/4 inch between each circle.  We used a glass and had to use flour to keep it from sticking.  Lift away the remaining dough.  Transfer the entire sheet of parchment paper to your cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.   Repeat the process with the remaining dough until all of it is used up (or save the extra dough for your husband!).

Now prepare the filling. 

Use a hand mixer on medium high speed to cream together the margarine and shortening.  Add the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments until thoroughly combined.  It will be really stiff and pliable.  Mix in the vanilla.  Refrigerate until ready to use. 

To assemble:

Roll the filling into grape sized round pieces.  Smash each piece onto the flat side of a cookie and then sandwich another cookie on top gently pushing it down.  Make sure the cookies are fully cooled and press gently to avoid cracking.  Store in a tightly sealed container and if hot out, refrigerate until you are ready to eat. 

The recipe yield is 3 dozen.  Ours were a little bigger, so we made just over 2 dozen.

Deluxe Cocoa Brownies 

(serve these with peanut butter ice cream, recipe to follow)

Yield: 12 brownies

You need:

3 ounces firm silken tofu
1/4 cup nondairy milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 t vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T cornstarch
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line an 8x10 brownie pan with parchment paper, making sure it curves up a little onto the sides (do not skip this step).

Puree the tofu, non dairy milk, and oil in a blender or food processor until smooth and fluffy. Transfer to a mixing bowl and use a fork to vigorously mix in the sugar.  Add the vanilla.  Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Use a spatula to fold and mix the batter until smooth. Transfer the batter to your pan and smooth out the top.  Bake for 30-32 minutes and let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving (if you can wait that long)!

Do not over bake as this will cause them to be slightly dry. For some variation, fold in 1 cup chopped walnuts or 3/4 cup chocolate chips into the batter.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Yield: 1 1/2 pints

You need:

1/2 cup cream of coconut milk**
1 cup non dairy milk (we used almond)
1 cup sugar
6 ounces firm silken tofu (we used Mori-Nu)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 T vanilla

Combine all ingredients in your blender.  Once creamy, pour into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.  I have a Cuisinart automatic ice cream maker.  It is really easy to use, easy to clean up, and it makes delicious ice cream!  here

**Place a can of coconut milk (not light) in your refrigerator over night.  All of the cream will rise to the top.  Carefully scoop this out for your recipe.  Save the rest of the coconut milk for use in a soup (it can be frozen). 



Friday, January 7, 2011

Excuses Excuses

"I can't get enough _____ as a vegan."  (fill in: protein, calcium, iron, etc.)
"It's too hard."
"It takes too much dedication."
"I live in Wisconsin.  I can't live without cheese."
"I like food too much."

Heard these phrases before?  Do you find yourself saying them?  Believe me, I've heard just about every excuse in the book.  In fact, I use to make up every excuse in the book!  That's right.  Me, the hard tailed, stubborn advocate who lives and breathes veganism.  It took me 3 years to make the transition after I had found out the truth.  I became a lacto/ovo vegetarian at first, because, you guessed it, I loved milk and cheese just too much!  I started out everyday with a large glass of milk, covered everything in cheese, and pretty much centered my diet around pizza and pastas.  Of course, I bought all organic, so as to make myself feel slightly better about my consumption of animal products.  It still took a great deal of forced ignorance, though.  Even though I knew the living conditions these animals are subjected to, I forced it out of my mind so I could enjoy my big slice of cheese pizza.  I know now that I was clearly addicted to animal fat and protein.  The majority of us are.  So how did I quit?  I met a boy.  Yes, it's silly, but I met a vegan boy who inspired me to make the change.  It was easier and fun to do it with someone else.  Every craving or pitfall you have, there's someone there who's got your back.  For those of you who don't have a partner, though, never fear!  That's why you have me!  Send me a post or an email and let it out.  Tell me what your struggling with and I'll help you through it.

Also, practice yoga!  The mind/body connection that you create helps with cravings, deep seeded obstacles, depression, and controlling your emotions...just to name a few.  This will help you find the root of the problem and bring you into the moment to overcome all those obstacles.  It allows you to do what you never thought you could accomplish!  How perfect for the transition to veganism!  Yoga is all about widening your circle of compassion, which is exactly what veganism is.  Bring your circle to include yourself, your friends/family, your perceived enemies, and all living creatures.  We are all in this life struggle together on the same journey.  This should be filled with love, happiness, lightness of being, and compassion.  That's all any living creature wants.

If you find yourself agreeing with me, and you're still making excuses, just stop!  You can and you will do it!  It is very possible and with little effort it can be a reality.  For those of you using the last excuse, "I like food to much." : HA!  Sorry, every time I hear this I just want to burst out laughing.  Anyone that knows me knows that I have a passion for food and I can certainly put it away!  :)  That's what this blog is all about, right?  I have eaten the most varied diet I've ever had and a lot of it!  For someone who grew up on cheese pizza and fish sticks, I feel liberated!  This diet is not restrictive at all.  It's freeing!

My next recipe comes from Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, a personal hero of mine.  You can purchase her book here.  She is one of the most charismatic and inspiring oraters I've ever met.  I was lucky enough to hear her speak at Alliance for Animal's Vegantines last year.  When I met her and had her sign my cookbook, I was incredibly giddy, as you can imagine.  The picture below is proof enough of that.  (Could I smile any bigger?)  You can follow her podcast Compassionate Cooks here.

The recipe that I chose was Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread).  I sampled some at my friend Courtney's Rosebowl party and I was blown away.  It's so delicious and so simple.  Perfect for a get together, or spread it on a wrap or tofu sandwich for an added delight!  Careful on the garlic in this one.  I normally double it, but the recipe's suggested amount is perfect.  This is hands down my favorite spread!

First off, if you want to be a rockstar, roast your own bell peppers!  It's incredibly simple and you'll feel like your on a flipping cooking show.  Lights, camera, action!

Roasting your peppers.  Simply preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Cut your peppers in half lengthwise and remove the core and seeds.  Brush with olive oil or olive oil cooking spray and place on a lightly greased baking sheet with the inside facing down.  Roast for 20-25 mins until the skin is dark brown in spots.  Done!


2 to 3 whole roasted red bell peppers (fresh or from a jar)
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 cup walnuts, raw or toasted
4 large whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

In a blender or food processor combine all your ingredients.  I would suggest throwing the garlic in there first just to make just it gets minced properly.  Puree to a smooth consistency.  Scrape down the sides of the blender to make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combine.  Season to taste and tweak as necessary.

Makes 1 cup, or 8 (2-tablespoon) servings.

Serve with anything dipping food you like: chips, pita, crackers, vegetables, mushrooms, etc.  Be creative!  For Good Housekeeping picture perfection, serve with some walnut pieces sprinkled on top.