Monday, August 8, 2011

Vegan in Vegas!

I know "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," but I feel like I should share our sins in hope that this confession helps other vegans to remain more devout than we did.

We went into "quasi-vegan" mode while celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary in Vegas, as we had not found enough restaurants to sustain a completely vegan diet before we arrived. However, by the time our vacation was over, we had discovered some pretty decent options! Hopefully, this will help you plan a little better and be less "quasi-" and more "vegan" while you're living it up in Vegas!

Johnny Rocket's was in the Fashion Show Mall food court and in either the Flamingo or the Harrah's - can't remember which. They serve a Boca burger, so that was good. We had Penne Pomodoro at the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Ceasar's Palace Forum Shops. Max Brenner's (also in the Forum Shops) has a pretty amazing veggie burger - a little soft, but quite tasty - plus, it's served with wonderful waffle fries that are dusted with chili and cocoa powders! Maybe you'll be better than me at resisting the temptation of all the (non-vegan) chocolate that surrounds you! We had Starbuck's oatmeal for breakfast on most mornings since it was conveniently located in the lobby of our hotel, the T.I. (that's Treasure Island for all the un-hip, old folks like me!). There is a Chipotle located right on the strip - somewhere between T.I. and the Harrah's. We didn't eat there, but had our eye on it as an option if we needed it. We did eat at the Luxor buffet, MORE, twice (we had dining tickets) - once for breakfast and once for lunch. They had a very nice salad and fruit bar and a few other good options. Just resist the urge to get your money's worth - at $18 a pop, it's never gonna happen!

On our anniversary, for lunch, we were pleased as punch to find the Red Velvet Cafe and Bakery inside The Fashion Show Mall. It was small but offered some really great vegan options (along with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options)! I had the best taco salad I've ever had while Kenny enjoyed a chick'n panini. We grabbed individual cakes to be eaten later since we were so full after this meal. Kenny chose the Peanut Butter Fudge cake and I chose the Raspberry Lemon cake. Very good! I believe there is another location in Vegas, but I don't recall where that one is. Our lunch, including 2 fresh strawberry lemonades, 2 entrees, and 2 individual sized cakes (that, really, were big enough for two to share) plus 20% gratuity was a little over $50.00, so it's not exactly a cheap lunch spot. But, it was good!! The entrees were actually pretty decently priced, it was the drinks and desserts that really got us! We should have shared one lemonade and one cake!

All the fine dining restaurants (12 in Vegas to-date) inside the Wynn and Encore Hotels (owned by vegan, Steve Wynn) have full vegan menus available! I called ahead and they were more than happy to email all the menus to me! They have just about everything you could want: Japanese, country club fare, Italian, Mexican, Chinese...(make reservations online in advance!).

For our anniversary dinner, we chose Sinatra's located in the Encore Hotel/Casino . It was FABULOUS! I just can't say enough about it! The food was so amazing! The service was 10-star; they took so much care in making sure everything from the bread and butter to the dessert was vegan, and going out of their way to get us exactly what we wanted!! Also, they played Frank Sinatra music in the background - what more could you ask for?!

Now, as mentioned, these are "fine dining" establishments, so expect the prices to be in the $$$ range. Our ticket, including 2 drinks, 2 appetizers, and 2 entrees (the dessert was complimentary) plus 20% gratuity, came to over $160.00. We don't splurge often, but we always chose something really nice for our anniversary dinner, and this didn't disappoint - it was worth every penny!

A kind stranger took our picture before dinner.

My handsome husband and his beautiful, delicious salad. I can't remember what it was called and it's not listed on the version of the menu that I was emailed. But, it was a mix of large chunks of two varieties of tomato, slices of avocado, black olives, and cucumber with a balsamic vinaigrette drizzled and coarse sea salt sprinkled over the top. I tasted it and loved it! A surprise since I typically hate to even smell, let alone taste, balsamic vinaigrette! We vow to try and reproduce this dish! I'm thinking the key is to get a superior balsamic vinegar.

I think I look sort of pretty and sort of drunk in this picture. I hadn't had anything to drink yet - see my glass is full! - I think maybe I was just really tired and therefore my posture suffered? Wonder what I looked like AFTER that drink! Sheesh! It was so dee-lish...a Raspberry Limoncello Martini. It was garnished with a dried raspberry floating on top. I let it soak the whole dinner while I nursed this drink, and at the end of the meal, Kenny popped it in his mouth - he says it was amazing!

My chilled tomato soup was surprisingly good! It tasted like raw tomatoes rather than pureed cooked tomatoes - not a traditional tomato soup served cool, but a cold, fresh-tasting tomato soup! It had a swirl of basil-infused olive oil which really took the dish to a whole new level!

Kenny had the Pennette (Gardein Italian sausage, bell pepper, sweet onion, tomato, and fresh basil over penne pasta), and I had the Gardein Parmigiana (two large Gardein Chik'n cutlets, smothered in vegan mozzarella, bathing in pomodoro sauce, and accompanied by a perfectly al dente spaghetti). They were both so great and such huge portions. Sorry, no pics - I guess we were too excited to eat!

When the server found out it was our anniversary, she threw a fit that we didn't tell her earlier. We had already stuffed ourselves silly and passed on dessert (we bought vegan cakes earlier - see above - to be our dessert for the evening). Kenny was actually signing the credit card slip when she insisted on bringing us "something special". Coconut gelato on a bed of fresh berries with a passion fruit consomme - HOLY COW! I was shocked that something so simple could be so delicious! And, of course, it was all vegan!! What a wonderful ending to a wonderful dining experience!

And then we waddled back to our hotel....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guide for New Vegetarians

Poor little Vegan Wolfe, how I have neglected you....

Recently an old schoolmate friended me on Facebook and asked for some pointers on becoming vegetarian/vegan - I guess she saw some rant or another via a mutual FB friend.

Anyways, it reminded me that I had compiled this Guide for New Vegetarians for another friend months ago.

And, as I was re-reading it, I thought it might be useful to put out there in the wide web of our world.

Without further ado.....

Recommended Reading/Cookbooks (do some homework!)
Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedmon and Kim Barnouin – a great rundown of all the gross stuff we put in our bodies, a lot of really great information, CAUTION: the language is NOT for the faint of heart.

Skinny Bitch in the Kitch: Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!) by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet by Alicia Silverstone – a lot of great information regarding being vegetarian/vegan with a lot of resources. Much “kinder” than the Skinny Bitches

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero – great recipes, tips, plus funny commentary

Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes that Rock by Isa Chandra Moskowitz – lots of great information and recipes, she’s fun to read

The 4-Ingredient Vegan by Maribeth Abrams and Anne Dinshah – quick and easy dishes

Great Websites (ahhh…what would we do without the internets?) – huge database of user-contributed recipes (like but all vegetarian/vegan) – a couple takes classic Betty Crocker recipes and “veganizes” them, I love these guys! Highly entertaining to read! – an awesome guide to finding vegetarian/veg-friendly restaurants and grocery stores all over the world (we used this to find vegetarian restaurants in Paris – not an easy task!)

I know this list is very short, but, seriously, you must already know that there are really a bazillion websites about being vegetarian/vegan and/or have recipes – just get your Google on (or Bing it if that’s your thang)!

Some Favorite Products (they’ll make “the change” a lot easier)

Gardein - Meat alternatives in a million delicious varieties such as herb Dijon “chik’n” breasts; bbq pulled shreds; santa fe good stuff (chick’n stuffed with black beans and corn); buffalo wings; beefless tips, etc, etc. Products available at Whole Foods and Kroger.

Boca – Meat alternatives such as “hamburger patties,” grilled and breaded chick’n patties, crumbles (use in place of ground meat), etc. Available at most grocers.

Daiya – vegan cheese alternative – the ONLY vegan cheese you should try! Others will scar you and make you never want to try a vegan cheese again! Available at Whole Foods and Kroger.

EnerG Egg Replacement – a powder that is mixed with water to make a quick and easy egg substitute, best used in baking recipes. Available at Whole Foods and Kroger.

Quorn – another meat alternative. Not vegan. Very “meat-like”, so it's great for new vegetarians.

Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread – amazing butter alternative – tastes the exact same! Available in soy-free, tub, and sticks (for baking/cooking). Available at Whole foods and Kroger.

Light Life – meat substitutes such as bacon, pepperoni, sliced turkey, hot dogs (don’t try other brands – they’re gross!), ground “beef”, buffalo wings, etc, etc. Available at Whole foods and Kroger.

Silk Almond Milk – there are tons of “other” milks out there – try them all! My favorite just happens to be Almond. There is soy, rice, hemp, coconut, and probably some more I can’t think of right now.

Tofutti’s Better than Cream Cheese and Better than Sour Cream – you’ll be amazed at just how good they impersonate the “real” thing! Available at Whole Foods and Kroger

Eating Out (it’s really not that hard)

It’s best just to tell the server up front that you don’t want any meat on anything (or dairy if you’re going vegan) – that saves you from forgetting to cut the bacon or cheese on your salad or accidentally getting meat sauce on your spaghetti instead of marinara.

Italian – pasta with marinara, cheese ravioli, cheese ziti, eggplant parmesan, pizza, etc. – there are lots of vegetarian options at Italian restaurants. A lot of times, you can simply ask them to leave the meat off of any dish on the menu.

Mexican – veggie fajitas, rice, beans, tortillas, quesadillas (bean and cheese; cheese; or veggie), bean and cheese nachos, etc.

Indian – so many choices!

Middle Eastern (Greek, Lebanese, etc.) – hummus, falafel, spanikopita, etc.

Asian – so many choices!!!

“American” – a lot of places offer a veggie or black bean patty as an option for their burgers, order some side items a la carte, check out the soups and salads for meat-free options. Fuddruckers, Cascio’s, and Chili’s all have either a veggie or black bean burger. Deli’s have veggie sandwiches and vegetarian soups, but be aware of the rampant use of chicken/beef stock in soups.

Vegan* Convenience Foods (when you need some cruelty-free junk on the run)

Hard Pretzels (soft pretzels, too, as long as you skip the butter bath!)
Wheat Thins
Boxed cake mixes (use an egg alternative such as EnerG Egg Replacer or ¼ c applesauce per egg)
Canned cake frosting (not the cream cheese types)
Boxed pancake mix (get the kind you’re supposed to add the eggs and milk to – not the “just add water” kind)
Cornbread mix
Nutter Butters
Regular and Buffalo Wild Wing flavored Pringles
Lays Potato chips
Bean Dip
Chex Mix – original
Peanut Butter and Crackers

*Always check the ingredients – different brands add different stuff!

How do you get enough protein? My blood pressure goes up a notch or two every time I get asked this question! You have probably asked this question and you will, without a doubt, be asked this questions thousands of times! It will get pretty annoying and even more so if you don’t know how to answer the question. Here’s what you need to know:

Protein—A Primer for Vegetarians
Written by Matt Frazier in Food Philosophy

This is a guest post from Matthew Ruscigno, MPH, RD, whose personal blog, True Love Health, is about veganism, adventure, and being stoked.
“But where do you get your protein?”
As a vegan, a nutrition professional, and an athlete, I get this question more than any other.
At a recent talk I gave on vegetarian nutrition to 200 dietitians at the American Dietetic conference, my message about protein was that it should be a non-issue: High quality protein is abundant in plant foods.
Yes, even for athletes. So what happened at the end of my presentation?
A dietitian approached me and said, “I understand what you are saying, but where do you get your protein?”
If you’re confused about protein or have a feeling in the back of your mind that you aren’t getting enough, relax—you are not alone. The good news is that vegetarians (even vegans!) can and do get enough protein. Easily.
This is the message I have to share with the world. I’d like to start with this article for No Meat Athlete, one of my favorite blogs.
What exactly is protein?
Protein, most simply, is a combination of amino acids. These amino acids have specific roles in our bodies, from metabolism to muscle development. Nine of them are absolutely essential to our basic functions, because they can’t be created by our bodies.
When we talk about dietary protein and getting enough, our concern is with these indispensable amino acids.
So how much protein do you need?
In the U.S., the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To calculate your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. (For those whose eyes have already glazed over because you’ve now seen two numbers with decimal points in them, the USDA provides a handy DRI calculator.)
This equates to roughly 10-15 percent of your total calories—remember that every gram of protein has four calories. Vegetarians and vegans easily get this amount of protein.
Why the advice that “athletes need more protein” is misleading
Sure, athletes need more protein than non-athletes. But we also need more carbohydrates and fat—our overall caloric needs are much higher since we burn so much energy in our training.
So because we’re eating more calories, we’re automatically consuming more protein if we stay at 10-15 percent of the total.
For example: I’m about 80 kilograms and I need 2500 calories most days. If I want ten percent of those calories to be from protein, then I need about 63 grams of protein.
When I’m Ironman training or have an otherwise heavy load, my caloric needs double. Therefore, so does my protein, to 126 grams.
I tell the vegan athletes I consult to shoot for 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight. You can see from my numbers above that even when protein is only ten percent of calories, I’m getting 1.5 grams per kilogram body weight.
Contrary to what most people believe, more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to protein. The body can only process so much per day, and any additional protein is inefficiently converted to energy or even stored as body fat.
Don’t stress over combining incomplete proteins at meals
If I am going to rid the world of ignorance about plant proteins, I’m going to start by eliminating the phrase “incomplete protein.” It is misleading and biased and vegetarians should stop using it.
The problem with the idea of complete and incomplete proteins is this: It assumes we only eat one type of food!
It’s an example of a common mistake in the nutrition field: focusing on the specific nutrients of one food without seeing it in the context of an entire diet. Saying a protein is incomplete ignores the big picture and is often used by pseudo-nutritionists as a critique of vegetarianism.
While it’s tempting to want to combine these “incomplete” proteins to form a whole, the truth is there’s no need to combine protein sources within a given meal.
Really. I know you have heard this one over and over—even the college textbook I teach from says it’s a must!—but trust me, it is not necessary to form complete proteins within single meals. Our bodies pool the amino acids we need as we eat them, and we use them when needed.
Some combinations happen naturally—think pinto beans with rice, chickpeas with couscous, or granola with soymilk. But this is not a requirement in order for us to get all of the indispensable amino acids. Combining proteins was popularized in the 1970’s, and even though it has been deemed unnecessary for decades, the idea lives on.
What it means when people say animal protein is “higher quality” than vegetable protein
When you hear about one protein source being better than another, it’s in reference to the amino acid makeup.
It’s true: Animal foods contain all of the amino acids in the amounts we need. So if you ate only beef and nothing else for months and months, you would not get an amino acid deficiency (but probably a host of other ones). Do the same with only lentils, however, and you may not get enough of the amino acid methionine.
Fortunately, no one eats like this. We eat a variety of foods, most of which have some protein, and at the end of the day, we get all of the amino acids we need.
Okay, okay, enough with science and numbers, what do I eat?
If you’re eating enough for your activity level and consuming a variety of whole foods, you will get all the protein you need. Guaranteed. No need for supplements!
For example, lentils and soymilk are over 30 percent protein. Fifteen percent of the calories in whole wheat pasta are from protein, and even brown rice has protein, at about eight percent of calories.
See? It’s that easy to reach 10-15 percent of calories. If you want more help in creating a nutrition plan with adequate protein, see a fantastic list of vegetarian protein foods and meal plans compiled by my colleague Reed Mangels.
Now go fight for vegetarians!
The choice to be vegetarian, like the choice to do anything beyond what’s considered “normal,” constantly puts us on the defensive. But with the knowledge I’ve now given you, you can speak confidently the next time you get the protein question. Oh yeah, and you can tell Uncle Jerkface at Thanksgiving that you aren’t about to die of protein deficiency.

What’s for Dinner?

The easiest way to start is to just take the recipes you normally make and use the meat alternatives (Gardein, Boca, tofu, Quorn, etc) or simply leave the meat out. Use whole grains when possible as they are a great source of protein and simply way healthier than the white stuff. Here’s a list to get you started:
  • Spaghetti with Marinara or a “Meat” Sauce (use Boca or Light Life crumbles – SO much easier than browning real ground beef!) check jarred sauces to be sure you’re not getting something with meat in it
  • Cheese Ravioli/Tortellini
  • Veggie Lasagna
  • Eggplant Parmesan with Angel Hair pasta
  • Baked Cheese Ziti
  • Pizza (pile on the veggies and Light Life pepperoni, or Italian “sausage” – check Morning Star or Boca)
  • Manicotti
  • Chick’n Parmesan (use the Boca breaded chick’n patties – very tasty and so easy!)


  • Tacos (use Boca or Light Life crumbles in place of ground beef)
  • Fajitas (just use the veggies (mushrooms make a nice “meaty” filler); use tofu in place of the meat; or use a chick’n such as Gardein or Quorn)
  • Quesadillas (fill with cheese, veggies, chick’n and/or beans)
  • Nachos – top with cheese, beans, veggies, and/or crumbles seasoned with taco seasoning


  • Hamburgers (there are tons of options on the market – don’t be afraid to try them all until you find one that you like)
  • Chili Dogs (Hormel makes a vegetarian chili that tastes just like the original and Light Life veggie links are a great sub for the real “dogs”!)
  • Frito Pie (see above)
  • Chicken sandwich (Boca chick’n patties on a bun – add some wing sauce to kick it up a notch!)
  • Veggie Sandwich
  • “Veggie Platter” (pick a few that sound good together e.g. baked beans (Bush’s has a vegetarian version), spinach salad, wild rice, green beans, corn, mac-n-cheese, steamed veggies, pasta salad, mashed potatoes, etc, etc.)

  • Sweet n Sour Tofu (grab a bottle of sweet and sour sauce and follow the directions on label replacing pork with cubes of tofu – see “Some Basics of Tofu”)
  • Steamed veggies and rice
  • Egg Rolls
  • California rolls
  • Sweet and Sour Soup
  • Miso soup

To build on this, consider buying (or borrowing from a library) a couple of vegetarian cookbooks and/or hitting up the internet for some brand new recipes!

Some Basics of Tofu

A lot of people instantly think of tofu when they hear “vegetarian, ” and a lot of people think tofu is super-gross and therefore they think they could never be a vegetarian. Well, you can totally be a vegetarian without tofu, and tofu can definitely be super-gross if the wrong type of tofu is used for the recipe, the tofu is not prepped properly, or the tofu is not seasoned/cooked properly. But, if you follow these basic guidelines, you might just see why so many do love tofu!

First, choose the right tofu for the job:

Silken – texture is similar to yogurt when blended; works great to make creamy sauces, smoothies, etc.
Firm – texture is similar to ricotta cheese when mashed up; use it in place of ricotta or cottage cheeses, scrambled eggs, etc.
Extra Firm – texture is most meat-like when prepared and cooked properly; use in place of cooked strips or cubes of chicken, beef, or pork.

Preparing Extra Firm Tofu

This process makes ALL the difference when it comes to replacing meat with tofu. Eventually, you may want to invest in a tofu press (about $40 at, and it will make this process much easier and Earth-friendlier. For now:
1. Freeze the tofu in its original packaging, and then thaw in the refrigerator. This takes some time, so you may find it convenient to keep a few blocks in the freezer, and one thawing/thawed in the fridge ready to be used.
2. Once thawed completely, open and drain the package. If marinating, this would be the time to do that, and then drain again before continuing.
3. Slice the tofu into half-inch slabs.
4. Press each slab between layers of paper towels. Use your palms to squeeze out as much water as possible. You may need to press again with a dry set of towels. This takes a lot of paper towels because there is a lot of water in tofu. The more water you get out, the better your tofu will cook. Again, a tofu press does all the work for you without the paper towels.
5. Continue slicing or dicing as needed for your recipe.

Cooking Extra Firm Tofu to Use in Place of Meat

1. Heat skillet on medium-high heat.
2. Add oil (about 2-3 Tbsp for one block of tofu) and allow it to heat up.
3. Add pressed, diced/sliced tofu and gently stir or toss frequently. Season appropriately.
4. Tofu should become a nice golden color and be crispy on the outside. Obviously, the smaller it’s cut, the crispier it will be.
5. Be patient – cook it until it’s all nice and crispy!!

General Tips and Advice
(Goooooo Team Veg!!!)

Don’t stress! It’s just food for goodness sakes!
You don’t have to jump in with both feet; it’s okay to dip one foot in or even just swirl your big toe around a little at first. Every meat-free meal is a good thing! It’s okay if you can’t figure out the whole year’s menu right now! Take it little by little, and it will get so stinkin’ easy!! Don’t get overwhelmed with making this huge life-changing decision and a big commitment – deal with it on a day to day basis.

Always do the best you can in a given situation. Sometimes, you may just feel like there aren’t any acceptable vegetarian options on the menu. Or you have no (nice) way of finding out what’s in that seemingly vegetarian soup your future mother-in-law is serving – just cross your fingers and pray to the vegan gods that it’s not chicken broth and go with it - if you’re hungry enough! But, sometimes, you may be willing to skip it if you’re pretty sure it’s got some animal part in it.

Don’t get into the habit of telling yourself (or, gasp, others) that you “can’t” eat something because you are a vegetarian/vegan. You are making a decision. You can eat steak, but you are choosing not to. You can have that piece of chocolate cake, but you don’t want to (I mean, you want to, -oh, you WANT to! - but you don’t really want to). When you tell yourself that you “can’t” eat something or aren’t “allowed” to eat something, it creates a bitter desire to eat what you have decided you don’t want to eat! And it sends the message to those around you that you are some deprived, starving individual. “Poor little vegetarian, not getting to enjoy any of this yummy carcass…..she only eats vegetables and tofu.” Definitely the wrong message to send – to yourself and others!

If you ever need help remembering why you made the decision to be vegetarian/vegan – consult the proper resources! Re-read Skinny Bitch or The Kind Diet to be reminded of all the ways it’s healthier for you and the planet. Watch those awful videos on the PETA website if you can’t recall just how horrible and nasty the meat and dairy industries are. Do what it takes. Just don’t slip back into blissful ignorance because it’s easier and more convenient to do what the majority around you are doing.

Don’t try to “convert” people who aren’t interested. Answer questions and offer resources, but don’t force horrible facts and scarring images onto someone who didn’t ask for it – it’s not helpful. And, it’s just not cool. On the flip side, don’t be ashamed of your decision. If you can’t confidently stand up for your choice, heed the previous bit of advice and remind yourself why you’re decision is definitely right for you.

Now, go forth and VEG!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Oh, baby carrots - how I've missed you! But, you know you're just not the same without a little ranch dressing...

I'm glad you're back... 

I found a recipe for vegan ranch dressing on VegWeb and it actually did a pretty good job as a dip! It's been a long time since I've eaten ranch dressing, but I know it wasn't a perfect match. I used only 2 Tbsp of milk since we were using it as a dressing; use 3 if you're going to pour it on a salad or sandwich.

Perfect Ranch Dressing
Recipe submitted by KayceeBassett, 01/16/11

Makes: Approx. 2 Cups, Preparation time: 5 Minutes


1 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Vegenaise)

2-3 tablespoons nondairy milk (I used Soy Milk)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

3 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper


1. Combine all ingredients.

2. Let it thicken in the fridge for 1 hour before serving.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

I "threw together" a pretty fantastic Hanukkah feast this past Saturday evening. Sheila & Jim were in town, so it was a great time to make extraordinary amounts of fried food! 

On the menu were Chickpea Cutlets and Potato Latkes both from Veganomicon. Homemade Challah - if you ever Meet the Shannons, they might give you their recipe - it's part of The Betty Crocker Project.

The Latkes were crispity crunchity just the way they should be - so yummy! Sorry, no picture - we were so excited to eat, I forgot to snap one before they were gone! Take my word for it - they were beautiful!

The Challah was the most gorgeous bread I've ever made; I really hated to rip it up. But, it tasted even better than it looked, so I'm glad I didn't shellac it and put it on a shelf after all. Will definitely be making this more often!!

And, for dessert, Baklava - from an old stand-by recipe I've used for years (easy enough to veganize). It was all so delicious!

I almost forgot to mention the Honey Balls I made for breakfast that morning! Mmmmm MMMMMMM!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dark Chocolate Mocha Sorbet

I've only typed the title, and I'm already drooling.


6 oz bitter-sweet baking chocolate, coarsley chopped
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 c water
1/4 c sugar
2 Tbsp instant coffee/espresso powder
1/2 c light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
dash salt


  1. Melt chocolate in microwave on MEDIUM
  2. Stir in oil when chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
  3. In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to boil and cook for 2-3 minutes to dissolve sugar.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in coffee.
  5. Combine warm melted chocolate with hot water mixture and mix well.
  6. Pour into a blender, add corn syrup, vanilla, and salt.
  7. Blend well.
  8. If using an ice cream maker - refrigerate until ready to freeze. Then follow your manufacturer's instructions.
  9. Otherwise, pour into a larger than sufficient tupperware container (you'll need room for stirring).
  10. Place in freezer for about an hour or so, remove and stir - be sure to scrape the sides and bottom where it will be more frozen. The idea is to avoid having a big frozen mocha frappuccino block (but, would that really be all that bad??).
  11. Repeat process of allowing to freeze for a while, then removing and stirring until the consistency is similar to a soft ice cream - or until you can't resist the temptation any longer!!
This is a very rich dessert - a little goes a long way! It's so delicious and definitely hits the spot when you need real chocolate!! Btw, I used turbinado sugar because that's what we have, but honestly, that's like drinking a diet soda with your cheeseburger and fries, right? I mean - there is half a cup of corn syrup in this recipe! Oh, but it's SO yummy!!!


Friday, April 30, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

This is my favorite recipe for homemade hummus. It is so easy (the hardest part is finding tahini - look at health or specialty foods stores near the other nut butters or in the Middle Eastern foods). It's a staple at our house, since Mira LOVES it!! We like it too, but we eat it as a dip - not with a spoon and certainly not with our hands!
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

1 can chickpeas (Garbonzo beans), drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 c lemon juice

1/2 c roasted red peppers, chopped
1/4 tsp dried basil
dash of salt - to taste

  1. Add first four ingredients to food processor, process until smooth.
  2. Add red peppers, pulse until peppers are mostly pureed (small bits are okay).
  3. Stir in basil and salt.
Enjoy!! My favorite dippers are Sensible Portions Pita Bites Original Sea Salt - so yummy!!

Monday, March 1, 2010


Yesterday, I slaved away in the kitchen for about 2 hours, and what do I have to show for it?? Twenty-two amazingly delicious homemade tamales!!!! They are SO yummy, and SO worth the time and effort!!

I used a recipe from my new copy of Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook (a must-have for all vegans!!) called "Everyday Chipotle-Vegetable Tamales."

I won't cite the exact recipe here, but I'll give you the highlights!! The dough was completely authentic requiring masa harina corn flour - tastes just like all the tamales I've ever eaten! The filling was a magnificent concoction including bell pepper, onion, carrot, beans, corn, and chipotle peppers in adobe sauce!!!

Making the dough and filling was super-easy and very quick. It's the assembly that requires a whole village! It took me a while to find a system and a method that really worked well for me. So, next time (Oh, yes! There will be a next time!!), I think it will go much faster and smoother, plus I will double the recipe and make lots of extra, since they freeze so well!

It also took longer than need be because I used our veggie steamer/rice cooker instead of going out and buying a large steamer basket. Our steamer only held about 8 tamales, so I did them in 3 batches. Might invest in a steamer basket, and start making tamales for a living!! Ha!!

I liked them so much that I had one for a morning snack today!!! Let me know if you'd like a copy of the recipe!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random but Ever-So-Delicious Dinner!

So, last night, I had no plans for a meal. But, I ended up "throwing some things together," and we had a delicious, if not completely mis-matched, dinner!

I took a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, some water, a can of red kidney beans, a can of great northern beans, some pasta, some chunks of zucchini, some frozen spinach, plus some herbs and spices, and - voila! - minestrone!!!! I didn't have any green beans on hand, or I would have thrown those in the pot, too. Oh well, it was yum-O! A couple of days ago, Casey and I had lunch at Olive Garden (LOVE their minestrone!) - so, that is what inspired me!

And the completely random dish that went with it? Sweet Potatoes L'Orange! We first had this dish at Thanksgiving (thanks Rene'!), and I totally loved it. Unfortunately, I tried to re-create it at Christmas from the same recipe, and it turned out pretty lousy, if I do say so myself! So, I took the same recipe, only very loosely followed it and sort of improvised the rest. Turned out great!

Here is my tweaked version. Sorry, no exact measurements. I really hate when I find a recipe that sounds really good, but they don't give exact measurements...but, like I said, this was improvisation! Next time, I'll try to measure, and then I'll revise this post. It was really good (had some for breakfast and lunch the next day!), so I'll be making it again soon!

Sweet Potato L'Orange

Take a few sweet potatoes (I did four) and bake 1 to 1 1/2 hr at 425 degrees (until nice and soft).

When they are close to being done, start the sauce.
In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup orange juice to boil.
Add a splash of lemon juice.
Lower heat - keep at a simmer.
Mix 2 tsp cornstarch with 1/4 cup water - add mixture to orange juice.
Continue stirring until you see a slight thickening.
Remove from heat, let cool for a few minutes.
Add about 2 Tbsp agave nectar (or some other sweetener - I'm not sure how dry sweeteners will do, but it would probably be fine) and a splash of almond extract (vanilla would probably be good, too, if that's what you've got)

Peel baked sweet potatoes (skin can be peeled off easily with fingers once they have cooled a little)
Slice potatoes into 1/2 inch slices.
Arrange slices partly overlapping one another (like shingles on a roof) in a serving dish in a single* layer (something with sides - you don't want orange sauce everywhere!)
Pour sauce over potatoes.

*If necessary, you can arrange the potatoes in more than one layer, just divide the sauce appropriately and pour some sauce over each layer.


Again, sorry for all the "about's" and "probably's" - more exact info later...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spiral Diner & Bakery

Kenny and I had the pleasure of eating at a 100% vegan restaurant this weekend!! We ate at the Spiral Diner & Bakery in Fort Worth, TX. It was so delicious and quite affordable, too!!

I was so excited to be going to a restaurant where I had the freedom to order anything off the menu! We started with the Chip & Dip Party: great corn chips with salsa, guacamole, and hummus. I had the BBQ San'ich: chopped seitan (pronounced "SAY-tan" - yes, just like the Devil) doused in homemade BBQ sauce piled on toasted bread with pickles and onions & mayo (I 86-ed the last two). Kenny had the Red Coconut Curry Noodles. Sorry, I don't have the descriptors for his - I was too busy with my own plate!

For dessert, Kenny had a cookie sundae: chocolate chip cookie topped with chocolate ice cream. I had a piece of amazing chocolate cake (about the size of my head!) - it was so chocolately and moist!!! I'm still reeling over it!

Next time we're in DFW, we hope to have time for a visit to another vegan restaurant - the Cosmic Cafe in Oaklawn - we've heard from a couple of people that it is great!

Boy, does this make me miss vegan restaurants to be found in the swamp!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

As of this January, my husband and I have been vegetarian for a full year! For the past year, we have also avoided purchasing cow's milk or eggs. We switched to soy milk and used various egg replacements when cooking/baking at home. But, we didn't avoid these animal products at all times; we often ate foods at restaurants or other peoples' homes that included these items. We also ate plenty of packaged foods that were not completely vegan.

So, although we were already "quasi-vegan" since we had stopped purchasing cow's milk and eggs and didn't use them at home, we did still ingest and purchase a lot of animal product here and there. Also, I was pretty reluctant to give up cheese. I knew there would be no real replacement for it in a vegan life, and I just wasn't sure I could live without it.

So silly.

But, this is a common concern in the omni world - if only I had a nickel for every time I heard, "Oh, but I love cheese! I could never give up cheese!" I would be set for life...oh, okay, but I would at least have enough to buy a Tall Soy Chai Tea Latte at Starbuck's!! Everyone who eats cheese thinks they have some superior relationship with cheese that no one else can even comprehend (same with chocolate). It's like a teenager who is in love - they think they are the only ones to ever be that in love with another person. Good grief! Well, there's a good reason for that (cheese, chocolate, and love have a lot in common), but I digress...we'll talk more about that later.

With a couple of weeks under our non-leather belts, my husband and I (along with our 14-month old daughter) are doing just fine with out a shred of cheddar!

The funny thing about me being a vegetarian in the first place is that I really don't care for vegetables. I mean, there are a handful that I enjoy, a few others that I can stand a few bites of, and then some that I can swallow only if pureed. I have serious texture issues with vegetables. It's pretty unfortunate, but I am actively trying to like vegetables! My dream is to love broccolli one day! Maybe even raw broccolli!!!!

So, the obvious question is: What do you eat?! Even "normal" vegetarians/vegans get this oh-so-common question. It seems sort of ridiculous to those that are veg's (because there are about a billion and two options), but it seems like it needs to be answered for all those omnivores who are sincerely interested.

This blog is sort of inspired by that question. I plan to post some great recipes that we've actually cooked in our own kitchen and polished off, share some decent restaurant/fast-food picks, and even recount those meals that were a total flop (and, boy, are there a lot of them already!).

Another, less "ridiculous" question is simply, "Why?" Well, it's not so simple, actually, and it also inspires this blog. I will share mine and my husband's reasons for our choices. Why we feel it's the best lifestyle for not only us, but our precious daughter also. It is not because we feel the need for explanations, but perhaps it might open a meat-eating, cheese drizzling, milk chugging eye or two.

A year ago, we lost some of our naivety about the world, and we became vegetarians. Unfortunately, I continued to push what I knew out of my mind in order to guiltlessly enjoy food that I had become dependent on. The guilt was not permanently banished though; it always came back. So, finally, I looked the knowledge that I owned directly in the eyes and decided it was time to make the change that would allow my lifestyle to truly sync with my beliefs and moral stance.

My amazing husband was with me 100%! We share that moral stance and support each other in it. I applaud those who manage to be vegetarian or vegan in a household of omnivores; it must be extremely hard to get along.

Being vegan is not just about what you don't eat. It affects a lot of aspects of your life. No more leather shoes (don't even get me started on the leather/fur industry - we'll talk about that later!). No more ordering pizza delivery when friends come over to watch a game. Valentines Day is coming heart-shaped box full of chocoalte covered caramels will find a way into my lover's arms. Easter is also coming up...when my daughter hunts for Easter eggs with her cousins, we'll have to do a stealthy switch-a-roo if she finds any milk chocolate or Cadbury eggs (not to mention, we won't be dying eggs!). There will be chocolate, I guarantee, but not the kind you buy in bulk at Wal-Mart.

On one hand, these two examples seem like such silly, unimportant hurdles, but, on the other hand, they are events swathed in tradition, culture, convenience, and social norms. It's a big step - I've considered it through and through before making the declaration. Obviously, I think it's all worth it. I'm actually looking forward to V-Day and Easter; I'm looking forward to seeing just how awesome my husband and I do at bounding over such a huge, important, laughable, inconsequential hurdle.

Here's to being vegan! To being true to what we know and believe!!