Did You Know?

Did you know??
Although using avocados and bananas are all the buzz now to get soft and shiny hair, all it will get you is a messy kitchen and bathroom. These products are great to help your hair for one day, but the proteins in them are way too big for your hair to absorb. And unless you are going to use them each day (yikes!), then you should head to a beauty supply store and check out some Vegan products that use "hydrolyzed" proteins - proteins from avocados and bananas that actually are small enough to help your hair.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Butternut Squash Bisque


It's unseasonally warm here in New England, but that doesn't mean it's not vegan soup weather!  We've been feeling particularly French lately (I'm not sure if it's listening to Coeur De Pirate or our recent venture to Quebec), but it's been an interesting opportunity to veganize some traditional French dishes.  This butternut squash bisque traditionally calls for thick, fatty heavy cream, but this recipe substitutes an unsweetened vegan cream (if you can get your hands on Mimicream--do it!) for it, making the dish safe for your tastebuds!  The mild sweetness of butternut squash is offset by the chives and croutons, which makes this a nice, savoury winter soup-- thick and creamy.  And amazingly, this soup is actually low-fat!

1 medium white onion, chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 fresh sage leaf, finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh chopped chives
1/2 tsp fresh crushed rosemary
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp black ground pepper
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 1/2 cups veggie stock
3/4 cup non-dairy creamer (I use mimicream when I can-- if not, Silk's creamer isn't bad, but I have yet to find it unsweetened.  You can always use unsweetened almond milk and steam it down for a while)
Croutons for garnish

In a large saucepan over medium, sauté the onion, celery, thyme, rosemary, and sage in the olive oil for 7 minutes or until the vegetables turn tender.

Add butternut squash, herbs, and veggie stock to the saucepan and bring the soup to a simmer.

Reduce the heat slightly, cover, and simmer the soup for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Puree the soup in a blender (this will literally take 5-10 seconds if the squash is tender), and add cream and garnish with croutons and chives.

Caloric Info
Servings 4
Total Fat: 6.5 grams
Sat Fat: 0.6 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 0.3 grams
Monosat. Fat: 4.0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 631.0 mg
Potassium: 319.8 mg
Carbs: 13.7 grams
Dietary Fiber: 2.5 grams
Sugar: 1.3 grams
Protein: 1.0 grams

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cranberry Orange Bread


If there is one thing I love about the holiday season, particulary in New England, it's cranberries. They appear in a multitude of baked goods during the winter, but none are so perfectly matched as cranberries and oranges in this delectable Cranberry Orange Bread, adapted from the Joy of Vegan Baking.

1 tbsp ground flax seed
3 tbsp water
1/4 non-dairy butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 c fresh squeezed orange juice
1 1/4 c vanilla almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)
4 c all-purpose flour
1 c sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c cranberries (adjust proportions to your liking)
sugar (for sprinkling)

Mix flax seed and water, combine thoroughly. Stir in melted (and coolled) butter, orange juice, milk, and extracts.
In a separate bowl, sift together all dry ingredients in order shown. Stir in liquid mixture until just combined. Add in cranberries, and walnuts, if desired.
Pour into greased mini-loaf pans (makes about 6), sprinkle with sugar (or cinnamon sugar) and bake for 35-45 minutes at 350 degrees.*

These loaves do freeze well, and make great gifts in seasonal loaf pans. They are also a great breakfast bread, and can be baked at same temperature in cupcake/muffin pans for 18-25 minutes if desired.

Happy holidays!

* If your batter seems too thick, add a little more milk and orange juice. You want it to be noticably reacting (i.e. the batter seems to be bubbling a bit, and tastes a little tart) but not dough-like, and not quite liquid either. If it's too thin, add in a bit more flour.

Caloric Info
Servings 18
Total Fat: 2.5 grams
Sat Fat: 0.6 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 0.8 grams
Monosat. Fat: 0.6 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 99.0 mg
Potassium: 197.0 mg
Carbs: 35.9 grams
Dietary Fiber: 1.4 grams
Sugar: 13.0 grams
Protein: 3.2 grams

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quick & Easy Homemade Hot Cocoa


Once it gets cold up here, I get addicted to Hot Cocoa. I replace my morning coffee with it, drink it when I'm cold, and when I get home from work. I love it, but it definitely doesn't love me - and I'm uncomfortable with the amount of white sugar that is contained in those happy little packages.

So, here it is: Really quick and easy hot cocoa you can make with stuff you already have in your house, and no added white sugar at all. Rest easier, waist line!

1 c vanilla almond milk, or favourite non-dairy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp chocolate extract (or you can sub in Caramel, Mint, Coffee, Raspberry, Orange...)
1-2 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 c cocoa powder

In a small saucepan, heat the almond milk and agave nectar. Add in extracts, and whisk. Add in cocoa powder slowly, whisking to remove clumps and continue to heat until desired temperature. Taste and adjust agave if necessary. Then pour in a mug, top with Rice Whip and chocolate shavings. Bam!- Hot Cocoa in five minutes, and infinitely better than a packet of store-bought.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Onion Marinated Mushrooms

Whenever we buy mushrooms, we usually have a particular reason for buying them.  However, occasionally some mushrooms are left over from a prior meal, which sit in the fridge and at the last minute I have to come up with something that can use them up without needing a bunch of mushrooms.  A few nights ago, after making a mushroom herb white wine sauce, these leftover mushrooms were left to slowly dry up and enter my compost heap. After thinking about it, I remembered a recipe that I had tried in the past that was a mushroom saute, and I came up with this.  These onion marinated mushrooms are delectably cooked in a delicious sauce of oil, vinegar, garlic, and brown sugar and once you start eating them, it may be particularly hard to stop.  The addition of the sun-dried tomatoes infuse a fantastic flavor that balances out the softness of the mushrooms and onions, and this side dish might take the lead role of your meal. 

 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
2 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp  ground dry mustard
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 lb small fresh button mushrooms, sliced

In a medium saucepan, mix vinegar, olive oil, and garlic.  Bring to a boil.

Add salt, parsley, dry mustard, basil, and brown sugar.  Reduce heat.

Stir in mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 


Monday, November 14, 2011

Vegan Pancakes


These are a yummy and vegan twist on a childhood favourite. Add fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips, drizzle with warm maple syrup, and enjoy!

The pancakes:
1 c flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 c vanilla soymilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
dash of cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and stir until just about mixed (you don't want to overmix this, or the chemical reaction to make them fluffy won't work as well).
Scoop about 1/4 c of the batter and ladle onto a hot and lightly greased griddle or frying pan. When the batter bubbles at the center, use a spatula and flip them. The outsides should be a dark golden brown, and slightly crispy. Re-grease the pan as needed in between pancakes.

To make homemade maple syrup:
2 c sugar
1 c water
1 tbsp maple extract
Boil together the sugar and water. Once bubbling, add in the extract. If you like a more buttery maple syrup, add in a dash of butter flavouring or oil. Take off heat, and allow to cool to a syrupy texture. Serve on hot pancakes, with a sprinkle of confectionary sugar.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thick Italian Vegetable Soup


This thick, hearty italian vegetable soup is a delicious way to warm up on a chilly fall afternoon.  It's very simple and must simmer for a while, so this is a great soup for raking leaves, shoveling snow, doing last yard cleanups, etc.  How, you ask?  Well, you prep the soup, leave it over low for an hour (or more-- the longer, the better), do your chores, and when you come in to warm up it's waiting for you-- unlike the cat.  I love the colors that the summer squash adds to this soup-- the yellows from the squash, when mixed with the orange of the carrots and red from the bell peppers make this soup wonderfully colorful to match the leaves scattered across the yard.

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot,chopped length-wise
4 celery sticks, sliced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small squash, diced
1 cup kale, chopped (about 3-4 pieces)
1 cup green beans
2 tbsp basil dried
2 tbsp oregano dried
2 tsp parsley dried
4 cups vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can peeled and diced tomatoes, with juice
1/3 cup tvp (still dry)
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced

Place large saucepan over medium heat.

Sauté garlic, onions, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, and green beans for five minutes.

Stir in herbs and peeled and diced tomatoes, with juice and allow to cook for another minute.

Add broth, squash, kale and zucchini.

Bring to a boil, cover, add tvp, and simmer for one hour.

Caloric Info
Servings 8
Total Fat: 4.8 grams
Sat Fat: 0.6 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 2.2 grams
Monosat. Fat: 1.6 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 656.3 mg
Potassium: 490.4 mg
Carbs: 15.1 grams
Dietary Fiber: 4.6 grams
Sugar: 5.1 grams
Protein: 9.8 grams

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vegetable Barley Soup


As winter wears on, it seems like no matter how much you vary your soups, they end up getting tiresome.  One ingredient that I always regret that I don't use (and seem to always have in stock) is barley.  Stowed away deep in the recess of our cabinets, the humble barley offers a little something extra to beef up the soups into having a little new life.  While the soup thickens up over the stove, I keep my mind distracted with my expected purchases for the garden next year.

Speaking of which, our garden next year is due to provide us with major produce (in theory).  Okay, probably not.  But last year we bought some cranberry bushes... okay, more like cranberry toothpicks, but this year may be their year to blossom.  Along with those bushes, we added a large cluster of first-year plants that we hope will offer us a word of sweet and savory goodies this upcoming season.  Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries will also join our team of persimmon, fig, and grapes in the perennial category, and I'm already looking for something exciting and new to add this year.  I'm tempted to tackle a black current or *gasp* maybe a filbert, but I'm concerned that our landlord is going to attempt to charge us per plant instead of per person that live here.  Thoughts?

Anyways, this soup will keep me going while I dream of warmer days.  Hopefully it helps you as well!

4 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup uncooked barley
2 large carrots, chopped
1/2 cup broccoli, chopped
1 cup kale, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 green pepper, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 red onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (as always, make sure it's vegan!)
ground black pepper to taste
Pour the vegetable broth into a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and add the barley, carrots, celery, tomatoes, green pepper, broccoli, garbanzo beans, onion, and bay leaves.

Season with garlic powder, salt, pepper, parsley, curry powder, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce. 

Bring to a boil, add agave, stir, cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 90 minutes. 

The soup will be fairy thick.  If you want it to be more soup-y, add broth or lessen the amount of barley in the recipe.

Caloric Info
Servings 6
Total Fat: 1.7 grams
Sat Fat: 0.2 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 0.7 grams
Monosat. Fat: 0.5 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 640.5 mg
Potassium: 494.5mg
Carbs: 43.3 grams
Dietary Fiber: 9.1 grams
Sugar: 4.8 grams
Protein: 6.9 grams

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Happy Halloween!

'Tis the season for pumpkins. Even if you're a pumpkin hater (and I'll admit, I sometimes am), this cake will delight and astound. Decorate it plain with a simple cream cheese frosting or make it autumn-ready with a cinnamon and pomegranate glaze; either way, you'll be pleasantly surprised (just like me)!

3/4 c butter, softened
1 c dark brown sugar
1 c white sugar
2/3 c pureed silken tofu
1 c pumpkin pie mix
1/2 c vanilla soymilk plus 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar
2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter and the sugars and set aside.

In a blender, puree the tofu. Combine the soymilk and vinegar in a separate bowl. Then, mix the soymilk mixture with the tofu puree and the pumpkin and stir thoroughly.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

In thirds, add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugars, alternating with the pumpkin mixture. Once all the components are added, stir until just mixed, and scoop into cupcake liners.

It will make 24 large cupcakes, or 36 regular cupcakes.

To frost:

Pictured above, we used a traditional cream cheese frosting:
1 package (8 oz) vegan cream cheese, like Tofutti
6 oz vegetable shortening
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 c confectionary sugar
2 - 5 tsp soymilk
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients, adding the sugar in small interval amounts as you go. Add more or less soymilk/confectionary sugar to get desired thickness.

Decorate with marzipan pumpkins.

But, we also had some yummy success with a cinnamon & pomegranate glaze:
1/2 c agave nectar, light or amber
1 - 1 1/2 c conf sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, smashed slightly to release juices

Drizzle on warm cupcakes. Be careful - this one is the messier option!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vegan French Toast


There's really nothing better than a slow Sunday morning and a yummy, albeit fattening, late breakfast. Mostly, for us, that means blueberry pancakes or our Breakfast sandwiches, but this past week we were both feeling a certain longing for this childhood favourite. So, without further ado, here is our French Toast:

3-5 slices of thick wheat or cinnamon raisin bread, left out overnight OR lightly toasted

1/2 cup soft silken tofu

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 c vanilla almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)

3 tbsps maple syrup

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp nutmeg

powdered sugar for dusting

Blend the spices, tofu, oil, milk and maple syrup in a blender until completely homogeneos. Once blended, pour into a large, low-cut bowl. Take your toast or "stale" bread (it has to be hardened otherwise it will fall apart when cooked) and dredge it in the mixture, coating each side.

Heat a skillet with a small tab of butter (with a little bit of oil, too, so the butter doesn't burn). Once the skillet sizzles when you flick water at it, you're ready to go. Drop your first piece of coated toast onto the skillet and let cook for about 3-5 minutes. Once it seems stable on the cooking side, flip it with a spatula and cook the other side.

When all your toasts are cooked up and crunchy on the outside, serve hot with warm maple syrup, walnuts, whipped cream and/or fresh berries and sprinkle the whole stack with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lemon Chickpea Wrap


This lemon chickpea wrap is reminiscent of a chicken salad wrap in texture, but not in taste. The great thing about wraps is that they are a way to mix up your meals if you're trying to eat more salads-- as it's simply a salad in a wrap! While a typical wrap might include all of these ingredients, the way they are brought together here is what gives this one the particular texture that makes it so refreshing. If you're looking for a new way to eat your veggies, this is it!

The one thing I have noticed is that over the years, I have never really rolled a successful wrap. I either put too much food on it, or not enough, or I break the shell. Somehow, amazingly, for the picture above I was able to finally get the perfect wrap. Upon success I had expected lights, balloons-- the whole nine yards. While that didn't happen, the enjoyment of eating a wrap without having to fish for falling objects with my thumb as I jammed it in my mouth was a gift in itself.

1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried chives
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp of your favorite sauce/covering (i.e. guacamole, mayonnaise, cucumber sauce, etc.)
1 few leaves of lettuce, sliced
1 wheat wrap

Drain the and rinse the chickpeas. Place the rinsed chickpeas in a bowl.

Smash the chickeas with a fork until 2/3 of the chickpeas have been broken. The best way to eyeball this is to notice that there are some whole chickpeas left in the bowl, but most are crushed.

Add the celery, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, spices, vinegar, and sauce to the bowl and mix well. The end product should be a thick, lumpy mass of deliciousness.

Leave in the fridge for a minimum of two hours for the flavors to blend. Place on wrap with the lettuce and enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Garden 2011 Recap

Looking back at the gardening year of 2011, even though it was rather cool and rainy, we were able to get a decent amount of vegetables out of the garden.  Ultimately, we ended up focusing on cooler-weather plants such as kale, spinach, arugula, and lettuce.  But, that's okay!  Better than nothing.  We tried growing cucumbers, squash, and zucchini in pots over mulch beds with little luck.  I'm not sure if that was because of the cool weather or because they were in pots-- after pulling them out for the fall, it didn't appear that the roots had needed more room, so I'm not too concerned about that.  Maybe it was because of the shade from the house compiled with the cloudy summer?

Our side-garden layout:  To the side of the small bed is our house/sun room, which were followed by the mulch beds further south where the cucumbers, zucchini, and squash grew.

Our tomatoes did surprisingly well, and by well I mean they gave us about 5 pounds per plant-- nothing spectacular, but not too bad at all.  Considering the weather, I'm going to take that as a success.  I think I'll be moving the tomatoes to a place with more sun next summer-- we'll see how that works out.

The garlic appeared to need another year to really settle in, so we didn't pick any of it, and I'll let you know how it is next year.  The sunflowers also didn't end up doing so well in their position against the house-- I'm betting that there wasn't enough sunlight to help them grow.  However, some of them managed to shoot over the beans and wrap around the corner of the sunroom to catch more sun and grow a bit larger.

The beans grew well, providing almost five pounds by season's end (from this small section and the other-- see below), and I'll be saving plenty of the beans to plant for next year.  The celery, however, was delicious but small.  I've never grown celery in my life, so this was a completely new experiment which I'm feeling out as I go.

Below:  The larger portion of our garden-- you can see a weird section above the detailed drawing-- it's an only disposal/incinerary section that has a light covering of soil over the area.  Because of this, the space is limited primarily to plants that grow very shallow roots, and I've decided to put pots over the actual cast-iron incinerary hole cover with the squash.  This didn't work out well, so I'm going to try to come up with some better solutions for next year.


As you can see above, we had a huge variety of stuff to grow.  We also have a fairly large space for gardening, concidering the city we're in.  I can't complain, except for the fact that we have a fair amount of trees providing shade over this space, making it a bit of a battlefield, especially in a summer like this past year's.

The corn as shown above, was growing surprisingly well, up until a storm completely eviscerated their existence.  It seemed that those that survived had stunted growth, and we didn't get any corn from them.  The beans, as stated earlier, did well, as did the peas (roughly 3 pounds of peas).  The eggplant gave us nothing-- they sat in the ground without growing almost the entire year.  I'm starting to think that the bushes to the east of our garden give too much shade to that area of the garden, and I should leave it mainly to low cool-weather greenery.  Sounds lik a good plan, right?

Both the carrots and the potatoes were first-time plants for me as well.  The potatoes did well, but were a bit small.  The carrots, on the other hand, were planted too closely together so they were wrapped over each other, none of which grew particularly large.  The Italian, banana, and jalepeno peppers did surprisingly well, as they were from seed (which we got nearly 30 peppers from), but the bell peppers only gave us maybe 6 peppers total.

Speaking of being concerned with the coolness of the east side of the garden, the broccoli, spinach, and kale did not do well-- they shot up too early, and gave us maybe three cups of greenery between the three of them.   I'm a bit doubtful about growing broccoli again, it seems to take up a lot of space without much return, but the kale is definitely going in next year.

Lastly, the onions and shallots were both absolutely delicious.  I wish I had planted more shallots, and I wish I had planted the onions further apart.  The only major concern I had with the onions was that they did not grow overly large, although again I think that was mostly weather-related.  Although, I do have concerns about my laziness in terms of weeding.

I've been reading more about urban gardening, and how a good garden shouldn't typically need to be weeded because you shouldn't have many weeds.  The idea is that you should have layers of plants-- i.e., lettuce growing underneath tomato plants-- the lettuce keeps weeds out, while the tomato provides shade for the lettuce.  This might be an experiment next year-- I will keep you updated!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chocolate Fig Biscotti

Ah, Fall is finally arriving in New England, and our fig tree was plenty generous this year. Unfortunately, all of them riped at once, and so we got a little brave with them and made some excellent biscotti. Biscotti are Italian breakfast cookies, typically twice baked and very hard as they are dipped in coffee as you eat them. The figs give a traditional chocolate biscotti a subtle fruity sweetness. I imagine dates would work as well if you needed to subsitute the figs.

1 ½ cups of plain flour, sifted.
½ teaspoon of baking powder.
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
2/3 cup of sugar.
2/3 c silken tofu or 1 large mashed banana
1 cup of dark chocolate, chopped.
½ cup of dried figs, chopped.
1/2 tsp cinnamon (can be left out if you aren't a fan)
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and cinnamon, if using, into a large bowl.

Chop up your chocolate and figs.

In a blender, puree the tofu until smooth and consistent. Pour this tofu mixture into a smaller bowl with chopped chocolate and chopped figs.

In three batches, add your tofu mixture to the dry ingredients. It's easiest to do this with your hards, so be prepared to get a little dirty.

Once your dough is stiff and solid, you can knead it on a lightly floured surface until it is completely smooth.

Roll out to form two large logs, like french bread loaves.

Flatten your logs slightly and place them on parchment paper. Sprinkle on some sugar to make the tops crispy and bake for about 20 minutes.

Once they are completely cool to the touch, cut your loaves into smaller cookies at a diagonal angle. You want them small enough to eat in a few bites, but also long enough to dip into coffee without melting your hands off on the first dip, so bear that in mind. Once all your cookies are cut, bake them again on your parchment paper at the lower temperature of 300 degrees for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are completely hard to the touch.

In order to be true to the hard, biscotti nature of breakfast cookies, you should let them cool before eating them. However, the cookies are rather good warm as well, particulary with the melty chocolate. We won't will blame you for not waiting.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fresh Fig and Coconut Cashew Creme


Figs are back in season,so what better way to announce it than to post a delicious recipe for a vegan fig dessert?  Not only is it vegan, but it's almost raw!  We managed to make it a weekend breakfast treat with some coffee, which combined to make a fantastic Saturday morning.  If you skim down and look at the nutritional facts, the numbers might scare you--but remember these are good fats from the cashews.  Here you go:

1 1/2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
3/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tspn salt
1/3 cup agave syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
8 fresh figs, cut in half
1/3 cup unsweetened, large coconut shreds, lightly toasted

Cover cashews in water and soak for at least 6 hours (but no more than 48).  When you're about to make this dessert, strain the cashews and preheat the oven at 350.

In a blender place cashews, 3/4 cup water, vanilla, salt, agave and coconut oil. Blend and pulse until completely smooth. Taste and add more sweetness or salt, if desired. Set aside.

After the cashew creme tastes how you'd like, slice figs and toast coconut shreds in a medium, un–greased pan for about 2 minutes, until coconut is slightly brown and fragrant and the figs are warm.

When serving, spread cashew cream onto the plate and arrange the figs on top.  Enjoy!

Caloric Info
Servings 6
Total Fat: 23.7 grams
Sat Fat: 9.6 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 2.7 grams
Monosat. Fat: 9.5 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 106.3 mg
Potassium: 272.1 mg
Carbs: 25.0 grams
Dietary Fiber: 3.4 grams
Sugar: 12.6 grams
Protein: 6.2 grams

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ezykiel Bread


During the fall, there is nothing better than warm, fresh bread.  This recipe is a vegan alternative to the famed Ezykiel Bread supposedly given from God to the chosen people.  Regardless of religious affiliation, this is a delicious and nutricious breakfast waiting to happen.  If you've never had it, you're in for a treat.  While the ingredients are a little bit expensive for this bread, if you buy these items in larger quantities it really isn't too bad.  I find that a lot of these ingredients have other uses that I wasn't aware of, mostly because I wouldn't have looked for uses for many of the items.  This bread goes great with Cinnamon and Nutmeg Coffee, and it's a great excuse to crank up the heat from the oven on a brisk morning (hey, we're in New England-- the rest of you get to enjoy summer for at least another month!).

Alas, here's the recipe:

2 1/2 cups wheat berries
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup millet
1/4 cup dry red lentils
2 tbsp dry great Northern beans
2 tbsp dry kidney beans
2 tbsp dry pinto beans
4 cups warm water (110 degrees/45 degrees C)
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2 tbsp salt

Mix the water, agave, oil, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 5 minutes.

Stir all the grains and beans together until well mixed.  Grind in a flour mill.  If you don't have a flour mill, a coffee grinder works well too.  If you don't have a coffee grinder either, try a food processor.

Add the freshly ground flower and salt to the large bowl with the yeast mixture; stir well until mixed, about 8-10 minutes.  The dough should be like that of a batter bread.  Pour dough into two well-greased 9x5 inch loaf pans.

Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour-- the dough should reach the top of the pan (or close to it).  I usually put it near the oven while it pre-heats (and I'm usually making something else at the same time, so around the oven works well).

Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the loaves are golden brown.

Caloric Info
Servings 16
Total Fat: 5.2 grams
Sat Fat: 0.7 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 0.8 grams
Monosat. Fat: 3.2 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 185.1 mg
Potassium: 188.2 mg
Carbs: 41.1 grams
Dietary Fiber: 8.8 grams
Sugar: 2.6 grams
Protein: 9.3 grams

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jamaican Brown Rice


A great pair for the baked Jamaican jerk tofu recipe posted recently, this rice is light, slightly fruity, and a nice change from traditional rices.  When I made it, Ashley wasn't too happy about the idea of a fruity rice.  So much so, she refused to eat it, even after acknowledging that it smelled good and that the tofu was good.  Don't let her refusal scare you!  It was delicious and a great pairing with the tofu! 

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 large white onion, sliced
1/2 red apple, cored and sliced
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup brown rice
2 tsp dark molasss
1 small banana, sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp unsweetened flaked coconut 

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. 

Add the onion and red apple; cook and stir until onion is transparent. 

Season with curry powder, brown sugar, and stir in the water and coconut milk. 

Add the rice and molasses, cover, and cook over low heat until the rice is tender, and water has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. 

Mix in the banana, then sprinkle the coconut on top. Heat through for a moment over low heat before serving.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Vegetable Soup


Soups are a staple in most vegan diets-- and even though it's summer, I wanted to expand my soup background.  Peanut butter in soup is something I've known about and heard good things about, but have been hesitant to test out.  Much like actually posting on this blog, I go through phases of wanting to try new and different foods-- the past week or so has been a testing ground for a lot of food, and the kitchen has been taking a beatdown-- especially for summer.  Knives were everywhere, unnamed substances covered the counters and drooled down the cabinets, beans that were soaking were forgotten about-- it looked like a combat zone.  The cats hid from the kitchen as the ipod stand blasted out the Descendents while the thermometer in the room easily broke 100.  The only way to survive that kind of heat is to rock through it.  My neighbors were not impressed.

Anyways, one recipe that came out of the chaos was this peanut butter vegetable soup.  The peanut butter adds a thick texture to the soup that catches you off-guard if you've never had this before-- the texture is almost grainy, but in a good way.  I used a peanut butter ground by the health foods store that's a block away, which is lists its ingredients as "peanuts" and that's it.  I feel as though using a generic brand peanut butter will be a much different experience, as the oils would likely seperate in the soup from the peanut butter, giving it an interesting (not in the good way) taste.  That said, I'd recommend forking over the extra pennies for the good stuff.  Fortunately for us, the health food store's peanut butter is actually cheaper than store-bought!

4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup peeled and cubed potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup broccoli florets
1 can (8 ounce) tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup peanut butter, oil and sugar free
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, combine the broth, tomato sauce, potatoes, and carrots. Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are mostly tender.

Add zucchini, broccoli, celery, onion, green pepper, and garlic. Simmer for about 8 minutes.

Add peanut butter, parsley, salt, and pepper, and stir until peanut butter is fully blended. Simmer for 3 minutes longer and serve!

Caloric Info
Servings 6
Total Fat: 5.7 grams
Sat Fat: 0.9 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 0.2 grams
Monosat. Fat: 0.0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 809.1 mg
Potassium: 780.1 mg
Carbs: 30.7 grams
Dietary Fiber: 5.3 grams
Sugar: 5.2 grams
Protein: 6.3 grams


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Black Bean Sloppy Joes


On a summer day, even in a vegan house, the all-American type meals seem to hit the spot.  Sloppy Joes may be the most American meal I can think of; we're sloppy, and we're the 'average joe'.  Hamburgers and hotdogs?  German.  Pizza?  Italian.  Sloppy Joes?  That's the most American thing in existence, next to capitalism and TV dinners.  Anyways, we've posted a sloppy joe recipe in the past, but this one here is a bit different.  We've substituted black beans for the tvp, and because of the flavor notes and texture that coincides with black beans, the rest of the ingredients have been adjusted.  The only way to know which one you'll like more is to make both!

1/4 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp peperoncini, diced
1/2  green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (make sure it's vegan!)
1 tsp lime

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. 

Add peppers, peperoncini, onions, and garlic, and cook for 7-10 minutes.

While this is cooking, crush the beans so that at least half are crushed.  A fork works well for this.

Add beans to saucepan, stir in tomato sauce, brown suger, and Worcetershire sauce.

Add lime juice, stirring occasionally.  Allow flavors to mix and leave on low heat for 5 minutes.  

Serve over bun and enjoy!

Caloric Info
Servings 4
Total Fat: 2.6 grams
Sat Fat: 0.4 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 0.9 grams
Monosat. Fat: 1.1 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 391.7 mg
Potassium: 506.5 mg
Carbs: 30.5 grams
Dietary Fiber: 8.1 grams
Sugar: 5.1 grams
Protein: 7.9 grams

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Baked Jamaican Jerk Tofu


This Jamaican Jerk Tofu recipe is a great way to dress up tofu and also is a great meal when you're feeling like some reggae, margaritas, and a long afternoon lounging in the sun.  We paired this with a Jamaican Apple Rice and some fresh, you guessed it, margaritas.  Be prepared, because these take a bit to bake and dry up if you want themt o be nice and chewy.  So open up the windows in the kitchen, and head outside and catch a tan!  When the sun begins to set, you'll be ready to have yourself a delicious meal.

1 lb extra firm tofu, drained, sliced and pressed
1/2 large red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbs fresh ginger, grated
Juice of 2 limes
Zest of 1 lime
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs pure maple syrup
1 Tbs dried thyme
2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (you can cut back to one or omit entirely if you don't like spicy) 

Slice the tofu into thick slabs (about 3/4 inch wide) then lay the slices on several layers of paper towels or on a clean dish towel and place a heavy plate on top. Let this sit for an hour. Pressing the tofu dries out the tofu, allowing it to absorb more of the marinade, making a more flavorful jerk.

Mix all the rest of the ingredients to create the marinade. Place the tofu slices in a bowl, pour in the marinade, making sure to coat all the slices, and cover. Let it sit for two hours, flipping the slices about halfway through.

Set the oven to 150 degrees.  Place the slices on a baking tray with parchment paper and drizzle marinade left in the bowl.  Turn tofu every hour for roughly 6-7 hours or until corners begin to crisp.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Homemade Bagels


I love bagels, and whenever you go out to get a fresh bagel somewhere, you usually never know if you're getting a bagel with eggs or without.  And if you make bagels, often times the recipes call for tons of ingredients, most of which you don't have on hand. This simple vegan bagel recipe is delicious and, obviously, egg free.  The image shows my recent batch, black currant bagels!  Got to love when currants are in season!  This recipe makes 1 dozen bagels that are roughly 4-5 inches wide, or you can make them smaller to keep from stuffing yourself each time you have a bagel.

1 tsp instant yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups water

1/2 tsp instant yeast
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp agave nectar

Finishing touches:
1 tsp baking soda for the water
Cornmeal for dusting the pan
Toppings for the bagels such as seeds, salt, onion, or garlic

 The night before:

Start with the sponge.  Heat the water to 90 degrees or so, add a pinch of sugar, and pitch the yeast in the water.  Allow it to sit for a few minutes, and mix with the flour.  If you are including something that you want inside your bagel (i.e. currants, blueberries, etc.), this is the time to mix it in.  Cover bowl the mixture is in with plastic wrap or a towel and allow to rise for 2 hours.

(Two hours later):
Remove the plastic wrap and stir the yeast put aside for the dough into the sponge. Add the 3 cups of flour, the agave nectar, and the salt into the bowl and mix until all of the ingredients form a ball. You need to work in the additional 3/4 cups of flour to stiffen the dough, either while still mixing in the bowl or while kneading. The dough should be more stiff and more dry than normal bread dough, but moist enough that all of the ingredients are well blended.

Place the dough on a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes.

After kneading, split the dough into a dozen small pieces about the size of a fist. Roll each piece into a ball and set it aside. When you have all 12 pieces made or have run out of dough, cover them with a damp towel and let them rise for 20 minutes.

20 minutes later, shape the bagels.  To shape the bagel punch a hole in the center of each roll with your thumb and rotate the dough, softening the edges to look like a doughnut.

Place the bagels on an oiled sheet pan, with an inch or so of space between one another (use two pans, if you need to). If you have parchment paper, line the sheet pan with parchment and spray it lightly with oil before placing the bagels on the pan. Cover the pan with plastic and allow the dough to rise for about 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, place the bagel sheets in the fridge for the night.

Bagel eating day:

Preheat the oven to 500 and bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Since I brew beer, I have a nice 3 gallon pot to get boiling.  The little extra room is nice when you're boiling the bagels.  Adding one tablespoon of baking soda to the pot to alkalize the water is suggested to replicate traditional bagel shop flavor.  I don't know if it works, but the bagels come out delicious, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it-- right?

When the pot is boiling, drop a few of the bagels into the pot one at a time and let them boil for a minute. Use a large, slotted spoon or spatula to gently flip them over and boil them on the other side for another minute.

Before removing them from the pot, sprinkle corn meal onto the sheet pan. Remove them one at a time, setting them back onto the sheet pan, and top them right away if you are adding a topping, while they are still slightly moist. Repeat this process until all of the bagels have been boiled and topped.

Once all are boiled, place the sheet pan into the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 450 degrees, rotate the pan, and bake for another 5 minutes until the bagels begin to brown.  This can be hit or miss, sometimes I need to only bake them another 5 minutes, other times it takes up to 25 minutes.  Keep on top of them to make sure you don't burn them.  Remove the pan from the oven and let them cool for as long as you can without succumbing to temptation.  Usually, for me at least, it's not very long.  Enjoy!

Caloric Info
Servings 12
Total Fat: 1.5 grams
Sat Fat: 0.2 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 0.6 grams
Monosat. Fat: 0.1 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 534.7 mg
Potassium: 88.6 mg
Carbs: 65.5 grams
Dietary Fiber: 2.1 grams
Sugar: 1.3 grams
Protein: 10.6 grams

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Asparagus with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, and I never realized how amazing it was until high school.  Even then and up through college, I was always a bit nervous about trying to cook it.  I would buy it, leave it in the fridge, ignoring it as though it would someday cook itself, and when I realized it was starting to go bad, I would salvage what I could and deep-fry what was left, since that was the only way I knew how to cook it and I knew it would be pretty hard to mess that up.  Fortunately, like a fine wine, with age my ability to cook asparagus has grown exponentially.  The problem that comes up now when I buy asparagus is now more in the direction of 'which way do I want to cook it this time?'  This particular recipe is a delicious light summer asaparagus recipe that works well paired with spring salad, a light Italian soup, and a glass of light Zinfandel.  Relaxing at the table while watching the summer evening stroll by is what this kind of side dish is for-- enjoy it!

2 pounds asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed
3 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
1/4 minced small red onion
1 tbsp extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

In a medium fry pan, add water so that it has about an inch of depth of water.  Add a dash of salt, and bring to a boil.

Blanch the asparagus in fry pan with salted boiling water for about 3 minutes.  Do not overcook or your asparagus will become, well, floppy.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients (balsamic vinegar, red onion, olive oil, garlic, and pepper).

Remove from heat and rinse under cold water.  Drain well.

Place the asparagus on serving plate and spoon the vinaigrette over the asparagus.  Top with salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pictures of the garden and the cats here at La Vita Vegan because everyone loves cats!

It's that time of year here at La Vita Vegan, and our garden is in its prime.  Our cats are also in their prime, soaking up the sun and loafing around the house, perched in the windows and sniffing the smells of the city.  We are the potted plant people in our neighborhood-- fortunately the smaller houses on the street all have gardens as well (as it's predominantly an immigrant neighborhood), and we don't look too out of place... yet.  Our garden is creeping up the fence of our neighbor to the south, but he's got himself a beautiful pear tree, which I'm hoping to convince him to let me take a graft of (it's a dwarf-- only about 8 feet!) which can stay in a pot until we buy a pot.


This is a wild mint that we replanted in a pot-- it smells fabulous and is already hardened off from the cold, so there's hope for this to stick around for a while!

This is our fig tree-- it looks like we're going to get about 5 pounds of figs; not bad for a potted fig tree!





Our grape vines found an old bench buried between our yard and our neighbors and decided to call it home!



Another potted plant-- our rose bush that we've managed to have through 4 apartments.  Hopefully it's next home will be in the ground at our future house!



This was an experiment.  Being italian I grew up with lupini beans as a staple in my diet.  My grandfather used to buy them at a place in Pawtucket and dried and soak them himself, which gave them a much better flavor.  I was only able to find a place online that sells them dried in Brooklyn, and I was curious if I could get them to grow so I could dry my own lupini's, but it doesn't appear that I will get any lupini's from it this time...  I know they grow in really warm weather, but this summer was a bit chilly so I think I'll try them again next summer.


A first time plant for us, this celery was a lovely addition to our garden.  I'm looking forward to adding some fresh, organic celery to our recipes!



Blackberry bushes (more like a stick at this point, but there's hope)!


Cranberry bush!


My bike has been overrun by the flowers!




This kale was a first-timer as well.  From seed it started strong, but the random bursts of extreme heat are not faring well for it, whereas the cool temperature that has defined this summer has been great.  I'm expecting a great crop this fall.








Carrots are another first-time plant this year!  I think I overdid it!




Black Cat/BP/George finds solace cuddling around the second wild mint plant in the sunroom, while Sam has passed out at the door to the sunroom with the sun beating down on her!