January 5, 2013 § 2 Comments
After my somewhat slumpy start to 2013, the week picked up and I finally feel the rush of new activity, new beginnings, and possibilities. As I said in my last post, I really wanted to start the year with some vegan inspiration for y’all. Well, today I’ve got it: vegan, dairy-free, egg-free pancakes!
I still remember the first vegan pancake I ever made. I was getting a little frustrated with my vegan diet – having one of those moments where I was thinking, maybe this wasn’t for me. It was a weekend and I wanted my comfort food: brunch food to be exact. All it took was a good pancake to turn me around. I find this to be true time and time again. Just when I think the going gets tough and I may want to call the quits, it’s something quite small and unexpected that turns me around. Those pancakes are still my go-to as they are loaded with healthy ingredients. But while delicious, they aren’t the fluffy, airy, buttery bites that a pancake is known for.
Enter Candle 79′s Homestyle Pancake recipe. I’m truly ashamed to admit I’ve had this cookbook for a year – a year! – and this is the first recipe I’ve made from it. Oh I’ve spent hours reading it and gazing at the photos like a love-sick teenager, but why I never just broke out the ingredients in the kitchen and made something is beyond me. Sometimes for all my good intentions I can really be quite lazy.
This recipe was the one that immediately caught my attention when I first got this cookbook. What stopped me for so long from making it was the Ener-G Egg replacer. This is an easy pick-up from Whole Foods and there is no excuse for me not buying this ingredient sooner. Shame on me! But alas, I finally had it in my pantry as I needed it for a few Thanksgiving recipes so there were no more excuses. I finally cracked open this cookbook to get it dirty with specks of flour and vegan butter stains.
Boy was it worth it! These pancakes do not disappoint. They crisp up perfectly just as a good pancake should, resulting in a nice crusty outside and fluffy cakey inside. I’ve made them both with white flour and whole wheat flour and both ways are great – the white flour does give them just a bit more fluffiness. The cinnamon in the recipe is a bit strong which is fine by me as I love cinnamon, but if you aren’t a big fan you may go light on it.
These cakes are delicious with just a hint of maple syrup but I like to serve with warm berries. I always have frozen berries in my freezer for my smoothies so I just pop some in a glass container in the microwave for a minute or so to heat them up. If I have time I’ll let them cook on the stove a while to become like a compote. While it is visually lovely to serve the berries over the pancakes – they quickly absorb all the liquid – so if you’re like me and your favorite part of a pancake is that buttery crust, serve the berries on the side. Another lovely, albeit less healthy, option is to top these with some chocolate chips and sliced bananas if you’re really feeling decadent.
Last but not least, if you’re making these just for you – although I’ll forewarn you that whoever smells them cooking will want them, diet resolutions and all – go ahead and make the full batch. The batter keeps well in the fridge and then you can have pancakes day or night in a jiffy. The only downside: you can have pancakes day or night! You’ll find yourself whipping up a cake or two for no other reason other than you can!
So whether your New Year’s resolution is to do a vegan challenge for health or ethical reasons, or you’re just trying to cut back on dairy and eggs in general – I hope you’ll give these pancakes a try!
Get the Candle 79 Homestyle Pancake Recipe here.
November 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
Trying to explain our first Thanksgiving without Dad is pretty much indescribable. So, I think I’d rather not even try. I’ll just say that we managed to make it through. All in all, it was as good a day as could be. But honestly, I’ll be happy next year when I’ve got my baby girl with me. It will surely give us all a reason to smile.
Now onto the food. I got away with having a fully vegan Thanksgiving! I was hosting – a first for us. My mom had planned to bring a turkey. I was literally sick all week just thinking about. I just didn’t want that turkey in my house. Well, luckily for me (and the turkey) she wasn’t able to bring it. So, score! We had a fully vegan Thanksgiving!
I had really hoped my family would ooh and ahh over the food and say they didn’t even miss the bird. But reality is, that did not happen. Everything I made was a new recipe and we had about a 50% success rate. It wasn’t that some of them were bad, they just weren’t all great. So lesson learned, next year I’ll try and test recipes prior to the day of – or let’s be real, with a new baby I’ll probably barely be making it through my first Thanksgiving as a parent!
Here’s a full run-down of what I served for a vegan Thanksgiving. It is a long list, I know. My hope is this feedback will help you plan for Christmas and future holidays to come. I spend a lot of time researching vegan holiday recipes and know how hard it is to find them so hopefully this helps a few of you. For more ideas, visit my vegan holiday pinterest board.
“Pigs” in a blanket
I nearly squealed with delight when I realized crescent rolls were vegan. My mom makes pigs in a blanket all the time at the holidays for us to snack on while she cooks dinner. I tried Lightlife’s smart dogs and was pleasantly surprised at my first bite. It tasted just like I remember pigs in a blanket tasting. Definitely worth a try. Just cut crescent roll dough into strips and wrap around the smart dogs. Cook according to crescent roll package instructions.
These may have been the best things I made all day – I really wish the picture did them justice. I didn’t have a mini muffin tin so my poppers turned out to be more like muffins. But trust me, no one complained! These are so good on their own and even better with the pumpkin butter – btw, I made this “butter” the night before and it seriously took everything within me to not finish the whole bowl. It was that good! (Note: for the poppers, I added 1/2 tsp baking soda as some of the comments said to do and substituted EnerG for the egg and Earth Balance for the butter to make them vegan)
Pre-vegan, I absolutely adored Giada’s fried ravioli recipe. It was a hit and my family would always ask for it. I wanted to see if it was possible to recreate as a vegan option. I found this recipe which worked great. I wish I kept the name of the brand of ravioli I used but I didn’t. They were from Whole Foods, vegan, and in the freezer section. I just sat them out about an hour before I needed them and then followed this recipe’s instructions. Now, they weren’t ooey gooey like Giada’s – but for a vegan option, they fit the bill! And as a bonus, something about them was even easier to fry than the non-vegan version.
Marinated Vegetable Salad
Sadly, I can’t share this recipe as it’s a friend’s treasured family recipe but I just wanted to prove that we had something decent to eat and not just a carb overload!
OK, I’ve learned my lesson. I hate nutritional yeast. Sad as many vegans claim this to be one of their favs and it is used to make vegan cheese. But it is just not for me. With this vegan brie, all I could taste was the nutritional yeast so I didn’t like it. My sister and grandmother on the other hand enjoyed it – and neither of them are vegan. Go figure. If you like nutritional yeast this may be for you. If you’re like me, stay clear.
Fig & Olive Tapenade
This recipe was from a Thanksgiving cookbook and I really liked the sweet/salty combo.
These wellingtons were pretty easy to make. You just cook the veggies and then place them in the puff pastry (the pepperidge farm version is vegan!) Overall, they were so-so. I think they were a bit sweet with the squash and the port wine sauce but I was trying to dress them up. Everyone seemed to like them just fine, they just weren’t the show-stoppers I’d hoped for.
If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen this recipe or one like it. It’s taunted me for over a year – so I decided to give it a try this Thanksgiving. I had high hopes for salty, crispy, potato chip-like dish. That didn’t happen. I followed the recipe to a T and it just didn’t pan out. It wasn’t particularly bad – it just didn’t meet the picture’s expectations. Needless to say I will not be spending so much time on the mandolin to try this again in the future.
Sweet Potato Struedel
Sadly another flop We tried to veganize this cookbook recipe and we must have taken a wrong turn as our struedel topping didn’t melt. I thought we could just omit the cream but clearly that was a necessary component.
I was looking for something a bit more special than the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray cranberry package. While I really liked this, it is quite spicy. You have to really like your holiday spices for this recipe.
Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
The cake is another cookbook recipe so I can’t share but it was a pretty basic recipe I think. The frosting made the cake! I loved this frosting and added a dash of vanilla to it. Oh, and my sister did ooh and aah over this one
October 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
Welcome to Day 10 of Vegan MOFO. Today I finally have a recipe for you! Well, not as much a recipe as much an assembly – regardless it’s a winner. I’m calling it The Elvis – Elevated! Here’s why.
I was a bit surprised to learn when I googled “the Elvis sandwich” to learn that it usually is made with bacon! Yuck! This isn’t the Elvis I recall. For many years I’ve enjoyed the vegetarian version – bread, peanut butter, and banana. It’s hard to imagine it being any better but I just may have elevated the Elvis today.
I’m a big peanut butter fan. I never liked deli meats growing up (again, I think I was always meant to be vegetarian or vegan!) so my mom packed me many peanut butter sandwiches as a kid. Sometimes she’d switch it up and add marshmallows for something a little different. I don’t recall when I started adding bananas to my sandwich, but I’ve been eating the PB and banana sandwich for years.
Being such a peanut butter fan, a few friends have warned me about having too many peanuts while pregnant. Apparently it can lead to the peanut allergy some kids have. Then I read somewhere else that having nuts every day can increase your child’s chance for asthma. I don’t know if I’m buying that or the peanut butter myth – but I figure I might as well try and not have peanut butter every single day as I’d been doing. So I’ve been switching it up with almond butter here and there.
The other day I was at Whole Foods and saw Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread. I’m a big Nutella fan thanks to spending a week in Italy. As Nutella isn’t vegan, I haven’t touched the stuff in over a year. But Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread looked promising. So I decided to pony up the $10 for the jar and indulge.
Did I make a wise investment? Yes. Yes I did! The first night I tried my new goody slathered on hot toast. Mmmm. Instantly I was taken back to that week at the little Italian B&B – mornings of croissants, crusty baguettes, Nutella, and espresso. Justin’s doesn’t have quite the same rich hazelnutty flavor as I remember Nutella having – but it does have a deeply rich chocolate flavor with just a hint of nuttiness. Every few bites offers a little course salt too for a delicious surprise.
Today I figured, why stop there? Let’s take the Elvis to new hights. Toast some hearty bread, slather on the chocolate hazelnut spread, and banana slices. For a pregnant woman, this is pretty much as good as it gets.
October 9, 2012 § 4 Comments
Today is Day 9 of Vegan MOFO. This whole blogging almost every day when I can’t cook is getting challenging. Usually I’d be whipping up recipes and opening my cookbooks but alas, the kitchen is still my enemy.
So today I figured we’d talk about a movie that made such an impact on me and really made me commit to a vegan diet, and continue to commit to one – Earthlings. I was flipping through my first Veg News I’d ever purchased and there was an interview in it. Now I wish I’d kept that version so I could remember who the interview was with. The woman they were interviewing said she became a vegan after watching Earthlings. The interviewer said “oh yeah, that’ll do it.” And I thought, I have to see what they mean – what is so compelling that just saying Earthlings makes anyone understand why you went vegan?
I found it on Netflix and my husband and I settled down to watch it. I think it was a Saturday. What followed was complete horror. There is just no other way to describe it. I’ve heard of people that can’t even make it through the first ten minutes – a friend of mine posted so on Facebook when I said I had watched it – and she was vegan!
What followed was 108 minutes of documented examples of animal torture, so brutal that over a year later I still can’t get some of the images out of my mind. I honestly was horrified for about a month – eagerly researching what I’d just learned. The sad thing was this torture wasn’t one-off cases. Sadly, they were the norm. There were several times that all I could do was sit with the pillow over my face waiting for my husband to tell me when that scene was over.
Now for those of you who haven’t seen it, I don’t say all this to scare you. Earthlings is incredibly powerful and showcases the amazing planet we live in. You will be spellbound by the wonder of animals and nature by the end – and yes, you will be saddened that some could have so much pain in their hearts that they could inflict such pain on helpless animals.
The truth is, we don’t like to face the fact that we eat animals. We don’t like to realize what it means. But how long can one really live in denial? Earthlings opens your eyes to the reality of what it means to subject animals for any purpose – food, clothing, science, etc. It’s incredibly powerful and I’d recommend it to anyone that wants to understand how this complex dynamic works.
October 7, 2012 § 2 Comments
Today is Day 7 of Vegan MOFO. I’m so glad I decided to jump in this year. I remember watching last year and thinking it was just amazing. It is great fun to be a part of – plus I’m learning about all sorts of tips, tricks, and discovering new fabulous vegan bloggers. What’s not to like?
I’ve been keeping tabs on the Vegan MOFO blogroll and pinning what catches my eye on my Vegan MOFO Pinterest board. Hah, you can tell this is a pregnant woman pinning away – it’s all pancakes and cookies and such. But I’m not complaining. Leave it to me to still not be able to eat a vegetable but find all this chocolate appealing – go figure.
One of the best things about Vegan MOFO is learning about all these vegan bloggers out there that I’ve never seen before. Here’s a few that have caught my eye.
Wandering Ladle – As I scrolled through the Vegan MOFO blogroll, the posts from Wandering Ladle nearly jumped off the screen. The photography on this site is absolutely gorgeous. Everything looks amazing – and as she’s posted lots of chocolate this week, I’m a happy camper
Vegan Culinary Crusade - I was in heaven from Lisa’s first post. She invited her readers into Vegan MOFO with an imaginary B&B and she has not disappointed. She has been posting the most amazing breakfast items. The only downside is that this B&B is imaginary. If it was real, I’d be there tomorrow!
Carrie on Vegan – Carrie’s overnight oats caught my eye and what I got when I visited her blog was much more than a healthy breakfast option. Carrie has thyroid cancer and is about to undergo surgery. Her posts are so honest and inspiring. Please head over to her blog, read her story, and wish her well!
And last but not least, here is a very helpful post on oil-free baking. Something I haven’t tried, but with these tips, I may give it a go.
To learn more about Vegan Month of Food, click here. Looking forward to Week #2!
October 6, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I distinctly remember sitting at the dinner table one night when I was young – I don’t recall how old, but I’m guessing I was probably about 7 or 8 – and realizing the chicken we were eating came from real chickens. As I type this I find it strange to think that I wouldn’t have thought or known about it until so late, but that is the way I remember it.
We always loved animals. We never went a year without a dog – they were always an extension of our family. I fondly remember coming home one day and to my surprise finding two adorable little bunnies running around the dining room table and my mom smiling at her gift for us. Years later a stray cat found its way at our doorstep and quickly found a place not only in our house but in our hearts.
We were and are animal people. That night at the dinner table, I didn’t feel eating the chicken was right and I remember questioning my parents. My dad said not to think too much about it – he wasn’t being cruel or anything in this statement. I just think he didn’t know what to say. So that is what I did for the next 20 or so years. I ate chicken and I just didn’t think about where it came from.
That is until I began eating a vegan diet over a year ago. I think because I’ve always had this underlying feeling that eating animals is wrong, a vegan diet was a natural fit for me. And I’ll admit there are times that it can be challenging – but reminding myself that it is in line with my values makes me deal with those challenges in a positive way.
Just because you decide to become a vegan or adopt a vegan diet, doesn’t mean that choice will always be easy, every day. I’m not trying to paint it as difficult – but there are times where it can feel inconvenient or frustrating and you may forget the reason you went vegan. I think allowing yourself to feel these frustrations is important to your long term success of remaining vegan. There’s nothing wrong with reminding yourself why you made that commitment when needed – in fact it will just make your commitment stronger.
October 5, 2012 § 4 Comments
It’s Day 5 of Vegan MOFO. I had to skip yesterday due to crazy pregnancy fatigue. But I’m back, and today we’re talking soy.
I remember my mom coming home one day many years ago with soy milk – she’d seen some show (probably Oprah or Dr. Oz) professing its various health benefits and insisted we give it a try. Naturally she bought the chocolate flavor to ease us in. I gave it a try — yuck! I didn’t like it at all. I’ve never been able to catch on to soy milk. I just really don’t care for the flavor. I much prefer – and enjoy – almond milk. My one exception is a soy chai latte which I love! (BTW as I can’t visit Starbucks anymore, I’m loving the Bolthouse farms one as it has only 24 mg of caffeine and is GMO free!)
Source: kidmissile on Flickr
Fast forward a few years – I was first trying a vegan diet due to my friend who was battling breast cancer. She’d warned me against eating soy. I’ll never forget her one day saying in annoyance, “Everything gives you cancer.” It’s probably true to some extent. By the time we consider our food, beauty products, cleaning supplies, furniture, etc. everything probably really does give you cancer. But still, I’d heard way too many controversial things about soy so I wasn’t about to start eating tofu on a regular basis.
I’ve really been pondering the soy question lately. After a year of eating vegan – sometimes a little tofu or edamame or soy cheese is nice for some variety, not to mention it can sometimes be the only option when dining out. But more importantly I’ve been wondering about soy because of my baby (that still feels so strange to say ). If you want a non-dairy formula – soy is your only option. I’m still really surprised at this and curious why. I have every intention of breastfeeding but also want to be aware of my options in the event that I can’t – or get sick, or my travel schedule doesn’t allow for it, etc. Having to rely on soy formula as a back-up really has me nervous.
But tonight I’m feeling better. I was reading this article detailing the myths of soy. While I have more reading to do, I was pleased to see that it debunks many of these myths. In the end it says that like anything, soy should be consumed in moderation and in the least processed form possible.
So, do you eat soy? Does it worry you? Have you used soy formula? Curious to hear your stance on the great soy debate.
October 3, 2012 § 6 Comments
Today’s Day 3 of Vegan MOFO. My roller coaster of food aversions continues. I found out I was pregnant 10 weeks ago and in that time I’ve not been able to make a single meal at home (unless we’re calling toast and cereal a meal – which it has been for me almost every day). Eating out as a vegan occasionally is usually no problemo. But average twice a day every day for 10 weeks and factor in food aversions and you’ve got a mess. Both my hubby and I are so sick and tired of eating out. But until the smell of cooked, well anything, doesn’t throw me over the edge, I guess this trend will continue.
Under normal circumstances I love eating asian flavored dishes. It’s easy to find veggie options in Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. You do have to watch out for hidden fish sauce, but if you ask the right questions and know what to order it usually isn’t a problem. And I’ve found I can almost always get a stir-fry of veggies or tofu in any of the above without fish sauce. One note: even when things are labeled vegetarian, it is worth confirming that the stock is vegetarian. Some places label their soups as vegetarian because there isn’t fish or meat flesh even though the stock is made from fish or meat. Many places will make the veggie based stock to order if you just ask and confirm what you are looking for.
While driving home tonight I pondered what we would eat. I just can’t bring myself to eat another Panera sandwich or Jason’s Deli salad which has been the dynamic duo for the past few weeks. At the last minute I thought sushi! Now, of course I wasn’t eating sushi. But I knew I could get the udon noodle soup at Seito Sushi- a filling slightly spicy broth with thick comforting noodles and tempura veggies on the side (it’s served with shrimp but I ask for extra veg instead). I’ve ordered this many times and have confirmed with the chef that the soup does not contain fish stock and the tempura doesn’t have any egg or dairy binder. While I only took a few bites of the veg – cooked veggies just still aren’t working for me – the soup was warming and delicious and sure did hit the spot.
Alongside a fresh green salad with ginger dressing (perfect for nausea!) it was an ideal vegan pregnancy dinner.
And if you are in Orlando, here’s a list of some of my other favorite go-to asian restaurants that I know offer vegan options:
- Thai House of Orlando – this is our staple. The vegetable noodle soup is fantastic. Other favorites are cashew stir-fry and thai basil noodles. They’ll make anything without fish sauce.
- Pho 88 – great big bowls of vegetarian soup full of tofu and veg or just veg. Also one of the best values in town in my opinion.
- Lac Viet - request a special order stir-fry or vegetarian soup (note their vegetarian options on the menu include fish sauce so you need to make the special request which they are very accommodating to).
- Hawkers - this is a vegan’s paradise! Too many vegan items on the menu to even list here.
- Yum-mi – vegetable spring rolls, tofu bahn mi, and don’t leave without a bubble tea – they usually have both soy and almond milk.
- Pei Wei - they label vegetarian options. Just be sure to get rice noodles instead of egg. You can do tofu and veg or double veg.
- Chai Thai – the best ginger dressing in town!
October 2, 2012 § 6 Comments
We are on Day 2 of Vegan MOFO and today we’re talking fast food – at home that is. I am usually not a fan of frozen meals. I never liked them. The flavor. The texture. They never did anything for me. Plus, I grew up in a house where frozen (or really packaged anything) wasn’t served. But as I’m expecting, I do foresee many frozen meals in my future, especially in those first months of baby – luckily for me and my family, there is Amy’s!
We actually went about a year without a microwave. The only thing we missed was popcorn. Then we became vegan. And sometimes we just needed an easy go-to dinner. The truth is, while it isn’t necessarily hard to be vegan, eating out can sometimes be challenging. So there were nights that I longed for an easy, quick, tasty meal. That’s when I discovered Amy’s. We became addicted to the tasty vegan frozen dinners and so, we broke down and added a microwave to our kitchen electronics. We do have a lot more popcorn now too
If you haven’t tried Amy’s yet, here are some of my favorites. They are all organic so you know you are getting good quality. You will pay a bit more for it, but believe me it is worth it. I’ve actually found that my local Publix has a great Amy’s selection and it is cheaper than Whole Foods so shop around. And, making it even easier for you, flip the box over to see the ingredients and if it is vegan, Amy has labeled it as such. Here’s a list of all their vegan options.
Mmmmm the black bean tamale verde. This is the first thing we tried and has become our go to. In my opinion, the tamale and rice is better than any I’ve had in any mexican restaurant! The rice is also made of brown rice making it healthier. I love the slight spice and hearty texture.
The Indian vegetable korma offers a hearty, spicy Indian flavored meal. I don’t like that a lot of the vegan options are loaded with tofu and appreciate that both of these options omit the tofu. When I eat this, I can’t resist just mixing it all together. The flavors are fantastic.
The roasted vegetable pizza. I’ll admit the pizzas are not cheap. A small one runs about $5.99 but holy moly is it worth it! A friend introduced me to this pizza and I was shocked at the flavor. The crust gets really nice and crispy and there is this ridiculously yummy onion marmalade that makes the base. It really is so good – good enough that you could make this and cut little pieces to serve as an appetizer at a fancy party. This pizza also comes in a gluten free version.
I have to admit I was really surprised by the vegan margarita pizza. I haven’t experimented much with vegan cheeses – in fact, I’ve mostly steered clear of them. My husband picked this up on one of his shopping trips and made it for us one weekend. I was starving and dug in. Boy was it good. I like that it isn’t too cheesy. Just enough to give you a hint of stringy cheese with a nice rich tomato base. I felt like I was eating a real dairy margarita pizza.
So that’s it. Those are my favorites. Do you have vegan frozen meals you love that are worth a try?
Also, check out my Vegan MOFO Pinterest board with all my favorite finds – there are already some amazing looking things… and it is only Day 2!