Friday, December 28, 2012

Vitacost - Product and Website Review

Vitamin supplements can be very expensive. Last year I was searching the internet trying to find lower prices for my calcium supplement and multivitamins. In my search I came across the Vitacost website. I was thrilled to find they not only carried the brands I use, but they were significantly less expensive than where I was purchasing them, like $5.00 per bottle less!

I wanted to just test the water to start off with as I had not heard of this company before. It was very easy to navigate their website. The products are organized into different "departments". The site also has a very handy side bar of search criteria to narrow down your search. If you know the exact name of  the product you are looking form there is a search box at the top. I love being able to find things easily, so they were quickly winning me over. The free shipping for orders over $49.00 was the deal closer. What did I have to lose? I was saving money and not paying for shipping. Win/win. My order came within a week. The vitamins bottles were well packed and fully intact when they arrived. They were the exact same product that I had been paying much more for (and I was very happy to see they weren't past their expiration date). 

At first I just ordered supplements from them. Then I started looking around their website and discovered they carried a whole load of other products I used and some interesting ones that I hadn't tried. I now order all of my 7th Generation cleaning products, Eden Organic Beans (about $.30 less per can than retail) and other vegan products from them. Fred has been giving me a hard time about making the postal workers lives miserable by ordering so many heavy products at one time. I am going to try and mix it up, but I just love shopping there, so it's hard to stop.

The folks at Vitacost contacted me recently and asked me to test a couple of their new vegan products. Already being a loyal customer, I said I'd be happy to do it. The first product I tried out was a super seed cereal called TeeChai produced by Santa Barbara Super Seeds, Inc. ($8.99 for 10.6 oz package). It's gluten free, kosher, and nutrient dense with a good dose of Omega 3's from the chia and flax. Each serving boasts 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. It's a super quick and easy way to get a healthy start to your day. It is convenient for work too. All you have to do it add 1/2 cup of hot water to 1/3 cup of the cereal mix and wait about a minute or two. The flavor I tried was blueberry date. On its own, I found it to be a tad bitter. I added about a tablespoon of vanilla soy yogurt and a little bit of chopped apple and it was really yummy! I also tried it with almond milk (pictured below) with tasty results. I tried it out on my co-workers too. They gave it a thumbs-up. I'm ordering more of both flavors today for our upcoming clean eating challenge.

The next product they sent was Vitacare whitening gum. This is no regular gum. One serving (2 pieces) provide 20% of the RDA of vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Vitamin E. There is even 2% of the RDA of calcium. It's a cool way to get some extra nutrients.

I'm not really a big gum chewer, so I enlisted Fred's help on this one. He chews gum often. We tried the Cool Mint Freshness flavor with Chia Mint (vegan). It starts off with a big minty bang of flavor. Fred mentioned that the flavor didn't last a super long time, but the flavor was good. I found it lasted as long as other gums of this size. The texture of the gum is good too.

This product contains xylitol, of which I am not a big fan. While it's base comes from corn (possibly GMO corn), it is a man-made chemically produced product. It can be fatal to doggies too. The gum also contains titanium dioxide. This ingredient has been classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. There is no conclusive evidence that it causes cancer, but as a breast cancer survivor, I tend to avoid anything that is even a suspected carcinogen. I'd personally rather stick to my non-gum chewing ways.

I wanted to make sure to mention Vitacost's great prices on one of my personal favorite lines of personal care products: Aubrey Organics. I have been using their shampoos, conditioners and moisturizers for years. They have over 150 vegan products. Many of their products are also certified organic as well. I used to pay about $10 retail for a bottle of my favorite shampoo (Honeysuckle Rose, which also happens to be vegan!). Vitacost sells it for only $6.99. That's a huge difference!

I love to save money and I've been able to save a LOT shopping at Vitacost, plus the stuff shows up right at my door! I know the holidays probably emptied a lot of your wallets and you're probably looking forward to your own fiscal recovery. Take a look around Vitacost's website. I'm betting you will find great prices on things you use all of the time.

Exciting news!!! The folks at Vitacost are letting me give away $25.00 worth of free products! All you have to do to be eligible to win is post a comment about a product you use that you can get for less at Vitacost by midnight MST on Monday, January 7th. Winner will be drawn randomly on Tuesday, January 8th. A discount code will be sent to the winner. Anyone is eligible! Here is the fine print:

one time use
code does not roll over
does not include shipping
expires in 6 months

Monday, December 17, 2012

Last Minute Holiday Gift Giving

We live in an awesome neighborhood. We get together with the neighbors throughout the year to celebrate life events and sometimes just for the heck of it. Each year, the doorbell rings and standing there is a kid or parent of one of the houses on our little corner holding some delectable holiday goody. So often during the holidays those treats are sweet and far from low-cal/fat. I'm totally not complaining and will scarf them down with glee. But last year, I decided that I wanted to take a little different approach to holiday treat-giving that would compliment (and hopefully offset some of the calorie intake) those sweet treats.

December is sure to bring chilly temperatures, even in Arizona. The chill in the air inspired me to make some belly and soul warming soup for my friends and co-workers last year. It worked out awesome, so I'm doing it again this year. I'm lucky enough to have a few giant stock pots to make the process a whole lot easier and quicker. I like to make one of my own recipes that I've created during the year. This year I'm going back to this post for Garlic Wonder Soup for my recipe. It is a simple, hearty and very healthy soup that anyone can make.

It is super easy to dress up your edible gift. This year I'm doing two versions. The first one I used last year. I bought a case of quart canning jars from the local hardware store. I found some very cute holiday fabric at Joann Fabrics. I recommend getting a thin cotton fabric to make sealing the jar a breeze. I cut circles about 2 inches bigger in circumference than the lids using pinking shears. I placed the lid on the filled jar (make sure to wipe it off first), centered the fabric circle over that and screwed on the outer ring. Tie on a cute curly ribbon and add a tag and you have a thoughtful, delicious home made treat for those on your list. Their waist lines will thank you.

There is a second option you can do as well. I just happened upon a great sale at the Pyrex/Corelle outlet store in Mesa this week. They had these awesome soup mugs with handles on sale for only $4.99. I have the same ones that I paid double that for. They have some great colors this year as well. I got every color they had for my co-workers this year. I simply tied a colorful wired ribbon around the handle and tied a tag on with gold string.

My sister and a couple of our friends are avid stampers. They make beautiful cards and lots of other fun things. I just happened to walk in on one of their stamp-fests yesterday afternoon. They helped me create adorable hand-made tags. Now if you aren't as lucky as I am to have stampers in your world, there are tons of adorable tags out there. Pick up a pack and get a small hole punch to make the holes to insert the ribbon. Tie, sign and there you have it: special homemade holiday gifts for everyone.

The holiday gift giving season can get crazy and stress us all out. But I am so incredibly thankful for every year I have with my friends and family. It is so special to be able to share my love of cooking and my life with those I love. This is a nice way to show that love.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pizza Heaven in Phoenix Has a NEW VEGAN Menu!!

I was plunking around the internet a couple of weeks ago and found this blurb about a little family owned pizza joint in Phoenix that offered vegan pizza. I was pretty excited right out of the gate and was hoping to check it out. A short time later I got an email from the VegPhoenix MeetUp group saying they were going to be having an event there to celebrate their new vegan menu. Could it be that there would be even more offerings than pizza?

My friends (all non-veg) and I were planning to go out somewhere to meet for dinner, so I craftily suggested Pizza Heaven. They thought it was a great idea as their 7th Street and Coulter location was very conveniently located for them. We all love to support individually owned businesses, so it was set.

We arrived before our friends and were happy to be able to be seated before 5pm as they were already open. We received a very friendly greeting as we walked in the door. It is a tad bit dark in the dining area, but cozy. Our server was very sweet and made sure we had everything we needed. The owner stopped by to chat for a while. She was super friendly as well. She brought us carry out menus and made sure we were having a good time. I expressed my deep gratitude for the offering of a vegan menu. The place got hopping as there was a group of about 30 people from VegPhoenix that were there for an event. We got our order in before they started to arrive. Even with a full house, the service was great.

On to the food. As always, I tend to want to order every vegan thing on the menu. But I did show a little constraint. I ordered the Veggieballs. They offer a Buffalo style and another option with marinara. I adore buffalo sauce, so that's the way I rolled. Fred ordered the Spaghetti with vegan sausage and we ordered the Veggie Pizza (minus the green peppers) to share. The balls came out first. They had a pretty good texture and were nice and spicy. It was a yummy way to get some Buffalo action, but I think the flavor and texture of the balls was more suited to a marinara sauce. I asked the owner what was in the balls and I can't remember all of the ingredients, but I do remember she mentioned beans and veggies. They came with vegan ranch and carrots. The presentation wasn't anything show stopping, but hey, it's Buffalo balls. Apologizing in advance for my phone pictures.

Next out was Freddie's Spaghetti. Unfortunately, Fred put parmesan on it before I got to take a bite, but he said it was pretty good. He's a bit spoiled with Julie Hasson's Italian Sausages that I make at home. They are hard to live up to. But seriously, it is so exciting to be able to get vegan spaggets and sausage out! 

Then there was the pizza! I loved the crust. It was crunchy and had great flavor. For me, I'm always on the fence with vegan cheese. I feel like less is more. There was quite a bit on the pizza, which most would probably be good with. I wanted more veggies than cheese and Fred agreed. But that crust! Oh Mylanta (as my good friends Sharon and Julie would say).  Pizza Heaven indeed. We reheated the pizza tonight for Fred's dinner. I baked it at 400 degrees right on the rack. The crust crisped back up beautifully and the texture of the cheese was even better reheated. 

Here is a picture with my good camera. This is the pizza re-heated. So good.

The rest of our group had the regular veggie pizza and some salads. One of them had the spinach calzone (which was the size of her head). They were very happy indeed. There is no doubt we will all be returning to Pizza Heaven. I can't wait to try the gigantoid vegan calzone!!! They also offer a couple of vegan sandwich options and vegan baked ziti. Great service, clean restaurant and good food. It is a perfect place for vegans and omnis to both enjoy a great home made meal. Oh and they deliver too!!!

5150 N 7th Street (7th Street and Coulter)
Phoenix, AZ

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hackett House Class and Food and Flourish Column all in one week!

November is proving to be a very exciting month in my food world. After winding down from October's Vegan MoFo, it is time to dive right in to the Holiday Season and other fun food events.

The November issue of Food and Flourish is out. Go to page 22 to view my column The Vegan Life for some holiday dinner suggestions.
Food & Flourish - November 2012

I was invited back to the Hackett House in Tempe to host a Dinner Party/Cooking Class that took place on November 8th. The Fall Harvest Menu featured local pesticide free fall produce from Horny Toad Farms. It was a fun filled evening. Family and friends all pitched in to make the food and the evening a great success. We were treated to a vegan wine chat by Fred. I may be a little biased, but I really thought he was charming, approachable and informative. Sadly, I was cooking when he did his second presentation and didn't get video. Click here to see his chat.

We started the evening with East Meets Southwest Tamale Eggrolls. They were served with a Sweet, Sour and Spicy Dipping Sauce.

The second course featured Pumpkin Sage Bisque with Spiced Pecans and a Sage Oil Drizzle. Just look at that Horny Toad Farms emerald colored kale! 

We had one couple that came all the way from IL and were kind enough to send this photo of the entree!!

The evening closed with a Dessert-ini featuring home-made cinnamon ice cream, apple compote, warm salted caramel sauce and chocolate walnut biscotti. It was decadent. 

I can't even begin to tell you how incredible the Hackett House volunteers are! I thank them from the bottom of my heart for making this such a wonderful event for all of the guests!

The spring class is tentatively scheduled for April 9th. So mark your calendar!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day...Again today!

I hope you aren't getting tired of me raving about this book, because I just can't seem to keep myself away from it! Is it the love of hand held meals? Is it the joy of the carby bready goodness? Or is it the fabulous flavor combinations that Tami Noyes and Celine Steen coax out of ingredients? The answer is D) all of the above.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tami and her hubby a couple of years ago in Chicago. I instantly felt a connection and bond with her (and Liz of Cooking the Vegan Books Blog) as we are kindred foodie spirits. The sheer joy of food and cooking oozes from her when you talk about her latest recipes or idea.  My hubby was very skeptical about the whole "vegan thing". I credit Tami, Jim and Liz for making him open to try more and more vegan food and to meeting more vegan folks. They were able to answer his many questions in a very non-judgmental way. He was truly grateful.

I knew any cookbook project she took on would be a great success because of her sincere and unbridled passion for cooking. I have never met Celine, but I am guessing she has the same love and passion for cooking. These ladies know how to combine flavors and textures to make delicious and interesting sandwiches for every meal.

As would be expected, this time around I selected another spicy one: Peppery Tempeh Sandwiches (pg. 127). I did have to make a sub as I didn't have the whole dried peppers called for in the recipe. I did have ground versions of them and this worked out just fine using about 1/2 teaspoon of each. I love finding ways to serve tempeh that my tempeh-averse honey likes. This was one of those times. I loved the complex and slightly spicy flavors that the marinade imparted on the tempeh. The lime adds a nice hint of tartness. I chose a crusty whole grain ciabatta roll for the bread. Slathered with the cilantro mayo and topped off with cool cucumbers and red peppers, it was a very filling and tasty dinner.

Fred is a red-sauce monster. It is one of his very favorite comfort foods. Just yesterday he was hinting that he would really love it if I might make some one day soon. Today was the day. I noticed the Meat(less)ball Subs on page 113 with an enticing picture of the sandwich blanketed in marinara. Score!!! I set about making the meatballs. They came together pretty easily using the food processor. When I went to brown them I took care to turn them gently. I had tried another recipe for meatballs and had an unfortunate crumbling problem. I had one ball that was trying hard not to cooperate, but I used a big spoon to gently flip him over and all was well. The balls expanded a lot while cooking. I thought they were great, but Fred mentioned he would like me to make them a little smaller next time. Here are the naked balls.

We have an all vegan restaurant near us that has a wonderful meatball sub sandwich. I was curious how this would compare. These are on par with theirs. I like knowing how things are made and what is going into them, so it is nice to be able to make them myself. As a side note, which should really be a regular note, we were invited to dinner at my friend's house tonight. I made Fred and I our sandwiches and there were quite a few meatballs, peppers, onions and marinara left over. Several of our friends tried them and thought they were really good. They also said they probably wouldn't have guessed they were vegan if they didn't know it! I thought these would be really good with some fennel in them, so I might give that  a whirl next time. I'll stop blabbing and show you the goods!

If you don't have Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day yet, make sure to put it on your must have list. There are so many great sandwich ideas, you will be happy you did.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MoFo 2012 Wrap Up and Giveaway Winner

Wow! What a month. It was a very fun MoFo for me this year. I was so lucky to be able to have so many great books to give away. I was even luckier to get copies of some of them myself. I am really looking forward to delving deeper into them. It is really hard to pick a favorite.

In the awesome picture category it was a tie between Candle 79 Cookbook and Great Gluten Free Vegan Treats.

In the most cheeky category was The Sexy Vegan Cookbook.

In the most intriguing category there was also a tie between Vegan Eats World and World Vegan Feast. Both made me want to learn more about cuisines around the world.

It was very interesting to study the very different writing styles of the different authors. There were some that just got right to the point with mostly recipes. There were others that provided a lot of reference material and personal insights. What a great variety!

I had a couple of ulterior motives for picking my theme this year. I am a cookbook addict and I thought it would be a great way to scratch that itch. I hope to finish writing my cookbook this next year, so this was a great way to force myself to research different styles and see how mine personal style might fit into a book format. But mostly, I wanted to share some insights and books with you guys! I hope you enjoyed this year's theme as much as I did!

I know there was a lot of great vegan food blogging going on this month, so I truly thank you for coming back and visiting this blog. I hope you will hang around and come back often. I'm pretty sure I will be taking a little break to catch up on things like housework and paying attention to my family and friends and of course, Fred, who always gets neglected during MoFo! I'm ready to do some goofing off!

Don't worry I didn't forget about the giveaway. The final MoFo winner is...

#1 Kate!!!

Congrats Kate. There are indeed some quick and pretty easy options in the book! Please make sure to contact me with your shipping info at vegintraining at gmail dot com.

Everyone please have a safe and fun Halloweeen!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review - Ani's 15-day Fat Blast

I saved this book for last to review on purpose. This might be just the book to reverse some of the not-so-healthy effects of my busy month. Admittedly, my eating and sleeping habits have been pretty poor this month. It has made me feel kind of bloated and seriously lacking energy. I've also been having a hard time focusing and concentrating. I could really use a good body-mind clean up.

After reading the first four chapters of Ani's 15-Day Fat Blast, I am reminded of how what you put into your body totally affects how you function. In the first chapter Ani discusses the myths and truths about raw diet. She talks about how whole, nourishing raw foods are more easily digestible, easy to make and quicker to prepare. All good things for a busy blogger. The thing that made me sit up and take notice was her promise increased energy. I could use some of that!

Chapter 2 gives a peak at what is in it for the reader. She promises that the plan will produce weight loss, increased muscle mass (from plant proteins), increased energy and endurance, healthier skin, better mental performance, improved overall health, slower aging and toxin elimination. That's a pretty big promise and I want it!

The third chapter explains the building blocks of her plan: Rocket Fuel. These include probiotics, prebiotics, MCFAS and thermogenic foods. Confused? So was I, but she does a great job of explaining what these are and how they work.

In  the next chapter she explains the plan, the tools needed and how to supply your pantry. This is where some people might get off. The plan includes a lot of powders and other not so standard ingrediets like sahca inch, maca and matcha. I like to think I have a pretty good knowledge of ingredients, but even I found myself thinking "Hmmmm. Do I want to go out and purchase all of these ingredients?" My goal is vibrant health, so yes, I will probably give it a go. Probably...not definitely.

The pros: quick prep, natural ingredients, short program, promise of quick health and weight loss results.

The cons: unusual ingredients

The author seems very focused on weight loss and looking good, which probably is logical giving the subject of the book. What really hooked me was her focus on increased energy, mental clarity and a healthier, leaner body. I've had my fair share of challenges with inflammation and other annoying physical issues. I do believe that many health issues we face are related to our dietary choices. The plan itself is only 15 days long. I can do just about anything for 15 days. I'm curious to see how I would feel at the end of that time. Will I go and buy the special ingredients to work the program? I'd like to think so, but time will tell. How bad do you want it?

No really,  how bad do you want this book? Because you can win your very own copy. Just leave a comment about a health or fitness related goal you'd like to reach by changing your diet by midnight MST tonight for your chance to change  your world with this book. The winner will be chosen at random and announced tomorrow, the last day of MoFo and Halloweenie! (US and Canadian shipping only please)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Winner of Vegan a la Mode!!!!

Here is part two of the ice cream fest...that I was not a part of I might add. Hmph. Just kidding. Like father like daughter, it was no surprise the ice cream was gone in a flash. It must have been a great treat! Here's Tyler:

I have to preface this review by stating I am an AVID Horchata drinker and have even gone on a quest through my southwestern town to locate the best Horchata aficionados. Having said that, Hannah Kaminsky’s frozen vegan version does not disappoint when it comes to great Horchata flavor. When I saw that the recipe actually started out just like Horchata (soaking of almonds and rice), I knew this recipe was for me.  

I let the almonds and rice soak for a full 24 hours and then proceeded with the recipe, which included blending and straining the almond/rice mixture, cooking it down, and chilling it to a scary gelatinous goo (don’t let this frighten you, it churns to a beautifully rich ice cream). 

It was easy to follow and I did not make any modifications (other than accidentally adding a bit too much cinnamon, which was a delicious mistake). The result was a silky, ever-so-slightly grainy, Horchata flavored bliss. If you have not had real Horchata made from scratch than this may seem odd, but there is a wonderful micro-grit from the almonds and rice that lends itself as a perfect balance to the sugary, cinnamony sweetness that is Horchata. Even the next day this ice cream was creamy and delectable, the true measure of exemplary homemade ice cream  in my humble opinion (and the fact that it was all gone within 36 hours of making).

As the end of MoFo approaches, I am looking forward to having more time to delve further into this book! One of you will have that chance before I do! The winner of Vegan a la Mode is...

#9 Amey!!

Way to go! Please contact me with your shipping information at vegintraining at g mail dot com. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Iron Chef: Hot Chiles, Sunflower Seeds and Grapes

Today's Iron Chef entry is brought to you by the foods Hot Chile, Sunflower Seeds and Grapes. As I looked at this list of ingredients I was instantly psyched because hot chiles were part of the challenge. Sunflower seeds, no problem. It was the grapes that had me stumped. The only way I usually tend to consume grapes is in a good wine. I don't usually care for them with savory stuff and I figured a lot of my challengers would go the sweet route. What to do?

At first I was going to tackle a brunch dish. I had planned to make a breakfast sandwich. I thought maybe some type of biscuit with sunflower seeds in it and maybe some type of chile-grape jam. I set about making the jam and it ended up being the texture of applesauce. Had I not been so bummed out I may have thought to use it in a scone or something like that. Instead, I scrapped brunch as it was after 1pm by now.

I decided to get back to my love of the great Southwest and its flavorful and spicy personality. First I made a cilantro-sunflower seed pesto.

Cilantro-Sunflower Pesto

Yields 1 1/4 cups

3 cups lightly packed cilantro leaves (small stems are ok)
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients except for the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine then run processor until well chopped. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and let run until pesto is fairly smooth, scraping the sides once or twice.. Add more salt to taste if needed. Will keep in refrigerator for up to two weeks and will freeze for 6 months. GF

Next I got to marinating some tofu see recipe below.

Cilantro-Sunflower Pesto Marinated Tofu

1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 Tablespoons Cilantro-Sunflower Pesto
1 tablespoon Aji Panca Paste (can be found in some hispanic markets or online)
1 tablespoon low sodium tamari
8 oz. extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and sliced into 8 equal rectangular pieces

In an 8 x 8 baking dish whisk together marinade ingredients. Add tofu in a single layer. Marinade for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, turning once.

Tofu can be grilled or baked in marinade.

Then I set about using those pesky grapes. I have to say the results far exceeded my expectations! This is what I came up with:

Grape-Avocado Pico de Gallo

1/2 cup green and red seedless grapes, quartered
2 medium red tomatoes, diced about 1/4" dice
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 very hot fresno (red) chile pepper, finely diced*
2 tablespoon red onion finely diced
juice of one lime
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
 1 small avocado, peeled and diced

In a medium sized bowl, combine grapes, tomatoes, cilantro, hot chile pepper, onion, lime juice, cumin and salt. After they are well combined, gently fold in diced avocado. Let sit for about 30 minutes to let flavors meld. Serve immediately. GF

* I feel it is very important to use a pretty hot variety of chile. It contrast the sweetness of the grapes beautifully.

So I had all the players lined up. I first thought I would make a tostada. That was until I realized after two trips to the store this morning, I had no lettuce or cabbage in my house. Two times was enough, so I switched gears. I had some corn tortillas in the fridge and a big ol' bottle of canola oil left over from a cooking class. Have you figured out where I'm going with this yet? Taquitos!!

Pesto Marinated Grilled Tofu and Black Bean Taquitos

1 recipe Cilantro-Sunflower Seed Pesto Marinated Tofu (see recipe above), reserve 1 tablespoon marinade
1 - 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Cilantro-Sunflower Seed Pesto (see recipe above)
12 corn tortillas
1/3 cup Daiya Mozzerella Shreds
Oil for frying

Preheat grill to 350. Oil grill grates. Place sliced marinated tofu on hot grill and brush with marinade. Grill for 5 minutes or until nice grill marks appear and tofu is golden. Turn and brush other side with marinade. Grill for 5 more minutes until tofu is golden and slightly firm. Dice into 1/2 dice and set aside.

In small saucepan, combine black beans, 1 tablespoon reserved marinade and 1/4 cup pesto. Simmer over medium heat until beans are heated through. Gently stir in tofu and remove from heat.

Heat oil to 350. If you don't have a thermometer, use a small piece of tortilla to test heat. If it bubbles slightly, you are ready to go. It is really important to make sure the oil is not too hot or your taquitos will fall apart.

Assemble taquitos.

Take one tortilla at a time and place in oil for about 10 seconds to soften tortilla. It is very important to do this step to prevent tortillas from breaking apart. Carefully place softened tortilla on a paper towel lined plate. On end of tortilla closest to you, sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons shredded Daiya. Scoop approx. 2 tablespoons tofu-black bean mixture over Daiya in a straight line. Gently roll tortilla over filling until it resembles a cigar.

Here is the tricky part. These little guys like to unroll when you put them in the oil. I suppose you could use a pick to hold them shut, but they can tear pretty easily, so be careful if you pick 'em shut. If you successfully pick them, you could probably cook 2-3 at a time. I chose to cook one at a time and gently place them in the oil, seam side down, immediately holding the taquito with tongs using very light pressure. Fry for about 3 minutes, then turn over. Fry for about 2-3 more minutes or until beautifully golden. Using tongs drain excess oil from both ends of taquito. Place on paper towel lined plate, and repeat for remaining tortillas.

Serve immediately with a healthy serving of Grape-Avocado Pico de Gallo (recipe above).

Don't forget to comment on yesterday's post by midnight MST tonight (10/28/12) for a chance to win Vegan a la Mode...cuz you need a frozen dessert after this dish! The winner will be announced tomorrow!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book Review - Vegan a la Mode and Guest Poster!

When Skyhorse Publishing agreed to provide a copy of Vegan a la Mode by Hannah Kaminsky for this giveaway, the first thing that flashed into my mind was my step daughter's family. She is probably one of the best cooks I know and her whole family loves ice cream! She seemed the natural choice to review this book and I was thrilled when she agreed without hesitation. It's such a pleasure to be able to share our love of cooking.

Here is her review of the book. Thanks Ty!!

Our family experiments a lot with ice cream and although we are not vegan, we are always trying to find new ways of perfecting our craft. Vegan recipes offer not only a delicious plant-based alternative to the rich dairy based desserts, it’s generally cheaper. Over the years I have tasted many store-bought vegan ice creams, and a few (usually coconut milk based) do appeal to me, but often they fail to satisfy my craving for actual ice cream. We tested two recipes from Vegan A ‘La Mode, Bitter Orange Sorbet and Horchata Ice Cream, and my craving was satisfied. 

The book is beautiful and easy to follow with great pictures and reference material. I recommend reading the “Troubleshooting” section before getting started, it has invaluable tips on avoiding ice cream catastrophe (ex: the stabilizer recipe to keep sorbet smooth).  We are a “jump-right-in” kind of family, so this suggestion is in hindsight. Both recipes turned out deliciously craveable the first time, even without modification; however some slight adjustments would probably amount to perfection. I want to work my through every recipe in the book and would be happy to give/receive this book as a gift, vegan or not. 

Mason, my 6 year old, picked Bitter Orange Sorbet, and this mini-foodie knows great flavors. It was an easy recipe to follow and we had a great time with it. First we made our orange sugar syrup. In hindsight I would have cooked the sugar syrup longer and taken it to a thicker "thread" stage. In my experience this helps keep sorbet smooth and creamy in the freezer, rather than turning to ice. The author offers a vegan stabilizer recipe to achieve this. Another way to accomplish this, I have heard, is to substitute some brown rice syrup for some of the sugar, but I have yet to try it.  While the syrup simmered we juiced our fruit. 

We made one adjustment to achieve the "bitter" undertone. We were not able to find the sour variety of oranges, as the recipe note suggests.  We substituted a 1/4 cup of extra grapefruit juice for 1/4 cup of the orange juice because our oranges were really sweet.

So after our orange sugar syrup cooled and we mixed with the juices, it was on to the ice cream maker. We have an electric Cuisinart Pure Indulgence, which is a staple in our kitchen. We churned until smooth and thick then transferred, covered, and put in freezer, BUT....not before sampling the fruits of our labor. It was slightly sweet, tangy without making our jaw clench, a hint of each juice came through without any being overpowering, and it melted in our mouths. It was delectable and I could not wait to eat again the next day. This is where the effort to make it creamy would have been froze rock-solid. We moved it to the fridge for a few minutes to soften, then mixed well. It was still a bit "slushy" like, rather than the creamy texture it had night before, but who doesn’t love a great slushy?!

Our overall experience with this recipe was excellent and left me very excited about the 2nd trial.... Horchata ice cream!!!.....Stay Tuned.....

OK folks! It's time for another giveaway. This was can be shipped anywhere so everyone can join in the commenting fun. Leave a comment about the craziest or most interesting ice cream flavor you've ever had. If you haven't gone outside that box yet, just post about your favorite ice cream treat. Please make sure you post before midnight MST tomorrow night. The winner (and the Horchata ice cream review) will be posted on Monday. Sweet dreams.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vegan for the Holidays Winner!!!

It's kind of been like Christmas all month for me. I feel like the cookbook Santa!

Unfortunately, I have not yet been invited to partake in Hanukkah celebrations. But I do know that Hanukkah is a celebration of the miracle of the oil that burned for 8 days when the holy Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated by the Macabees. Foods fried in olive oil are eaten to commemorate this miracle oil. Latkes, a fried potato cake, are often served on the Hanukkah table. Vegan for the Holidays includes a simple and delicious recipe for this classic dish: Potato Latkes with Tofu Sour Cream and Applesauce (pg. 82). I opted to use the Toffuti sour cream I had in the fridge instead of making the recipe for Tofu Sour Cream (pg. 83) in the book. I used the food processor to shred the potatoes and I squeezed the excess liquid out of them. The result was a beautifully crispy cake.

Between these and the nog, it was not a low fat night to be sure. But my love for the potato (and things fried) is never ending. I'm going to need to take a serious look at Ani's Fat Blast (which will be reviewed before the end of MoFo) very soon. Check out these golden beauties.

Who's going to get a jump start on holiday party planning with their very own copy of Vegan for the Holidays?

The winner is...

#11 Lizzie Bordello!!!

Congrats Lizzie! Its sure to be a delicious holiday season for you. Please contact me at vegintraining at g mail dot com with your shipping info. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway - Vegan for the Holidays

Today's featured book is the festive Vegan for the Holidays by Zel Allen.

This is a happy little book that covers the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Zel introduces each chapter with a reflection on the holiday featured in the chapter. The book has some Thanksgiving classics like Williamsburg "Pumpkin" Pie and mashed potatoes with her own unique twist: Onion-Chardonnay Gravy. Her version of the holiday classic, Egg Nog: Brandied Holiday Nog is a rich delicious creamy treat. It rivals it's eggy counterpart without any of that pesky cholesterol. It was a little early to break out the nog, but I'm certainly glad I did. I do recommend making sure your ingredients are cold, or at least let the nog chill before serving.

If you are one of those people who needs some inspiration during the holiday season, this book has some fun and original recipes and ideas. The author shares how her food brings her loved ones to the table every holiday. Maybe she can inspire your loved ones to do the same.

Here's your chance to add a festive holiday book to your collection! Leave a comment about a dish you just can't imagine living without during the holidays by midnight MST tonight, Thursday, 10/24/12. Winner will be announced tomorrow (US Shipping only please). 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quinoa Tabbouleh Recipe and Giveaway Winner!

Thankfully some foods are naturally gluten-free: vegetables, fruits, nuts and even some grains. One of my favorite grains is quinoa. It is super quick and easy to make. It takes on flavors so easily and it's a complete protein to boot.

Here is a very simple and flavorful way to use this super grain (which is actually a seed). Use some leftover quinoa (2 cups cooked) for a very quick salad.

Instead of the traditional tabbouleh made with bulgur wheat, quinoa is used in this salad to make a gluten-free equivalent of the popular Lebanese dish.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Yield 6 Servings

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1/4 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups finely minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely minced fresh mint
3 medium sized tomatoes, seeded and diced
zest and juice of one large lemon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 scallions, minced

Combine the quinoa and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer, stir gently, and cover. Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Chill the quinoa in the fridge until cold, about 1 hour.

Stir in the olive oil and salt and then gently fold in the parsley, mint, tomatoes, lemon juice and zest, black pepper, and scallions until well combined. Let rest for at least 1 hour in the fridge until well chilled. Serve cold.

Excerpted from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats, Allyson Kramer, Fair Winds Press, 2012

I'm happy to share this one recipe with all of you. But only one lucky commenter gets to win the whole book. That commenter is....

#2 - Anonymous (Karen)

Karen - I tried to email you and your email address bounced back undeliverable. Please contact me at vegintraining at g mail dot com with your shipping info

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway - Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats

Finally a gluten-free AND vegan cookbook that is beautifully presented and full of great information and delicious recipes. Being just vegan or just gluten-free poses it's own challenges. If you find yourself vegan and suddenly unable to eat gluten, don't fear! Allyson Kramer has got your back in her book Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats. There are recipes for breads, muffins, pizza, pasta and so many other things you might have thought you'd have to give up with the gluten.

Allyson has provided a very handy and informative guide to gluten-free flours at the beginning of the book. There is also a section (with recipes included) for pantry basics. I was pleasantly surprised at the great variety and yum factor of the recipes in the book.

I have a good friend of mine who is trying to eat a more plant based diet. She also has some loved ones who gluten sensitive. She asked me to recommend some books for her. One of her criteria is that she wants a book with a lot of pictures. She likes to see what the dishes will look like when they are done. She is a woman after my own heart, and apparently Allyson is too! The book is chock full of mouth watering photos. This book will be perfect for her!

The recipe I chose to make first was the Basic Brown Bread (pg. 26). My issues with baking are well known among these parts. So why not go for the most challenging thing I could? Ha. This bread contains buckwheat flour. Allyson explains that there are two types of buckwheat flour. I did not know this before I started. Apparently I had the dark variety. It gave my bread a very odd almost purple-ish hue. The color was a little off-putting to me, so next time I will use the light flour. I had never made gluten-free bread before. One thing that was very noticeable was the loaf did not rise as high as gluten-full bread. It was much more dense as well. The flavor was really good. If you make this recipe, I do recommend slicing the bread pretty thin because of the density.

I took the loaf to work to share with my co-worker. His wife has recently had to give up gluten, so I thought she might like to try the bread. They are having some challenges trying to figure out what to cook and eat. The next day he came in and asked for the recipe. He wants to get the book for his wife for Christmas. Loving it! He is a far cry from vegetarian much less vegan, but it's great he is willing to look at different options.

Today we have another wonderful giveaway courtesy of the fine folks at Ten Speed Press. A free copy of Great Gluten-Free Eats could be yours (US shipping only please). Just leave a comment about a food or dish you love but think you could never have if you had to be gluten free by midnight MST tonight. The winner will be randomly drawn and announced tomorrow 10/24/12.

Drumroll please!!! The winner of Vegan Eats World is...

#30 - Petunia!!

Congrats Petunai. Please make sure to contact me at vegintraining at g mail dot com with your shipping information.

Monday, October 22, 2012

PPK Cookbook Challenge - Week 7

It appears that I got ahead of the game for this week's cookbook challenge by a week. This week is free choice week, where we get to pick any Isa Moskowicz or Terry Romero book. My book review and giveaway of Vegan Eats World came just in time for the challenge. OK, it may have been pre-meditated.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Indian food and soft chewy naan. When I saw Terry's recipe for Yogurt Naan, it was a no brainer. I am thrilled to report that no yeast was killed in the making of this bread, no small feat for me I can assure you! The dough was beautifully soft and easy to work with. I am not kidding you that I squealed with delight when the perfect naan came out of the pan. Active time is pretty short, but you do have to factor in rising time. This naan rivals the best Indian places' bread. I plan to make some yummy curry to go with it this week, so I hope it reheats well. Look how perfect it is!

I had already decided to make the Yellow Split Pea Soup with Chard (pg.122) before the naan caught my eye. I had some yellow split peas hiding out in my pantry and some gorgeous chard in my garden. I whipped up some of the Spiced Buttery Oil (pg. 44) and got to work on the soup. The peas take about an hour to get soft and creamy, which gave me ample time to chop the rest of the ingredients. My only regret is that I didn't make the inerja to go with it. There is always next time! Look at the beautiful colors.

Don't forget to comment on yesterday's post by midnight MST tonight for your chance to win your very own copy of Vegan Eats World!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review - Vegan Eats World - Giveaway!!

How excited am I for yet another new cookbook from Terry Hope Romero? I'm more excited than a 12 year old girl at a Justin Beiber concert! That's pretty darned excited. I have cooked so many recipes from Viva Vegan, Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar it isn't funny. Terry's recipes are always well written and tested, it is always a safe bet to whip one out for hungry friends with confidence. When I heard she was writing an international cookbook, it was all I could do not to break out into multi-lingual, international song.

The book starts off with a huge table of contents. She breaks the world down into 12 chapters that cover everything from spice blends to curries to desserts and lots more in between. Like Veganomicon, Vegan Eats World includes handy icons for meals that take under 45 minutes, mostly inactive time, cheaper ingredients, easy, low fat, gluten free, and soy free recipes. This makes the huge book a little less intimidating. 

The first part of the book is a section called Kitchen Cartography. This section is great for the less experienced cook. It offers lots of great tips and basic prep hints with cute little illustrations. I've never been very good at mis en place, but after reading her little blurb on mis en place, it just seems to be silly not to do it. Terry includes some basic cooking terms and methods. It is an international cookbook, so she takes a bit of time to describe some ingredients the reader may not be familiar with and separates them out by region. Even you seasoned cooking veterans are likely to learn something new. 

The second part of the book includes all of the creative and varied recipes. Terry knows her way around the kitchen and the world. There are 300 recipes in this section. Each chapter includes an encouraging introduction. The recipes are easy to read and use. The biggest problem you will have with the book is deciding where to start and what to make first. To help you with this quest, she provides really handy resources including some menu ideas, recipes by icon and an excellent index at the end of the book.

For me, it was an ingredient that I wanted to use that led me to the recipe I made first. I had some aji amarillo paste in my pantry that really needed some love. I fell in love with this pepper paste while testing for Viva Vegan. I was thrilled to find a very intriguing recipe in which to use it. The Andean Aji Bean Stew (pg. 116) had five of the cute little icons listed: mostly inactive time, cheaper ingredients, easy, low fat and soy free. Sounded like a perfect weeknight meal to me!

As the icons indicated, this was a very easy and low maintenance recipe. The most time intensive prep was peeling and chopping the butternut squash. It is chock full of antioxidant rich veggies. The beans and quinoa give it a good protein boost. The aji amarillo gave the stew a beautiful spice. I loved the hint of smokiness imparted by the smoked paprika and liquid smoke. This was a wonderful one dish meal. It got a thumbs up from my family and one very meat eating co-worker. This is going to be in my regular rotation for sure. 

Now it is your turn! You can win your copy even before the release date! One very lucky commenter is going to take a trip around the world with Terry courtesy of Da Capo Lifelong Books. Leave a comment about your most memorable international food/eating experience or your favorite type of international cuisine by midnight tomorrow night, Monday, 10/22/12. The winner will be chosen at random Tuesday. US and Canada shipping only please. 

OK, folks. Here is the winner of Artisan Vegan Cheese...

Commenter #14!! Laura C.

Laura, please make sure to contact me at vegintraining at g mail dot com with your shipping information. Congrats!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Iron Chef - Potatoes and Sesame

The fine organizers of Vegan MoFo chose two awesome ingredients for this edition of Iron Chef: potatoes and sesame. Potatoes are one of my all time favorite foods. I can't think of any way I don't like to eat them. I have to say fried potato products are like crack to me. I am trying hard not to eat a lot of fried foods these days, so when this challenge came up I had to muster all of my will-power not to fire up the fryer.

Sesame has several forms that are awesome in many types of cuisines. I just happened to have whole sesame seeds, tahini and toasted sesame oil in my pantry. So many options went through my head: sushi, sesame potato cakes, curry, gyoza, soup, Asian potato skins, lettuce wraps. They all sounded sooooo yummy, however, none of these came to be for this challenge. Instead I opted to make a salad; not just your run of the mill salad. This salad has it all; protein, starch, vegetables, savory mushrooms and lots of flavor!

It has several components and lots of ingredients, but it is actually pretty simple to make. I recommend making the dressing and marinating the tempeh and mushrooms a day ahead of time. Make sure to read the recipe all the way through before starting so you can decide on your plan of action. The day of assembly, I recommend starting your potatoes first. They will need some time to roast and cool. You don't want them to be super hot, just warm.

Sesame Crusted Tempeh Asian Salad with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Makes 4 entree portions

Prepare Tempeh and Mushrooms for marinating:

1 - 8 oz package tempeh, cut into 12 thin rectangles
4 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced


1cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon low sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon red miso
3 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce
1 teaspoon dried thai basil or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

Steam sliced tempeh for 15 minutes. While tempeh is steaming, whisk marinade ingredients together in a 11" x 7" rectangular non-reactive pan, or any pan that will hold the tempeh in one layer. While tempeh is still hot, place in single layer in the marinade. Add shiitake mushrooms to the pan. Marinade 8 hours or overnight, turning tempeh once about half way through.


1 small head savoy cabbage, thinly sliced, washed and drained (approx 7 cups)
1 large red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
2 green onions, both green and white parts, thinly sliced
1 recipe dressing (see recipe below)

marinated tempeh and mushrooms from above
Spray oil for pan
1/4 cup each black and regular sesame seeds, combined in a shallow bowl
Roasted potatoes from above

In a large bowl, toss savoy cabbage, red peppers, green onions and dressing until vegetables are evenly coated. Set aside until ready to assemble.

Spray a 10 inch iron skillet or non-stick skillet with spray oil. Heat over medium high heat. Add shiitake mushrooms and sauté until just browned, about 4 minutes. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside to cool to room temp (a little warmer is actually even better).

Re-spray pan with oil. Dredge marinated tempeh in sesame seed mixture until evenly coated. Place coated tempeh in preheated pan. Sear for 3 minutes. Gently turn tempeh and sear other side for about 3 minutes. Turn heat off and leave tempeh in pan to keep warm.

Assemble the salad:

Divide salad mixture evenly among 4 plates or large shallow bowls. Arrange 3 slices of sesame coated tempeh on each plate. In the center of the salad place 1/4 of the sauteed shiitake mushrooms. Add 1/4 of the roasted potatoes evenly around the edge of the plate.


1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 tablespoon red miso
1/2 - 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (or more if you like it really hot)
1 large clove garlic, minced
salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender or with a stick blender until smooth. Will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Yesterday was such a full day for me, I barely got my post up. I did not include the winner of American Vegan Kitchen. I won't leave it out today. The winner is...

#5 - Jeni!!!

I agree Jeni! No diner experience would be complete without pie. There are a couple of great pie recipes for you to try in your brand new copy of AVK! Please make sure to contact me with your shipping information at vegintraining at g mail dot com. Congrats!!

Make sure to come back tomorrow. It's going to be an exciting day! I will be reviewing the upcoming Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero and yes I will also be giving away a copy to one lucky winner.