Going On Vacation!

The Grand Tetons

We’re off to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, folks! I’ll be back on the 31st with hopefully some fabulous pictures, tales of adventure and possibly a little bit of tan. We’ll be staying in a cabin where we have access to a full kitchen so we’ll be doing a lot of cooking, but we’ll definitely be hitting plenty of restaurants as well, so I’ll report back with my vegan finds and fare.

So until then, have a great week and I’ll look forward to reconnecting next weekend!


Feast On This!

Brings New Meaning to ‘Veggie Dog’


So do you feed your pet a vegan diet? It can be a controversial issue. Dog food itself is full of animal parts and cancerous tissue. There are LOTS of ingredients to avoid when picking out the best food for that sweet, lovable child -with-fur. For a list of those nasty ingredients, check out The Dog Food Project.

Regardless of avoiding these ingredients, pet food still contains other animal products. Is it safe to give your pooch a vegan diet? Will they get all of their vital nutritional needs met? It’s quite a task to pick out food for pets since there are a million choice: active dog, old dog, joint help, shiny coat, etc, etc. . . . Vegetarian Dogs can also answer some questions regarding this decision.

Our Moe is fed a natural dog food that has Glucosamine for his joints. He’s got a tender tummy and can be quite gassy, so I can’t imagine feeding him a veggie-based diet! I’m not crazy about feeding him animal products, but we try to go with the most natural stuff out there. There are actually lots of brands out there that claim to be vegetarian, but I think the best bet is to talk to your vet before making such a radical change to Rover’s diet.

57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan

Well, I won’t list all 57, but you can go to NursingDegree.net for the full list. As the site says, vegans are misunderstood. I couldn’t agree more. People tend to think we’re deficient in every vitamin and mineral, protein and calcium and that we are fanatic about animal rights. It’s certainly a stereo type. And while I am an advocate for animal rights, that isn’t how it started for me—it was for health reasons that I decided to go vegan and through this process, I’ve become more aware of the animal abuse issues. What prompted you to go vegan?

The list includes nutritional benefits such as reduced saturated fat, more fiber, and increased antioxidants.

Disease prevention like cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Physical benefits such as weight loss (woo-hoo)!, healthy skin, and energy.

Reduces unnecessary food products and toxins that are in animal protein and eggs, not to mention mercury

Bonus health benefits such as avoiding E.Coli, Mad cow disease, and hormone consumption

And just plain eating healthy because there are lots of sources of fat-free vegan food, gluten-free, and raw cooking that help anyone on their journey of becoming and staying vegan.

Check out the full list at NursingDegree.net, print it off and show it to everyone who know and love!

The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.  If beef is your idea of “real food for real people” you’d better live real close to a real good hospital.

-Neal Barnard

Product Review: Stonewall’s Vegan Jerquee

I was very intrigued when I saw these at my local Vitamin Cottage yesterday. For $1.65 for a 1.5 ounce package, I decided to try 3 of their 8 different varieties. The Husband and I tried the Original Mild, Teriyaki “Beef” and the Peppy “Pepperoni”.

On the outside, they look very much like real jerky nuggets and the outside coating tastes kind of meaty and salty. For nutritional information and ingredients, click here.

All of them taste like they’re made of seitan and I’ve got to give them kudos for trying, but these just don’t taste quite right. They’re not terrible, but there were some flavors in them that I just couldn’t put my finger on. The Peppy “Pepperoni” has a black licorice taste, while the other two have a chocolate-like flavor to them. I’m sure you could get used to them, but I think I’ll pass on buying these particular flavors again. Other varieties are: BBQ “Beef”, Tandoori “Chicken”, Original Wild, Spicy “Chicken”, Hot “Pastrami”, and Cajun “Bacon”. I’ll definitely give the others a try sometime, but for now, I’ll pass.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms -- Epicurean VeganI needed to come up with an appetizer to feed a crowd, so I came up with my own vegan version of stuffed mushrooms. They were pretty easy to make and were gone in no time. Another great ingredient to add is a couple of Field Roast Italian Sausages–just thaw, chop and add to the food processor with the bell pepper.

About 30 mushrooms, washed and stems reserved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper
5 green onions
3-4 Tbs Earth Balance margarine, divided
1/2 C bread crumbs
6″ of a garlic scape
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 C vegan mozzarella (like Vegan Rella), shredded

Preheat oven to 325. Saute the mushroom caps in 2 tablespoons of margarine until they just begin to brown on each side. Then set aside.

Stuffed Mushrooms -- Epicurean VeganChop up the mushroom stems, red bell pepper, green onions and scape. Here’s a scape:

Stuffed Mushrooms -- Epicurean Vegan

Add all four to a food processor and chop up until fine:

Stuffed Mushrooms -- Epicurean VeganTransfer to the same pan that you used to saute the mushrooms caps in, and saute the pepper mixture in 2-3 tablespoons of margarine for 3-4 minutes. Add bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Stuffed Mushrooms -- Epicurean Vegan

Remove from heat. Stuff each cap with about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the pepper mixture and a medium pinch of cheese.

Stuffed Mushrooms -- Epicurean VeganIf you are making these ahead, you can stuff them and refrigerate them, but add the cheese just before baking. Bake for 15 minutes and enjoy!

Stuffed Mushrooms -- Epicurean Vegan

Broccoli Almond Sweet-and-Sour Tofu

Broccoli Almond Sweet-and-Sour Tofu -- Epicurean VeganThere is definitely a method to this recipe and I learned that there are easier ways to make this dish than what the original recipe instructs. I also doubled the sauce recipe because I tend to wish I had done that with other sauces from this cookbook (Vegan Yum Yum). I’m glad I did because not only is the sauce delicious, it was made the tofu gooey with yumminess.

1 14-oz package extra firm tofu, drained
2 tsp egg replacer, plus 4 teaspoons water, mixed (I had to make a little more)
1/4 C cornstarch (Again, I needed a tad more)
1/4 C canola oil
1/2 C sliced almonds
1-2 cups steamed broccoli (I used 2 heads of broccoli)
Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Sweet and Sour Sauce: (recipe below is doubled)
6-1/2 Tbs seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 C plus 2 Tbs water (I left this out for a thicker sauce)
4 Tbs plus 4 tsp sugar
4 Tbs tamari
4 tsp ketchup
2 tsp molasses
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 Tbs cornstarch, plus 2 Tbs water, mixed (I didn’t double this–didn’t need to)

Slice the tofu into triangles or cubes. Toss the tofu with the end replacer/water mixture until coated . I would use a large ziploc bag–much easier than a bowl. Then toss in cornstarch. Again, I recommend using a ziplock bag for this and coat each piece thoroughly.

I would then make the sauce. You can also make it while frying the tofu, but I found it hard to do both at the same time. To make the sauce: In a small saucepan, mix rice vinegar, water (if using), sugar, tamari, ketchup, molasses, ginger powder, and salt and whisk over medium heat until the sugar and salt is dissolved. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and whisk until the sauce thickens.

Place the tofu in the hot oil—you can do all at once, or in batches. I transferred pieces to a plate lined with paper towels. Fry for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Add the almonds right before removing the tofu. (I did this after I drained the oil first). I then combined the tofu, sauce, and almonds in a large bowl and stirred to thoroughly coat the tofu. I served over rice and the steamed broccoli and topped with toasted sesame seeds.

Recipe source: Vegan Yum Yum

Product Review: Backpacker’s Pantry Freeze-Dried Meals

Backpacker's Pantry Freeze-Dried Meals

Camping . . . Vegan Style

We decided to head out to the great wide open and finally get a camping trip in this summer. We escaped the brutal city heat, much to the delight of millions of vicious mosquitoes. Nothing two full cans of bug spray couldn’t handle. Aside from just good old-fashioned family fun, it gave us a chance to test out some vegan freeze-dried meals for our upcoming backpacking trip in August, where there will be about 4 miles between us and the car—not 500 yards or so like this trip.

You can car camp and still get away from other campers, as well as be close to a lake or river—in this case, the Laramie River, just below the Continental Divide. The first night, we fired up some veggie burgers, topped them with avocado slices, and sandwiched them between two toasted buns. (Obviously we were too hungry to stop and snap a pic)! They were perfect camp food.

We of course made s’mores—the Sixth Grader putting away two of them and me, quite possibly having my first one ever. That’s right. . .I can’t remember ever making them before. It was a monumental occasion, not to mention delicious.

The next morning, we enjoyed some Starbucks coffee. Tucked in the remote wilderness was a Starbucks, run by none other than. . . bigfoot. Ok, so no, but we enjoyed their VIA Ready Brew Italian Roast packets:

For breakfast, we fried up some diced onion, potatoes, and green and red bell peppers for the best damn breakfast burritos ever.

Topped with vegan cheddar and salsa, they tasted phenomenal. Maybe everything tastes great while camping—either way, we weren’t complaining.

It was a relaxing morning with some sun, coffee, breakfast, and Neil Young, via the iphone. (We decided that a solar-powered iphone charger would be a wise investment).

While the boys fished, I took advantage of the quietness to write, work on my current project, Folsom’s 93, and finish reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, an enjoyable, quick read by Dai Sijie.

So on to the review. . .

We were pretty excited to see that we could find vegan freeze-dried meals since we try to do a couple backpacking trips each summer. Backpacker’s Pantry, out of Boulder, has a few varieties and we chose two of them: Pad Thai and Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce with Veggies, each for $5.95. All freeze-dried meals require boiling water and a utensil to eat with. And since they’re so light, they are ideal for backpacking. Before going vegan, we used to buy freeze-dried meals from Mountain House and have always been very happy with those, but they don’t seem to have vegan ones. Plus, they are a couple of dollars more than Backpacker’s Pantry. Each package is 2 servings and they really would easily feed two people–there’s a lot there.

The Pad Thai comes with a packet of chopped peanuts and a peanutbutter packet. Take those out, add 2-1/4 cups of boiling water, stir it up, and let it sit about 15-20 minutes (which is pretty standard for freeze-dried meals).

The Spicy Peanut Sauce and Veggies came with a spice packet and 2 packets of peanutbutter that you have to mix in a separate bowl with a 1/4 cup of boiling water. I wasn’t crazy about the inconvenience of dirtying a bowl, but I later found that it was worth it.

Then you add 1-1/2 cups to the bag, stir it up, let it sit for 13 minutes, then stir in the sauce.

The Spicy Peanut Sauce and Veggies was outstanding. It was a little soupy and I would have liked larger veggies, but overall, it was so delicious. The consensus was that the Pad Thai was not quite as good. It too, is on the soupy side with rice noodles and it certainly wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t as tasty as the other one.

They come with a high calorie count. But when you’re backpacking, you’re needing to replace your calories and it’s pretty easy to burn them off. Each serving of the Pad Thai is 460 calories, and 490 for the Spicy Peanut Sauce.

The Husband wanted to try the Garlic Herb Mashed Potatoes for just a $1.90 which had 2-9 ounce servings. There was quite a bit. I didn’t try them since they contained milk (he says he’s 99% vegan since he’ll still eat a little cheese–I’m working on nixing that 😉  However, I can’t complain since he’s made it this far)! Anyway, we didn’t bring up any salt, so he said they were pretty bland.

So there’s the low down on the freeze-dried meals. We will certainly be buying those for our backpacking trip coming up.

Laramie River, a few yards from the campsite

All and all, it was a fantastic trip. The second (and last) morning, we woke up to having a deer staring at us from a safe distance and once he took off, we toasted some blueberry bagels and drizzled them with agave. They were great with our Starbucks. :)

I’ve been known to have a grumpy side when I have been roughing it too long, especially if coldness and/or rain are involved. Somehow, I managed to keep things civil between me and the elements, even with the carnivorous mosquitoes. The kid was happy to constantly poke at the fire, whittle, and partake in some pine cone sling-shotting. The Husband caught quite a bit of fish and the three of us had a wonderful time laying by the fire, solving all the world’s problems.

The Cache La Poudre River

Vegan Doughnuts

Vegan Doughnuts -- Epicurean VeganYes, they’re as yummy as they look. Plus, they were very easy to make. The recipe, from Vegan Yum Yum, says to place plastic wrap over them as they cool in the pan so that they remain soft and fluffy. They will definitely be more cakey and cookie-like otherwise—which is still great. The recipe also says to use an ungreased petite doughnut pan, but let me tell you. . .I found out the hard way that the pan should be greased! Don’t let this happen to your doughnuts. . .only one made it out unscathed from the first batch:

Petite doughnut pan (I borrowed one—Thanks, Kristin!) I’ll be buying one for sure.
1 C all purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tiny pinch cinnamon (both my non-vegan friend and I who had these, agreed that there should be more–maybe 1/2 a teaspoon)
1/2 C soy milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Egg substitute for 1 egg
4 Tbs Earth Balance margarine

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon with a whisk and mix thoroughly.

Combine soy milk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, egg substitute, and margarine in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and mix well until margarine is melted. It shouldn’t get too hot, just slightly warm.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. It should form a very soft dough or thick batter.

Vegan Doughnuts -- Epicurean VeganUsing a tablespoon measure, scoop out the dough into the greased, nonstick mini-doughnut pan Smooth out the top of the doughnuts with your finger, clearing off the post in the middle of each one.

Vegan Doughnuts -- Epicurean VeganBake for 12 minutes until the doughnuts are almost browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean. Invert the pan over a cutting board or cooling rack to release the doughnuts. Allow to cool completely before decorating (unless you’re making powdered sugar ones; see below) Makes about 20-22 doughnuts.

Vegan Doughnuts -- Epicurean Vegan(A much better second batch)!

Chocolate-dipped doughnuts (the ones I made): Melt 1 bar of your favorite dark chocolate in the microwave. (I melted some carob chips in a saucepan over low heat and added some soy milk to reach a good consistency). Dip the pretty top side of the doughnut in the chocolate and place on a rack. Top with sprinkles.

Powdered Sugar doughnuts: While doughnuts are still warm from the oven, roll them in a bowl of powdered sugar.

You can also whisk some powdered sugar and soy milk together to reach a desired consistency and glaze the doughnuts. Enjoy!

Vegan Doughnuts -- Epicurean Vegan

Feast On This!

The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen

Prevention mag just came out with the updated lists of the dirtiest and cleanest veggies—ones that you should definitely splurge and buy organic and the ones that you can get away with buying conventional. There’s some newbies on the lists and some surprises, too.

The Dirty Dozen: Buy Organic

Celery: 75% of crop is grown in the fall when rain and wind promote the growth of bacterial and fungus and because we eat the whole stalk, it gets sprayed A LOT for pests.

Peaches: Because of the peach fuzz, it can trap pesticides easily, and since they’re sprayed every week or two, it’s good to go organic with these guys.

Strawberries: Since they are delicate, they’re prone to attacks by pests, so they get sprayed with pesticides often—mostly for cosmetic reasons.

Apples: Since they can be stored up to 9 months AND are prone to 30 different insects AND 10 diseases, apples are sprayed continuously.

Blueberries: They are favorites of magots and bagworms, so they are treated with pesticides. They are also new to the list.

Nectarines: Even without the fuzz, they are susceptible to rot and scarring.

Bell Peppers: They lack the bitter compounds that act as bug repellents (unlike their cousins, broccoli and sweet peppers) and have crevices and creases where pesticides can collect and hide.

Spinach: Like me, lots of insects and grasshoppers LOVE spinach, plus, it tends to pull DDT residue out of the soil and into the leaf. ( DDT can live in the soil way after it was banned).

Kale: Sprayed heavily for any type of insect.

Cherries: They don’t have a peel for protection and if one maggot gets into the shipment, the entire load is dumped, so growers don’t risk that. They spray the heck out of them.

Potatoes: I have always heard this about potatoes—even growers will not eat their own potatoes unless they grow them organically. They are sprayed up to five times throughout the growing season and then again after harvesting to prevent sprouting and molds.

Imported Grapes: During their trek from down south, they easily can contract Botrytis cinerea rot. . .hmmm…sounds gross. It causes fruits to split and leak, so farmers want to ward that off, and they aggressively treat them with pesticides. Domestic ones are grown in the dry desert climates of Southern California, where the rot doesn’t thrive.

The Clean 15: Save Your Pennies

Onions: They have their own protective chemicals and are only treated once early in the season. However, the residues are removed by the outer layer of the bulb during harvest.

Avocado: It’s all on the peel, baby.

Sweet Corn: It’s all on the husk, baby.

Pineapple: If treated, it’s early in the season and the residue is gone by harvest time. Otherwise, it is removed with the outer rind.

Mangos: It’s all in the peel, baby. Plus. . .they are grown in climates where fungus isn’t a problem–nothing hand washing won’t take care of.

Sweet Peas: Protected by the pod, baby.

Asparagus: Insects don’t have time to wreak havoc since the spears grow so dang fast.

Kiwifruit: Thanks to Lacewings and parasite wasps, pests are kept at bay.

Cabbage: The outer leaves—that are sprayed early on—are removed before sale.

Eggplant: The slick surface sheds chemicals easily.

Cantaloupe: It’s all in the rind, baby.

Watermelon: Again, all in the rind, baby.

Grapefruit: In the rind. Do we see a pattern, here?

Sweet Potato: This one surprised me because of it’s dirty cousin, but because it has a milky-white sap that gums up insect mouthparts, they leave this root veggie alone. They are also cured at warm temps and high humidity that causes the skin to thicken, therefore, protecting it further.

Honeydew Melon: Say after me. . .It’s all in the rind, baby.

Before There Was Food, Inc.

There was Fast Food Nation. Me and the Husband watched this movie just recently and it reiterated for me how much I LOVE being a vegan. I think it really pushed the hubby to fully be He-gan (male vegan) and to not even crave a burger again. Unlike Food, Inc., it’s not a documentary, but sort of is. It stars Greg Kinnear and others, like Bruce Willis and Ethan Hawke in a scripted, yet awareness-producing flick about slaughterhouses and what exactly goes on behind the scenes. We’ve all heard Paul McCartney say, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Well, he ain’t kidding, folks. I won’t lie—there are certainly some graphic scenes at the end, but they portray what goes on in a real slaughterhouse, confirming Sir McCartney.

Excellent movie. The author of Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, is also co-producer of Food, Inc. Definitely worth a watch with your non-vegan pals.

How can you eat anything with eyes?

-Will Kellogg

Breaded Tofu with Lemony Tomato Sauce

Breaded Tofu with Lemony Tomato Sauce -- Epicurean VeganIf you  liked chicken Parmesan before you were “enlightened” and became a vegan, I think you’ll love this recipe. I really wasn’t sure what to make for dinner tonight but I had tofu and diced tomatoes, so I winged it.  The Husband and Sixth Grader informed me that this meal is a “make again” and I have to agree—it was yummy, no to mention easy—a good combo.

1-14oz tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 8 slices
1 packet Shake n’ Bake
1/2 C vegetable broth
1 C vegan mozzarella, Vegan Rella
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-14.5 oz diced tomatoes with juice
1/4 C fresh chopped basil
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp lemon zest (then slice lemon into 8 slices)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

For sauce: In a small saucepan, heat garlic in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add tomatoes, basil, rosemary, oregano, onion powder, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Breaded Tofu with Lemony Tomato Sauce -- Epicurean VeganIn the meantime, dip each slice of tofu into the vegetable broth, cover with Shake n’ Bake, then place into a 13×9″ dish. Top each with a lemon slice.

Breaded Tofu with Lemony Tomato Sauce -- Epicurean VeganBake for 20-25 minutes. It will basically look the same way coming out of the oven as it did going in, but the outside crust of the tofu will be crusty and crispy. The lemon slices will look a bit dried out, too. Remove the lemon slices before serving with the sauce and some very yummy vegan mozzarella.

Vegan Rella (they don’t seem to have a website) is excellent soy-free vegan mozzarella—very impressed with it. It’s a little slimy when you first open it, but it shreds nicely and tastes great! Enjoy!

Portobello Burgers

Portobello Burgers -- Epicurean VeganThis is my kind of burger! They took no time at all to prepare—you can saute or grill the portobellos and use your favorite toppings. I went with Hawaiian-style.

4 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and patted dry
1 avocado, smashed
4 Tbs Tofutti cream cheese
4 pineapple rings
4 burger buns
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Coat portobellos with oil and salt and pepper. Saute in olive oil for 5-7 minutes on each side over medium heat.

Spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese on one bun and about a 1 tablespoon of avocado on the other. Top bottom bun with a portobello and then a pineapple ring. It’s that easy! Enjoy!