Potato and Corn Chowder

Potato and Corn Chowder -- Epicurean VeganI told you I was going to make soup. Considering it’s quite cold here in Colorado, soup just hits the spot. I used frozen diced potatoes which made it very easy to prepare. I served this soup with the chive-flecked spud muffins which were an ideal accompaniment.

1 C onion, diced
1 C celery, sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp Garlic and Wine seasoning or a Mrs. Dash-type seasoning
2 lbs russet potatoes, diced (I used frozen ones)
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 C corn kernels
14-oz coconut milk
4 C vegetable broth
1/2 C nutritional yeast
1-2 Tbs olive oil
Optional ingredients: shredded vegan cheddar, Tofutti sour cream, fresh chopped chives

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and celery for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another 3 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the nutritional yeast and vegetable broth. In the soup pot, whisk in the coconut milk, then the broth mixture. Add the Garlic & Wine seasoning and rosemary.  Bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and corn and simmer 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Pesto and Green Olive Pasta Salad

Pesto and Green Olive Pasta Salad -- Epicurean VeganIt’s so nice to be back home after two weeks; particularly, back in the kitchen. I escaped the snow to California, now I’m back in it and to add insult to injuries, we’re to have a high of 12 degrees today. Minus 18 is predicted tonight. Yippee. I hate winter. I made this salad for a fund-raising event because it was quick and easy, but now I’m thinking it was really my way of sticking it to Old Man Winter. Who says who can’t have a summery pasta salad during the ugly winter months? Certainly not me. I love to make pasta salads so that they last a few days in fridge, providing a quick snack or lunch when I don’t have a lot of time. I used a 10-oz bag of Garden Time organic, colored/veggie bowtie pasta and another 4-oz of regular bowties. Oh, and did I mention that it’s snowing right now? This means you’ll probably be seeing lots of baked recipes and soup recipes from me in the coming days . . .

14 oz bowtie pasta
1-1/2 C pesto, jarred or homemade (If using jarred, check the label–they often contain Parmesan and other milk ingredients)
8 green onions, slices (both white and green parts)
2 C halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
1-14oz can green olives, sliced
1/2 to 3/4 C Daiya mozzarella
Salt and pepper, to taste
For some crunch, add some pine nuts or toasted walnuts or almonds

If not using jarred, make pesto. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, combine green onions, tomatoes, and olives.

Pesto and Green Olive Pasta Salad -- Epicurean Vegan

Stir in the cold pasta, pesto, salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese and enjoy!

Vegan Vacation: Northern California & Sac-A-Tomato

Wow, been a while–hope I still know how to blog. I have quite a bit to share with all of you, so bear with me as I try to throw together nearly two weeks of dining (vegan-style) in California. The first few days, we spent with my sister and her family in Windsor, CA. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my new niece:

One day, we went on a picnic and of course, Trader Joe’s makes that pretty easy. I got some tofu spring rolls that were delicious.

Especially paired with the Chardonnay we picked up at Francis Ford Coppola Winery the day before.

One beautiful, sunny afternoon (a far cry from the frigid temps in Colorado), we sat in the patio of Healdsburg Bar and Grill where I had the most amazing garden burger with avocado and mushrooms. I scarfed it before I realized I didn’t take a picture of it! They have amazing fries and sweet potato fries as well. But I’ll share a picture of the boys as we waited for our food:

We only had a few days with the fam, so one night my sister made some outstanding garbanzo bean and zucchini curry burritos, using a mix from Trader Joe’s.

We also picked up some Thai food one night. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long and had to head to Sacramento. The Husband and Sixth Grader would be spending just one night in Sac with me before heading back home. We were determined to find Sugar Plum Vegan for lunch and after walking the several blocks to get there, they were closed. Didn’t know they were closed on Mondays. (Our local vegan joint is also closed on Mondays—what is that? Do Mondays have a special vegan significance)? We had trouble locating an alternative so we settled for The Old Spaghetti Factory. Should be easy enough to find several things we can there, right? Wrong.

The only entree on the menu a vegan can eat: pasta with mushroom sauce.

We all got the same thing. The salad came out with the wrong dressing—drenched in balsamic vinegar instead of Italian. We never even saw our waiter between getting our meals and the bill. We were famished, so it hit the spot, but it was nothing to write home about. I hate having to settle for the one vegan item on the menu. There are several vegetarian items on the menu though. Needless to say, I wouldn’t go back.

We wanted to hit up P.F. Chang’s China Bistro for dinner and it was in walking distance to the hotel. We love this place. In fact, I think I ate there two more times during my visit. My favorites: Curry Vegetables, Ma Po Tofu and the Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps:

The next day, just before the boys took off, we stopped at Pronto, “Real Italian, Real Fast.” And it was. Tasty, too. The Husband and I got the Portobello Panini sans the blue cheese and aioli sauce.

The Sixth Grader had the spaghetti, just having to forgo the garlic bread that was clearly slathered in butter.

I was then on my own. I was there, after all, to finish up research at the California State Archives for my book, Folsom’s 93. You can read about my bra-less adventure at Folsom prison. Without a car, it was fabulous to be in walking distance to everything I needed. I spent 6 1/2 hours a day (excluding the weekend) at the archives and had to make lunch a quick trip so that I would make the most of my time. Here’s the low-down on my vegan finds in Sacramento:


California Pizza Kitchen

I was highly impressed with CPK. They even list vegetarian/vegan information on their website so that you know exactly what you can eat and what items can be veganized. It made it so easy.

I wasn’t starving one night, so I had the Tuscan Hummus. If you order it with the thin crust pizza instead of the pita chips, you’re in the clear. The service was excellent, too.

Other items I tried:

Asparagus Soup–never had before and I LOVED it.

Asian Lettuce Wraps–just ask for them without chicken.

Bagel Time

For a quick lunch and right around the corner from the archives, I went to Bagel Time, a tiny little place advertising in their window that they have veggie burgers.

With lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard, it was delicious.

Dragon House To Go

This seems to be a local favorite, so I thought I’d give it a try. I got the chow mein with tofu and vegetables. It was to die for. Full of flavor, it didn’t take me long to devour it.

Capitol Garage

I stopped in here for breakfast and was blown away. I had looked up their menu online beforehand and they had me at “tofu scramble.”

How gorgeous is this? I was a little surprised that I had to scramble the tofu myself, but it wasn’t a problem. It was a lot of food, but I’ll tell you what, it kept me going all day. The potatoes are amazing—not sure what they’re seasoned with, but they’re delish.

Paesano’s (they also own Pronto)

I had their Penne Roma (without Parmesan)–yummy, and on another night, their Polenta Fries and Risotto (again, without Parmesan). Both were outstanding!

I never had polenta fries before. Now I’m hooked. When I got back, I picked up some polenta to try making my own.


This is just my favorite coffee shop—I used to stop here each morning during my first trip to the archives in January of 2009. I stayed in a different hotel this time, so it was a little out the way for me. I did make sure I stopped once.

Sugar Plum Vegan

I couldn’t wait until the weekend when I would have time to walk to Sugar Plum Vegan. They start serving lunch at 11am, but you can still purchase bakery goods before then. The BLT and Artichoke and Spinach Dip were recommended, so that’s exactly what I ordered.

Made with Daiya cheese, this dip was pure heaven. The flavors were unlike anything else–so rich and creamy. This alone would make a meal. I’m still dreaming about it. I am definitely going to try to recreate it!

The sandwich was good, but I still had the dip on my mind. I ended up taking the rest of the dip and half the sandwich back to the hotel which thankfully had a fridge and microwave. I had the rest for dinner that night. This is a CASH ONLY eatery, so stop at the ATM beforehand.

Above the restaurant is Never Felt Better Vegan Shop where I was like a kid in a candy store. What a cute little shop!

I ended up buying 2 scarves, some vegan jerky (review coming soon), a herbivore sticker and a cute vegan pin.

Amy Chun’s Noodle Bowls

I didn’t want to eat out every night, so I picked up a couple of noodle bowls. I actually had time for a product review!

So, it’s pretty easy to make–that is, if you have a kitchen with proper utensils. I was assuming there’d be a fork included in the packaging, but there wasn’t. No problem. I just had to go to the hotel’s breakfast area for a fork. Once the fork issue was resolved, I needed to add hot water to the provided bowl along with the dry spices and noodles. Ok, hot water in a hotel room. . .hmmm. There was a hot water thing in the room—like a coffee pot. So I fulled ‘er up, and held one of the hotel plastic cups under it and filled it with about 8oz of hot water. As I did this, I realized the cup at a slit on the side—not good. Luckily, I could tilt the cup away from that side. Then you add the water to the noodles and dry spices and microwave for about 90 seconds. It really needed about a 2 minutes. Drain any water and mix up. Add the package of peanuts. It wasn’t too painful of a process, but trying to prepare it in a hotel room isn’t that easy.
Aside from that though, it was quite delicious. The flavors were great and it even had a bit of a kick. The noodles came out perfect and I was pleased with the results. In a pinch, this was a good option for meal-while-traveling–but just make sure you have access to hot water, microwave, and a fork! I like that the front of the package clearly marks (bottom right) ingredient information such as, dairy-free, vegan, etc. Takes the guess work out. For nutritional information, click HERE. (100% natural, no preservatives and no MSG). I liked this one better than the Kung Po variety.

I guess that sort of concludes my dining experiences while in California. I loved that I could walk every where I went and that being in the downtown area, there are a ton of restaurants to choose from. In fact, there were some I wanted to try, but I just didn’t get a chance to check out. I’m thrilled that The Sixth Grader was able to see the Capitol and take a tour before they left, too.

Now, it’s time to buckle down and finish my book! You can read about my research and trip to Folsom prison at Folsom’s 93.

I’m Headed to Prison! (sort of)

I took this picture in January of 2009 when I made a trip to northern California to visit my sister and her family. I’m headed out this way again and I can’t tell you how excited I am to leave snowy, below zero Colorado! (I’ll get to the prison part). The Sixth Grader and I will be meeting The Husband (who’s already in San Francisco for work) today then up to Windsor to see the fam. I am looking forward to getting my hands on my new niece who was born in October and spoiling her five-year-old sister. After a few relaxing days there, we head to Sacramento where my guys will fly back home and I’ll stay for another 9 days to finish up my research at the State Archives:

This will hopefully be my final trip to the archives as I aim to finish my book, Folsom’s 93, a nonfiction account of the men executed at Folsom prison. I know, real uplifting. 😉 This has been a two year process so far and I hope to be finished this summer with it. As a writer and history buff, I am so excited to get there and finish up.  Since it’s my second trip to Sacramento for this, I’m pretty familiar with the lay of the land, but plan on doing some more exploring. Luckily, most of what I need is in walking distance, including a church where one of my Folsom fellow’s crime took place. I also get to walk right by the Capitol building every day, which is quite beautiful.

However, the most exciting event on my schedule is a tour of the prison itself—still in operation, by the way. Folsom is located about 20 miles outside Sacramento and my mom will actually be meeting me in Sacramento and together, we’re headed to prison. She’s a little nervous. For me, after two years of Folsom on the brain, I’m thrilled.

Folsom has been in operation for 130 years and houses so much history, well, in addition to the roughly 3500 inmates. Part of the long list of instructions for taking the tour, is to not wear certain fabrics (denim), certain colors, and especially, no blue, orange, red or gold jumpsuits. Hmmm . . . so I told my Mom that her new catsuit might be inappropriate. :)

So needless to say, I’m anxious to head out there, for both vacation and work. There are lots of restaurant options, plus I will have a small fridge and microwave in the hotel room, so I’ll report back with my California Vegan Finds. If you know of any veg-friendly restaurants in downtown Sacramento, let me know! Until then, have a great couple of weeks!


Portobellos with Tomatoes and Truffle Cheeze Sauce

Portobellos with Tomatoes and Truffle Cheeze Sauce -- Epicurean VeganWe got some beautiful portobellos and tomatoes from Green Buffalo Food Co. and this came together so fast. The truffle cheeze sauce is amazing! I could have eaten it with a spoon—it is rich, creamy and perfect for veggies, pasta, or by the spoonful!

1/2 Tbs olive oil
2 Portobello mushrooms, stem and gills removed
2-4 large basil leaves (I used spinach, but I think I’d prefer basil for more flavor)
4 tomato slices

1/3 C almond milk
1/2 C Daiya mozzarella
1/8 tsp (or less) white truffle oil

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Place portobellos, face down, in the pan and lightly saute for about 2 minutes. Turn over and saute the other side. Add the basil leaves and 2 tomato slices per mushroom. Reduce heat to low and cover.

Portobellos with Tomatoes and Truffle Cheeze Sauce -- Epicurean VeganTo prepare the sauce, bring the almond milk just to a boil, reduce heat to medium and whisk in the cheeze and truffle oil. Whisk until smooth—it’ll only take a couple of minutes.

Portobellos with Tomatoes and Truffle Cheeze Sauce -- Epicurean Vegan

Serve the portobellos with sauce drizzled on top and enjoy!

Anniversary & Reflection

Epicurean Vegan Turns 1!

That’s me with the largest acorn squash—ever.

I began my vegan journey when I gave up dairy in June of 2007, then finally giving up meat in December of 2009. I always felt I couldn’t digest meat and dairy very well, which is probably why I also was never a huge meat-eater. I picked up The Kind Diet and suddenly, things made sense. I loved the taste of dairy, but it made me feel crummy later (and did nothing good for my waistline). It was no wonder I had a love/hate relationship with food. I finally discovered that food can taste amazing and not make me feel lousy afterward. Oprah would called that my light bulb moment. I couldn’t wait to start on my new culinary adventure.

But then . . .  an appendicitis struck and thus, my world of food blogging. A year ago this week (on a very cold and blizzardy night–of course) I ended up at the ER with a very cranky appendix. Long story short—it was successfully removed, but the ordeal definitely knocked me on my butt. So I made my home on the couch, bloated belly and all, and an open laptop staring at me. I decided to start a vegan blog. I had no idea how to even blog, or if anyone would even find me, but I was loving my new plant way of life, that I just  wanted to share it with others.

I don’t remember what my first post was—for some reason, I have about 25 posts from January 21st. Not sure what happened there. So my first month of blogging may have been a little rocky, but over the last year I’ve had so much fun sharing recipes, what I’ve learned about vegan food, and meeting so many great foodies along the way.

I’m lucky to have a supportive family who has happily joined the vegan world with me and has been obliging guinea pigs for my recipes. Not everything I’ve made has turned out edible, but it’s all  been a fun learning process. I have been introduced to ingredients I never knew existed and have now become favorites. Kale, miso, tempeh, tofu—love them all!

My very patient, loving, and supportive husband had some fear when I announced my new “diet”, especially when I said that he wanted meat—he had to cook it, but after a month or so when he realized he wasn’t starved he thought he could probably do this too. You have to understand The Husband. He was a devoted chicken man. Chick-fil-A was his absolute favorite restaurant, but now, he can’t even imagine eating it. (I’m pretty sure Food, Inc., and Fast Food Nation, helped push him to go veg). He feels great, noting that those slowly, creeping pounds are not longer creeping up. One of the things I’ve noticed is my energy level. I actually took up running this last summer, participating in two 5Ks.

I never would have had the energy before—meat and dairy weighed me down. Literally. Weight gain is hardly an issue anymore. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that things run so much smoother!

Eating out and traveling as a vegan has been an adventure, but I don’t stress about it. I have found that restaurants are becoming more and more veggie-friendly and even if we have to put a little more effort into planning our meals while on vacation, it’s always worth it. We have found some vegan-havens in Boulder and Jackson Hole (well, everywhere, actually)!

(Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder)

(Nani’s in Jackson Hole)

Even camping is easy to veganize. There are lots of vegan options for the camper and hiker—which is a big part of our summers!

Anyway, I wanted to share my thoughts on my first year of veganism and all its positive effects it has had on us. Even though some friends and family think we’re a little nuts, that’s okay. I’ve learned a lot from some great cookbooks, but mostly from other vegan bloggers who have made this endeavor interesting and fun. Thank you to all my readers and fellow bloggers—I couldn’t continue this without all of you!

Garden Wraps

Garden Wraps -- Epicurean VeganI’m no June Cleaver, but I will go that extra mile to make sure the kid eats a healthy and delicious lunch at school. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, it’s important to include kids when making meals, especially when it comes to eating vegan. We’ve been lucky that The Sixth Grader has embraced veganism so willingly and he loves participating in cooking and meal-planning. So he was getting a little bored with St. Ives ham sandwiches, so together, we came up with a new idea: Garden Wraps. Yes, there is work involved—I spent some time Sunday afternoon making them, but golly, Wally, they are so good and worth it!

Spinach wraps/tortillas
Cucumber, diced
Carrots, julliened
Red onion, chopped
Celery, sliced
Tomato, diced
Avocado, sliced
Daiya cheese
Optional: cooked Boca “chicken” nuggets, diced

Garden Wraps -- Epicurean Vegan

Layer 2-3 spoonfuls of hummus on a tortilla, then the rest of the ingredients.

Garden Wraps -- Epicurean VeganFold in the sides first, then roll from the bottom. Slice in half and wrap with plastic wrap. I made several for both The Sixth Grader and I for lunch this week—it’s a quick and healthy snack/lunch to grab, especially if you don’t have a lot of time. Enjoy!

Garden Wraps -- Epicurean Vegan

Ready to grab and go!

Mustard Green and Cheeze Filo Pie

Mustard Green and Cheeze Filo Pie -- Epicurean VeganI’ve moved onto another obsession. Filo (or phyllo) dough. Oh my gosh . . . the possibilities! I veganized this recipe from Sunset magazine and after one bite, we quickly realized I should have doubled, if not tripled the recipe. My mind is going a mile a minute thinking of different ways to create filo pies, so expect more!

2 lbs mustard greens, chopped
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 C Earth Balance, melted
6 sheets thawed filo dough, cut in half
1 C Daiya mozzarella

Mustard Green and Cheeze Filo Pie -- Epicurean Vegan

Steam the greens (may have to do in batches), then transfer to a large bowl of ice water. Drain and squeeze as much water out of the greens as possible. You’ll be left with a ball of damp greens, but just pull and shake apart.

Mustard Green and Cheeze Filo Pie -- Epicurean VeganPreheat oven to 375. In a bowl, stir greens with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Butter an 8″ square baking dish and lay one filo square in bottom. You’ll have 2 edges that are a bit longer–that’s ok. Brush lightly with butter—this is where  you can brush those extra edges down and basically fold them over. Layer on another 5 pieces of filo, but alternate the directions that you lay them down, so that the excess edges are alternated each time. Butter each layer as you add it on.

Mustard Green and Cheeze Filo Pie -- Epicurean Vegan

Next, spread the greens on evenly, then the cheese.

Mustard Green and Cheeze Filo Pie -- Epicurean Vegan

Layer on the rest of the filo dough, buttering each layer like before. Then cut through all the layers into 9 pieces.

Mustard Green and Cheeze Filo Pie -- Epicurean Vegan

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool 5-7 minutes before serving. You will love these—guarantee! Enjoy!

Mustard Green and Cheeze Filo Pie -- Epicurean Vegan

VARIATION: I’ve made this a couple of times using frozen spinach. I like Cascadian Farms brand which is boxed, but the spinach inside is kept in a sealed plastic bag—makes it easy to thaw. Drain and squeeze out the liquid and prepare the same way as the mustard greens. I often double it and make a 9×13 dish of it—the uncut phyllo dough sheets are perfect for this sized dish.

Feast On This!

I guess it’s time to finally get back to my Friday ritual of posting about vegan health and news issues. Those darn holidays sure threw me off 😉

Visit the Doc at The Plant Rx

One of the main reasons I switched to a plant-based diet was because of the health risks associated with animal products. Some people think that’s a bunch of hooey and that the “benefits” of eating meat outweighs the health concerns. I know I’m not crazy and there is now The Plant Rx to back me up! This amazing resource for information on a plant-based diet is run by physicians and medical professionals who believe that in order to live long, healthy lives, we must eliminate animal products from our diet.

Based in Los Angeles, The Plant Rx explains the plant-based diet, offers evidence and testimonials to help novice vegans to the seasoned veteran. Packed full of information, you can read about how a plant-based diet can help those with Parkinson’s Disease, how a veggie diet aids in breast cancer survival, and how to get enough protein while hitting the veggies.

Currently, Jenna and the Plant Rx team, are gearing up for a Plant-Based Health Study that kicks off on January 15th where they will follow and document (lucky) participants who will try a vegan diet to improve their health. You will be able learn about the participants, read their blogs, and cheer them on! I am very excited to follow along this 60 day study and prove to others the amazing effects a vegan diet can have on a person.

I always squeal with delight whenever I receive the latest issue of VegNews. It is packed with awesome information and delicious recipes.

Here’s a few tidbits and food-for-thought:

  • 2009 was the first year on record that meat consumption in the US decreased.
  • 45,000 deaths in the UK are caused by over-consumption of meat (and are preventable)!
  • 190 tons of deli meat were recalled just last fall, and we can’t forget the 550 million eggs recalled in just one month last year!
  • 100,000+ people were studied over a course of 20-26 years and found that animal protein heightened mortality rates. Lower mortality rates were found with those who ate plant-based fats and proteins.

Ok, need to end it on a high (and tasty) note. Be sure to check out on page 58 the Triple-Layer Cheesecake or their Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake. I will be trying both!

“My perspective of veganism was most affected by learning that the veal calf is a by-product of dairying, and that in essence there is a slice of veal in every glass of what I had thought was an innocuous white liquid – milk.”

-Rynn Berry, quoted in Joanne Stepaniak, The Vegan Sourcebook, 1998

Amazing Mac ‘N Cheez Sauce

Amazing Mac 'N Cheez Sauce -- Epicurean VeganGuess what? You’ll never guess where this recipe came from! That’s right . . . how’d you know? The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. All right, I have one more recipe from the book in the queue, then that’s it. Promise. I just can’t help it; these recipes are amazing. As vegans, we all know how difficult it can be to find tasty “cheese” so when you find what works—go with it. This sauce is delicious, creamy and ready in less than 10 minutes. I added some vegan Worcestershire and some light miso, but feel free to tweak the recipe to your liking because it’s a pretty basic sauce. You can serve it over pasta, potatoes, or other veggies.

1/2 C flour (any kind)
1/2 C nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika, sweet, hot, smoked or regular
2 C nondairy milk (I like almond milk)
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 tsp prepared mustard, any variety (I used Dijon)
Optional: 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire, 1 Tbs light miso

In a medium saucepan, combine the flour, nutritional yeast, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika. Gradually whisk in the nondairy milk, olive oil, and mustard. Combine well, then add the optional ingredients, if using. Cook over medium heat stirring with a whisk constantly until the sauce is smooth and thick. Enjoy! Oh, and when it comes to leftovers, like most nondairy cheese sauces, I recommend heating the sauce in a saucepan on the stove. Otherwise, it gets dried out.