Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Roasted Mushrooms

I love to roast just about any vegetable. It is such an easy way to prepare veggies. Today I roasted a mix of cremini and shitake mushrooms. The shitake mushrooms are from the farmer's market so that counts as locally grown (in my quest to be a better consumer) but the creminis are from Washington (not very local).

Drizzle olive oil on the mushrooms, season them with thyme, rosemary and pepper. Then roast them in a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, until tender. Season with salt when they come out of the oven (if you salt them before they go in, they will lose a lot of their moisture). They cook down quite a bit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Veggie BBQ

Our veggie bbq this weekend consisted of veggie kebabs, foccaccia bread, eggplant and baked beans. For the kebabs, I used tomatoes, cremini mushrooms, red onions and zucchini. I coated the veggies with olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. The eggplant just had olive oil, salt and pepper. I love to eat the eggplant with the foccaccia bread made on the grill. I do all the prepping and omnivore boyfriend does a great job doing the actual bbqing.

For the bread, I used Trader Joe's herb pizza dough. I divided it into eight pieces, hand stretched them out, coated them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt. You could use whatever pizza dough recipe you have. It would be fun to turn them into actual pizzas but we love it as bread.
The baked beans are Trader Joe's organic baked beans.
I am trying to be a better consumer so I did try to buy organic, locally grown and "green" groceries for our bbq. I somewhat succeeded. The baked beans are organic but I realized that it is difficult to figure out where canned beans are grown and packaged. I am pretty sure no one is growing beans around Los Angeles so I might have to make an exception for non-locally grown beans. I will have to look into the bean issue more thoroughly being that I eat beans everyday! At least they were organic. The veggies on the kebab were locally grown and organic except for the mushrooms. They were from Washington state (not quite local-oops).
We try not to use a lot of paper towels or aluminum foil but we did use some for our bbq. I found a new product, Reynolds Wrap 100% Recycled Aluminum Foil. It's about time the leading aluminum foil people made a 100% recycled product!
It was almost twice as much as the store brand but maybe if more people buy it the price will go down, encouraging even more people to use it. I also bought Scott brand paper towels (Scott Naturals Choose-a-Size) that are made from minimum 60% recycled fiber. I think it is good when mainstream brands that are sold in major grocery stores create "natural" product lines. The more the demand for those products goes up, the better!
Overall, I did ok with my purchases but could do better!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Challenge: Be Better Consumers!

After seeing the documentary Food, Inc., I have been re-energized and motivated to be a better consumer. For the most part I shop responsibly but I could be doing so much more! I find it easy sometimes to get lazy about these things. So I am challenging myself this summer to improve my shopping habits. There are a few things I want to work on (suggestions for more are always appreciated):
  1. Buy more locally grown food. Until now I told myself anything grown in North America counted as "local" or "in season". I live in Los Angeles so doing it that way allowed for produce grown in Mexico. I think I should limit it to produce grown in California for the most part.
  2. Buy more organic items. I was buying some organic but I also was trying to stick to a budget which can make shopping for organic items more difficult. This is a challenge so I will have to find a way to make it work.
  3. Avoid genetically modified food. I will blog more about the issues of genetically modified food later. I eat a lot of soy products (soy milk, soy yogurt, etc.) so I will have to read more labels and do more research to avoid genetically modified soybeans (currently, up to 85 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered).
  4. Prepare more responsible and healthy dishes. I need to incorporate my locally grown, non genetically modified and organic items in to tasty dishes!
  5. Get more involved in the food movement. There is so much we can be doing to improve food safety, school lunches, etc. I will be becoming more active and sharing ways for others to do so as well (I also would appreciate your ideas for ways to get involved).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Food, Inc. - Hungry For Change?

Food Inc is a fascinating and informative documentary about the food industry. I hope everyone sees this movie. Even if you think as a vegan that you are very informed and minimizing your carbon footprint, there is info in this movie that will surprise you and change the way you eat and shop. My omnivore boyfriend and I saw this Friday night and it deeply affected both of us. I hope it is released in more cities to give everyone the opportunity to see it. Here's a description from the movie website, which is also full of great info.

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sweet Biscuits and Homemade Jam

This recipe is the only successful recipe I have made from Babycakes Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna (see my review of this cookbook) . I call them sweet biscuits but it is a recipe for the base of her strawberry shortcakes. This recipe calls for spelt four (which is not gluten free-one of my major issues with her "gluten-free" cookbook). I used the whole grain variety and my sister tried it successfully with the white spelt. This would probably work with all purpose flour as well. I topped it with some quick homemade berry jam.

This jam is so easy to make. It requires no pectin and no canning abilities whatsoever! It obviously won't last as long as the type you can but would last a week or two refrigerated. It is a Martha Stewart recipe. I used 3 cups of frozen berries (a mix of blueberries, raspberries and marionberries), 1 cup of sugar and the zest of one lemon. I combined it all in a saucepan then followed Martha's directions:
"Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring and skimming foam from surface, until mixture reaches 221 degrees on a candy thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes. To test, remove mixture from heat. Pour a small amount of jam on a cold plate and transfer to freezer, for 2 to 3 minutes. If mixture gels, it is ready to fill. If not, return to heat and retest. "
I did use a candy thermometer but if you don't have one, boil the berries about ten minutes then try the freezer test. Once it passed the freezer test, I put it in a jar and refrigerated it. It is very easy, makes great jam and you control how much sugar you add!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Since the last post was about bad gluten-free baked goods, I thought I would post about an absolutely delicious and easy to make gluten-free dessert. These peanut butter chocolate bars are from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Joy of Vegan Baking. I made them for a camping trip in Joshua Tree National Park that we had this weekend. These were quite a hit among the campers. Omnivores loved them and said they tasted like a cross between Reeses peanut butter cups and Butterfinger bars. They are no bake bars that take about five minutes to make with no fancy ingredients required. After making one batch, the only change I made was the size of the pan. She uses a 9x13 pan but that made very flat bars. I used a 8x8 pan for chunkier bars.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cookbook Review: Babycakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery

Cookbook with pumpkin spice muffins (they are just ok after much recipe tweaking)

Babycakes Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar -free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna is a really long title that definitely had room to include that it is mostly gluten free not completely gluten-free. Mostly gluten free is a bit more important to mention than mostly sugar free. I could overlook that but there are few other things wrong with this cookbook that you should know before you decide whether or not to get it.

Erin Mckenna, the author and owner of Babycakes Bakery in NYC, was on the Martha Stewart Show making cookies from her new cookbook. Martha went on and on how good they were. Well, my mom, my sister and I immediately ordered the book. Unfortunately there are many problems with the cookbook.

  1. It is not completely gluten-free as the title states. The whole chapter on biscuits and scones and some other recipes are not gluten-free (those recipes use spelt flour).

  2. I, my sister and many other people (see Babycakes blog and Amazon reviews) seem to be having similar problems. Muffins and breads collapsing, cooking times way off, cookies coming out as flat disks, etc.

  3. Ingredients and directions are not clear in the book. She lists coconut oil in the recipes but then on her blog she says you should use unscented and melted coconut oil (unscented is more difficult to find and that should be stated in the recipe as well as whether to melt it or not).

  4. She has a couple of posts on her blog to deal with all questions and problems people are having with her recipes. But her responses all seem to assume the homecook has made mistakes or not followed her recipe exactly. She also states "Remember, baker buddies, this isn't easy stuff! " Vegan and gluten free bakers are used to tweaking recipes and having cooking disasters. But when one uses a cookbook and follows the recipe exactly, it should come out well (maybe in the future you tweak spices and such but overall the recipe should work).

So I think that she did not have recipe testers for this which is a shame because the book is beautiful and it would have been great to have a go to cookbook for vegan and gluten-free baked goods. The shortcake bread came out well as well as one batch of the cookies. Buy this if you are ok with it providing guidelines for you for vegan and gluten free baking but not consistently good recipes. Be ready to spend a lot for ingredients ( a jar of coconut oil might be enough for two recipes) and to have a many inedible disasters before getting something good.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Santa Fe Pumpkin Chowder

I discovered a great blog this week, Karina's Kitchen, a gluten free blog, where I found this Santa Fe Pumpkin Chowder recipe. It is not a vegan blog but she has lots of vegan recipes. This was absolutely delicious. I added black beans to mine and used a hot salsa so it was very spicy, which is how I like it, but you can make it more mild.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Baked Lima Beans

This is another wonderful bean recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian cookbook. She says it is a Greek recipe from nuns in Macedonia. It is really simple to make with just a few ingredients. It is baked for about two hours but there is little prep time. She does call for cooking dry beans but you could use canned or frozen lima beans and add broth instead of the bean's cooking liquid. I usually cook dry beans a couple of times a week and use them in a variety of recipes.
I highly recommend this cookbook. It has about 200 recipes and most are vegan or easily veganized. She has an Indian cooking one as well but I haven't tried it yet.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Black-Eyed Peas in a Walnut Sauce

Being that I love beans and eat some sort of bean everyday, I thought I would post about beans all week!! Beans and nuts are my main source of protein and this recipe has both. It is a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian cookbook. This is must have cookbook for everyone, especially vegetarians and vegans. There are so many wonderful recipes from all over the world and she uses all types of grains and beans without too many hard to find ingredients.

This black-eyed pea dish isn't the prettiest but it is so tasty and very good for you. It would be great over your favorite grain along with a salad. I served it with a warm spinach mushroom salad. I make a very simple salad. I saute sliced mushrooms (shitake, crimini, button, etc) and when tender I put them on top of some fresh spinach leaves. Then I season it with a good olive oil (this time I used a porcini olive oil-so good) and salt and pepper.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Roasted Tomatoes

Whole Foods, of all places, has tomatoes on sale for 2 lbs for a $1. These are not the most flavorful tomatoes but they are pretty good. Whenever I get a bunch of tomatoes that are not the best for eating raw, I roast them. Oven roasting tomatoes at a low temperature for a few hours causes them to caramelize and intensifies the flavor. I serve them as an antipasto with olives and fresh basil. They are also great on sandwiches and salads.

Oven roasted tomatoes require little prep time but do cook for about 3 hours. Pre-heat oven to 250 (300 degrees if your oven doesn't go down to 250 degrees). Cut tomatoes in half and place cut side up on a foil covered baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a tiny bit of sugar (sugar helps the caramelization but doesn't make them sweet). Bake for 2 1/2 - 3 hours until tomatoes are still soft but are starting to shrivel.

I left the seeds and juice in my tomatoes before baking but many people remove the seeds and juice first. If you plan to use the tomatoes on sandwiches or don't want them too juicy then remove the seeds and juice first by scooping it out of each tomato half. Use the juice and seeds in soup or a veggie smoothie.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Black Bean Chili

Chili makes for a very filling and healthy meal and I am always looking for new variations. I find that the recipes in most of my vegan cookbooks usually call for some kind of mock meat. I am not fond of mock meats. Honestly they freak me out a bit. I understand why many vegetarians and vegans rely on them but I usually avoid or alter recipes that call for them. This is a mock meat free vegetarian chili recipe from Emeril Lagasse and it is full of veggies and beans and is delicious! I garnished it with chopped avocados and onions.

I haven't felt very inspired lately in the kitchen. Perhaps this happens to
all of us. I look in the cupboards and refrigerator and nothing seems appealing to me. So I have been searching my cookbooks, the vegan blogs and the web for inspiration. I came upon a contest that Chocolate Covered Katie is having that seems perfect when you are in a cooking slump. You have to try a new food or one that you haven't tried in awhile and will be entered in a drawing for some vegan goodies-see her rules here. So I bought some adzuki beans which I have been wanting to try. Now I just have to find a recipe.....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Oprah did a great special today for Earth Day. If you go to Oprah.com, you can download coupons or get the codes for 20% off SIGG (their website can't seem to handle all the new traffic so you might want to wait a day or so) products, 20% off To-Go Ware and a free lunch tote from Whole Foods.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mayan Spiced Chocolate Pudding

In this month's issue of Vegetarian Times, there is a recipe for Mayan spiced chocolate pudding that has no tofu in it!! It seems so many vegan pudding and mousse recipes rely on tofu, which is ok, but I can always taste the tofu in it and many people can't eat soy. This ones uses coconut milk and cornstarch as a thickener. It is really good and I love the spiciness that the chili powder and cinnamon add to it. Mine came out a bit lumpy because my cornstarch had little lumps in it that I didn't make sure dissolved. I am going to try this with arrowroot as a thickener next time instead of the cornstarch.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spicy Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is one of those strange looking vegetables that is not often called for in recipes. I bought some kohlrabi at the farmer's market this week but wasn't quite sure what to do with it. Every once and awhile I buy something that I have no idea what it is or what to do with it-it makes me break away from the same old recipes I make over and over again.
I found a recipe for spicy kohlrabi at RecipeZaar that uses the kohlrabi bulb and the greens. It turned out really well. If you don't have kohlrabi, I think it would work well with any kind of greens by themselves or greens with turnips.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Not the freeway kind, although we do have plenty of those in Los Angeles!

Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are only in season for a short time in April and May. They have a garlic/onion flavor and are delicious. If you get a chance to try these, you really should. I usually use the green part raw but it does have a really strong flavor. The white bulb part I tend to cook and use it as I would garlic.
Purple potatoes with ramps

Ramps should really be the focus of the dish so you can enjoy their flavor, so best to pair them with milder ingredients. The green leafy part, for me, is best raw and the white part is better cooked since it has such a strong flavor. I really like the fresh green leafy parts chopped up and added to potatoes. You could saute the white part with potatoes or mushrooms then add the green part raw for extra garlic/onion goodness. Ramps are great on pasta too. Saute the white parts with some olive oil and hot pepper, add to pasta then stir in the leafy parts. I have read that they are wonderful charred on the grill but have yet to try that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Field Peas???

I had never seen field peas until last year. They look like black eyed peas but are not. I can only find them frozen and only at a few stores here in Los Angeles. I think they are more popular in other parts of the country??? I really like them but I need more recipes for them.

I cooked them according to the package directions, basically simmering in water for 40 minutes. Then I drained them and seasoned them with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper. That is probably not a typical way to season them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Forgotten Turnip

Some very dirty turnips from the market

Turnips really don't get a lot respect in the vegetable world. There aren't many recipes for them, they are rarely on menus and if they are in a dish they are never the main ingredient. I love turnips. Turnips have a mild sweet flavor and they get so tender that they practically melt your in mouth. I prefer to prepare them simply. Peel and thinly slice the turnips, saute in Earth Balance or oil until tender and lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes. You can also roast them in a 400 degree oven for about a half an hour.

Bianca of Vegan Crunk has quite a few turnip posts. If anyone has any turnip recipes, let me know.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Fourteen: Black Bean Soup

My month of quick and easy pantry cooking posts has come to end. For the final post of this series, I saved my favorite go to recipe, black bean soup. We have this at least every other week, usually when I don't feel like coming up with a new recipe or want something really easy to make. It started as a recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook but I have changed it over the years. It is so easy to make and is a filling meal by itself but is great with a scoop of brown rice in it or served with some cornbread.

Black Bean Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne depending on your taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1- 28 ounce can crushed, diced or whole tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2- 15 ounce cans black beans
  • cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • vegan sour cream (optional-I use Tofutti brand)
  • salt to taste

Saute onions, garlic and cayenne in oil in a large pot until onions are translucent about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, water and tomatoes (break them up if using whole tomatoes). Cover, bring to a boil then let simmer for about five minutes. Add the black beans. I add them with their liquid but if you prefer, you can drain and rinse them. Continue simmering for 15 more minutes. Puree 1/2 of the soup in the blender or with an immersion blender. Season to taste. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Thirteen: Trail Mix

I know that making trail mix isn't really cooking but it is from my pantry!!

It seems lately that trail mix is losing in popularity to the energy bar. I love the taste and convenience of a Larabar and others but trail mix can be convenient too and I can put in it what I like. There are some fun trail mixes out there but some are very expensive and many have added sugar, nuts in them that have been roasted in oil or chocolate pieces that are not vegan.

Every weekend I make a batch of trail mix for the week. It goes in lunches, we take some on our weekly hike and the rest is snacked on at home or while out running errands. I always change it up but the main ingredient is almost always raw walnuts. This is what went into it this weekend:

Trail Mix

  • raw walnuts
  • dried cranberries
  • raisins
  • cystallized ginger
  • dark chocolate
  • raw pumpkin seeds

variations: add goji berries, raw sunflower kernels, other raw nuts, dried fruit

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's in a Vegan Pantry?

This month I have been posting recipes that are quick and easy to make with ingredients most of us have in our dry, refrigerated or freezer pantry. So today I thought I would reveal my very cramped and unorganized dry pantry. My kitchen is pretty small as are the cupboards. This is the space I have to store my dry goods.
What's in a vegan pantry? Probably similar to most other pantries. We rarely eat already prepared meals in our house, such as canned soups, chilis, frozen entrees, etc so those items are absent from my pantry. My dry pantry pretty much contains the following on a regular basis:

Baking Items (top left)

  • sugars (brown, sucanat, cane sugar, powdered sugar)
  • brown rice syrup
  • baking soda and powder
  • cocoa powder
  • vegan sprinkles
  • extracts (vanilla, almond, orange, lemon, rum)
  • agave nectar (on first shelf for easy access since it is our main sweetener)
  • hot sauce
  • tea and coffee


  • bread crumbs (usually panko)
  • wasabi powder
  • oils (coconut, olive oil, canola oil)
  • tofu
  • dried mushrooms
  • pasta (regular Barilla brand, whole wheat and soba noodles)

Canned Goods (top and bottom right)

  • Beans (Pinto, black, garbanzo, kidney, cannellini, black-eyed peas, etc)
  • Pumpkin puree
  • coconut milk
  • tomatoes (diced, crushed and whole-regular and fire roasted)

Rice and Beans (bottom left) I try to keep one bin of dry beans and one of rice but they inevitably overflow into each other

  • Rice (brown basmati and jasmine, white basmati and jasmine, wild)
  • Beans (lentils, kidney, black and garbanzo)

I keep spices in their own drawer except for a few over sized spice containers. Flours and nuts are stored in the refrigerator. I saw this interesting chart, http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5401.pdf that explains how long we should keep stuff such as canned goods, spices, etc. I have to admit, I have a few spices that need to be updated!!! Maybe you do too???

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Twelve: Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

I love sweet potatoes and try to always keep them in stock. I know have blogged about sweet potatoes before and I am sure I will again-I really love them!!!

Oven fries are great cooked with just some salt, pepper and oil but they are even better when spiced up and made with sweet potatoes. Rachel Ray has a great recipe for Cajun oven fries. My recipe ends up changing a bit every time, depending on what spices I have. This is how I made them today.

Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries
  • 4 sweet potatoes, washed well and dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sweet, hot or smoked paprika (I used the smoked today)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending how hot you want it-use less if you use hot paprika)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Cut sweet potatoes into wedges. Combine oil, paprika, cumin and cayenne then toss with potatoes. Spread single layer on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turn them over and bake 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce.

variations: use another type of potato, add hot sauce to spice mixture (Rachel Ray does this), add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup for some sweetness.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Eleven: Yogurt Parfait

In my refrigerated pantry, I always have plain soy yogurt. I use it in smoothies or dollop it on chili. In my freezer pantry, I always have an assortment of frozen fruit which I mostly use for smoothies or the occasional pie. I wanted a healthy treat so I made a parfait. This is much better than buying yogurt with fruit already in it being that you can control the sugar level. Although fresh fruit is wonderful in parfaits, cooking the fruit produces a nice syrup.

Cherry Yogurt Parfait

  • 1-1lb bag frozen cherries
  • 2 tablespoons sweetener (agave, sugar, maple syrup, etc)
  • zest of one lemon
  • plain soy yogurt

Combine ingredients (except yogurt) in a saucepan. Cook on medium to low heat for about 15 minutes. When cool, layer yogurt and cherry mixture in a glass. Store rest of cherry mixture in refrigerator.

variations: use whatever frozen fruit you have (mangoes, blueberries, raspberries, etc), substitute orange zest for the lemon, add a layer of granola.

Vegan Product of the Week: Origins

This is really last week's product of the week but I am trying to catch up!

All of Origins products are not vegan. They do use honey and/or beeswax in a few products (mostly lipsticks). But the majority are vegan and they are great high quality products. I also use vegan only product lines but I like to vary what I use and also support companies that are making an effort to carry vegan items. The challenging part of that can be trying to figure which products in a line are actually vegan. Most companies, like Origins, are good about getting back to you when you email them and most are pretty clear about their ingredient sources. If they don't get back to me after a few attempts, then that pretty much tells me that it is not a vegan friendly company. Certain companies like Urban Decay and Lush actually post on their websites which of their products are vegan. Being that my sister and I are both vegans, we have developed a tag team approach for the other companies. Just to be sure that they are providing accurate information, my sister and I both contact the companies and compare responses. For example, we both received the same response from Origins:

"Regarding the use of non-vegan ingredients, we would like to explain that the majority of our products are appropriate for use by our vegan consumers. We do, however, use beeswax or honey in some of our formulations. Beeswax is naturally produced by bees during the process of making honey, and both ingredients come from nature-driven renewable sources. Honey and beeswax ingredients will appear on a product's ingredient label if either is present in the formulation. "

My favorite Origins product is their Night-a-Mins, a very moisturizing facial cream. This one is great for dry skin. I also love their Frothy Face Wash. When you order online from them, they usually include some free samples. It is a great company to order a gift for someone from because they package gifts in very cute reusable containers.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Ten: Lemon and Rosemary Tomato Soup

This is my go to soup when I want a healthy, fast yet filling soup. The lemon zest and rosemary in this hearty tomato soup give it a really fresh flavor. Cannellini beans make it hearty and rich in protein. Sometimes I use the fire roasted tomatoes to give it a more rustic flavor. This recipe was originally on Everyday Italian, Giada de Laurentiis' show on the Food Network. I altered her recipe a bit and veganized it.

Lemon and Rosemary Tomato Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-15 oz can cannellin beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup vegan sour cream (I use Tofutti brand)
  • zest of one lemon

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender, about five minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, 1 teaspoon of the rosemary and the red pepper flakes. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Puree all or part of the soup. If you don't puree it at least partially, which is what I do, then it won't get that creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, the remaining 1 teaspoon of rosemary and lemonzest. Serve soup with a dollop of the sour cream mixture on top.

Variations: Substitute plain soy yogurt for the sour cream. Fresh rosemary is best for this recipe but you could use dried, 1/4 teaspoon in the soup and 1/4 in the sour cream. Add croutons.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Nine: Black Eyed Peas in Spicy Coconut Sauce

This is a dish that is made almost entirely from canned goods. I like to keep the ingredients in stock because this is so easy to make, full of protein and makes a filling and healthy dinner especially when paired with a salad.
I serve it over brown rice but any grain that you have in stock would work well. If you don't have black-eyed peas, you can substitute any kind of bean (pinto beans are a good substitute). I prefer the flavor of the black-eyed peas in this dish but most beans would taste really good. I used a can of tomato sauce because that is what I had. A can of diced or crushed tomatoes would also be fine.

Black-Eyed Peas in Spicy Coconut Sauce
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-15 oz cans black-eyed peas, drained, rinsed and partially mashed
  • 1-15 oz can tomato sauce, diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1-14 oz can light coconut milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons cilantro or parsley, chopped (optional)
  • salt to taste

Saute onion in oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add all ingredients except cilantro and combine well. Cover pan and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add cilantro. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Eight: Wild Rice with Mushrooms

I keep many kinds of rice in my pantry but I find that I usually end up using brown rice for lots of dishes. I had some wild rice left from a Thanksgiving wild rice and corn bread dressing dish so I decided to use it up. There were some beautiful shitake mushrooms at the farmer's market that I thought would be good with wild rice. You could use whatever mushroom you can find or use the dehydrated kind. This is not the prettiest dish but it has a nice earthy flavor.

Wild Rice with Mushrooms

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

Cook wild rice in broth for about 45 minutes. Drain excess broth from rice. While the rice is cooking saute onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and thyme until onion is translucent, about five minutes. Add mushrooms and cook about 10 minutes more, until mushrooms are tender. This time will vary depending on the mushroom you are using. Combine mushroom mixture and rice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

variations: Add 1/4 cup white wine to mushrooms near end of their cooking time for some extra flavor. Garnish with chopped scallions or parsley

Friday, March 13, 2009

Vegan Product of the Week: Cool Cups

Friday is product-of-the-week day (back to pantry cooking on Monday). I don't eat processed food very often but I saw these Cool Cups Natural Black Cherry Gels at Whole Foods the other day and was intrigued. Way back before I was even a vegetarian, I only ate Jello on occasion. Once a vegetarian then vegan, I would try different brands of vegan gel type desserts which were usually just ok. Cool Cups have a great flavor and the texture seems just right, firm yet jiggly. They are fairly inexpensive for a specialty vegan item, a four pack was under $2.50. Currently this company just has the ready made gel packs but their website states that dry mixes will be available this spring. I'll be looking forward to those! I would definitely get these again for a refreshing and fairly healthy treat!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Seven: Broccoli Pasta

When I want a quick dinner that is healthy and full of veggies, I pick up some fresh broccoli and make broccoli pasta. I usually use the De Boles brand pasta if I want whole wheat or Barilla if I want regular pasta. This time I used the De Boles whole wheat angel hair. For this recipe, you can add lots more broccoli if you want a high broccoli to pasta ratio. You can substitute rapini or cauliflower for the broccoli. I sometimes add fresh or frozen spinach to the broccoli while it is cooking. For a boost of protein, add a drained and rinsed can of cannellini beans after the broccoli has been added to the pasta.

Broccoli Pasta

8 cups fresh broccoli, chopped

2 tablespoons olive for cooking plus 2 more to add after the pasta has cooked

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup veggie broth or water

1/2 lb pasta

salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic and red pepper flakes in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for a few minutes. Do not let brown too much. Add broccoli and broth or water. Cook covered on medium low heat for about 15 minutes until broccoli is tender. While broccoli is cooking, cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta and broccoli are done, combine them and add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Six: Lentils and Rice

A few days ago I cooked one pound of lentils. I used half for a lentil salad that day and saved the rest to make lentils and rice. I used brown rice to make it healthier and the brown rice pairs nicely with the lentils, but you could use whatever you have.

I usually cook my rice in veggie broth to add more flavor. Sometimes I use the broth in the cartons but those can be expensive. I do try to make my own broth but that doesn't happen as often as I'd like. So I always keep two bouillon products in stock. The Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon is wonderful because it comes in individually wrapped cubes and there is a no salt version. This one is good for throwing in with rice or to make a cup of broth to drink. The other one I use regularly is the Better Than Bouillon vegetable base. This one is a bit salty but is a great base for soups. It is a thick liquid that comes in a jar. For this dish, I used one Rapunzel bouillon cube.

Lentils and Rice
1/2 lb dry lentils, cooked
1 cup brown rice
1 vegan bouillon cube
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cook brown rice according to package directions. Add bouillon cube to rice at start of cooking or replace water with veggie broth. While rice is cooking, saute onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil until onions are translucent. When rice is done, stir in lentils, onion mixture and parsley. Season to taste.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Five: Orange Marmalade Sweet Potatoes

There are certain vegetables such as sweet potatoes that I always keep in stock. I put them in soup, roast them with other veggies, bake them as oven fries or just eat them as a baked potato. I now have a new favorite way to prepare sweet potatoes, mashed with orange marmalade. Rachel Ray made them on her show, Thirty Minute Meals and I veganized her recipe. I have combined orange and sweet potato before, making mashed sweet potatoes with orange juice and maple syrup but the orange marmalade is just delicious and takes it to another level! The picture does not do them justice. Use a good quality orange marmalade.

Orange Marmalade Sweet Potatoes
6 small sweet potatoes or 3-4 large (mine happened to be very tiny so I used 6)
2-3 heaping tablespoons orange marmalade (add three if you like extra sweetness)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
salt to taste

Roast potatoes in 400 degree oven for about an hour until tender. You could also microrave them or cut into chunks and boil them but I prefer the flavor of baked potatoes. Peel and roughly mash potatoes, add remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Four: Lentil Salad

Beans are so versatile and healthy. There are practically endless types of beans and endless possibilities for preparing them. Beans have been a staple food throughout the world for thousands of years. Whenever someone says that they don't like beans-I always ask which one. How could someone not like all beans. Maybe I'll dedicate a month to beans! Being that I am not fond of meat substitutes, tofu, seitan and tempeh (shocking I know, a vegan that doesn't love all those things), I depend on beans for my main source of protein in a meal.

This lentil salad is so simple and you can vary what you add to it depending on what you have. I made a Mediterranean style salad but you could give it a more latino feel with cilantro, cumin and jalapenos or add whatever you like. I cooked the whole 1 lb bag of lentils and used half for this and the other half I set aside for a future dish.

Lentil Salad
1/2 bag (1/2 lb dry beans or 1 1/4 cup dry beans)
2 tomatoes chopped
handful parsley, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon or about 2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

variations: add chopped kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, green onions

Cook lentils (no soaking required for lentils) in a large pot of water on medium low heat for 45-60 minutes until tender. Drain. Add all ingredients and mix. Serve warm or cold.

I wanted to make a quick and easy dessert last night so I found the decadent brownie recipe in The Garden of Vegan cookbook. It was so easy to make. But I was so disappointed in the result. It did not make brownies. Brownies are fudgy and rich, a cross between chocolate cake and fudge. This recipe made a chocolate cake. It was a good cake but when you want brownies, this was disappointing!