Friday, September 13, 2013

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte!

I know a lot of bloggers and people in the vegan community are really bummed about the fact that they can't order a Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte from Starbucks (or Caribou Coffee, I checked) because they use condensed milk to flavor the drink. So what's a vegan (or poseur vegan, like me) supposed to do to enjoy a tasty fall beverage?

Never fear, trusty readers (all one of you), I have found a recipe to satisfy your pumpkin spice cravings! Check out this awesome recipe from Artichokes and Anecdotes: Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte!

Also, if you prefer chai (or black tea) to coffee, like I do, this recipe can be simply modified by using chai prepared with two tea bags so that it's extra strong. I prefer Tazo brand Organic Chai, but any chai will do: Rooibos Chai, Maharaja Chai, I'm craving a chai. Did you know that in Russian, chai is the word for tea? That is why you'll almost never see me write chai tea. It just sounds repetitive to me, but enough about me and my chai addition. Go forth and make delicious Pumpkin Spice Beverages!!!

Doesn't that look delicious and fall-inspired! I couldn't get the cinnamon stick to sit right. It kept sinking.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gluten Free Vegan Cookie Dough (and Bacon)

After a long day at work and an hour commute home on Friday evening instead of going straight home to veg out on the couch, I went to my community garden plot to continue my mulching project. I'm sick and tired of all the damn weeds in my garden, so I've decided that I need to mulch strategically (and also plant more plants) so that there are less weeds to pull in the first place.

So after weeding vigorously and unloading 3 totes full of mulch to form a lovely little path around the edge of my garden*, I decided to make a stop at my local Whole Foods store to pick up something quick and easy for dinner (Amy's No Cheese Vegan Pizza?). I also decided to get my groceries for the week. I mean, I might as well, it was Friday night and the store was easy to navigate since not many other people were there. I'm not going to go into too much detail on the groceries because I love food and could go on forever about the food choices and what I got. However, I picked up some fancy new vegan convenience products: Tofutti mint ice cream bars, (vegan) sandwich thins (Score!), Tempeh "Bacon", and a jar of Gluten Free Vegan Cookie Dough that was staring me down!

Gluten Free and Vegan? I was sold. I checked the ingredients and although there are quite a few, they're pretty basic. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the dough is made from a mix of chickpea and brown rice. I've heard that some people make vegan cookies with chickpeas, but I haven't had the chance (or felt the urge) to bake cookies since I started this challenge.

I ate it straight out of the jar, and I ate about 2 1/2 cookies before stopping myself. It's delicious (and slightly more nutritious)! I didn't get a chance to bake any because I had some more and my husband finished off the rest (about a dozen cookies worth!) on Sunday morning, but I bet the cookies would be amazing, too! One thing that I really like about this cookie dough is that it has less fat, less calories, and healthier ingredients than regular cookie dough! Score one for the vegans. Also, carnivores will like it too (evidenced by the fact that my husband finished off a dozen cookies all by himself)!

Next up: Tempeh Bacon!

Saturday morning, I tried out this tempeh bacon. After hearing about eggplant bacon and other vegan bacon varieties on some other blogs, I figured it was worth a try. So, I purchased some Litelife Tempeh Bacon while I was picking up some tofu. First off, I'm not the biggest fan of tempeh. I still prefer tofu and seitan to the texture and taste of tempeh, so that may have some bearing on my opinion of this product. It does have a nice smokey flavor, and like bacon, I dipped it in some maple syrup. (That's the way I've always liked to eat my bacon and sausage (veggie or otherwise in the past), with syrup. Yes, it's a little weird, but the sweet and salty combination is delicious!) Findings: It was okay. The flavor was smoky and right, but it didn't really have the same texture or crunch as bacon. I'd give it a C+ for effort, but if you're looking for a bacon substitute, this is not it.

However, if you've a vegan, you probably aren't looking to eat anything that even remotely resembles the look or taste of meat. I'm not sure why there are so many meat substitute products out there. Maybe for all the transitioning vegetarians or also just for convenience in social situations. I know that when I go to a cookout and bring my own veggie burgers, it's much less of a hassle for me and my hosts. As a vegetarian, I don't ever want anyone to feel like they have to do or make anything special, so I usually bring a dish to share whenever I go to any food-focused get-togethers.

As a vegan (in the past 30 days), I haven't been to any restaurants yet where there wasn't at least one or two vegan friendly options on the menu. Some of my friends who know I'm doing this 90-day vegan challenge have been looking out for me to make sure that when we go out places, they have vegan food. I appreciate this effort, but so far it hasn't been that necessary. It's been a happy surprise to discover that most places already serve something vegan, even if it's just a salad or a couple of appetizers or side dishes. I thought that it would be a lot harder to eat at restaurants and go out while on this challenge, but it really hasn't!

*I promise to post some pictures of my garden plot once I finish planting the rest of my blueberry and raspberry bushes. It's nothing much right now. (I got it a little late in the season to do too much with it, and I don't have as much extra time and energy to spend on it as I'd like.) However, as of this week, I have 7 strawberry plants, 2 rows of carrots, 2 cantaloupe plants, 9 blueberry bushes and 1 raspberry bush. I ordered some kale, salad mix, and more carrot seeds that are supposed to come in on Thursday, so I will have a little bit more going on soon.

I also have some mint that won't go away. I guess the last guy planted it and didn't realize what an invasive weed it is. I let a few of the mint plants continue to grow because they smell nice and I thought they might be good to keep around for tea (as long as I keep pulling them before they try to invade again).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Vegan MOFO (Month of Food)

September is officially Vegan MoFO! Now if you haven't heard of it, yet, Vegan MoFO = Vegan Month of Food. You can also learn more about it here: VeganMofo So technically I missed the deadline (August 28th), and I didn't "officially" sign up for it on time, but I'm still going to do it anyway because I'm a rebel! All my favorite vegan blogs have been doing it, and I'm going to post some links to some awesome, mouth-watering recipes that I've seen around the interwebs so far! I also plan on doing some more posts on my own personal recipes and the usual.

A few of my 2013 Vegan Month of Food favorites so far:

Fork and Beans: Homemade Vegan Honeycomb

Vegan Candy!!! Yums!

Post Punk Kitchen: Vegan Challah

Challah is one of my favorite breads. Unfortunately, due to the eggs and honey, my usual recipe is not quite vegan, but Isa Chandra has an awesome vegan recipe that I just can't wait to try out!

Vegan Richa: Chana Masala

I love me some Chana Masala, but I've never made it myself (except from one of those pre-prepared packages)!

Check back here for some original recipes by yours truly and more links to other delectable delicacies!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

So this recipe is adapted from Alicia Silverstone's recipe in The Kind Diet. It's a great book, and she has a lot of yummy healthy vegan recipes (including desserts!) Also, if you're interested in going vegan (or "flirting" as she calls it), she has a great website: The Kind Life.  So check it out!

Also, my recipe has a few noted differences.  She makes two different mixes: a peanut butter and a chocolate topping.  As you might be able to tell from the photo, I added them both together.  The first time I made them (following Alicia's receipe, the chocolate seemed to separate easily from the peanut butter cup when you ate them and broke into brittle little pieces.  I figured:  I like chocolate, so why don't I combine it throughout the peanut butter mixture.  Also, less pans = less mess!

Also, I realize that my muffin pans are kind of old and not the prettiest pans, but they get the job done!



-4 graham crackers (I didn't have any, so I used some wheat crackers instead, and they still turned out great!)
-1/2 cup Earth Balance butter (or other vegan buttery spread)
-3/4 unsweetened peanut butter (Alicia recommends crunchy, but I'm not a fan and already had two jars of creamy)
-1/4 maple sugar
- 1 1/3 cup of grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate (or carob) chips
-1/4 cup of almond milk
-1/4 cup chopped almonds (peanuts or pecans are fine, too)

You'll also need a muffin pan or two.  The first time, I made them in a mini-muffin tin, which was the perfect size for sweet snacks!  I highly recommend using paper liners or some kind of non-stick spray.  I didn't use the liners on my first attempt, and I had to scoop them out with a spoon!  This meant they weren't very pretty when I brought them to work to share with some of my friends.

First, put your graham crackers (or regular crackers) a food processor or blender.  Grind them to crumbs.

In a saucepan, melt your vegan butter and peanut butter.  Stir it up and add your chocolate chips and almond milk.  Next, slowly stir in your cracker crumbs and maple sugar.  Once it's well mixed and melted, turn off the heat and add it to your muffin cups.  You can also top it with your chopped nuts (or food processed, powdered nuts, like mine).  I also think shredded coconut might be good, but I was worried it might be too many flavors, so I didn't add any.  If you try the coconut, leave a comment and let me know how it is!

With the nut topping: 
Or leave it plain: 

Now, you're almost done.  Stick your muffin tins in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours and enjoy!  Or if you're impatient, like me, you can put your tins in the freezer and you only have to wait about 20-30 minutes.

I should mention that I made a dozen of these on Saturday, and I only have 3 left!  (Despite the fact that my husband isn't a big dessert person and has not eaten any of them, yet.)  So, they're quite delicious! You have my word on that.


Stay tuned for more on Vegan MOFO!