Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sandwich Spread of the Week

What do I put in my sandwiches if I don't eat meat or dairy? Delicious, fresh spreads made with chickpeas or other beans. Check out my sandwich spread for this week:

Adapted from Goddess Garbanzos (from Dreena Burton's Eat Drink & Be Vegan)

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed

5 tbsp Annie's Naturals Goddess Dressing

2 tbsp Vegenaise

3 tsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp tahini

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 C celery, minced

4 tbsp granny smith apples, minced

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients EXCEPT celery & apples until blended but still chunky. Stir in celery & apples. Serve on fresh bread or crackers with greens and veggies of your choice (I like onions, avocados, radishes, or cucumbers).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Risotto, Anyone?

Music: The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love

While I love it, I've usually avoided making risotto for two obvious reasons: it is a real pain to stand at the stove constantly stirring and it is often made with gooey, drippy, disgusting, hard-to-clean, fattening, cheese. I was very excited when I found this recipe and, even more, there's only 4 ingredients.

With Nava Atlas' Vegan Express, there's no more excuses to avoid trying vegan. Her recipes are outstanding, use whole, fresh, and delicious foods, and can be made in under 30 minutes. I especially love that she includes menu suggestions for other recipes that complement the dishes. She also has a web site and I also follow her on Facebook, where she posts new recipes. Here's a link to this fabulous baked risotto recipe--so easy you will scream. It makes a lot, so I probably will halve it the next time I make it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Un-Chicken & Rice Soup

So here's a recipe that imitates all the wonderful flavors, textures, and spices of that old standby, chicken soup, but without the meat.

This recipe is made with seitan, which is essentially vital wheat gluten. Before you freak out on me (and, really, I don't get that when you'll handle raw, dead animals--the epitome of "ew!"), give this a chance.

The recipe calls for making your own gluten first, but I had some West Soy brand seitan in the refrigerator so I used that. Next time, because it is so easy, I will definitely try making my own. If you have a gluten allergy, simply use firm or extra firm tofu instead, cut into cubes.

From the wonderful Sarah Kramer's La Dolce Vegan, try this the next time you're hankering for some good old-fashioned un-chicken soup!

2 tbsp instant vital gluten flour (Bob's Red Mill brand makes some)
2 tbsp water

OR use pre-packaged seitan or tofu, cut into cubes

1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 C water
1 bouillon cube
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste (I like it spicy)
1/4 C basmati or jasmine rice

In a bowl, combine gluten flour & water & mix to form a dough. Knead it well and form into a tube shape and cut into cubes, about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat oil on medium heat & saute onions until translucent. Add celery, carrots & garlic & cook for 5 minutes more. Add water, bouillon cube, "chicken" cubes, spices, & rice. If using seitan or tofu, DO NOT ADD YET. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat & simmer 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked. Add seitan or tofu if using, heat for 5 minutes more, then serve.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Favorite Products

Music: swing genre on shuffle on my iPod

Many people have asked me how they can transition to being vegan or, at the very least, eating more vegan meals. I think it's important to start in a few ways. First, when you plan your meals, take some of your favorite recipes and tweak them a little. If it calls for chicken, replace it with some firm or extra firm tofu. If it calls for white rice, replace it with brown. If your recipe says butter or cheese, replace with a vegan "butter" or "cheese." If your soup recipe calls for beef bouillon or broth, use a vegan one.

Second, when you plan your meals, make half your plate vegetables, a quarter of it some sort of grain (whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, etc.), and a quarter of it a bean dish or salad OR a vegan protein such as tofu, tempeh, or seitan.

Third, on a weekend day (or other time you have off regularly during the week), make it a point to make one big salad (with a bean, grain or tofu for "weight"), a big soup (preferably enough for several days or even to freeze half of it), and a sandwich filler (such as hummus--and, by the way, there are TONS of different homemade hummus recipes out there so don't just limit yourself to the standard chickpea/tahini ones--or tofu slices). That way, you'll have enough ready-made food for the week and you can then add a green vegetable or raw salad to enjoy with any of these dishes.

One of the first things I did when I decided to go vegan was to change what was in my refrigerator and pantry. This was the initial "expense" (if you want to call it that) to change the products I was using and replace them with vegan choices. I took out all the white flour, rice, sugar, butter, milk, etc. If it was unopened, I offered it to friends or family or even a food pantry. If you don't want to throw away opened packages, make it a point to use them up and then buy vegan alternatives.

What follows is a pretty lengthy list of some of my favorite vegan-friendly food and non-food products. I no doubt have missed a few but, if I think of them, I will repost later. I hope you find it helpful. Here in Pittsburgh, I shop at Trader Joe's, the East End Food Co-op, and Right by Nature.

The very best vegan mayo out there. I've tried Nayonaise & it's just not to my liking. You will not be able to even tell that this is vegan it tastes that good. Many of my non-vegan friends use this, too. Purchase at Whole Foods or any local health food store in the refrigerated "dairy" section.

Trader Joe's Organic Tofu (firm or extra firm)
Not only is this tofu (found in the produce refrigerated section) inexpensive, it's also organic and holds together exceptionally well when fried or baked. I've tried others and this is the best.

Trader Joe's brand organic canned beans & chickpeas
Trader Joe's beats all prices for canned goods and these are organic, too. I buy all kinds of beans to have on hand for hummus, soups, & salads. Alternatively, if you have a pressure cooker, you can buy dry beans and chickpeas; that's even less expensive.

Boca Chik'n Patties
These are a great once-in-awhile product to have on hand, especially if you're transitioning to more vegan meals. I have them when I'm in a hurry, either on toasted buns with Vegenaise & all the fixings or cut up in salads or pita pockets. Available at most grocery stores, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

Boca Vegan Burgers
Like the Chik'n Patties, these are the "beef burger" alternative. Enjoy with ketchup/mustard, etc. as usual burgers. Again, available at most grocery stores in the frozen food section.

Food for Life Sprouted English Muffins
These are absolutely delicious toasted & "buttered" for breakfast or even as sandwich bread. Available frozen at Whole Foods and local health food stores.

Trader Joe's Pure Maple Syrup, grade B
Sorry, folks, but Aunt Jemima & Mrs. Butterworth are NOT pure maple syrup. This is the real stuff sold in a huge wine-size bottle. Keep refrigerated after opening. I also use this as a sweetener in some of my baking recipes that call for a liquid sweetener and Jim sometimes uses it when he runs out of agave nectar as a coffee sweetener.

Trader Joe's Original Soymilk (refrigerated or aseptic)
This soymilk foams up exceptionally well for my morning latte but I also use it for cereal as well as baking. Trader Joe's sells it for the least expensive price, either refrigerated or on the shelf in those boxes.

Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo
Again, this is a once-in-awhile product that I love. I'm Mexican and grew up with "real" chorizo but, let's face it. It's really only the spices and texture and this product has it. I cannot tell the difference. It's that good. Sold in the refrigerated section with the produce.

This is Jim's choice for his coffee. We buy it at the East End Food Co-op here in Pittsburgh for the best price but it is also available at Whole Foods and most local health food stores. If not, ask & they may special order it for you.

You will not be able to tell that this is not real butter. It's sooo good. In most grocery stores and health food stores, including Trader Joe's (best price) & Whole Foods in the refrigerated section.

Shedd's Willow Run Soybean Margarine
This is great for baking, just use when the recipe calls for margarine. In the refrigerated section of most grocery stores; again, Trader Joe's has the best price. I could not locate a manufacturer's web site for this brand.

Food For Life Sprouted Sesame Seed Buns
My bun of choice for the Boca Chik'n Patties & vegan burgers. Either toasted or fresh, these are a generous size (regular inedible white buns are loaded with high fructose corn syrups & are usually smaller than your burger!) and the sesame seeds are numerous! Found in the frozen food section at Whole Foods or local health food stores.

Again, most regular ketchup is just high fructose corn syrup, this is the real deal, tastes great, and is organic. Sold in most grocery stores right next to the nasty ketchup.

Looza Fruit Nectars
I love these pure fruit nectars in all flavors (but especially apricot & peach). I love to make carbonated drinks with half Looza & half sparkling water (aka seltzer or club soda) in the summertime over ice. Buy at any grocery store near the juices.

Okabashi shoes
Vegan casual footwear that is affordable (about $14.99/pair) and recyclable. They make all their shoes from recycled materials and, when you're done with them, you can send them back to Okabashi for recycling to make more shoes!

Food for Thought Tart Cherry Preserves
These are made in Michigan and are sooo delicious, fresh, and whole. They have really neat flavors like Blackberry Shiraz and Autumn Berry. You can buy by mail or at Michigan Whole Foods' stores--I buy about a dozen whenever I go back home.

Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves
I buy these when I run out of Food for Thought. Sold at most grocery stores.

Preserve Toothbrushes
Made out of yogurt cups, you can recycle these by mailing them back to the company or place them in the available recycling bin at most Whole Foods. I buy these at Trader Joe's for the best price but they are also sold at local health food stores and Whole Foods.

Eco Dent Tooth Powder and Gentle Floss
I love this stuff, even my dental hygienist has taken to buying some for me to use when she cleans my teeth (thank you, Jayne!). I buy it at Right by Nature or the East End Food Co-op here in Pittsburgh but it's also available at Whole Foods and local health food stores.

Trader Joe's Recycled Bathroom Tissue
The name says it all, plus it's very soft.

Bob's Red Mill Ground Flaxseed Meal and Wheat Germ
I use these in baking but also in smoothies and my homemade muesli and granola. I even give my cat a small spoon of the wheat germ with her food in the mornings. Normally, I try to buy in bulk but, since these items have a short shelf life, I prefer to buy them packaged. Keep refrigerated after opening. Available in most grocery stores.

I have very sensitive skin and this is the only soap I find I can use. I buy it 24 bars at a time online from Gaiam. For $24.99 (including postage), it's the only soap that doesn't dry out or irritate my skin.

Friday, February 4, 2011


People often ask me how in the world I could ever give up cheese. Well, if you only knew what was in cheese exactly and how it is made (not to mention the health effects of eating it) and the how and why of its addiction, you might find the willpower to abstain.

That being said, I didn't automatically jump into finding an alternative vegan cheese like I thought I would. Many soy cheeses are still made with casein, a milk protein, used as a starter. Daiya is a new brand that comes pretty close but, you know what? I don't miss cheese enough to care. And I REALLY hate cleaning dirty pots and pans of melted cheese, vegan or not. I just can't picture that mess in my body, too. Ew.

Anyway, there are still a lot of recipes out there to imitate the texture & tangy-ness of cheese. Most recipes call for something called nutritional yeast, which is an inactive yeast that is also a source of B-12. This site has some suggestions for its use.

Think about subscribing to Jill Ovnik's free online newsletter. It's full of great tips, stories, & super easy vegan recipes! Here's one of them.


3/4 lb. pasta (penne, elbows, small shells, or bow ties work well)
1 C cashews (preferably raw but not required; if using salted, omit salt in this recipe)
1 4 oz. jar pimientos (aka roasted red peppers); about 1/2 C
3 tbsp nutritional yeast (available at Whole Foods or natural health food stores)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dry mustard
Soak cashews in 2 C water for several hours or even overnight. Drain before using.

Cook & drain pasta according to package directions.

In food processor, combine all ingredients (except pasta) & blend until smooth & creamy. Add to cooked pot of pasta with 2 tbsp vegan margarine. Add some rice or soymilk to desired creaminess. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Two Tabbouleh Salads

Today's smoothie: frozen banana, frozen strawberries, fresh parsley

I love adding grains to my salads and so tabbouleh is one of my favorites. These two recipes are made using bulgur, which resembles couscous but is a little larger and cooks up as fast as quinoa (about 15 minutes). Both of these recipes could use any grain of your choice; in fact, in the second one, I did not have enough bulgur so I used some long grain brown rice along with the bulgur. Both tabbouleh salads are wonderful on their own or as a side dish with your sandwich. Make some on a Sunday to enjoy during the work week with your lunch!

Winter Tabbouleh
1 C bulgur
2 C carrots
2 C celery
1 small to medium onion
Juice of half a lemon, or to taste
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt

Cook bulgur in 2 C boiling water for 15 minutes with 1 vegan bouillon cube. It should absorb all the water.

To chop celery, carrots, & onion, place all in a food processor & pulse until they're in small bite-size pieces.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Chill before serving to blend flavors.

Radish Tabbouleh (from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 C bulgur
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (you could also use lime)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 C finely chopped fresh parsley
2 scallions, both white & green parts, minced
1/2 C thinly sliced radishes (cut in half if large)*

Bring 1 1/2 C water to a boil with the salt. Place bulgur and boiling salted water in a heatproof bowl. Stir then cover the bowl with a plate & set aside about 20-30 minutes, or until water is absorbed. If it doesn't absorb all the water & the bulgur is tender, drain in a sieve.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Chill before serving to blend flavors.

This is the Radish Tabbouleh with a white bean hummus sandwich & another side salad of lettuce, Spanish olives, carrots, & avocado.

*I found these beautiful "Easter Egg" radishes at the East End Food Co-op, so-called because they were the colors of Easter eggs. I just love trying new things!