Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dairy-Free Yogurt at TCBY

I have literally been searching for a TCBY that a) has the new Silk chocolate almond flavor soft serve yogurt and b) hasn't sold out of it already! I went to 4 TCBY's in 3 different cities before I found it, but this weekend I finally did! It was just as good as it sounds. It has been a long long time since I have had the pleasure of soft serve. It kind of reminded me of something I have had before (not ice cream), maybe a fudge-sicle? A friend went with me and said it reminded her of a Wendy's frosty.

All said, it was good but not worth searching 3 cities for. A win for vegans everywhere though!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Charleston Vegan Eats: The Sprout

I recently spent some time in Charleston, SC, a place I used to call home. Back when I lived there I was a vegetarian, not a vegan, and already found it to be pretty non-veg friendly. I am happy to report that is beginning to change! The area now boasts a couple of all vegetarian restaurants and more veg-friendliness all around. They even have a Whole Foods.

The first spot I tried during this trip was called The Sprout. Online this place looked great. When we arrived we realized it is inside a gym! Like those smoothie places they put in gyms sometimes. But a little better than that. It had its own entrance and we chose to sit outside (because the inside was blaring gym music and smelled a bit like a gym). The food was good but not spectacular. I ordered the taco lunch so I could try a couple different things. I had the organic seared tofu taco and the avocado and black bean taco. Both were pretty good. The side salad it came with was good too. My husband ordered the walnut burger which came on sandwich bread... but was otherwise pretty tasty.

A truly healthy meal on vacation!

Finally, we ordered a vegan doughnut for dessert. Which was the highlight of the meal! :-)
If you are looking to eat a meal you can feel good about while in Charleston, I recommend this place all the way. I even lost weight on this trip we ate so well!

Sprout on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 27, 2013

Zucchini Pasta and Homemade Marinara Sauce

My spiralizer arrived! And it is as amazing as I was promised it would be. Check out this beautiful zucchini pasta:

I also made a sauce from scratch to go with the veggie pasta for a super healthy dish. I used the recipe in the Vegan Stoner Cookbook and actually made it a few days ahead of time when I already had the tomatoes and cutting board out and the kitchen was a mess. It takes about an hour on the stove so it is a good weekend project.

Overall I would give the marinara recipe a 6/10. It was pretty good. A little on the sweet side and time consuming. It felt much healthier than Prego out of the jar though!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pie Crust Recipe + Quiche & Cookie Tarts

Making apple pie in the fall is must, and making cookie tarts out of the leftover pie crust is an important tradition in my family. Sometimes I just skip the apple pie and make a big batch of cookie tarts instead! I have only made the vegan version of my mom's cookie tarts a couple of times but both times they turned out great. 

While not the healthiest food, cookie tarts are a very special treat. To make the cookie tarts simply whip up a pie crust recipe and cut it into rounds. Add a spoonful of jam to the center of each one and cover with another round. Press around the edges with your fingers. Sprinkle sugar on top and bake! Above, the "cutting flour into shortening" step is shown.

Vegan Pie Crust 
(makes 2)

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup shortening
1 Tbl vinegar
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer mixed with 2 Tbl warm water (I use Ener-G)
1 tsp salt
4-5 Tbl ice water

Cut flour and shortening into small pieces (see photo above). Add egg replacer, salt, and vinegar. Mix. Add in ice water 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix with a fork until the dough clings into a ball. Do not over handle. Roll out 1/4 at a time.
Bake at 375 for 1 hour (for pie) Bake only 10 minutes for cookie tarts.

I like to use an upside down cup to get the perfect round shape. Cookie cutters work great too.

Bonus recipe review: Vegan Tofu Quiche from the Vegan Stoner Cookbook
I used the rest of my pie crust recipe for this delicious quiche!

The recipe called for mushrooms, onion, and broccoli but I am not a mushroom fan. I subbed in extra broccoli and carrots.

This quiche is seriously amazing. One of my new favorite recipes! 10/10 for sure. I have always been a little nervous to try tofu quiche because really, how could it possibly be good? It really really is. The recipe uses soft tofu which I have never really experimented with before but it blended up nicely in my ninja.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Garlic Cashew Cheese Recipe

Mmm garlic cashew cheese. This spread is good on crackers, french bread, and even licked straight off your fingers. It is a little salty and a little sweet and very creamy.

Garlic Cashew Cheese

3/4 cup cashews
2 tsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbl lemon juice
1 Tbl + 1 tsp plain almond milk
1/2 tsp tahini

Soak the cashews for 30 minutes in hot water, then drain. Put in a high speed blender (I use my ninja) with the rest of the ingredients and blend blend stir and blend until nice and smooth!

**This recipe is inspired by Luminos Vegans' first MoFo post this year, so hop on over there and see the original too!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Native Foods Cafe Review

I first ate at Native Foods Cafe back in June and could not wait to get back there. I honestly can't believe it took me 3 months!

This time I ordered almost the exact same thing as the first time I went because the Chicken Run Ranch burger has seriously been on my mind ever since. It was really delicious again but not quite as earth-shattering as I had remembered.

I also ordered sweet potato fries and apple pie. Both really good but again, not life changing. The apple pie comes with a sweet and creamy topping. I think it must be some sort of cinnamon whipped cream that is even better than the pie itself!

Native Foods Cafe definitely doesn't disappoint and has an easy, almost-fast food but better atmosphere. Vegan chain restaurants are an interesting concept but they just can't beat the really good local finds (not that I'd complain if Native Foods came to Indiana!) Native Foods Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lentil Loaf Recipe Review

Behold, Lentil Loaf.

This stuff is good. And healthy. And most importantly, good. The Vegan Stoner Cookbook is filled with easy to make, totally delicious, comfort food! I haven't met a recipe in there yet that I didn't love. This recipe gets an 8/10 because a meatloaf-like meal can only possibly score an 8 in my world. So it is at the top of the meatloaf-like charts! The Vegan Stoner actually has this recipe on their website, so you can find it right here!

What better to pair lentil loaf with than mashed potatoes? Yum!

Anyone else out there cooking up some comfort food? What if the ingredients are just beans, nuts, and veggies, making it a totally healthy comfort food (plus a little ketchup)? Does that still count?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Chicago Diner - Restaurant Review

Oh the Chicago Diner... I have heard such great things from all over the internet. I am happy to report it didn't disappoint! Choosing restaurants to eat at for your birthday is an important decision, and this was a very very right one. The atmosphere is very funky-alternative-hipster set in an old diner-style building with tables, chairs, and decor to match (the diner part, not the funky-alt-hip part). A very interesting mix indeed.

I started off with a mimosa, then ordered a crazy combo of items for my brunch: cinnamon roll, mac & teese, potato hash, tofu scrambled "eggs," and wheat toast with jam.

Me & my birthday mimosa! 

By far the very best thing was the cinnamon roll (which of course I have no picture of). It looked very average and I was ready to be a little bit disappointed, then I tasted it. It was so GOOD! The mimosa was fabulous and the tofu eggs and potato hash were salty and very well flavored. My only complaint was that the tofu eggs were a little dry as if they had been made earlier that morning and kind of just sat around, and I was underwhelmed with the mac & teese - mostly because we make that at home and it tasted exactly the same. At home = especially yummy, but I thought it might be even better in the restaurant. Instead it was the same. Which is a-okay if that is what you are going for.

To top it all off they gave me a free slice of cheesecake for my birthday. And it was heavenly. Like beyond normal good. It had a chocolate oreo-like crust, chocolate cheesecake filling and was topped with raspberry. Unfortunately I didn't have any more room in my stomach to eat it! So I took it to go, I will be snacking on it for the next 4 days if I can manage to not eat it all in one sitting. I wanted to add that we didn't wait at all for a table and only waited a little while to order. The food came really quickly. I read some other blogger reviews that said they waited forever. It must be the time of day. We arrived around 11 or 11:30am and had no trouble at all.

I also learned that the Chicago Diner is just a few blocks from the Cubs stadium which makes going to a baseball game sound so much more appealing.

Two thumbs up for the Chicago Diner. I will definitely be back!

The Chicago Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 9, 2013

Recipe Review: Vegan Sugar Cookies + Cream "Cheese" Frosting Recipe

Last week as I was heading into my birthday weekend, I decided I wanted to make something I usually only reserve for special occasions because it takes a lot of work: sugar cookies with cream cheese frosting. I love love love to make these for holidays like Christmas and Valentines day (with cookie cutters of course!).

Since I've been vegan I haven't yet found quite the right sugar cookie recipe to mimic the cookies of my childhood. The cookies I rolled out with my mom as a kid had buttermilk in them and the cream cheese frosting was to die for. It was a very distinct taste combo. While these are close, I wouldn't say they are a match. Overall I give the recipe a 6/10 with the hopes I find one that matches just a little bit better someday. I do have to give Chocolate Covered Katie props for making a healthier version of the sugar cookie as I'm sure the ones I had as a kid were hundreds of calories each, and these are only 110 calories each!

The recipe I used can be found here, on Chocolate Covered Katie's website. I love that it only makes 9 cookies (mine actually turned out to be 8 after I ate some dough right from the bowl!) because why in the heck would my husband and I need more than 9 cookies!?! A recipe can always be doubled for holiday gatherings.

I made the cream cheese frosting by kind of winging it, but it turned out really good.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

2 Tbl Vegan Cream Cheese (I use tofutti)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Start by working the cream cheese a little with a spoon to warm it up. Add the powdered sugar and once combined, add the vanilla to make it a little runnier/creamier. Throw in a drop or two of food coloring if desired. This should make enough for at least 8 cookies!

What kind of holiday baking traditions have you veganized? Did you find a perfect match or are you still working on it?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chocolate Oreo Cupcake Recipe

Birthday weekend continues and today I bring you the cupcakes I made for my family birthday party over labor day weekend. I brought these bad boys:

They were pretty darn fantastic! The frosting was definitely the best part. My nephew can back up my story - he licked the frosting clean off of a few of them! Isn't it amazing that Oreos are vegan? One of life's little accidental gifts. The fam knew the cupcakes were vegan and ate them anyway. 1 point for open-mindedness! What they didn't know was that the devil's food cupcakes had a secret ingredient, one that freaked me out at first and I am pretty brave with my desserts these days: mayo! Well, Vegenaise to be precise. I found the cupcake recipe here (another one of Chocolate Covered Katie's!) and doubled it. The Devil's Food/Mayo cupcake gets a 9/10 from me... it is really really good, rich, and thick. You are supposed to store them in the fridge and now I know how delicious cold cupcakes can be!

Vegan Oreo Frosting

2 cups mashed Oreo cookies (approximately 10-12 cookies)
1/3 cup Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
4 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbl almond milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream together the shortening and margarine in a mixer. Then mash up the 2 cups of Oreos pretty fine but not too fine. The best part when eating them was getting a little chunk of Oreo every once in awhile in the frosting. I mashed mine fine enough that I knew they'd fit through the hole in my pastry bag when frosting the cupcakes. Add the oreos to the shortening/margarine mixture and mix until combined, then add in the powdered sugar one cup at a time. The frosting should be really dry now - add the 3 Tbl of milk and vanilla and it will magically become frosting-like as you mix it the rest of the way together. I like to then beat the frosting on a fast speed to make it fluffy. Throw it in a pastry bag or ziplock with one of the corners cut out and frost away!

I bought a bag of mini Oreos to garnish the top of each cupcake with. They were a big hit with the kids too!

 My niece and I celebrate our birthdays just 2 weeks apart... so we like to celebrate together! 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday... to me!

Today I turn 25... yikes. A quarter of a century. Basically an old woman. I am trying not to dwell on it too much. I think this year officially marks the beginning of no longer wanting to be older and wanting to instead start counting backwards on my birthdays. The last year has been really good to me and I have much to be thankful for. I started running, I spent the last year eating vegan, and I have never felt better. I also got bangs, which was quite a big deal! I finished my 2nd year of the PhD and am now onto the 3rd. What could 25 possibly bring that would be better than all that? I guess I will find out!

My colleague and friend Jenna (who loves to bake even more than I do) made me a vegan birthday cake this year. She is so thoughtful! I requested chocolate and peanut butter and man did she deliver! I don't have the exact recipe to share but she said the chocolate cake is a wacky cake recipe (they were quite resourceful during the war).

Wacky Cake
(basic wacky cake recipe, not sure what variation my friend used!)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold water

Mix dry, then add wet. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Isn't it pretty??

Look at those layers!

For my birthday my husband and I are heading to Chicago because all I want to do on my birthday is eat, and where better for vegan eating in the midwest than Chicago? Restaurant reviews coming soon.

Usually for my birthday I go out for fettuccine alfredo. Obviously that is not my tradition anymore (love for the cows instead). Do any of you have birthday traditions that you uphold even as a vegan? Did you start new ones? 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Raw Italian Demo

This week I experienced my first ever raw vegan food. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The university I work at offers cooking demos in their new rec facility and when I found out they had vegan cooking demos I was psyched! Then I found out they were raw... which made me a little nervous.

I thought I'd give it a try anyway and am so glad I did. The young woman who did the cooking demo is a certified raw vegan chef from Boston and was energetic and very enthusiastic about raw foods! She worked in a raw vegan restaurant before coming to college (or during summers, I'm not sure) and definitely had the know how and really good recipes to share. She had prepared samples the night before so we were even well fed. We tried zucchini rolls that were stuffed with marinara, alfredo sauce, and pesto, as well as butternut squash stuffed beet ravioli and spiralized zucchini alfredo. To top it all off, she made raw tiramisu! It was pretty amazing. My eyes have been opened. I even ordered a spiralizer this morning.... raw recipe reviews coming soon!

The chef happens to also have a blog and posted all the delicious recipes here. Seriously check them out. There are some pictures of the raw foods I tried too.