Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm Mad About Mesquite!

2010 has been a glorious year of discovery for me. From astragalus root to holy basil and from chia seed to maca powder, my kitchen is now filled with the most amazing plant-based wonders. So I could not have been more excited when my package of goodies from Foods Alive arrived!

My most favorite discovery of the year is mesquite powder, a nutritious treat made from the bean pods of the algorroba tree (Prosopis juliflora), native to the Southwest, Northern Mexico, and desert areas of South America.

Mesquite is a nutritional powerhouse—high in protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, fiber, and the amino acid, lysine. Its flavor is a bit hard to describe: Think malty, smoky, nutty, sweet, and sultry. It's not quite like molasses or maple, but has undertones of both.  From the moment I opened my first bag of Foods Alive Raw Organic Mesquite Powder and got a whiff of its hypnotic aroma, I fell in love. While most mesquite powders on the market are coarse and grainy, I prefer the finely-ground texture of Foods Alive Mesquite Powder. This is what I call a spoonful of golden bliss:

I first went in search of mesquite powder when I came across a recipe for raw caramel apples on It looked so simple and sounded intriguing—I couldn't wait to get my hands on some mesquite powder so I could try it. I searched all over town but had no luck finding any mesquite powder in Eugene. (They must be hiding it in a big warehouse somewhere in Springfield along with all the raw pistachios!) Foods Alive shipped out a box of goodies to me right away (why not stock up on other essentials?), and as soon as it arrived, the first thing I did was make some of that caramel! It was soooo good, I started eating this every day!

It's very simple to make. Just soak half a dozen or so nice, big, fat medjool dates in water for several hours (don't forget to remove the pits) in a jar that will fit onto your blender base, add two tablespoons of mesquite powder, and blend until smooth and creamy!

One day after making a batch of caramel I was really naughty and stuck a caramel-covered spoon in some raw cashew butter—it was pure decadence!

It's been so cold here that Mark and I have been drinking hot cocoa every night after our post-dinner walks. It suddenly occurred to me that some mesquite powder might be a nice way to spice up my cocoa. I've been enjoying hot cocoa chai and Mexican hot chocolate, but adding a tablespoon of mesquite powder gave me a delicious new recipe to add into the rotation.

This morning I woke up and found myself craving mesquite, so I made myself an incredible smoothie. I call it my Carob-Mesquite Dream. It was so dreamy-creamy good that I drank it all before I remembered to take a photo of it! (Sorry!)

It's loaded with nutritious ingredients and tastes like heaven in a glass. Here's some of what you'll be getting:

•So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage is fortified with calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, B12, and D, and is a great source of heart-healthy medium-chain fatty acids.

• Carob Powder is rich in copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and selenium, and is especially rich in calcium and iron, and it contains vitamins A, B2, B3, B6 and D.

• Maca Powder contains B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron, and trace minerals zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, bismuth, manganese and silica.

• Mesquite Powder because it is ground from the entire pod, including the seed, it is high in protein (11–17%). It is also rich in, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, fiber, and the amino acid, lysine.

Chia Seed—One ounce contains as much omega-3 as eight ounces of salmon, as much calcium as a cup of milk, as much fiber as 1/3 cup of bran, as much iron as 1/3 cup of spinach leaves, as much vitamin C as 2 oranges,  as much potassium as half a banana, and 20% protein, 2-3 times more than most other seeds and grains.


1 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage (If you want a completely raw beverage, coconut water or freshly squeezed orange juice would work deliciously, too.
1 medjool date, pit removed
2 frozen bananas
2 Tbs (you could use Foods Alive Raw Carob Powder cacao powder, too)
1 tsp Foods Alive Maca Powder (don't worry, you won't even taste it!)
1 Tbs Foods Alive Mesquite Powder
1 Tbs Foods Alive Chia Seed
1 Tbs raw cashew butter

Blend all together, pour into a tall glass, and enjoy!

I'm enjoying the superb quality of all of the wonderful products from Foods Alive. Owner Matt Alvord is a joy to do business with, and I highly encourage you to check out their website, order some mesquite powder, and discover for yourself the sheer joy of this delicious superfood. Shipping is a flat rate of only $4.95, so take advantage of the opportunity to stock up!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Festive Coconut Wild Rice with Cranberries and Pears

Just a quick post before I dash off to do my holiday meal grocery shopping. If you're looking for a tasty last-minute side dish to serve at your holiday table, this colorful recipe is a snap to put together and will impress your guests.


1 cup wild rice
1 cup long-grain brown rice
3 3/4 cups So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage (I used Original)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 pear, diced
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)


Rinse wild rice in cold water and drain thoroughly. Place wild rice and brown rice in a large saucepan with the coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender and milk is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in cranberries, pear, and nuts (if using). Serves 6-8.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review—Skinny Bitch:
Ultimate Everyday Cookbook

My hardcover copy of Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook is sitting on my coffee table instead of hiding on my bookshelf. Like its stunning author, it's just that gorgeous! If you're up against the clock and wondering what to get your favorite vegan cook for Christmas, you'll certainly score points with this book. The photographs are as sexy as any eye candy has a right to be, and the recipes are far above the ordinary—exciting enough to inspire even the most seasoned vegan gourmet.

Kim Barnouin, who is coauthor of the wildly popular Skinny Bitch, has created a collection of knockout vegan recipes. The mouth-watering photographs and descriptions peppered throughout the book made me want to sink my teeth into each and every one of them. But where to begin?

Let's see ... thumbing through the pages, I arrive at something that looks like a fusion of Asian cuisine and Italian food. (That's two-thirds of what Elizabeth Gilbert [and Julia Roberts] ate in Eat, Pray, Love!) And here are both in one sublime recipe: Asian Macaroni and Cheese. Coconut milk, miso, and Panko breadcrumbs give this dish a distinctly Asian twist.

The rich, creamy sauce makes it unforgettable.

I thought I might escape reviewing this book without embarking on a personal culinary challenge. Then the recipe for Crêpes with Raspberry Sauce beckoned to me. I've always been intimidated by the thought of making these ultra-thin pancakes. Kim made it sound easy though, and I figured it was a good time to give my new crêpe pan a workout. After a bit of trial and error, I finally figured out how to get the batter just the right consistency, and I found myself humming the melody of Jamais Seule by Loane and enjoying the process.

The raspberry sauce was simple and sweetly satisfying. Eating my homemade crêpes was like transporting my palate to Paris!

My favorite recipe in the book's entire collection is this fancy-shmancy Caramelized Pear and "Cheese" Crostini with Balsamic Reduction. You'd think that something so complex and tantalizing ought to be reserved for dinner parties or romantic rendevous, but I had so much fun making and eating them, I won't be waiting for a special occasion to enjoy them again. In all honesty, you could just give me a shmear of vegan cream cheese on toast, and I'd be happy. But add the sensuous flavors of caramelized pears and a really good balsamic (I used Bistro Blends Black Mission Fig Balsamic Vinegar), and you've transformed it into an incredible indulgence. I'll be making these lovely little canapés anytime I want to feel special.

When it came to choosing a baked good recipe, I really wanted to try the Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies. To my astonishment, there wasn't a raw pistachio to be found anywhere in Eugene! And while roasted, salted pistachios are abundant, I still wondered if there might be a pistachio shortage, so I googled it. According to at least one source in November (S. Kamberg & Co. Ltd.), the 2010 pistachio crop is at a record high, at least 25% larger than the record 2007 crop! So why no raw pistachios? No one here seems to have a clue.

So while my cookie fantasy had to go on the back burner, I settled on this enticing recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Banana Bread. (Yes, you read that right!) If you're like me, you love pumpkin bread and you love banana bread, but would you have ever thought of combining the two? (I wouldn't have.) When I peeked into the oven to see how this baby was coming along, I was amazed to see how high it was rising! (So high in fact, that it almost didn't clear the rack above it.)

Since Mark is avoiding nuts at the moment, I decided to substitute chocolate chips for the pecans. This was one seriously tasty dessert bread.

Just in case my little review has not thus far convinced you that this is a cookbook you'd love to give or receive, here's the for recipe for Kim's Pumpkin Pecan Banana Bread from Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook excerpted by arrangement with Running Press Book Publishers. Copyright © 2010. Enjoy!

Ingredients (for 10 servings):

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup almond milk (I substituted So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage)
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 banana, mashed
2/3 cup chopped pecans (I substituted dark chocolate chips)


Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly oil a large loaf pan and dust with flour.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat together the pumpkin purée, oil, and milk with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the sugars, vanilla extract, and banana, and beat until creamy. Stir in the pecans (or chocolate chips). Add teh flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until all of the ingredietns are well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 1 hour. Remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Persimmons, Some Coconut Milk, Corn Chowder, and a Book

It's not often that a recipe on someone's Facebook page gets me so excited that I feel the need to jump out of my seat and make it on the spot. But Noelle Ferrada-Kelly's Persimmon Ginger Smoothie had just that effect on me yesterday morning. And since I just happened to have two very ripe Hachiya persimmons, a healthy stash of So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverages, and some fresh ginger hanging around, I had everything I needed to make myself one helluva tasty breakfast!

No sooner did I finish drinking that absolutely sublime smoothie, than So Delicious posted a link to recipe for Vegan Bailey's Irish Cream recipe! I'm not a big drinker, but seriously, one of the things I've really missed since going vegan is Bailey's Irish Cream. I didn't have any coffee on hand, so I'll have to make this another day. But it sounded so incredible, I just had to share the link with you.

The next thing I knew, So Delicious posted a link to a recipe for Vegan Corn Chowder on Jen's A Life of Sugar and Spice blog. It looked very rich and creamy, and it was such a cold, wet day, that by lunchtime, this sounded like the perfect pick-me-up. Basically, Jen substituted So Delicious Coconut Milk and Earth Balance for the dairy called for in the original recipe from She noted that it wasn't as creamy as she'd hoped it would be and that she'd try using So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer and a little less water the next time she made it. That sounded good to me, but I also wanted to reduce the fat, so I used half the Earth Balance called for in the original recipe. I also omitted the parsley, and in hindsight, I wish I would have added some nutmeg. Still, it was dreamy creamy and very warming!

Here's how I made it:


1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2 cups water
2 cans cream-style corn
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer (Original)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper


In a large soup pot, saute onion in Earth Balance until tender. Add the water, corn, and potatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 16-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the creamer, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

And the best part of my day arrived courtesy of Bob the mailman. I couldn't have been more excited to rip open the package he delivered today and find that my copy of Appetite for Reduction had arrived! Isa wrote this book especially for me. (She doesn't know that, but I do!) I can't wait to sink my teeth into it! Review to follow soon.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oh, What a Feast! and A Few of My Favorite Things

Yesterday's Thankful Day meal was truly a feast! I made Allison Rivers Samson's Meatloaf Remixed, Mushroom and Apple Stuffing with Mushroom Gravy, Healthy Exposure's Sweet Potato, Pear, and Chickpea Tzimmes, Bryant Terry's Citrus Collards Redux (with cranberries instead of raisins), C'est La Vegan's Chocolate Chip Date Cake, and Jennifer Raymond's never-fail Pumpkin Pie.

The most fun I had all day was whipping up the Soyatoo for the pumpkin pie!

Today is Black Friday, the day when consumerism runs at its most rampant. I prefer to celebrate Buy Nothing Day today and thought that instead, it would be a great day to share a few of my favorite things that you might like to buy on some other day. (It goes without saying that whiskers on kittens are a few of my favorite things). Any of these would make a wonderful gift for yourself or someone you love. Enjoy!

I can't begin to express how much I love my Moo minicards! They're half the size of standard business cards and are a creative, fun way to introduce yourself! They're completely customizable, and you have the option of selecting a different photo for every card. Here are just a few of my cards featuring photos from my food blog in all of their full-color glory:

Lulu's Raw Chocolate Alchemy Bars are handcrafted in small batches and made with low-glycemic coconut palm sugar and organic, fair-trade cacao beans.

I once read a blog in which someone said they thought that maca tastes like feet. Well, I don't know what feet taste like, but admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the taste of maca. But I am impressed with all of the health benefits attributed to maca, including its ability to: increase energy, stamina, and endurance, regulate hormonal imbalances, enhance memory, and act as an anticarcinogen and antioxident. So when I heard that Lulu's Chocolate Bars contain maca, I thought this might be a delicious way to get some maca into my diet and indulge my chocolate obsession at the same time. My favorite flavor is the Coconut Cin Bar, which ... well ... doesn't contain any maca. It's an infusion of cinnamon, dark chocolate, coconut, and the sensuously smoky flavor of my new favorite superfood: mesquite! I also love the Aztec Crunch Bar, and Chocolate Maca Chunk, which does contain maca.  The Maca Green Bar and Chocolate Maca Chunk are also very tasty ways to get your daily boost of maca.

Anyone who has ever met Robert Cheeke can't help but be wowed by his energy, enthusiasm, effervescent personality, and yes, his stunning physique. He's a walking bundle of compassion in action, who lays to rest the myth that award-winning muscles of steel can only be built upon a diet that contains animal protein. In his book, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Robert shares an inspiring road map to help you go from flab to fab no matter what your starting point, and from unhealthy omnivore to totally ripped, lean, mean, and vibrantly healthy vegan, if that's your goal. Robert's motivational style of writing got me pumped up enough to get my butt back into the gym. And if this book can do that for me, it will make the perfect gift for anyone who needs a little fire lit under their tush to help get them off the couch or away from the computer and back into action.

You've heard of Latisse? It's touted as "the first and only FDA-approved prescription treatment for 'inadequate or not enough' lashes." Nothing could horrify me more than the idea that a healthy woman would use a glaucoma drug to grow longer, darker, or fuller lashes. What I find most astonishing, is that when you look at the before and after photos on Allergan's website, there is nothing wrong with model's lashes in the before photos! Now, what woman wouldn't love to have longer, fuller, darker lashes? I know I would. But would you really want to use a drug that can permanently change the color of your from blue or green to brown? And is it really worth the the risk of any of a number of other "side" effects like eye redness and irritation, uveitis, macular edema, cataract, reduced intraocular pressure, and vision problems, just for longer, more luscious lashes?

There are many non-prescription products on the market that will do the same thing, without such harmful side effects and for significantly less than the $120/month Latisse will set you back. One such product, GrandeLASH-MD recently came to my attention. I wanted to be sure that this was a cruelty-free product, so I wrote to the company's owner, Alicia Grande. She promptly replied, "GrandeLASH-MD has not been tested on animals. It was tested on 55 humans through a plastic surgeon and opthamologist. There are no animal-based ingredients, and it's paraben-free." Made with peptides, vitamins, and botanicals (see the full list of ingredients here), the company claims that you will see results in as little as 4-6 weeks. Of course, I was skeptical. While I would love longer, darker, fuller, lashes, I felt that my wimpy eyebrows needed more immediate help, so I decided to try GrandeLASH-MD on my eyebrows first.

Seeing is believing! The before and after photos were taken 60 days apart. And although I have no idea how it works, I am astounded by the results.

Lunchsense lunchboxes intrigued me for quite a long time before I finally got my hands on one. I'd seen them at trade shows and thought they were the ultimate in lunchbox organization.

The lunchbox is lead free, and all the nifty little storage containers it comes with are lockable, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe, 100% airtight and watertight, stain resistant, and BPA free.  It comes in three sizes, and I chose the medium sized one for myself, but wish I would have gotten the large size since Mark is the one who packs a lunch everyday. Still, I packed up Thanksgiving leftovers for him to take to work today, and it all fit! Get yourself one of these babies, and it's guaranteed to be the last lunchbox you'll ever buy!

Here's one of those it's got-nothing-to-do-with-the-holidays-but-it's-a-delicious-discovery-nonetheless ideas. I've never been a huge fan of deep-fried foods, but since becoming a McDougall girl, one of the foods I've sorely missed is onion rings. Then I came across a post for Isa's OMG Oven-Baked Onion Rings (that woman is a vegan culinary genius!), and I couldn't resist trying them. They are better than any fried onion rings I've ever eaten in my life! They've got so much flavor and none of the greasiness!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Festive Holiday Treat!
Rosewater-Glazed Lemony Cranberry Cookies

I love Autumn! It's the season of colorful foliage, pumpkin pie, and the time of year when Pizza Research Institute starts putting cranberry sauce on their vegan Chef's Choice pizzas! My recipe for these super-moist and chewy Rosewater-Glazed Lemony Cranberry Cookies was recently featured on my friend Millie's Nuestra Cena blog. But just in case you missed it, I'm sharing it with you here. I sometimes make these cookies with a lemon glaze, but the rosewater glaze looks so festive, I can't resist making them this way for the holidays! But the glaze is completely optional. These cookies are very rich and delicious without any glaze at all!


1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread, at room temperature

1/2 cup evaporated cane crystals

1/3 cup firmly-packed organic brown sugar
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp Egg Replacer plus 2 Tbs water

2 tsp pure vanilla extract 

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tps aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans 

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cranberries

Rosewater Glaze (optional—see recipe below)


Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease two large cooking sheets. Whisk together Egg Replacer and water in a glass measuring cup and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl mix together on medium speed, Earth Balance, sugars, and lemon zest. Beat in Egg Replacer mixture and vanilla until combined. Set aside

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, then gently stir in the pecans and cranberries.

Drop by large teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly before removing to cooling racks.

Prepare Rosewater Glaze while cookies are cooling. Drizzle the glaze over the top of completely cooled cookies. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Rosewater Syrup and Glaze


1 1/2 cups evaporated cane crystals
1 cup of Organic Red Roses (I buy them from Mountain Rose Herbs)
1 cup water


Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes, until syrup has thickened. Remove from heat, and when cooled, strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Pour syrup into a squeeze bottle, and place candied rose petals into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate syrup and candied rose petals for up to two weeks. Candied rose petals can be enjoyed as a sweet treat just like candy, and the syrup is divine on crackers or toasted English muffins, over Purely Decadent Vanilla Bean coconut milk ice cream, and as a glaze for cakes and cookies!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Happy World Vegan Day!
Living Vegan on the Cheap

If not for the heavy taxpayer subsidies to the meat and dairy industries, the prices consumers would pay for them would be so high, as to be out of reach for most Americans. The impact of meat consumption on the average family's food bill today is less than half of what it was in 1970. But the cost of consuming animals can't be calculated in one's food bill. The impact of intensive factory farming and its end result, cheaply produced animal products, is doing more damage than ever to human health and the environment, not to mention the animals themselves.

Still, I get sticker shock each time I fill up my grocery cart. Organic produce is still significantly more expensive than conventional pesticide-laced options, and I'm hard pressed to find a decent whole-grain bread for much less than five dollars a loaf. Buying from bulk bins rather than cans, boxes, and plastic packages and making everything from scratch are certainly money savers, but who has time to soak dried beans or make her own bread every day? I certainly don't. And even though I've all but eliminated every last vestige of fake meat from my diet, tofu still costs 50% more than it did just two years ago, and let's not even begin to talk about the cost of Daiya vegan cheese. I've calculated that the average meal costs me between four and five dollars per serving, which is one reason why lately, I've slipped back into depending on takeout several times per week. By the time you calculate in the time and energy used for meal preparation, a tasty vegan meal from one of favorite food carts really doesn't cost that much more. But I've joyfully discovered that there is a way to create deliciously satisfying vegan meals on the cheap and do so without spending hours in the kitchen. Enter my new favorite book—Robin Robertson's Vegan on the Cheap.

Robin Robertson is one of my favorite vegan chefs. She has eighteen cookbooks under her belt, including the ground-breaking Vegan Planet, which holds a treasured spot in my extensive cookbook collection, showing many pages that are well-worn and stained. Her latest book, Vegan on the Cheap: Great Recipes and Simple Strategies that Save You Time and Money features 150 enticing recipes that cost between 50¢ and $2.00 per serving. Now that's a money-saving idea I can really wrap my lips around!

Vegan on the Cheap contains a cost comparison chart, meal-planning tips, menu ideas, and other smart-shopping tips. Searching through the recipe index, I found many familiar favorites like Lasagna and Coconut Curry Rice, and a few surprising dishes with intriguing names like Skordalia, a creamy Greek garlic sauce, Pot au Feu, a French mélange of root vegetables, and Bobotee, a South African curry-seasoned casserole. The apples, raisins, and almonds in Robin's Tempeh Bobotee tempted my taste buds enough to dig head-on into this recipe first. The casserole looked great out of the oven,

and even better on my plate!

Pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable, bobotee (or bobotie) is traditionally made with ground meat and an egg-custard topping. There's a surprise in every bite, which has nothing at all to do with animal-based ingredients, but instead comes from the apples, raisins, and almonds. It's a bit like eating your favorite stuffing, but heartier, because of its protein-rich tempeh base. Making Robin's bobotee inspired me to create my own curry blend, since I wanted a mild curry, and the only curry powder I had on hand was rather hot. And I impressed myself with Robin's recipe for Cheepskate Chutney. Pineapple, assorted dried fruits, ginger, brown sugar, and just a tiny bit of red pepper blended beautifully together.  It was so gorgeous that it almost made up for my sloppily plated casserole, and it was quite possibly the best chutney I've ever eaten!

The next recipe I tried confirmed that there is no sacrificing taste for economy. I first came across photos of this dish on Keri's I Eat Trees blog. (Go there if you want to see stunning photos of this dish and several others from Vegan on the Cheap.) Take a look at the Deconstructed Enchilada Bake:

Doesn't it look a little like a Jackson Pollock painting? Made with mashed pinto and black beans, it was deliciously wholesome and hearty and a snap to put together! (There was no need to fill and roll enchiladas or make a complex enchilada sauce.) I just love finding tasty new money- and time-saving ways to enjoy beans, don't you? Beans have never sounded very appetizing to me, but put them together creatively with a few well-chosen ingredients, and they open a whole new world of culinary magic. The Cheezee Sauce topping made the dish taste rich and creamy while going easy on the fat and calories.

With recipes for Walnut Crusted Tofu with Spinach and Orange, Indian Spiced Lentil Ragu, Pumpkin Spice Cake with Chocolate Glaze, and Chocolate Chip-Walnut Rice Pudding, I can't wait to sink my teeth into all of the recipes in this wonderful book. And I'll be buying several more copies to give away as Christmas and Chanukah gifts.

Following are the recipes for the Deconstructed Enchilada Bake and Cheezee Sauce from Vegan on the Cheap excerpted with permission from  John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 2010 by Robin Robertson. Happy World Vegan Day! Enjoy! And don't forget to check out my holiday recipe for Rosewater Glazed Lemony Cranberry Cookies on Nuestra Cena this Friday!

Deconstructed Enchilada Bake


1 Tbs olive oil (I made this McDougall friendly, and substituted 1/4 cup vegetable broth)
1/4 cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 15.5-oz can pinto beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed
2 Tbs water
1/4 tsp salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 15.5-oz can black beans, drained rinsed, and mashed
1 24-oz. jar tomato salsa
8 7-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup Cheezee Sauce


Heat the oil (or broth) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cover and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the pinto beans, water, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the flavors have blended and the mixture is well combined, about 5 minutes. Add the black beans and 1 cup of the salsa. Mix until combined. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking pan. Spread a thin layer of the remaining salsa on the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange half of the tortillas on top of the salsa, overlapping as necessary.

Spread the bean and salsa mixture over the tortillas in the baking pan, then top with the remaining tortillas.Spread the remaining salsa on top of the tortillas and drizzle with the Cheezee Sauce. Cover with foil and bake until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Removed from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot.

Cheezee Sauce


2/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 Tbs cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups plain unsweetened soy milk
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp yellow mustard


In a medium saucepan, combine the yeast, cornstarch, salt and garlic powder. Turn the heat on medium and whisk in the soy milk. Cook, stirring until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. (I cooked it for 3 minutes.)

Remove from the heat and stir in the oil, lemon juice, vinegar and mustard. The sauce is now ready to use. If not using right away, refrigerate the sauce in a container with a tight-fitting lid, where it will keep for several days.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why Didn't I Think of That?
Pumpkin Pie Coconut Chai!

As soon as there's a chill in the air, I start yearning for hot herbal tea. My favorite blends include lavender-lemon and holy basil-spearmint before bedtime. The holy basil helps me sleep blissfully through the night, despite a snoring husband and perimenopause.

I also adore chai tea, and Mountain Rose Herbs makes an incredible red roiboos herbal chai called Firefly Chai. When I read a post this evening on the So Delicious Facebook fan page that mentioned Pumpkin Chai Tea, it sounded so delicious, I just had to try making my own recipe. It was so yummy, I finished the cup before I finished typing these first two paragraphs!


1/4 cup pumpkin purée
2 Tbs So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer (I used French Vanilla)
1 cup brewed chai tea
1 tsp sweetener of choice (optional—but I used agave)
dash of nutmeg


While brewing your tea, mix the pumpkin and creamer in a small cup and heat in a microwave for 2 minutes. Pour the tea mixture into the pumpkin (or visa versa), add sweetener, stir, sprinkle with nutmeg, and enjoy!

P.S. I'm excited that my friend, Millie, has invited me to be a guest on her blog with my favorite holiday cookie recipe! Watch for my Rosewater-Glazed Lemony Cranberry Cookies on Nuestra Cena next Friday!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How Now, Dr. Cow?

Let the wine and cheese party begin! I've been talking about how good Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheeses sound for quite a long while, so it was about time I tried them for myself. I'm not kidding when I say "holy cow!" The innovative folks at Dr. Cow have made the art of making vegan cheese even more flavory and savory. With textures, mouthfeel, and flavors that are remarkably reminiscent of aged dairy cheeses, Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheeses are sure to make the phrase, "how will I live without cheese?" obsolete.


As soon as I got my package home, I couldn't wait to rip open the little compostable corn container of Cashew Cream Cheese. Its pearly-white loveliness beckoned to me from under the peekaboo lid. Dr. Cow's Cashew Cream Cheese just seemed to be crying out for me to try it with Dr. Kracker crackers. What a perfect pairing—it was love at first bite! ♥♥♥ Smooth, creamy, rich, and delicious. Everything a girl could ever want from a cream cheese. And yes, I do think it would be very geshmak (that's "tasty" in Yiddish) on a cinnamon-raisin bagel!

Dr. Cow's Cashew and Blue Green Cheese is strikingly colorful in its mold-colored rind and has many other characteristics of dairy bleu cheese, like its sharp and somewhat salty taste. But happily, it doesn't share dairy bleu cheese's distinctive smell. It would be delicious with pears, raisins, and walnuts. And I cannot wait to crumble some into my next salad!

The caramel-colored Aged Macadamia Nut Cheese is very soft and spreadable. With just the faintest hint of herbs des Provence, it reminded me of a cross between Reblochon and Morbier or even German Quark. (Yes, before I knew better, I very much used to enjoy my cheeses!)

Dr. Cow's Aged Cashew & Brazil Nut Cheese surprised me with its delightfully smoky flavor, and the blonde-colored Aged Cashew Nut Cheese was both pleasantly mellow and wonderfully sharp. But my favorite cheese of all was the Aged Cashew & Hemp Seed Cheese. Its texture was firm but creamy, and it had a decidedly sharp bite. Its creaminess was the perfect match for some crunchy apples from my happy apple tree! 

So, what's the secret? How do the brilliant folks at Dr. Cow make their 100% raw organic artisan cheeses taste so very much like cheese made from cow's milk? It's simple. (Well, it's simple to say. I'm not at all sure that it's simple to do). They use the same process that is used to make traditional dairy-based cheese: They prepare a nut curd using some of their own home-made acidophilus (friendly bacteria) and a little royal pink Himalayan salt. And it's even more wonderful that they do it without adding any preservatives, stabilizers, artificial ingredients, or additives of any kind. While these cheeses are made with whole-food ingredients, they're not low in fat—after all, they're made from nuts. Now you may be thinking, "What's a McDougall girl like Gail doing eating this stuff?" Well, Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheeses come in dainty packages, which makes it easy to enjoy them as delectable little indulgences. Like coconut milk ice cream, cashew whipped cream, and so many other decadent treats, they're a wonderful way to occasionally add some lovely flavor, texture, and excitement to your meals.

Hopefully by now you're asking yourself where can you buy all of this deliciousness. Check out Dr. Cow's store locator to see if there's a store near you that carries them. If not, you can order them online directly from Dr. Cow or from Vegan Essentials or Pangea. You can even order them online in Canada from upayanaturals.

Now you can tell all of your friends who say they can't give up dairy because they can't imagine living without cheese that there are some really great new alternatives. Challenge them to kick the dairy habit for a month. After thirty days, ask them how they feel. (You know they're going to say they've never felt better.) Then invite them to slowly start trying some of the cheese alternatives out there. (Some guidance here would be a good idea. After only thirty days, you may not want to start screaming about the cheese-like joys of adding nooch to everthing.) You might even buy your friend a little "congratulations gift" of Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheese to help celebrate their dairy-free month and encourage them to keep on going! Here's my list of favorite vegan cheeses in no order of preference, because each one brings something uniquely delicious to the table:

Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheeses
Ste Martaen Cheeses
Nacho Mom's Ultimate Vegan Queso
Sunergia Foods Soy Bleu and Soy Feta Cheeses 
2014 Update: Sunergia Foods Soy Bleu and Soy Feta are now from VegCuisine
Daiya Deliciously Dairy-free Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheeses
Vegan Gourmet Cheese and Cream Cheese Alternatives
Wayfare Foods We Can't Say It's Cheese Hickory-Smoked Cheddar-Style Spread

What's your favorite?

Monday, October 04, 2010

I Was Looking for a Good Bar
and Found Great Stuff, Instead!

Did you know that there are four types of snack bars? (I didn't.) Are they really all that different, or are these various appellations just marketing tools?

• Energy bars (aka "power" or "sports" bars), were created for marathoners to give them a portable, energy-boosting snack.

• Protein bars are basically just energy bars, but with added protein.

• Diet bars were designed as a meal replacement or snack for people who are dieting. Their calorie and nutritional content varies, depending on the type of weight-loss plan they're intended for.

• Meal replacement bars are intended to fulfill the nutritional value of a low-calorie, but still often high-fat, meal.

To me, they're all just "snack bars," something to you can reach for quickly, and a convenient way to obtain some calories or quiet a growling tummy when traveling, at work, or anytime real food is not available. This means I generally only eat them when hiking or on an airline flight. For my husband, who cannot seem to eat enough food to get the calories he needs, they're a quick, easy way to get some more calories into him in between meals. So he really depends on them much more than I do, and I'm always on the prowl for the next tasty vegan snack bar. Mark will eat one just about everyday, and he likes to eat one specific kind of bar at a time. After a few months he will grow tired of them, and I am off in search of his next replacement bar.

We've been through quite a few of them. Not in any particular order, we've consumed:

Raw Revolution Bars
Pure Bars
Lara Bars
Pro Bars
Luna Bars
Vega Bars
Prana Bars
Ruth's HempPower Bars
Macro Greens
Smart Monkey Bars
Optimum Bars
Just Great Stuff

The very cake-like Optimum Bars are my person favorite, as they seem more like dessert than a snack bar. But as I said, I don't eat them very often. Most recently, Mark has transitioned from Raw Revolution Bars to Just Great Stuff Bars, and my taste buds very much approve of his newest choice!

I love the raw goodness of Lara Bars and Pure Bars, but Just Great Stuff Bars seem to raise the flavor level up a few notches. Betty Lou's, Inc. makes Just Great stuff Bars, and I've found them at stores in three varieties: Organic Fruit & Veggie, Organic Superberry Açai, and Organic Cacao Açai.

See how fruity, nutty, and chewy-looking the Strawberry Açai bar is:

And now I see that they make a fourth flavor, Organic Chocolate Dream Greens, made with dark chocolate, dates, raisins, bananas, cashews, carrot, spinach, kale, and broccoli sprouts. That sounds like a pretty powerful nutritional punch, for a little 180-calorie snack bar! Since I haven't yet seen these in stores, I'll likely be ordering them online!

Not everything Betty Lou's makes is vegan, but they do have some other wonderful vegan snacks, many of which are great for kids, like their Organic Hippy Happy Apple Harmony Bars, (don't you love that name?), and their Gluten-free Strawberry Fruit Bars, which are low in fat and taste like delicious oversized strawberry Fig Newtons.

I also really like their North Shore Smackers—dark chocolate and almond butter patties wrapped around oats, crispy rice, and spirulina, and sweetened with agave and rice syrup taste more like dessert than a snack!

You can order their entire vegan lineup right here.

I was looking for a good bar, but I found Just Great Stuff and a whole lot more! Have you tried Just Great Stuff Bars yet? What's your favorite snack bar?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nacho Mom's Ultimate Vegan Queso

Fat Goblin makes Nacho Mom's Ultimate Vegan Queso. That's a simple enough way to start a post. But their website puts it another way. It boasts that Fat Goblin is the "Manufacturer of Mind-Blowing Vegan Queso That's Fat on Flavor But Wickedly Healthy." That's not only more colorful, it's also accurate. To back up the latter part of that proclamation, their home page includes a lengthy list of all of the things that Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso doesn't contain, like dairy or other animal ingredients, cholesterol, soy, nuts, sugar, or fat.

Wait a minute—queso without fat? Fat-free queso? Queso sin grasa? Isn't that an oxymoron? This stuff can't possibly taste good. I was a bit dubious about the "fat on flavor" part of their statement.

So what is in it that makes it taste like queso? Well, of course, the ingredient that gives it its "cheesy" flavor is nutritional yeast. It also contains tomatoes, green chiles, flour, paprika, salt, garlic powder, and other (unnamed) spices. I fully expected Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso to taste like little more than glorified nutritional yeast. But when I dipped my spoon in and took a small taste, my tongue and I were both surprised to discover that it tasted a lot like ... queso! The texture is smooth and creamy. And it's also a bit picante (at least for my palate), so I mixed it together with some milder Trader Joe's Smoky Peach Salsa and made a delicious dip for tortilla chips. I ate a whole bowlful along with a big green salad for lunch that day. I was sold on the flavor part!

The number of ways that Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso can be enjoyed is almost endless. The list includes such yummy ideas as using it to make a Southwestern style mac 'n cheese, grilled cheese, and guiltless cheese fries. (I can't wait to try the latter with baked sweet potato "fries.") Last night I decided to try Nacho Mom's with my Black Bean, Corn, and Rice Burritos, which I thought tasted pretty amazing already.

Wow! Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso took this meal to a whole new level of yumminess. It sure seemed like I was eating something "bad," because it tasted so good!

Thank you, Chef Alana, for creating a creamy, melty cheese that tastes so decadent, but is fat-free and McDougall-friendly. I love Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso so much, I'm actually considering getting this tattooed on my belly:

OK, maybe not. But Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso is so good, its flavor is forever tattooed on my tongue. Discover for yourself all the tasty ways to enjoy Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso. It's starting to pop up on natural food store shelves everywhere, but you don't have to wait to find it at a store near you. You can order a jar at any of these online vegan stores right now: Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe, Vegan Essentials, Food Fight Grocery, and Pangea.