Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice
~Robert Frost

The longer I live in the Pacific Northwest, the shorter the time between rainy seasons. Last year it didn't stop raining until July 1st. (And then it actually rained some in July and August.) It started raining again at the end of September. This year it also seems like the sunshine made a late appearance. I don't remember signing up for ten months of grey, wet weather out of twelve, but it could be worse. It's still sunny now! I did get spoiled living in places like Santa Barbara and Albuquerque, where the sun shines 300 or more days out of the year. (Heaven!) I think Bend, Oregon is beckoning to me.

We received the first few drops of rain yesterday, so fall is surely on it's way! Before the clouds set in, I spent some time catching a few remaining precious rays in my backyard. While basking in the sun, I became thoroughly enchanted with the way the sunlight played off of the leaves on my fig tree, so I snapped the photo above. I thought this particular leaf had a really interesting pattern, too—almost like a nautilus. 

Recently, I've been busy in the kitchen playing with recipe ideas for the new So Delicious seasonal coconut milk beverages that will be coming out this fall. (Coconut Nog and Mint Chocolate!) These Coconut Nog Muffins were mighty tasty. 

We may be short on sunshine most of the year, but one thing we're not short on is fabulous food companies. Oregon is home to Turtle Mountain, Turtle Island, Chocolate Decadence, Dave's Killer Bread, Bob's Red Mill, Soy Curls, Living Harvest, Chocolate Fantasy, and Heidi Ho Organics. A few weeks ago I discovered a new company, Karry's Chipotle Sauce, while shopping at my local Market of Choice. Karry was sampling her deliciously sweet and spicy sauces, and I was charmed by Karry and blown away by the flavor of these fruity sauces. 

There are so many ways to enjoy them, I couldn't wait to start experimenting. I knew they'd be great with peanut butter, but I wanted to try something a bit bolder, so I paired the Raspberry Sauce with a bit of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. WOW! That was crazy good!

I poured some of the Peach flavor over some succulently sweet fresh strawberries, and all I can say is "Oh, yeah!"

But what I really wanted to do was pour some Marionberry sauce over a scoop of So Delicious No Sugar Added Vanilla Coconut Milk Ice Cream. Sweet and spicy, fire and ice. Major yum. Very nice.

There are lots more great recipe ideas on Karry's website. I am looking forward to making salad dressing with the raspberry sauce. What would you make, and which flavor would you choose? Leave me a comment with your most creative culinary idea, and I'll pick a winner at random and send you a jar of Karry's sweet and spicy chipotle fruit sauce and a free VIP product coupon for your favorite So Delicious Coconut Milk frozen dessert!*

Speaking of winners, the lucky person who won a copy of Hannah Kaminsky's spectacular book, My Sweet Vegan is ... Andrea Gardner! Congratulations! Please send me an email with your postal address, and we'll get that book right out to you!

Who will win today's delicious giveaway?

Update: Congratulations to Melinda Dalke, who won the giveaway for Karry's Chipotle Sauce and So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream! Thanks to everyone for participating! 

*Sorry International friends. Giveaway is only open to US residents.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky
Book Review and Giveaway!

Desserts are an indulgence I allow myself more than occasionally, and they are my one true weakness. So when I finally became the proud owner of a copy of Hannah Kaminsky's My Sweet Vegan I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into the recipes contained within its spectacular, full-color pages.

And oh, what glorious recipes they are! The fact that each and every one of the more than 75 recipes in this book is accompanied by a mouthwateringly tantalizing, drop-dead-gorgeous color photo, only increased my already excited sensibilities. I had to dive in. There was no stopping me. And with a refrigerator filled with So Delicious Coconut Nog and Greek-style Coconut Milk Yogurt, (coming to stores soon!) I had to start with Hannah's recipe for Not-Nog Cupcakes.

The gooey-chewy, sweet caramel topping was the perfect companion to the lusciously moist nog cake. I don't know what these babies are like made with soy yogurt (which is all that was available at the time the book was published in 2008), but the thick, creamy coconut milk Greek yogurt gave these cupcakes incredible texture. 

When I got home with my copy of My Sweet Vegan I did what I always do with a new cookbook—now don't think this is weird—I read it from cover to cover. (I usually do this at bedtime, which explains why some mornings I wake up feeling famished.) When I landed on the page for Black and White Cookies, my heart skipped a beat. These were one of my most favorite childhood treats, and I have long dreamed of a vegan version. If you have never tasted a Black and White Cookie, you are missing out on one of life's luscious little luxuries. Perhaps you remember this scene in a bakery from an episode of Seinfeld:

This sums up how I feel about Black and White Cookies—chocolate and vanilla are delicious together, and if you could actually eat a whole one of these giant cookies with a bit of chocolate and a bit in vanilla in each bite, you'd be a magician, given that most of the black and most of the white are on opposite ends of the cookie! As a child vanilla-worshipper, I would eat all of the chocolate first and leave the vanilla half of the cookie for last. But for my first vegan Black and White Cookie, I ate all away around the outside of it, savoring a little chocolate, then a little vanilla, and round and round and round I happily ate my way around the whole cookie! All those years of dreaming about a Black and White Cookie. It was even better than I had remembered! Thank you, Hannah!

I experienced a minor disaster when I removed the cookies from the oven. When I opened the oven door, I heard a loud "bang!" and one side of the oven door broke. Hanging down a bit more on the left than the right now, it no longer closes properly, but with a tree full of plums, there was one more recipe in My Sweet Vegan I had to make before writing this post. And oh, how sweet it is! Plum-Good Crumb Cake doesn't begin to describe how good this cake is. I love a good crumb cake, and making crumbs is so much fun! Adding chopped plums made this cake even more memorable. Just look at the vibrant color!

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that all of the amazing recipes in this book were created and published by Hannah at the tender age of eighteen. I can only imagine the future accomplishments and extraordinary life this brilliant young woman has before her!

A further sampling of what you'll find in this gorgeous book are such yumminess as Green Tea Tiramisu, Coconut Custard Pie, Dried Fruit Focaccia, Golden Glazed Donuts, Orange-Hazelnut Biscotti, and Whoopie Pies. There's even a Canine Cake recipe you can make (and share with) your dog!

All of the lucky duckies who attended Vida Vegan Con walked away with a copy of My Sweet Vegan. But if you're like me, and somehow you went through the last few years without owning copy, wait no more. Click on the link above, and head on over to Amazon.com (or your favorite bookseller) and grab a copy for yourself and second copy for someone who thinks that vegan desserts are anything short of spectacular. They'll be pleasantly surprised at just how sweet vegan can be.

If you haven't visited Hannah's blog, Bittersweet Vegan, head on over for some eye-poppingly amazing photos, delicious recipes, and all kinds of great vegan inspiration. Oh, and Hannah's second book, the aptly titled, Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season is filled with even more heavenly delights like: Roasted Apricot Ice Cream, No-Bake Pumpkin Crème Brulee, Chai Poached Pears, and Golden Saffron Pound Cake! It sounds like she's outdone herself in this book, which is at the top of my holiday wish list! (Hint, hint!)

Update: Congratulations to Andrea Gardner! She won a copy of My Sweet Vegan! Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway and for all of your wonderful comments! Stay tuned for lots more fun giveaways to come!

One last thing—I promised you a giveaway, didn't I? OK then: One lucky reader will receive a copy of My Sweet VeganAll you need to do to enter is leave me a comment below telling me what your favorite dessert is. That's it! One winner will be selected at random via the handy-dandy number generator at random.org. And if you want to earn additional entries, you can do any or all of the following, and leave me a comment for each one you do:

1. Follow @BitterSweet_on Twitter.
2. Follow @Vegiegail on Twitter.
3. Tweet the following message: Love desserts? Be inspired! Win a free copy of @BitterSweet_'s My Sweet Vegan via @Vegiegail! http://bit.ly/qvWpmg #vegan #giveaway #dessert
4. Follow this blog! (Click in the upper-left corner of this page if you are on google, subscribe via email, or follow via NetworkedBlogs on Facebook.)

Good luck!!

*Sorry international friends. Giveaway open to US residents only.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Vida Vegan Con: A Photo Diary

Just as you might expect, there was an endless stream of tasty vegan food at Vida Vegan Con. But what I'll remember most about this past weekend is not the bounty of food, the plethora of amazing workshops, or even the cupcakes and champagne reception or Saturday night Galarama. What I'll remember for the rest of my days is the extraordinary sense of camaraderie among all of the lovely vegan spirits who came together to share their experiences and support, nourish, and learn from one another.  I've been to many vegan events in my lifetime, but never before have I seen so many beautiful, happy people in one place. The atmosphere was jubilant. We were all so appreciative to be together in this very special place and time! 

And it is a very special time. I've said this before: vegan is going mainstream, baby! We old-timers can feel it, and we have waited patiently these last decades knowing that someday the day would come, the lights would shine, and the mainstream would awaken from its collective state of unconsciousness. We haven't yet achieved critical mass, but what a glorious moment in vegan evolutionary history this is! The sheer number of vegan blogs out there, (those attending VidaVeganCon represented but a fraction of them), is evidence that the tide is turning in favor of compassionate, sustainable, plant-based eating. 

Before I arrived at the Portland conference venue, I met up with my amazing VFFs, (each of them an author, chef, and culinary goddess!) Julie Hasson, Bryanna Clark Grogan, Dynise Balcavage, and Fran Costigan, at Julie's vegan food cart, Native Bowl. They were already camped out at this table when I arrived, and I was overjoyed to see all of my gorgeous girlfriends. Having my favorite Mississippi Bowl for lunch, well, that was just an added treat!

While I was checking in at the front desk of the hotel, a charming young woman walked up to the desk. She began speaking in the most lovely Australian accent. I had no idea who she was or that she was attending (let alone speaking!) at Vida Vegan Con. But when I asked her if she would say my name (because the Australian pronunciation of my name makes it sound like music), she happily obliged. "Gai-yllll," she purred. (Can't you just hear it?) She made my day! Every time we ran into each other throughout the weekend, Viva La Vegan's Leigh-Chantelle would make it a point to say my name. I smiled so hard each time, it almost made my face hurt. Your friends in the States miss you already, Leigh-Chantelle! Come back soon!

What can you say about finally getting to meet someone face-to-face whom you've already fallen in love with online? That's how I felt about Kathy Hester, who pens Healthy Slow Cooking. I was so happy to meet her that it felt like being reunited with a long, lost sister. She and her partner, Cheryl, are just about the cutest, sweetest couple I have ever met. (I call this photo, "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!")

And what words have been left unsaid about the two amazing women who started a vegan revolution? Here I am with PPK's Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Not only do they each boast three names, but if you look on my bookshelf, you'll find that their cookbooks are the ones that are most well-worn. (Complete with crinkled spines, dog-eared pages falling out, and food stains galore!). The enigmatic John McDevitt of The Laziest Vegans in the World (how he chose that name I'll never know. He is anything but lazy!) rounded out the photo. I think Terry's face must have hurt from too much smiling by this point, don't you?

I appreciated the opportunity to take a break from work and hang out at the Galarama for a spell with my favorite vegan food scientist, Turtle Mountain's Ken Viscidi. (Great job on the Greek yogurt, Ken!)

What an enormous surprise when an old friend arrived! Bodybuilder Robert Cheeke really got the party going into high gear with an impromptu strut out on the dance floor.

The weekend was filled with surprises—it was so great meeting all the people you tweet with all day long. One of them is Vegan Mainstream's marketing maven, Stephanie Redcross.

Susan Voisin is one of my heroes. She helped me through my early McDougall days with an endless stream of delicious fat-free (and nearly fat-free) vegan recipes. What a thrill to meet the beauty and brains behind the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen!

A few weeks ago I took my first vacation in over a year and hooked up with Vegan Radio's Judy Petullo and Barb Troyer, hosts of All Things Vegan Radio in Bend, Oregon. I hope to see you again in a couple of weeks! You and Bend totally rock!

To Jess Scone, Janessa Philemon-Kerp, and Michele Truty—the three of you put together an amazing event, and I sincerely hope you are enjoying a well-deserved sense of accomplishment. I can't wait until the next VVC. It will no doubt be even bigger and better! 

And a very warm shout out to all of the exquisitely beautiful souls I met this weekend, but did not get the chance to memorialize in pictures. I consider it an enormous gift that I had an opportunity to spend a weekend with you. Until we meet again, let's keep doing what we do best: inspiring others to eat healthfully, compassionately, and sustainably and showing them that going vegan is just so incredibly delicious!