Monthly Archives: October 2012

Happy Hurricane Halloween!

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Here in Baltimore we are having a scary Halloween – with a visit from Hurricane Sandy! It’s the ideal time to curl up with something comfy – like spooky chocolate and cocktails, and wait for the storm to pass. We figured -heck- why not start Halloween a little early?

This year’s candy treat (for ourselves, cuz’ big kids like sweets too!) comes from Sweet Earth Chocolate, a small company based in Cailfornia. They use all fair trade and organic chocolate in their sweets, and the Halloween selections we chose are all vegan. We loved their holiday slogan: Fair trade is BOO-tiful! Yea, we’re with you on that!

The seasonal selections from Sweet Earth Chocolates include skulls, bats, pumpkins and witches, all available vegan – and with vegetarian options, like white or milk chocolate. They can be purchased in groupings, perfect for a family or parties – or as individual pieces. which was ideal for us, because if we bought a grouping, we’d eat them all.

Sweet Earth Chocolates also has a very cool trick-or-treat option! Mini-discs, with a fun sticker, are for sale in bags of 50 or 100 pieces. Perfect to fill your big bowl of candy for the kids in your neighborhood! Mixed bags of dark and milk chocolate are available.

Halloween is almost here, so if you can’t get to Sweet Earth Chocolates in time, you know because of a Hurricane or something, be sure to check back on their site for Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings, as well as their all-year selections. There are truffles, chocolate heart & leaves, peanut butter cups, coconut clusters, turtles, peppermint cups, caramels, bars and nuggets. Talk about fabulous options – so many to pick from, and almost all with vegan chocolate choices!

We tried the chocolate caramel nuggets in coffee – they were super yummy, soft, chewy and chocolatey. We will have to try them soon in the other vegan flavors:¬† dark chocolate, Aztec and spicy orange. Mmmm… Thanks Sweet Earth Chocolates for making Halloween (and hurricanes!) a little sweeter here!

Around here, we seriously love celebrating Halloween, you know, high spirits and all despite the weather. So each fall we have a fun Halloween cocktail. This year it was a simple vegan conversion. There is a well-known festive and spooky cocktail called a Liquid Ghost. Our version – the Vegan Ghost.

Vegan Ghost Cocktail

2 parts vanilla almond milk (we use Almond Breeze)

1 part whipped-cream vodka (doesn’t actually contain cream! We use Pinnacle brand)

1 splash simple syrup, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Serve in a martini glass. We found that the cocktail was sweet enough for our taste without the simple syrup. If your vanilla almond milk is unsweetened though, you might need the simple syrup. The resulting cocktail tastes very much like a milkshake!

Our ghostly martini glass was made by artist Lolita and is entitled “Spooky Juice.”

Happy Haunting – and everyone on the east coast – Stay Safe!

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Saturday is VegTober!

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If you love fall weather, warm chili and vegan goodies, you’re in luck. This weekend is the 2nd annual Vegtoberfest in Baltimore! Vegtoberfest will be held at Riverside Park in south Baltimore on Saturday, October 27, 2012 from noon to 5pm. Riverside Park is located at 1600 E. Randall Street, Baltimore MD 21230

This event promises to be a great one: You can check out samples from sponsors like Daiya and Sweet & Sara; Joseph Gonzales from PCRM will be giving a talk; there will be eats available from Everlasting Life Cafe, Land of Kush and Dirty Carrots (yum!); hoopers from Baltimore Hoop Love will do a demo; lil’ vegans can come in costume for some early trick-or-treating; dozens of veg-friendly vendors; oh – and did we mention the vegan chili cook-off?

Vegtoberfest is a free event and appropriate for the whole family. Even your canine friends are welcome (must be leashed!). Bring a hearty appetite and get there early to get freebies from sponsors — and have first dibs on the chili cook-off! Happy Vegtober!

No Miss Nails

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While browsing around on Vegan Essentials, I spotted No Miss nail polish. Though I’m far from a glamour girl, I do enjoy a nice mani-pedi. There’s just something about having finished tips and toes that makes me feel a little more put-together. ūüôā For some time, I already shopped for polishes with no animal ingredients/testing, and selected formaldehyde-free brands. But after looking into No Miss, I had to try it.

This Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based company was founded to create cosmetics that don’t contain ingredients damaging to people or the environment. They are committed to developing¬†non-chemical, non-cancerous product with no animal ingredients and no animal testing. Sounds great to me.

No Miss offers more than 150 shades, so there’s plenty to choose from. You can coordinate with every outfit – from goth to preppy to bridal to office-professional. For the young at heart, even glow-in-the-dark and glitter varieties are available!¬†All polishes are formaldehyde-, toluene-, camphor- and phthalate-free. They dry fast, don’t chip and last like crazy. In fact, long after we had passed the “one week test” deadline, both I and my friend who tried the polish with me couldn’t believe how well the colors held up! We both used ¬†No Miss Base Coat, followed by Hollywood Honey for me and Plant City Punch for her. The top was sealed with No Miss It’s Dry Fast-Dry Top Coat.

No Miss polishes are incredibly vivid and glossy. They contain UV inhibitors to protect your nails from the sun. Each polish is between $7 and $9, plus shipping. They’re also available at retailers, like Whole Foods and locally in Maryland at Roots Market. Oh – and be sure to pick up a bottle of No Miss’ vanilla-scented¬†Almost Natural Polish Remover, which contains no acetone and no ethyl aceate. It isn’t stinky or as toxic as your usual commercial polish remover and works well to remove No Miss polishes – which don’t give up easily – they want to stay on your nails!

As an extra bonus, No Miss also makes eyeliner, mascara, dye-free eyeshadow, eye make-up remover, lip glosses and healing lip balms. Gorgeous!

Beyond Fair Trade: Cavebird Coffee

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It seems right to follow a Book Report on vegan brunches with a post about coffee. Cuz we all need a cup of coffee – whether we’re having brunch or just trying to get through the workday.

During a retreat several years ago, Glen, the owner of CaveBird Coffee, ¬†decided that he wanted to do something to give back to the community. As it happened, the Archbishop of Uganda was on the same retreat, and the idea of a sustainable coffee company took hold. The process wasn’t instant – it took Glen two years to source his coffee in Uganda. But when he found his sustainable growers, he knew it. And he pays them beyond fair trade prices for their beans. An act of generosity few companies can claim. CaveBird pays 100% of the U.S.A. prices for the raw, green coffee beans to the Ugandan farmers. And this was just the beginning. Glen now sources sustainable, ethically farmed coffee in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Guatemala, Sumatra and Ethiopia as well.

CaveBird takes its name from a  15,000 year-old, pre-historic cave painting found in Minnesota. Glen thought the image of the lanky bird sort of looked like him. : ) The drawing in use on the CaveBird packaging was done by artist Jim Ducey.

Currently, there are five offerings available from CaveBird Coffee in 12 oz. bags: Costa Rican Tarazu ($10.99), African Blend ($10.99), Sumatra Mandheling ($10.99), Morning Blend ($10.99),  and Jamacian Blue Mountain ($32.00).We bought two bags from Glen at a festival: Costa Rican and African Blend. The flavor was incredible and deep. They were full -bodied with rich aroma. Very, very delicious coffee!

That’s not all though.¬†CaveBird¬†is based nearby in southern Pennsylvania. All the beans are locally roasted, packed and shipped, creating jobs here, too.

But wait – there’s more – proceeds ¬†are given to water projects through¬†HumanKind Water. Glen witnessed first hand in Africa and South America what it looks like when communities lack clean water. He wanted¬†CaveBird¬†to make a full circle of giving – far beyond other fair trade coffees. And thus, he creates sustainable jobs in America as well as on the international coffee farms – and sends funds to get water to the nearly 1 billion people in the world who need access to clean water. We think that’s incredible.¬†

Glen and the good folks at CaveBird are waiting for their 501C-charity status right now. In the meantime, you can help by filling up your mug with some of their tasty brew. Buy some bags online and support the worthy mission of CaveBird Coffee!

Book Report: Vegan Brunch

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You have to admit – there is little better in the foodie world than that lazy weekend meal, brunch. Stacks of warm pancakes with maple syrup; tender omelets stuffed with veggies; moist muffins and coffee cake; savory sausage and potato hash – with a steamy cup of coffee and of course, a spicy bloody mary. Sigh… bliss.

But as a vegan, lots of brunch foods had slipped from the repertoire. I remember when I realized that being vegan meant no more quiche. A sad day. BUT РIsa Chandra Moskowitz,  culinary mastermind, wrote a fabulous book called Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up for -from Asparagus Omelets to Pumpkin Pancakes. This brilliant piece of work was published in 2009, but we only recently got our hands on it and I must say, if this cookbook is not in your collection, you should immediately get on Amazon and buy it. Like, now.

Cooking and baking our way through this book has been like revisiting long lost friends. Omelets, quiche, sausages, frittatas, French toast, crepes. I don’t know Isa¬†Chandra Moskowitz personally, but if I ever met her, it would be quite difficult not to hug her. She gave me back some of my favorite foods, almost two decades lost.

Here are glimpses into a few of our favorite recipes from the book….

Tofu Omlets, with Swiss Chard, from pages 13 & 16. Right out of the gate, when you see the photo of the Tofu Omlet, you begin to salivate (photo below). We have made it several times and served it to company (vegan and non-veg!) It’s a huge crowd pleaser.

In this recipe she introduces kala namak РIndian black salt. This specialized salt was easy to find for us, there are several Indian grocers in our area of Baltimore. And it was cheap to buy a good-sized bag. We have what may be a lifetime supply in the pantry and spent about $4.00. Kala Namak has a sulfuric taste and will remind you of eggs. For real. Oh Рand when Isa talks about paying attention to the moisture content of the omlet batter on page 14, you need to pay attention. We used Nasoya brand soft tofu, as she suggested, but we still had to add water each time we made the omlets , even as much as 2/3 cup more to get  the right consistency.

The next recipe we tried was the Swiss Chard Frittata on page 35. We didn’t photograph it, as ours didn’t look very pretty. For us, the recipe came out too moist and fell apart when we tried to slice it. Don’t get me wrong – it tasted delicious! We served it as a scramble in the end, with sauted shiitake mushrooms on top. Isa doesn’t call for the kala namak in this recipe, but we used it anyhow and it really added to the flavor.

Classic Broccoli Quiche, on page 41, was another winner. We made it for a green-business club dinner, as well as a brunch with family. There’s not a photo because, well, it went SO FAST! Everyone loved this dish. Again, we used the kala namak in place of regular salt. We also soaked the cashews overnight and doubled the mustard, thyme, tarragon, turmeric ¬†and pepper from Isa’s recipe. Our first taste of the batter seemed a little bland. Could be we just like a heavier flavor profile. The Basic Pastry Crust recipe, on page 47, is perfect, though. The dough was easy to work with and baked up beautifully for the quiches.

But let’s move on from the vegan-egg-type-dishes. After all, no brunch is complete without pancakes! The Dirty Hippie makes a pretty awesome pancake already. He has several of his own recipes we love, and we’re also big fans of the PETA ¬†Blueberry Pancake recipe.

On page 85 though, Isa offers up a Pumpkin Pancake recipe (photo above) that is simply scrumptious! They were moist and warm and like a sweet stack of autumnal heaven. We ate ours with sorghum instead of maple syrup and they were divine. The recipe is flawless. And of course, it’s October as I type this, so it’s the ideal time of year for Pumpkin Pancakes – but by all means, eat these anytime. Canned pumpkin is readily available and the recipe is soooo good, I can’t think of a reason not to eat them all year long!

Moving on from pancakes to waffles, we loved the Gingerbread Waffles on page 95. This recipe was prepared for holiday brunch guests, so we didn’t get a chance to photograph it and – again – we had no leftovers. But the flavor was like a bite of Christmas cheer and gave you a slightly warm, cozy feeling on a cold winter day. Yum! At the same meal, we also offered¬†the Pumpkin French Toast on page 101. Another perfect recipe that executes exquisitely. It was buttery and rich-tasting, but in reality, it was the pumpkin that gave it so much richness. We ended up giving both of these recipes to our guests (non-vegans!). Cuz, damn – they were delicious!

No brunch ¬†is complete without some sort of potato offering, according to Isa’s intro in Vegan Brunch. We couldn’t agree more. And her book offers up home fries, hashes and roasted potatoes, as well as some more unusual recipes, like the Creamy Avocado Potato Salad on page 123. ¬†As potato salads go, this recipe was smooth, creamy and quite surprising. The lime & cayenne bring some pop and the onions & cukes give a great crunch. We ate the entire first batch with spoons in the kitchen. Try this one – it’s incredible. You may never want to use vegan mayo in your potato salad again.

Well, unless you try the Coleslaw Potato Salad with Cumin Seeds on page 120. To preface this, my Dad is a coleslaw junkie. The man can sit down and eat huge, ridiculous portions of slaw. And he is old-school omnivore – he’s probably never even hear of Vegenaise. But that’s what we used to make this, as the recipe suggests. I made him a double batch to start with, knowing it would be delish. He ate it all between lunch and dinner. We had to make another double batch the next day! ¬†Oh, and we didn’t have cumin seeds, so we subbed in cumin powder. It worked fine and the flavor was still perfection.

Want more perfection? Try making the Samosa Mashed Potato Pancakes on page 125. We’re big fans of Indian food here, so the mention of something-like samosas for breakfast, but without the usual labor-intensive job of making samosas works for us! These are simple to make – don’t be daunted by the instructions, which look longer than they are, and lots of fun as a breakfast, brunch or dinner dish. Heck, eat them anytime. We doubled the turmeric, mustard, garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes, because we like hearty flavor. Oh – we ate ours with jarred chutney, but Isa does offer a homemade Spiced Apple Cider Chutney recipe on page 72. We haven’t tried it yet, but it looks good!

Of course, some vegans and vegetarians aren’t into faux meats. To each their own. But for us, we say what brunch is complete without some sort faux sausage or bacon? If you feel lazy, just grab a vegan pre-fab, like Gimmee Lean Sausage or Smoky Bacon Tempeh Strips. If you’re more ambitious, Isa has you covered. She has recipes for homemade Cherry Sage Sausages on page 138, Chorizo on page 139 and Smoky Shiitakes on page 150. Alluring protein options for your brunch plate.

From this food category, we tried the Tempeh Sausage Pastry Puffs on page 129 ¬†(photo above). ¬†We served it to clients who were coming to our office for a consultation with some wine and they were blown away (and asked for the recipe!). These tasty little squares couldn’t be easier to make. They come together almost effortlessly. This is a recipe children could help with during the beginning and end steps, and would easily sub in as a supper main-dish. The only thing is you have to give yourself time: the puff pastry needs to thaw; the tempeh needs to marinate; the pastry needs to bake. Ours took a few minutes longer than 18-20 minutes. Yum!

There is another rock star in the faux meat offerings: the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes on page 132! We live in Baltimore, and there are crab cakes literally everywhere. While we don’t eat them, we known how they should look and smell, as well as the correct texture. And of course, we both ate them years ago, before going vegan. When Isa confessed in her recipe intro that she never had a crab cake before going vegan, we had concerns she might miss the mark on this offering. And – she did neglect to add Old Bay, which all Maryland crab cakes contain – but otherwise, this faux crab cake is the real deal! The recipe is more time-consuming than several others in the book, so be sure you give yourself enough time ¬†– and space – to work on it. When Isa asks you to let the tempeh cool, she is serious – you need to do this step or the cakes fall apart. We added a Tablespoon of Old Bay to the tempeh sauce, and 3 Tablespoons to the panko breadcrumbs. We used Tabasco brand Chipotle Sauce whenever Isa asks for hot sauce, and it added a nice spicy, smokiness. ¬†The remoulade sauce is scrumptious – we loved it. But if you want a true Baltimore-style crab cake, you need to have cocktail sauce (a mix of ketchup, horseradish and vegan Worchestershire sauce) instead.

As a sidenote, – Isa mentioned that she thinks the Chesapeake Bay is doing better these days… sadly, the Bay is not doing that well. We wish it was. A local Baltimore news report was just released that 1.1 billion gallons of sewage has been released into the harbor in the past year alone. Boo! Our beautiful waterways are struggling. Try these faux crab cakes, then visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and see how you can help clean up this majestic part of America.

Nothing finishes off a brunch spread like a sweet baked goodie. And who knows vegan baked goods better than Isa Chandra Moskowitz?! (See Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World , Vegan Pie in the Sky, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar)  We knew that any selection from the baked goods chapter was going to be a home-run.

The East Coast Coffee Cake on page 172 was fabulous (photo above). Again, we served this to clients at a meeting, (different clients!) with coffee, cocoa and tea. The variation we made was on page 175, berry with citrus zest. The crumble topping is so good, you will want to eat it with a spoon. We made ours with half whole wheat flour and only 4 Tablespoons of canola oil. It worked out fine. The cake comes together like a dream – so simple. The most challenging part of this recipe is the hour you need to wait to cut it. This will be the longest hour of your life. The coffee cake is tender, flavorful and sweet; it makes the house smells heavenly. A wonderful way to begin the day – or wow some clients!

We tried the scones, too, on page 180 in the Apple-Rosemary variety, page 183. These were a gift for friends and were another smashing success. They were crunchy on the outside, and flaky & soft on the inside with an ideal balance of flavors. With a warm cup of earl grey, the scones are great for a snooty afternoon tea – or as a brunch treat. Our friends also said they were excellent as a midnight snack.

Sadly, we haven’t gotten to the drink recipes yet, which begin on page 224. If the rest of the book is any indication, though, there’s no doubt these are yummy! The Black and White Le Cremes on page 228 sound especially fun!

The final thoughts: Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is incredible. It should be on the bookshelf of every vegan/vegetarian and should be used frequently. These recipes aren’t complex, but they do require you to pay attention and precisely follow directions. If you are up to that task, get ready for lots of compliments from whoever you cook/bake for! Vegan Brunch is a winner!!! We can’t wait to try more of the recipes, like the Tofu Benny on page 67, Chocolate Beer Waffles on page 97 and Fennel Breakfast Risotto on page 48.

Thanks Isa – you brought brunch back to vegan home cooks in grand style!