Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This is it...Fauxstess Cupcakes! From Vegan With A Vengeance

This is it, folks. Not just the end of Vegan MoFo, but these cupcakes are it. I think out of all the vegan cupcakes I have made over the years, these are hands down my favorite. So behold, the vegan version of Hostess Cupcakes! Just think, now vegetarians and vegans can enjoy the goodness of a rich chocolaty cupcake with chocolate icing and a cream-filled inside without the beef fat! Oh you didn't know that Hostess uses beef fat in their cupcakes? Click this link and check out the ingredients! Gross if you ask me. 

Anyway...let's move on to the good stuff instead of gross stuff. As if you need yet another reason to buy Vegan With A Vengeance, this is it. Yes the ingredients and the procedure may seem a bit time-consuming, but trust me...it's worth every minute. 

If these photos don't convince you, then I don't know what will. 


Big BIG thanks to anyone and everyone who looked at my blog, followed me, commented, perused, glanced, etc. I still plan on blogging often after MoFo (maybe not every day, but still pretty damn often), so please check back! 

And...I plan on incorporating some healthy living stuff into the blog as well, such as fitness and exercise tips (gym workouts, home workouts, resistance band/stability ball exercises), and even the occasional healthy meal. So if that's your thing, please follow me! And if you've got tips/advice, leave a comment!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chicago Spotlight: Safari Cup Coffee

Just under the steps of the Brown Line Southport stop is Safari Cup Coffee, an accidentally vegan-friendly coffeehouse! I went there with some friends of mine expecting to find, well...not much for vegans. Just maybe a good cup of coffee. I asked the gentleman behind the counter (who turned out to be Dave, one of the owners) if there was anything for vegans. He politely apologized but said he didn't think so. I grabbed one of their menus anyway to have a second look. A few minutes later Dave's wife Sharon comes out to my table to talk with me. She took the time to look at everything on their menu to see if anything was vegan or could be made vegan. How nice of her! Here's a quick summary:

Oatmeal: vegan

Toasted Sandwiches:
Baby bella mushroom, peppers, tomato, cheese. Just hold the cheese and you're good to go.

Peanut butter and banana: Vegan

Sandwiches: Village Green (listed as "A vegetarian's delight!"): Lightly toasted fresh-baked wheat bread filled with avocado, shredded carrot, tomato, cheddar cheese, and red pepper. Spooned over with Safari Cup's Jungle herb spinach pesto sauce. Once again, simply hold the cheese. Sharon said her bread and pesto are vegan (everything is made in-house).

Salads for Herbivores (yes, that's how it's listed on the menu!)
Chungwa (orange): Thinly sliced crisp fennel tossed with baby spinach, fresh sliced orange, black olives & red pepper. Served with a citrus mint & herb dressing. Garnished with feta.
Do I even have to tell you? No feta of course.

Zanzibar Salad: Fresh cut cucumbers, fennel, avocado, red onion, nestled in Romaine iceberg lettuce. Sprinkled over with our house Citrus & Mint dressing & Parmesan cheese. ::ahem:: yes yes, we know...no cheese!

Safari Cup also offers something called "Ranger's Choice" which is: Choose any 3 of our side salads and enjoy a varied and balanced meal. There are 4 side salads and THREE of them are vegan! Yes! Here they are:
Azifa (green lentil): Green lentil, caramelized onions & red pepper in a balsamic vinegar dressing garnished with cilantro parsley.

Tabbouleh: A Lebanese couscous salad scallions, parsley, tomato & mint.

Tropical Fruit Salad: Freshly sliced & diced tropical fruit selected from seasonal fruits such as papaya, pineapple, orange, grape and mango.

As you can see, they've got a few bottled drinks to choose from as well. Like this one:

I've never even seen this drink before, so I gave it a try. It even says "vegan" right on the bottle, but of course I didn't notice that until after reading the ingredient list. That's just how I roll I guess. I thought the taste was "interesting", but not really my thing. But hey, I tried!

The owners Dave and Sharon are so nice, and I love the atmosphere of their shop. From what I read on their website, they are originally from Ireland but both spent many years in Africa before coming to the states and eventually opening up Safari Cup in Chicago. There is a definitely an African theme going on...I really like it!

So if you find yourself in the Wrigleyville/Southport area, please stop in! It's worth a visit, even if you don't get anything but a cup of coffee.

Safari Cup Coffee
3404 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL

note: It seems as if the "food" link on their website is down so you can't have a look at the menu. Hopefully it will be fixed soon!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cashew Butter Cardamom Cupcakes, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World!

This cupcake can probably be classified as the "best use of cashew butter, period". I had bought some cashew butter for a recipe and was left with nearly the whole jar. And then one day, and I was flipping through my copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, (which I'm known to do from time to time), I came across Cashew Butter Cardamom Cupcakes with Rich Cashew Butter Frosting. In the book it says something like, "these are perfect for the cashew butter connoisseur in your life". Now I would not consider myself anywhere near a "cashew butter connoisseur", in fact, I'm so-so on if I even really like the stuff. But...I hate wasting, so I said what the hell and made these. Wow. WOW. These are amazing. Even my omni mother-in-law said they were the best cupcakes I have ever made. I took that as a compliment, even though, of course, the recipe is not mine. I see that the recipe is already online here, but I really think you just need to buy the dang book yourself. 
My frosting was a little on the thin side, but no one was complaining! Next time I may just ease up a bit on the maple syrup. But there will not be a next time unless I've got someone to share these with...I ate damn near half a dozen in less than 48 hours. So someone invite me to a potluck or something!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kim and Scott's Pretzels + We Can't Say It's Cheese!

Although they look delicious, Kim and Scott's Gourmet Pretzels are just a little out of my price range. However, when I happened to notice that they were on sale for half off, I finally went for it and bought a box. The salt is actually packaged separately and you're supposed to add it yourself...not good if you're lazy. So...I didn't do that. I tried baking the pretzel one day and then nuking it the next. I'd definitely recommend baking.
Now all you need is some We Can't Say It's Cheese Cheddar Sauce and you're just about ready. I scooped some cheese into a small cup and nuked it for about 25 seconds. It was nice and melty and perfect for dipping a hot pretzel into.

I apologize for the "meh" photo. I clearly need some food photography 101! But I'm working on it, folks. Point is...if you've got access to both of these items, then try them together! Very yummy and great for a quick snack. JX loved it too, and as I've said before, "that's always a plus!"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Billings, Montana: Mustard Seed Restaurant

Lunch today was at the Mustard Seed Restaurant in Billings. Just a couple of vegan options, but that was fine with me...I was in the mood for some simple veggie fried rice. I like this place because they give you an option of white or brown rice. Although I like white rice, I know that it doesn't really offer anything nutritionally. So I went with brown rice and also had them add tofu. I think the tofu was $1 or $2 extra. The waitress assured me that there was no oyster sauce, fish sauce, beef or chicken stock used in their veggie stir-fry recipe. Just make sure to specify "no eggs". Click here to check out their menu.

Overall I was very satisfied with this meal! Very yummy. But once again...I should have asked for no mushrooms! When will I learn?!?

Mustard Seed also delivers, so remember that if you're in Billings and it's cold as sh*t and you don't feel like venturing out!

Mustard Seed
1340 15th St W  (@ Grand)
Billings, MT 59102
(406) 259-1400

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

My mother-in-law and I were in the kitchen cooking all morning, and so father-in-law and husband's duty was to take care of JX and keep him entertained for a few hours.
::sigh:: At least someone got to get out and enjoy the snow! Sheesh...

Anyway...on with the story. Normally I go with the always reliable Tofurkey, but this year I decided to "try new things" and went with the Field Roast brand Celebration Roast.
You've got four prep options listed on the box, I went with warming it in the oven for about 30-40 min. I also basted it a few times with olive oil.

We had a fairly large potluck-style (omni) family dinner to be at. I made mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and gingerbread apple pie...all vegan of course! Oh, and I also made some instant gravy for myself.
 I usually make the "Easy Gravy" from Vegan Express, but I thought I'd go with this since I'd be the only one eating it. It was okay, but I'm gonna stick with my Easy Gravy next year.

Here's my Thanksgiving feast! The Celebration Roast was alright, but I kinda missed my traditional Tofurkey. But for what it's worth, my omni father-in-law liked it! 

And for dessert...

Gingerbread Apple Pie from Vegan With A Vengeance! I don't know how the picture looks to you guys but this pie is freaking awesome and you should add it to your future Thanksgiving menus!

I hope everyone had a great day! If anyone has ever tried the Celebration Roast or the Gingerbread Apple Pie, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chicago Spotlight: Dib Sushi Bar and Thai Cuisine

Dib Sushi Bar and Thai Cuisine is one of the few things I miss about living in Uptown. We are just out of their delivery range now living in Wrigleyville, but thankfully Dib is only a few blocks east of the Lawrence Red Line stop, so it's not too far to go if I get a craving. 
 Dib is not in the best area of town, but the inside is surprisingly fancy! To be honest, I've actually never eaten inside there. I've either had it delivered (even though I used to live about 2 blocks away from there, don't judge me!) or I would pick it up on my way home from wherever. Their menu offers a few vegan-friendly dishes, but I get their "Hawaiian Fried Rice" every time. It even says "vegan" next to it! I love that. 
Hawaiian Fried Rice

Described as: "vegetarian fried rice with onions, peas, carrots, snow peas, and cashews topped with grilled pineapples, grilled tomato and grilled mango", this dish is a must try if you find yourself in Uptown. Actually, the Aragon Ballroom, the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, and the Riviera Theatre are all right off the Lawrence Red Line stop as well, so don't forget about Dib if you're on your way to a concert or out to get some drinks! 

Dib also has some vegan-friendly sushi (avocado, spinach, etc), and appetizers, but they also have a very intriguing looking vegan hand roll of some sort that is only offered in house. Apparently it's a presentation sort of thing. One day I will try that hand roll, and then I'll report back! 

I'll do a few more Chicago Spotlight features on Uptown joints in the future, so stay tuned!

Dib Sushi Bar and Thai Cuisine
1025 W Lawrence Ave 
Chicago, IL 60640

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Choco-Chicko-Dandies Marshmallow Pops!

Behold the deliciousness! A few weeks back, Chicago Soydairy tweeted a link to this page suggesting that someone make it using Dandies and then report back. Well, I decided to use ground up Chick-O-Sticks instead of the graham crackers. 
   Above photo courtesy of CandyAddict.com, since I forgot to take my own pic!

 And naturally we'll be using vegan chocolate chips!

And last but not least, let's not forget the star of the show:

All you need now are some lollipop sticks or skewers and you're set to go! The prep is super easy: you just put a marshmallow on a stick, roll it in the melted chocolate, and then roll that in the crushed up Chick-O-Sticks and voila!

So easy, and so so yummy! The hardest part was getting a hold of the Chick-O-Sticks, but that might not be a problem for everyone. These are omni-approved, kid-friendly, and a definite crowd-pleaser! They also seem like a great idea for a Halloween party, so I'm gonna keep that in mind for next year!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Trying new things, from Pilates to protein powder...

Recently I've been trying to break out of my comfort zone and try new things, whether it's a new kind of workout or a new food. We've been in Montana for a couple of weeks now, and we've been going to the Billings YMCA. Normally I enjoy working out with free-weights and then doing some cardio, usually on a stationary bike (easier on my back!). But I noticed that the Y offers a lot more classes than my gym in Chicago, so I thought this would be a perfect chance for me to...try new things! And today I finally did.

I have never done Pilates before, but have always been interested in it. I really liked it! It took a little getting used to at first, but by the end I think I was getting the basic idea and I would definitely do it again. I think my body thanked me too, for doing something different! 

So after the Y, I headed over to Mary's Health Food to check out what they've got. 

Like I said before, Billings has four health foods stores and there's something I like about all of them. Mary's has a much bigger protein/supplement/vitamin/mineral section than Good Earth, but a much smaller fresh produce selection. Anyway, keeping with my "trying new things" kick, I decided to buy a few things I would normally not purchase.

Although I don't have any major gluten sensitivities, I am interested in cutting back on gluten when I can. Overall I'd say this cookie was "ok". The texture was a little crumbly, but I'm just not really used to gluten-free stuff. I am partial to lemon though, so I'd probably buy this cookie again.

Now this is a different story. I'm so sorry Oskri Organics, but I just can't get down with this bar. The texture was way too hard/crunchy and the taste was just too bitter for me. I couldn't even finish this bar. But you know, I'm not really a health-foodie (although I sometimes wish I was), and this really is a "health-foodie" bar!

Ahh, the search for a palatable vegan protein continues...this one was not quite a winner for me. I love that I can buy sample sizes in some proteins though, so I don't get "stuck" with a full canister. This protein was kind of chalky and had a funkier aftertaste than my pea protein. So...we'll be sampling more powders in the future and reporting back. 

Do I even need to explain myself on this one? Chipotle Lime Crispy Fingers? WHAT?! So far I've had a few Gardein products and my fave so far has been the Seven Grain Crispy Tenders...until now. I'm not usually a big "chipotle" flavored kind of gal, but I gave these a shot. And man I'm loving 'em! I have yet to see them in Chicago, but I'm gonna request them at my local Whole Foods and hope they get 'em in. If you have not yet tried these and they're available in your area, please buy some and give them a try! I don't think you'll regret it! 

So that's it for my "new things" adventures for today! Hope I've inspired some of you to get out of your comfort zones, too! If even for only a day...

Mary's Health Food
2564 King Avenue W #J
Billings, Montana

Sunday, November 21, 2010

zpizza. Billings, Montana

Remember how I mentioned earlier that there are a few chain restaurants in Billings that are worth mentioning? Yeah, here's another one. zpizza! There are two locations in Billings. One on the West End, and one downtown. The only one I've been to so far is the West End location. And let me tell you that places like this are a lifesaver for people who may be the lone vegan in the family...which may be your situation if you're in Billings! 

There are clearly labeled vegan options and one specialty vegan pizza too!
This is probably the only sign in a Billings window with the word "vegan"!
And don't worry...just in case you missed the sign in the window when you walked in, it's on the menu inside too. 

Naturally, the first time I went there I was inclined to try the "Berkeley Vegan". Here it is in all its glory:

Although I enjoyed this pizza overall (I should have ordered it without mushrooms though), I noticed a hanging sign that said zpizza offers avocado as a pizza topping! I knew that the next time I went back, I'd be getting avocado on my pizza for sure!!

And so today was the day I went back for a second time. And today I noticed a sign taped up on the glass explaining what the gluten free options were as well as the vegan options. That sign was basically a printout of their vegan FAQ page which is here. I think it's really neat that you can get other sauces besides regular tomato on your pizza, but I usually just stick with tomato. 

This time around I went with the wheat crust, and tomato, avocado and caramelized onions on my pizza:

Mmm mmm mmm!! Man oh man, I went with a winning combination on this one. I think the caramelized onions were what really made this pizza sing, but the avocado definitely played a part as well! The extra toppings are a bit expensive ($1.35 each on a small pizza), so I really didn't want to go with any more than 3 toppings. 

Like I said, there are lots of toppings to choose from, so I may even go with something totally different if we go in again before we leave. 

There are lots of zpizza locations throughout the country (and even a few international locations!), see if there's one in your area by clicking here. There are no Illinois locations, but that's ok. I'll just enjoy my zpizza whenever we visit Billings. Companies who make sure to offer something to vegans and gluten-free folks deserve to be patronized, if you ask me! 

Have any of you been to zpizza? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Supermarket find: Butternut Squash Soup with Crackers

Sometimes when you're staying at someone else's house, you'll notice that they don't exactly stock their pantry like you probably do. Things like "nooch" (nutritional yeast), flax seed, apple cider vinegar, and brown rice syrup are things that you are suddenly without. And you either can't afford to restock their pantry to look like yours, or some of your staples are simply unavailable where you are. So, at times like these, you've got to go with what's available. 

Let's just say I've been eating a small amount of soup since I've been in Billings. Well, can you blame me? It's cheap, quick, and it's freaking cold as hell outside. I like the Butternut Squash Soup because it's sweet, creamy, and kid-friendly! All I've got to do is crumble up some crackers into JX's soup and he's good to go. I'll admit that I'm not that big on "sweet" soups necessarily, but this one is pretty good and I'd buy it again. 

Anyone tried this soup? What are your thoughts?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Billings, Montana: Good Earth Market

If you visit or even pass through Billings, Good Earth Market is definitely worth a stop. To my knowledge, there are 4 health food stores in Billings. And Good Earth is definitely the biggest one. 

 I can't say enough good things about this place. They've got a great bulk section, 

A vegan-friendly deli/coffee shop (with plenty of seating),
Thom-Fu vegan deli sandwich
Asian Noodle Salad from the deli

clearly-labeled vegan products,

a wellness/vitamin/supplement section, lots of locally-produced goods, cookbooks, pet food, and more! Everyone who works there seems very friendly and helpful, which is a big plus of course. And Good Earth is also nice enough to let the "vegan supper club" hold their monthly potlucks in their upstairs seating area! I just missed the November potluck, but if you're interested in learning more, contact Nicole Maas at nic_maas@hotmail.com.

Like I said, whether you're visiting Billings or just passing through, Good Earth is a great place to stop to stock up on vegan stuffs. And grab a cup of fair-trade coffee while you're at it!

Good Earth Market
3024 2nd Ave N
Billings, Montana

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lower-Fat Banana Bread variation, from Veganomicon

Veganomicon strikes again! If you notice you've got 2-3 browning and sad looking bananas in your kitchen, they are probably begging you to make these. Talk about easy, it all comes together quickly in one bowl, and all the other ingredients are things you've probably got in your pantry anyway. So you've got no excuses now! 

The original recipe is simply titled Lower-Fat Banana Bread, and you're given the option of adding chocolate chips and/or making muffins instead of bread. So, I took the liberty of trying both variations at once. Oddly enough though, it doesn't list the amount of chocolate chips to put in. I went with the default amount of 1/2 cup, and that was perfect. Another thing, I like my muffins a little larger, so I filled the muffin tins a little higher than normal and got 9 muffins instead of 12. 

These are a big hit it in my house. I've made them a few times before without the chocolate chips:
Same muffin, but regular size and sans chocolate chips
But the chocolate chips have won me over and I think they'll be a permanent part of the recipe now. Next time I may even add some walnuts too. 


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicago Spotlight: Delicious Cafe

Oh how I love Delicious Cafe. In my opinion, this is a must visit place if you are in Chicago on vacation. And it's a must visit often place if you live here! Located in the North Center district of Chicago, Delicious is a vegan cafe with a great menu (savory and sweet stuff), yummy coffee, laid-back atmosphere, and a rotating selection of pastries. Follow Delicious on twitter @deliciouscafe to keep on top of their specials!

My absolute fave item is their breakfast sandwich. Think of it like a vegan "Egg McMuffin", for lack of a better comparison. Nothing says "mmm" like a Delicious Cafe breakfast sandwich and a mug of hot black coffee. 

JX loves the sweet stuff of course. Last time we went there, they had mini cupcakes,

and Pumpkin Spice Muffins!
 JX sucked down the mini cupcakes before I even got a taste. But I was able to sneak in a bite of the pumpkin muffin and it was "delicious" of course!

 Delicious sells Ste Martaen locally made vegan gourmet cheese, which they also use in most of their sandwiches. Does that name sound familiar? Yep, I recently did a Chicago Spotlight featuring their vegan food truck! Check these guys out! Their cheeses are fantastic!

In addition to the cafe, Delicious also has a mini "general store", where they sell vegan products, from soap to vegan rice krispy treats!

Check out their website to see their hours and have a look at their menu. And make sure to stop in soon!

Delicious Cafe
3827 North Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60613