Saturday, July 7, 2012


Wicked overdue *UPDATE! Four of them in Favorite Products & one in Resources(*That's how you'll spot 'em.) Anything that you think I should add? Leave me a comment & I promise to check it out!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Babies!

Sorry, this isn't about food, but it's of equal importance. A lovely friend (Jenna) is featuring rescued cats on her blog. My babies were featured! Meet David & Rocco!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Please Pass The Gravy

I'm back. Leave it to an impending food holiday to bring me back to life.

I've had Thanksgiving on the brain for a couple of weeks now. When I saw Gardein's new Savory Stuffed Turk'y at my local co-op, I HAD to try it!

The turk'y & stuffing were lovely. This won't replace my beloved Tofurky dinner, but it will definitely be a go-to, especially when I'm in the mood for a holiday sampling. Sadly, I didn't get any photos.

I'm also sad to report that the gravy that comes with it...just gross. I'm still a bit shocked by it. How can they make such tasty meatless fowl & make such a foul gravy?

Thankfully, I have a fabulous gravy recipe to share. It's NOT light, but it's so worth the calories, especially when it's a holiday meal. It's also pretty quick & easy. (However, if you want something super lazy, Road's End gravy mixes only require water & are far & away better than what came with our stuffed turk'y.)

The original gravy recipe came from I've made a few changes & cut back the amount to "4" servings (if you're using it on taters, as well as turk'y/chick'n, it serves 2 to 3 nicely. I usually cook for 2 & have a bit leftover, which I like. If cooking for 4, you may want to double up, otherwise the portions will be skimpy).

Vegan Gravy

2 TB Earth Balance
1 TB canola oil
2.5 TB finely chopped onion
2 small garlic cloves (or 1 large clove) minced

3 TB & 1/2 tsp all purpose flour
1.5 tsp nooch (nutritional yeast flakes)
1 TB tamari (more or less, depending on how much sodium is in your veg/chick'n broth)

1.25 cups vegetable/chick'n broth (I make mine with bouillon. Much cheaper than pre-made & easily done in the microwave, while everything else is cooking. Remember, I like cheap & easy!)

1 tsp dried sage
3/4 tsp ground black pepper (or more. I like a peppery gravy!)

Heat the oil & Earth Balance (or whichever vegan margarine you use) over medium heat. Sauté the onion & garlic until soft & translucent (about 5 minutes).

Stir in flour, nooch & tamari. This will create a smooth paste.

Once blended, immediately start whisking in your broth.

Season with sage & pepper.

Now taste it! Is it too salty? If it is, add more water. Start with .25 cup. After that, add 1 TB at a time. You may want to adjust your spices once done. (Not salty enough? Add a tiny bit more will all depend on the broth that you use).

Now, bring it to a boil. Reduce heat & stir constantly (8 to 10 minutes) until thickened.

Keep in mind the saltiness of your gravy, when you go to make your mashed potatoes. You might want to keep your taters a little under-salted so as not to kill your dinner companion(s).

So damn good!!!

Enjoy! And have a happy & compassionate Thanksgiving!
Me & Monty, at The Gentle Barn. You can sponsor Monty (or one of his turkey companions) for just $7 a month.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vegan Chocolate!

Before I dive into all the chocolaty goodness, I need to share how the idea for this post was conceived. It was a mixture of a trip to the Worcester, MA VegFest, combined with my wife's insatiable love of sweets. Mind you, Michelle loves the savory side of life, but Willy Wonka has nothing on her sweet tooth.

To keep Michelle happy, post-veganism, I found myself seeking out every vegan cake, cookie, donut & candy known to man. There are way more than I wish there were (for the sake of my own waistline), and the list is growing almost daily.

Upon deciding to go to Worcester's VegFest, we were mainly excited about three things. Freebies, Terry Hope's demo, & Maple Farm Sanctuary's table. Freebies are self explanatory & there were many great ones, from brownie bites to hommus packets. As for Terry Hope, if you've been a vegan for at least 6 months, you should already know & love her. When I initially sought help with my vegan culinary vocabulary, I quickly became enamored with Terry Hope Romero & Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the dynamic vegan duo (if you've checked the resources page of this blog, you probably knew that). They're vegan cooking goddesses, who are brilliant, passionate, funny & very relatable. Vegan or not, if you love to cook, you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with them.

Maple Farm Sanctuary, the third reason for excitement, holds a special place in our hearts. After a sad experience in high school, I learned how beautiful & sensitive cows are & always felt a deep love for them. When we went vegan, & after witnessing the horrors that these sentient beings endure, Michelle quickly developed a serious fondness for cows, as well. Soon after converting, she asked about visiting a sanctuary. I did a quick search & found that Maple Farm Sanctuary was within driving distance. The story behind this place is pretty amazing (the owners actually ran a regular farm, before turning it into a sanctuary. I encourage you to check out their site). What sold me & made us want to visit them was Cassie's story. Cassie is a tortured soul that the kind people of MFS are respectfully allowing to live out her life in peace, on her own terms! Our hearts went out to her immediately. After meeting her, Michelle was moved to the point of getting a tattoo that's in tribute to Cassie.

We actually found out about the VegFest through MFS's Facebook page so we were excited to go and show them some support. When we found their table, we were greeted by Jake & Laurie, two MFS volunteers. Michelle showed them her Cassie tattoo, which instantly moved Laurie to tears. A kindred spirit, for sure!

Michelle then urged me to show them my own cow tattoo, which I did. There is a strange story behind her (that I'll save for another time, because I'm already running long), but she is also in tribute to a cow (Buddha) that we met at The Gentle Barn.

As you can see, Buddha is in the form of a superhero (the H stands for Herbivore). The superhero depiction seemed to strongly resonate with Jake, who asked to take a picture. I was happy & flattered, & of course I agreed. However, it wasn't until I visited his blog that I fully understood why he seemed so floored by my Super Buddha. You see, his blog ( is a vegan blog like no other!!! Every post involves references to, & fabulous photos of, his collection of superhero action figures (and the villains that they face). Frankly, I think a smart publisher should turn his whimsical blog into a book, pronto!

A few days after VegFest, Jake put up an Earth Day post, which discussed his love of chocolate (finally!, I'm getting to the chocolate). Poor Jake didn't know how much vegan chocolate is actually out there & was dependent on Whole Foods' chocolate chips for his fix. It broke my food obsessed heart & I immediately left a comment that included more vegan options for him. I knew then that I had to share all this chocolaty bliss with you, as well.

For those unaware, far too many American chocolates are made with cow's milk (or a derivative of said cow's milk). It's commonly believed by many vegans that dark chocolate is safe, which is generally true with foreign made dark chocolate, but that's not necessarily the case with mainstream candy in this country. American palates are so use to milk chocolate, candy makers feel the need to muck up dark chocolate, too. ACK!

Then there is the bone char issue, when it comes to processed sugar. I'm not going to go down that road. I respect both sides of the debate. For those who actively avoid it, even if the chocolate in question isn't specifically labeled vegan, know that as long as the sugar is organic, it has not been filtered with bone char. The use of bone char is not approved for organic certification. It is also not used in the making of beet sugar, or raw sugar cane.

Morbidity out of the way, lets feast on some sweet, chocolaty goodness! Here is an edited version of the comment that I left for Jake:

Vegan chocolate is everywhere. From chocolate chips, to candy bars, to peanut butter cups. The list of vegan chocolate treats is growing almost daily (try searching

Sunspire, available in many grocery stores, has chocolate chips & some candy offerings that are vegan.

As for white chocolate chips, there is at least one retail, vegan white chocolate chip, but there may very well be more. Please feel free to add any additional brands that you know of in the comments.

Enjoy Life, also widely available, makes rice milk chocolate bars, as well as 2 kinds of chocolate chips (mini & mega). The list of rice milk offerings is also rapidly growing. Just do a Google search. There are also more regular vegan chocolate chips, but they aren’t all labeled. Check the organic, health food section of any grocery store or co-op.

(Psst! FYI, Enjoy Life make a bunch of other vegan snacks & sweets, too.)

Additionally, there are Go Max Go candy bars, which are popping up all over the place. They make mock versions of major candy bars. Our favorite is Mahalo, a mock Almond Joy, that seems to be the favorite among our twitter friends, as well.

Then there's Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups, also sprouting up everywhere. These now rule my sweet tooth! (Homemade PB cups are pretty darn awesome, btw. I intend to share a recipe soon, but there are lots of them online, if you’re interested.)

Lastly, Sweet & Sara makes rocky road bark that will make your eyes roll back in your head. EVERYTHING she makes is amazing. I'm pretty fanatical about her S'mores, too (peanut butter, especially). Her treats are available in a growing number of places, but if you can’t find them, they're available online, as is everything else that I’ve mentioned.

If there is anything that you can’t find & simply must have, please feel free to ask! I also highly recommend supporting the sanctuaries that I've mentioned, or one that may be closer to you. Even if you can't donate money, you can donate your time. All of them need help, and you get paid back with love & adoration from each of the residents. Now that's SWEET!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Holiday Dinners

Thanksgiving, Christmas & Easter: Three major holidays with a huge focus on food. At least that's how they were treated in my family. They also stood for turkey, turkey & ham (& CANDY). Yes, these food focused holidays were synonymous with meat. Having been vegetarian for 19 years, I had lost my love for these holidays. They began to mean mashed potatoes w/o gravy, no stuffing, rolls & cranberry sauce. Sounds drool worthy, no? No? I didn't think so.

That all changed when I went vegan. Not kidding! Our first holiday after going vegan (literally just a couple of weeks afterward) was Thanksgiving. I ate stuffing!, mashed potatoes WITH gravy, cranberry sauce (I'm very fond of cranberry sauce), buttery rolls...and "turkey." That dinner, and the leftovers which followed, made for one of the most joyous holidays of my life. The cherry on top of all that goodness & nostalgia was the fact that not a single animal suffered for what was on my plate. If you are a new vegan, I'm excited for you to have that feeling. It makes everything taste even better!

The reason I hadn't had a holiday meal like that for many years was because I was always at the mercy of family. I took what I could get & gave thanks. As a vegetarian, there was always just enough for me to eat at these family gatherings to not make it worth the trouble of creating another meal, or so I thought. Also, my beloved was an omnivore right up until the time that we both went vegan so it would have been only for me. Why cook for just one person? Oh how wrong headed I was.

Going vegan changed everything drastically. It meant only eating the cranberry sauce at a family holiday gathering, especially since our family was less than receptive to our lifestyle change (& bringing a dish to share was futile, because no one wanted to even look at it). To me, that was unacceptable. It became imperative that I make a holiday feast at home. No way was I going to let Michelle go without! Bonus: I got to have the best dinner EVER! All of the flavors I remembered from my childhood were back! I couldn't help but regret not making a holiday meal sooner, even if it was for one person. I deserve it & you do, too!

With Easter only a couple of days away, I want to share some of my favorite holiday options with you, perhaps to help spur you on. It can be mind blowingly easy to put together, too.

Our absolute favorite holiday "meat" is the Tofurky roast. I get the big box that includes the stuffed roast, a tub of gravy, an Amy's chocolate cake, & a "wishbone" made of Tofurky jerky. I also buy an extra tub of gravy, which you can get separately (they also sell just the roast & one tub of gravy boxed together). I can make a killer gravy, but since it already comes with gravy, I get another to keep it consistent. Is a Tofurky dinner super healthy? Not if you compare it to some other vegan options, but I didn't go vegan for health reasons. Besides, I eat it 3 to 4 times a year so I don't care how healthy it is. Plus, holiday meals just aren't meant to be healthy!

Mind you, there are other brands to choose from, but a basted Tofurky that's sliced thinly & topped with gravy... omg, I can't wait! (Confession time. The name "Tofurky" freaked me out. Silliness of the name aside, I didn't want to eat a turkey, and I sure as heck didn't want anything that tasted like tofu. I'm happy to say that there is nothing carcase-like about Tofurky, nor is it remotely like tofu. I'm even happier to report that I now have a tofu obsession, but that's another post.)

Then there are the sides. Mashed potatoes are super easy. You can make a basic MP without a recipe. Two mashed potato tips: 1st, always put your potatoes into the pan with cold water. Dropping them into boiling water will likely make them a starchy (possibly gooey) mess. 2nd, the smaller you cut your potatoes, the quicker they'll cook. Just be careful not to make them too soft. You'll be adding other ingredients & you don't want to end up with runny potatoes.

Everything you add to your potatoes can be done to taste. Just start small & add as needed. So what exactly goes into vegan mashed potatoes? Salt, pepper, non hydrogenated vegan margarine (Earth Balance) & a vegan milk or creamer (I like So-Delicious coconut creamer). I've also switched out the creamer & used Tofutti sour cream. Adding some roasted garlic never hurt anything, either.

Vegan stuffing is also super easy. Arrowhead Mills makes a great stuffing base (I like their savory herb). Add vegetable broth, Earth Balance, onions & celery, as directed on the package (maybe some additional sage) & you have vegan Stove Top! (I LOVED Stove Top. Don't judge!)

Since Easter is also a candy holiday, I'd like to point out some amazing vegan alternatives. Sweet & Sara is at the top of my Easter basket-filling list. Sugar coated PEEPS! But wait, they're even more delicious than the ones made with gelatin (that stuff is pretty vile, btw. I was a lazy vegetarian, but even then I avoided that goo at all costs). Seriously, she makes the best marshmallows on the planet!

Another Easter must was Cadbury Creme Eggs. They are something that folks either worship or despise. I was in the devout worshipers group. I can't explain it. The chocolate is poor & the filling is sickening sweet, yet I looked forward to them like I look forward to a new Madonna album (I'm a true blue Madonna fanatic, FYI!). Loving Cadbury eggs might have had something to do with the clucking bunny in the commercials. I don't know, but they rocked my world. So what's a vegan to do? Buy veganized versions! Or, make your own vegan version!

What are your favorite holiday dishes & treats? If you need something else to complete your holiday dreams, try searching Vegetarians In Paradise also has wonderful offerings (I found THE best vegan deviled egg recipe over there. So fun, easy & tasty). And don't hesitate to ask questions! I would love to help you make your holiday meal complete, and I know plenty of good folks that I can turn to who would also be willing to respond to any questions or requests that I may not be able to instantly help with. You shouldn't have to feel deprived, as I once did. You deserve a fabulous meal!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chorizo Seitan

Seitan ("say-tan") is a wheat meat. It's made from the gluten in flour. Seitan is low in calories, low fat (zero saturated) and is high in protein. It originated in Asia centuries ago & it is a favorite faux meat in our home. It can be used in countless dishes & it's an excellent source of protein. Seitan can be purchased pre made, you can purchase vital wheat gluten flour & make your own (as this recipe requires), or you can extract your own gluten from flour (which is messy, but a fulfilling task). Generally, seitan is brewed. Once made, it can be used in any method of cooking (fried, baked, roasted, grilled...), but this recipe requires baking it in a water bath. Once baked, it can be used in any recipe that calls for spicy sausage/chorizo.

I'm Portuguese & French, and was raised by (and in a city largely populated by) Portuguese folks. The difference between Portuguese & Spanish is minimal, from language to cuisine. Both have a version of chorizo (for Portuguese, it's chourico) so if you liked one or the other, you should definitely try this! Between flavor, texture, ease & cost (all compared to pre-made vegan chorizo), the payoff is truly worth it. (Please be advised that you may have to adjust the spiciness. As is, it's pretty darn spicy. My beloved finds the full 1/2 tsp of cayenne to be too hot, but I like it that way.)

Now, for a sausage like texture, it just can't be reached through the traditional brewing method. I found a recipe that called for it to be baked, which got me very excited, but it left one side super crusty (and it left me feeling bummed out). But then I thought, try using a water bath...and it worked! That was one of the greatest kitchen discoveries I've ever come across. I'm definitely not a chef, but I sure did feel like one.

Seitan Chourico*

Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten flour; don't pack it down (Not to be confused with high gluten flour. I use Bob's Red Mill vital wheat gluten. You can find it in the natural section of many grocery stores, co-op's, & health food markets.)

2 TB nutritional yeast flakes (nicknamed "nooch." It's not an active yeast. For those of you unfamiliar with nooch and new to veganism, I suggest trying to find a co-op or health food store/market where you can purchase it from bulk bins... you will use that much of it. Purchased that way, it's super cheap. BTW, it's also very good for you. It's got B vitamins, sometimes including B12, and is high in protein)

2 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp fine sea salt (or kosher)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder

Wet Ingredients
3 TB water
2 TB ketchup
1 TB apple cider vinegar
1 TB canola

Preheat oven to 325° F

In a medium to large mixing bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients well. In a separate bowl, whisk all of your liquid ingredients.

Add the liquid to the dry &, with a fork, mix everything well. Then get your hands dirty and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. It should become elastic & spongy. Let it rest while you clean your hands & prep your pans.

Put a glass loaf pan into the center of a brownie pan or roaster (2" sides) & fill the outer pan about half way full with water.

Now form your dough into a link (about 7" - 8" long).

Wrap it tightly in aluminum foil, twisting the ends. Don't worry about making it too perfect. Place the wrapped link inside of the dry glass loaf pan & bake it for 90 minutes.

I recommend turning it after 60 minutes (this method won't give it a thick crust, but I like to make sure it cooks as evenly as possible). Also be sure to check the water level. If it evaporates, then you're looking at crusty city.

When it's done, unwrap & let it cool completely (no cheating!).

After cooling, you can re-wrap it in plastic or foil (or a tightly sealed container. It's greener so it's my preference) & store it in the refrigerator for when you're ready to use it. It also freezes well so if you don't use it up in about 5 days or so, divide it into portions & store it in the freezer.

YAY, you've just conquered seitan! \o/

*Once finished, try slicing some into 1/4" chucks & cooking it up in some olive oil & pickled (hot) red peppers (to taste. Don't kill yourself), in a cast iron pan, with some chopped green peppers. Serve it on soft crusty bread or over rice. WOW! Totally brought me back to my childhood.

My wonderful friend, Leinana, has also featured this recipe a couple of times on her blog, Vegan Good Things, so if you want more tasty suggestions for using this seitan, I recommend trying her Mexican pizza and her Louisiana style shrimp & grits. Once you make this seitan, please come back and share the ways that you've used it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Christmas Cornbread

Yes, I know it's April. I don't care. I can't tell you how excited I am to share this with you, even if I am 8 months early. It's that good!

When I was young, my mom made a sausage stuffed cornbread that I just loved. The entire family did. She usually made it as a holiday breakfast, especially on Christmas morning. One of the reasons that she made it for Christmas was because it's a quick assembly job. Also, it can be made ahead of time & travels well.

Having been a vegetarian since long before I began cooking, it had been years since I gave this dish any thought, but the minute it came to mind, I HAD to veganize it. Without a net, I went to work. The end result is unbelievably gratifying!! I defy any cornbread eating, sausage loving omni to taste it and not love it. I dare you!

Compassionate Christmas Cornbread

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup vegan milk (I used So Delicious' original coconut milk)
2 TB real maple syrup
2 TB vegan sour cream (I used Tofutti's non-hydrogenated sour cream. I do NOT recommend Follow Your Heart's sour cream)
1 TB canola oil
3/4 cup Daiya cheddar style shreds
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
3 jalapeño peppers, cleaned & diced (about 1/2 cup)

5 LightLife Smart Links breakfast sausage

1 glass loaf pan

Preheat oven to 375 F & lightly spray/grease your loaf pan. (FYI, I use a reusable misting canister. It requires some serious elbow grease, but it's worked well for me & I've yet to have it clog up. Much better for the enviornment! ...Yes, I know I'm a tree hugger. Someone has to be. I can't even begin to count how many disposable cans I've been through.)

Put your dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl & mix well. Create a well & add the rest of your ingredients, except for the sausage links. With a fork, mix until fully combined.

Pour half of the batter into the loaf pan. Rest one link in the center, then evenly space the remaining four links on top of the batter.

Pour the remainder of the batter on top & gently spread it evenly.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, until golden & a toothpick comes out "dry" (slightly sticky is OK). Let it stand for 10 - 15 minutes, until you can coax the cornbread out of the pan without it tearing. Slice & serve as is, or with an extra dollop of vegan sour cream.