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The Vegan Divas Cookbook

Spiced Red Lentil and Coconut Milk Soup

Silent for far too long, the cookbook review department is revving up with a slew of upcoming reviews. The first is The Vegan Divas Cookbook by Fernanda Capobianco. Being on the West Coast, I haven’t ever heard of the New York City bakery which the cookbook is based on.

Fortunately for the hapless baker that I am, the cookbook isn’t limited to just baked goodies. There’s savory plates and treats. And soups too, like the above Spiced Red Lentil and Coconut Milk Soup (page 156). First time using dried lentils, it was easy and much quicker to cook than I had imagined (and I have a wild imagination).

Sugar-free Carrot Cake

Hapless or not, I had to try at least one baked dessert, Sugar-Free Carrot Cake (page 102). Still, I was sweating bullets over the batter. It looked very thick. Was it too thick? I have no idea. Crossing my fingers, the pan went into the oven. I was on pins and needles the entire half hour it was in the oven, I’m just not meant to bake. It actually came out fine, maybe a little on the dense side.

Roasted Kabocha Squash with Peanut Sauce

A very tasty savory treat was the Roasted Kabocha Squash with Peanut Sauce (page 164). If only it wasn’t so hard to cut into, I was afraid for my fingers. It was well worth it though, I pretty much love anything roasted. But there’s gotta be an easier way to cut up the squash.

Orange Tofu Yogurt

Tofu Yogurt My Way (page 30) on the other hand was super easy to make. And you can flavor it any way you like. I went with oranges for an orangesicle kind of a flavor. I didn’t have any granola so it’s topped with walnuts.

While I liked the taste and knowing exactly what’s in it. I didn’t feel like it’s really a yogurt as it doesn’t have any probiotics. One of the reasons why I eat yogurt in the first place is to get the beneficial bacteria. Perhaps it should be “yogurt” in quotation marks.

Raw Chocolate Avocado Tart

Having never tried avocado in a dessert before, I made the Raw Chocolate Avocado Tart (page 96). I really like raw desserts. They seem easier to make, there’s no baking involved. They usually have healthier ingredients and use other sweeteners besides sugar.

While making the filling, I taste tested it and it’s so good, sorta like chocolate pudding. I could have eaten the filling as is, before it even went into the crust. You just know it’s going to be awesome when the individual components are good on their own.

Instead of one 9-inch tart, I made mini ones and froze them for about a week while I was away on holiday. After letting it thaw in the fridge, it’s totally fine. So smooth and rich tasting – no weird avocado taste at all, just chocolatey goodness.

I may never get to New York City to visit The Vegan Divas in person but the cookbook’s easy recipes and gorgeous photos more than makes up for it.

Raw Chocolate Avocado Tart
Makes one 9-inch tart, serves 10 to 12

Chocolate Crust:
2 cups (200 g/7 oz) pecan halves
1/4 cup (28 g/1 oz) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons (28 g/1 oz) liquid coconut oil
1/4 cup (74 g/2.6 oz) maple syrup
1 teaspoon (4 g/0.14 oz) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g/0.05 oz) kosher salt

Chocolate Avocado Mousse:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (191 g/6.7 oz) vegan semisweet chocolate morsels
3 small, ripe avocados, pitted and flesh scooped out
1 tablespoon (7 g/0.25 oz) arrowroot powder
1/4 teaspoon (0.75 g/0.026 oz) kosher salt
1 teaspoon (4 g/0.14 oz) vanilla extract
1/4 cup (28 g/1 oz) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
1/3 cup (80 g/2.8 oz) almond milk
2/3 cup (198 g/7 oz) maple syrup
1 tablespoon (15 g/0.5 oz) smooth peanut butter

Make the crust:
Brush the bottom and sides of a 91/2-inch springform pan with vegetable oil and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse the pecans until crumbly (you should have some finely ground pecans and some pieces no larger than 1/4 inch). Add the remaining crust ingredients and pulse until just mixed. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and press it onto the bottom of the pan with slightly wet fingers or a spatula. Place the crust in the freezer to set while you make the mousse.

Make the mousse:
Place the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on medium (50%) power for about 3 minutes, stopping to stir it every 45 seconds. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool slightly.

Combine all the remaining mousse ingredients except the melted chocolate in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and process until smooth.

Remove the crust from the freezer and pour the mousse into it. Smooth it into an even layer and freeze, uncovered, for about 2 hours until firm.

Serve the tart:
Remove the tart from the freezer and unclasp and remove the side of the pan. Place the tart on a serving plate and allow it to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

From The Vegan Divas Cookbook by Fernanda Capobianco. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Disclosure: I received the book free of charge from the publisher to review. The opinions and experience with the book expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

This post also contains Amazon links, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on any of the links and make a purchase of anything.

A Sweet Resolution

coffee-chocolate-cupcake

It’s 37 days into the new year on the Gregorian calendar and day 7 on the lunar calendar. How’s your New Year’s resolution going? I don’t normally set resolutions or goals but this year is different. I have a goal. A secret goal – to try every single flavor of Sweet Aha! cupcakes. Shh, don’t tell anyone. Especially not my waistline.

With so many flavors, all natural and organic, how can I not try them all? Oh sure, I could have gone with something like eat healthier, eat more kale, eat more fiber. Blah, blah, blah. But why? When I can have a coffee chocolate cupcake. You can’t look at the above photo and not be nodding your head yes, yes, yes. One bite and you would never guess it’s vegan.

While I’m not much of a coffee drinker, I love the smell of coffee. Since Sweet Aha! uses real coffee, it has a nice subtle, authentic taste of coffee as well as caffeine. But it’s not too strong. It reminds me of See’s coffee candy lollypops (if you grew up in California, you may remember those from high school fundraisers). I’ll take my coffee as a cupcake any day.

strawberry-cupcake

The strawberry cupcake will take you back to the days of strawberry-flavored icing as a kid. But this frosting with its beautiful pink color and taste is made with actual strawberries (available year around at the San Mateo farmer’s market). The vanilla cupcake is just your standard cupcake but provides a nice contrast to the strawberrylicious frosting.

Sweet Aha! Cinnamon Raisin Scone

Oh no, I succumbed and tried a breakfast scone instead. I’m not usually a scone eating person, I don’t care for the dry, crumbly texture. But the cinnamon raisin scone from Sweet Aha! are entirely different. They’re soft and like their cupcakes not overly sweet.

I’m off to the gym so I can keep up and achieve my sweet resolution for the year.

Related Post
Sweet Aha! Vegan Cupcakes

Amella Vegan Caramels

Amella Vegan Coconut Almond Caramels

Many seasons have come and gone since I last had a piece of chocolate covered candy. But childhood memories of past holidays are still vivid – having the chocolate gift box passed to me when it was my turn, doing my best to discreetly push down on each one trying in vain to figure out the filling inside.

The chocolate covered nut clusters were always gone first, they were easy to spot and everyone’s favorite. Somehow I would pick wrong and end up with the caramel. Never my favorite, I remember it as being rather hard and extremely chewy to eat.

The Amella vegan caramels are the exact opposite. So smooth and buttery, soft and chewy, they’re a real joy to eat. The secret ingredient is pure cocoa butter.

Amella Vegan Coconut Almond Caramels

From Amella’s many caramels, I received the two vegan options to review. Handmade with organic and fair trade ingredients, no refined sugars, non GMO, gluten free, preservative free and kosher.

Pictured above is the Vegan Coconut Almond Caramels in 66% Dark Chocolate. It has a nice crunch from the lightly roasted California almond on top and a hint of coconut flavor.

Amella Vegan Sea Salt Caramels

The other is Vegan Gray Salt Caramels in 66% Dark Chocolate. Softer and smoother than the almond coconut caramel, the butteriness really stands out. That and the salty-sweet flavor combo.

Amella Vegan Sea Salt Caramels

Either flavor is a solid choice which I’m positive will pass the family’s smell and taste test. Packaged in a box of 6 or a pack of 2, they’re the perfect stocking stuffer. Available from Amella’s online store or Amazon.

Disclosure: I received the products free of charge from the company to review. The opinions and experience with the product expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

This post also contains an Amazon link, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on the link and make a purchase of anything.

Slime Be Gone with Vejibag

Kale in Vejibag

You know it’s there, lurking, just waiting to pounce on long-forgotten veggies. Yes, it’s slime. Watery, smelly, slime from veggies hanging out one too many days in the deepest, darkest corner of the refrigerator.

To the rescue, Vejibag – a simple, terry-cloth-like, organic cotton bag made at home by women in Maine. Just wash the veggies and stuff it in a damp Vejibag to keep for a week or so.

The first couple of times I tried it, the bag froze. But I had it on the shelf as there was no room in the produce drawer. I really wanted the bag to work so I tried again, rearranging all the veggies in the drawers so there was room for the bag. That worked! The kale is good! The veggies are saved!

It took me awhile but I couldn’t be happier now that the Vejibag is comfortably incorporated into my veggie storage routine. It’s so much better than my old plastic container method. For more information on storing various vegetables, check out the handy infographic at Vejibag.com.

Disclosure: I received the product free of charge from the company to review. The opinions and experience with the product expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

This post also contains an Amazon link, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on the link and make a purchase of anything.

Nelly’s Energy Truffle Bars

Nelly's Energy Truffle Bars

Healthy handmade candy bars. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, in for review is a selection of Nelly’s Energy Truffle Bars, a line of 100% organic, vegan, non-GMO and fair trade chocolate candy bars.

As I have a soft spot for all things coconutty, the Coconut Bar got devoured first. Oh my gosh, it tastes just like a Mounds candy bar but so, so much better, like a gazillion times better. It’s decadent but it also feels light and not overly sweet.

Nelly's Energy Truffle Bar Coconut

The bars are stored in the fridge to keep the chocolate from becoming a mess. They can be out and about for a day but might be a little melty and soft if it’s warm out. It is a bit inconvenient but on the other hand, it also means it doesn’t have all that shelf stable stuff that other companies put in their bars.

Look at the ingredients list and you see things like raw organic superfoods, nuts, seeds and dates. Things that don’t require a chemistry degree to decipher. Plus, it’s handmade in small batches.

Nelly's Energy Truffle Bar Peanut Butter

After the first bite of the Peanut Butter Bar, I’m reminded of a Whatchamacallit candy bar but not as crunchy. Once again, it’s not grossly sweet, just a nice peanut butter and chocolate taste with a great texture.

Nelly's Energy Truffle Bar Goji Berry

The Goji Berry Bar didn’t remind me of any particular candy bar, not that it’s a bad thing. It certainly has no problems standing on its own goji berry goodness.

Note: don’t give in to your I’m-so-hungry-I-have-to-eat-right-now side, definitely let the truffle bars sit out of the fridge for a few minutes before eating. Otherwise it’s way too hard to bite into (yes, I actually did that so learn from my mistake).

Nelly's Energy Truffle Bar Mint Chlorella

The Mint Chlorella Bar is so minty, I can smell the mint while taking its photo. One bite and it reminds me of a refreshing after dinner chocolate mint.

I would be in some serious trouble if all candy bars tasted this good or were even half as healthy. As it is, Nelly’s Energy Truffle Bars are currently available only in Southern California (check out their Facebook page for where and when they’re offering free samples and for updates).

For everyone else, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to expand their distribution so we can all have healthy candy and eat it too.

Disclosure: I received the products free of charge from the company to review. The opinions and experience with the products expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

Sweet Aha! Vegan Cupcakes

Sweet Aha! Coconut Lime Cupcake

You know it’s a beautiful morning at the farmers market when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and vegan cupcakes are calling your name.

Sweet Aha! is an all natural, 100% vegan, organic, non-GMO bake shop. Their unassuming booth features a weekly rotation of various flavors of cupcakes, muffins and cookies. Pictured above is the Coconut Lime cupcake.

Sweet Aha! Coconut Lime Cupcake

So moist and fluffy! And it’s not super sweet either as they try to use a minimal amount of sweetener (unrefined evaporated cane juice sugar). The texture is spot on. Excellent flavor combination too, the coconut goes really well with the lime.

Sweet Aha! Chocolate Mint Cupcake

A couple of other cupcake flavors is the Coconut Lemon (pictured in the back) and the Chocolate Mint. I never thought I would say this, but the best part is the frosting. It’s so light and just the right amount of sweet.

I remember a time long ago before I was vegan when I would actually scrape off frosting because it was so sickeningly sweet. Not so with a Sweet Aha! cupcake, I would get one just for the frosting. It’s that good. The cake part is good too but the frosting is extraordinary. Easily blows away any other cupcake I’ve ever tried.

Sweet Aha! can be found at the College of San Mateo Farmers Market on Saturdays and at the Inner Sunset Farmers Market on Sundays. Cupcakes are $3.75 each or 2 for $7.25. I haven’t tried the muffins or cookies yet. I’m already anticipating indecision on what flavor cupcake to try next.

Have a Tasty Bite

Thai Lime Rice and Punjap Eggplant

Up for review is an assortment of food packages from Tasty Bite. I’ve seen them in the store before but haven’t ever tried them. I had thought they were some sort of spice mix or seasonings. I’ve never bothered to actually pick one up to examine it. If I had, I would have seen that the bottom of the package is clear so you can kinda see what’s inside.

Frankly, I was thinking how good can it be, it’s cooked food in a pouch. I was pleasantly surprised that the first two items I tried were indeed tasty.

Tasty Bite Packages

Starving after going to the gym, I heated up the Thai Lime Rice (rice with lime, coconut and lemongrass) and the Punjap Eggplant (roasted eggplant slow simmered in a tomato and onion sauce) for a quick and easy meal. Both are very fragrant right out of the microwave. And it took only 60 – 90 seconds!

The rice is subtle in flavor, which went well with the more strongly flavored eggplant. I had no idea what I was missing. Simple ingredients that I can actually pronounce in a convenient, easy to heat package.

Pad Thai with Vegetables

Coming off of the tastiness of the rice and eggplant, I had high hopes for the Pad Thai Asian Noodles (noodles topped with small pieces of vegetables and peanuts). When I think of Pad Thai, I think of rice noodles. These were wheat noodles, similar to chow mein noodles. I guessing the Pad Thai name refers to the flavor as it’s a bit spicy.

It was ok, not great but not too bad either. The included noodles, veggies and peanuts all came out kinda soft and uniformly brown looking. I pumped it up with a quick stir-fry of whatever fresh veggies I had in the fridge, which greatly improved the dish.

Not pictured is the Kung Pao Asian Noodles (which looked similar to the Pad Thai noodles), I prepared it the same way, adding fresh veggies to the spicy flavored noodles.

Ginger Lentil Rice with Channa Masala

Lastly, is the Ginger Lentil Rice (ginger-flavored rice tossed with lentils and red peppers) and Channa Masala (chickpeas slow simmered with onions, tomatoes and spices), the Indian entrees are way better for food in a pouch. I would get either one of those again. And the rice over the noodles.

Since no refrigeration is required, they’re great for traveling or for stashing at the office for those days when you need something super quick.

Disclosure: I received the products free of charge from the company to review. The opinions and experience with the products expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

Grills Gone Vegan

Smoked Tofu

Just in time to start off the summer grilling season, a new cookbook to review, Grills Gone Vegan by Tamasin Noyes. Except I don’t have an outdoor grill. Not to worry, the recipes includes both an outdoor and indoor cooking method.

First up is Smoked Tofu without a Smoker (page 88). Yeah, I don’t have a smoker either. But I love that smokey flavor. Pretty easy to make but it does take time, mostly waiting around. First pressing the tofu (I used a tofu press), and then marinating and finally cooking. Recipes that require advance planning are noted at the top of the recipe.

Asian Street Soup

I had a bit of a sore throat, so I made Asian Street Soup (page 49) to help soothe it. Although I prepare the noodle bowl inside on the stovetop, you could also make it outside on the grill. Pretty cool, huh? I wasn’t able to find Thai chile so I subbed in half a serrano pepper instead and topped with a few slices of the smoked tofu.

Seitan Ribz

It’s not summer until you slap some Seitan Ribz, (page 94) onto the grill. I’ve made homemade seitan before but sometimes the texture doesn’t come out quite right. I had no such problems with this recipe.

But it does involve multiple steps, from making the Barbecue Rub (page 158), to baking then grilling the ribz, and serving it with the Barbecue Sauce in a Flash (page 165). But it was well worth the effort. So happy the recipe makes a lot. It’s easy to freeze the extras and just defrost in the fridge as needed.

Tappanyaki Seitan Wrap

With the abundance of Seitan Ribz, I used it in another recipe, Tappanyaki Seitan Wrap (page 54). I knew it would be super good as soon as I saw it had mayo and sriracha in it. And it was, but the Sweet-and-Spicy Marinade (page 162) as a dipping sauce really kicks it up a notch, adding a whole nother layer of flavors.

Not pictured is the Oh-So-Easy Hash Browns (page 136) which I made to use up a past-its-prime russet potato. Previous attempts at hash browns at home were mediocre at best, but that’s because I never really knew the secret to crispy hash browns. Now I know.

Mango-Blueberry Cobbler

For dessert, Skillet-Grilled Mango-Blueberry Cobbler (page 147). Ridiculously easy to make compared to a pie and an interesting twist on the filling with the combination of mango, blueberry, basil and cardamom flavors.

So far, everything I’ve made is like a new favorite of mine and that’s just the beginning. The layout of Grills Gone Vegan is pretty simple and straight-forward and there’s only a smattering of photos throughout the book but the recipes are tried and true. A fine addition to any kitchen library and not just for the summer months but for year-around grilling.

Smoked Tofu Without A Smoker
Yield 4 servings
Advance prep: Press the tofu and then marinate it for at least 8 hours

3 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1 pound extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into 8 stabs

Put the coffee, liquid smoke, tamari, vinegar, brown sugar, onion powder, paprika, oil, garlic powder, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and pepper in a 13 x 9-inch nonreactive baking pan and stir to combine. Add the tofu and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or up to 24 hours, turning the tofu occasionally.

Outdoor Method
Cover the grates of an outdoor grill with foil. Preheat the grill to medium-low heat.

Lightly mist the foil with cooking spray. Put the tofu on the foil, reserving the marinade. Cook for about 30 minutes, occasionally basting with the marinade. Turn over and cook in the same fashion until the tofu is browned and firm and has a slightly chewy texture, about 20 minutes.

Indoor Method
Preheat the over to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or mist it with cooking spray.

Put the tofu on the lined baking sheet, reserving the marinade. Bake for 45 minutes, occasionally basting with the marinade. Turn the tofu over and bake in the same fashion until the tofu is browned and firm and has a slightly chewy texture, about 45 minutes.

Cook Smart
Although this method is designed to not use a smoker, if you have a stovetop smoker, try using it to cook the tofu for an especially rich smoked flavor.

Per serving: 199 calories, 18 g protein, 12 g fat (2 g sat), 6 g carbs, 208 mg sodium, 138 mg calcium, 0 g fiber

From the cookbook Grills Gone Vegan by Tamasin Noyes. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Disclosure: I received the book free of charge from the publisher to review. The opinions and experience with the book expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

This post also contains Amazon links, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on any of the links and make a purchase of anything.

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