Sunday, November 2, 2014

Vegetarian Dog Treats

Max eating Whimzees

If you're looking to give your dog a vegan or vegetarian treat, store-bought options can be a bit limited at times. You can always resort to making your own treats, of course, (our dog loves sweet potato treats) but that can be very time-consuming.

Enter Whimzees. I discovered these a while back, when looking for an alternative to Greenies, which contain gelatin (an animal by-product). Our dog is old, and can't really get the regular dental cleanings he used to receive (which require him to be sedated), so it's especially important that we have something he can chew on to help clean his teeth (and he sure loves them as well!).

Whimzees

Whimzees come in all sorts of whimsical shapes and sizes. The store I was at had some of their fun animal shapes, but I decided to start with the Stix to see if Max liked them. He most definitely did!

I went on their site, which says their products contain "no artificial ingredients, colors, flavors, preservatives, GMOs, gluten, or meat." Although it listed the ingredients as vegetarian-friendly, I know that companies sometimes ignore the use of animal by-products in these types of descriptions, so I contacted them myself. Here was their response: "Our WHIMZEES are made using limited, vegetable-based ingredients only, so all plant based. We do not use any animal products, animal byproducts or even plant by-products: in our efforts to create the healthiest, high-quality dog chews, we only use top quality, human food grade ingredients. The only thing we cannot confirm, is whether any non-vegetable fertilizers have been used when growing the ingredients for our WHIMZEES."

Whimzees

You can find Whimzees at Petco, Pet Supplies Plus, and Pet Valu, as well as many independent pet retailers (and, of course, on Amazon). They even make "toothbrushes" similar to the greenies--looking forward to getting those for our dog soon. And, if you want a more serious chew toy, they have some very adorable animal-shaped chews, and even make a veggie "ear"!

So check them out--your dog will thank you for it!

Max eating Whimzees

Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer!

smoothie

Happy 4th of July!

Summer's here! And so am I! Sort of.... 

I know things have been very quiet over here on my blog post front--it's been a very busy time for me in my personal life, but I've been brewing on all kinds of great recipes I can't wait to share. I'm leaving the country for several weeks, but look forward to sharing some great recipe ideas upon my return!

In the meantime, why not help yourself to a cool beverage? You can check out some of my old favorites, like the Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Banana-Tofutti Cutie shake or some chilly basil lemonade.  Last summer I posted a different banana-berry shake, but you can give this one a try as well!

I just threw this together with what I had on hand, but in August I'll share some more creative concoctions with you!

Simple Banana-Berry Smoothie
Makes enough to fill 2 large glasses

What You'll Need
1 cup frozen strawberries
3/4 frozen blueberries
1 banana
1 cup orange juice
up to one cup almond milk
1 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup, to sweeten to taste (optional)

What You'll Need to Do
Throw them in the blender, in the order listed, adding 3/4 cup almond milk and no sweetener to start. Blend, taste, and add more liquid or sweetener as desired.

See my previous entry for some smoothie Tips and Tricks!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

PlantEaters Unite!

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If you're on the vegan twitter-sphere you may have already heard about this app. But if you haven't (or if you have and haven't actually downloaded it yet!), you should check it out!*

PlantEaters contacted me a while back to ask if I would be interested in featuring some of my restaurant reviews on their app. I was really excited about this project, because I think it's a brilliant way for vegetarians and vegans (or those interested in eating a veg meal) to find a great meal, wherever they are (and whatever restaurant they might be going to!).

Here's how it works: you download the app (for free!) and you can use it to easily find restaurants in your area (or whatever area you'd like). Any restaurants that have been reviewed by a PlantEaters user will pop up with their brief description (and photo, if they included one) of a meal they've had at that restaurant. It takes the guess-work out of finding veg*n options at non-veg restaurants, and also highlights restaurants you may not have realized are veg*n.

The catch? Not much. I think the real trick will be user involvement. Especially if you live in a non-metropolitan area, getting on there and letting people know what the options are will really make this app worth using while people are on the go!

It is so super-easy to use. You just open the app, and it lists most of the restaurants in your surrounding area, and may already have some specific meals listed. If the restaurant or meal you want to review is not listed, it's simple to add, and literally takes a couple of seconds. Snap a shot on your phone of your meal (if you'd like), write a sentence or two about how it was, and you're done! Now your review can help others who are interested in eating a veg*n meal in your area, or at that specific restaurant.

And, they've just started featuring some restaurant reviews from veg*n bloggers, like me! It's a great way to instantly link to more information about the restaurant in which you're intrested.

So check it out! I'll be working on increasing my restaurant reviews, to include on the app (and on the blog!).

*Please note, the opinions in this article are my own, PlantEaters is not endorsing me in any way.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sugar Cookies!

Valentine's Day vegan sugar cookies


I don't remember particularly liking sugar cookies before I was vegan. They were okay. I'd eat them if they were offered, but I never really sought them out. Somehow, though, once I started baking vegan myself, I found myself craving them. I stumbled upon this recipe in one of my first vegan cookbooks, and over the last five years or so, it's become an old favorite.

One of the best things about sugar cookies is how fun (and easy) they are to shape and decorate.
So, whether you're in the mood for a Chanukah cookie...
Chanukah sugar cookies
Or some Star Wars fan fare...
vegan Star Wars sugar cookies

(like a Millenium Falcon)
vegan Star Wars sugar cookies

(or a tie fighter or x-wing)
vegan Star Wars sugar cookies

...you can pretty much shape them into just about anything you want!
vegan Star Wars sugar cookies

For Valentine's Day, they're a pretty easy go-to. I acquired some heart cookie cutters a while (possibly several years) ago with the intention of making some Valentine's Day cookies, but didn't quite get around to breaking them out until this year. Better late than never!
Valentine's Day vegan sugar cookies
Valentine's Day vegan sugar cookies
I had a real decorating bonanza!

But enough about me...on to the cookie recipe!

Vegan Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Joy of Vegan Baking
What You'll Need:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Egg replacer plus warm water (equivalent of 1 egg)*
1 tsp vanilla extract

What You'll Need to Do:
Sift together flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the non-dairy butter and the sugar with an electric hand (or stand) mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Combine egg replacer of choice with appropriate amount of water and mix together in a small bowl. Add this "egg" mixture, along with the vanilla extract, to the butter mixture and beat another minute. Add the flour mixture and beat for another three minutes or so, until you have a nice, homogenous mixture.

Divide dough in half, roll each half into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about an hour, until firm.

When the dough is ready, cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350F. Remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator and roll out onto a floured surface. Roll dough about 1/4-inch thick, and then cut to the desired shape. Place on prepared cookie sheets, and then place the cookie sheet in the fridge for another 15 minutes to chill the dough prior to baking.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness), until they just begin to brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and let sit on baking sheet for several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Valentine's Day vegan sugar cookies

Once cool, decorate away!

*Tips and Tricks
I am not usually a fan of out-of-the-box egg replacer; I find it can taste a bit chalky and make things a bit dry. In the case of this recipe, however, I have to say it is not a problem! I have used both Bob's Red Mill egg replacer and Ener-G Egg replacer with great success. They require slightly different amounts of powder and water to substitute for an egg, however, so read directions and use accordingly. If you don't mind a slight change in texture, I imagine flaxseeds or chia seeds might work well, too!

Feel free to make these cookies all different sizes, as I've done here! Just be sure to bake similar sizes together, as smaller cookies will bake faster.

Valentine's Day vegan sugar cookies

These were the thinnest I'd ever made these cookies. They were a bit thinner than 1/4-inch. This makes for crispier cookies. I think I actually prefer them thicker, but this was a good experiment, and they're certainly still tasty! Thickness of your sugar cookie is all about personal preference.

If you want to decorate your cookies using the techniques below, all you need is some vegan chocolate.

Vegan Cookie-Decorating Chocolate
What You'll Need:
1 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used a combination of white chocolate chips, tinted pink, and dark chocolate chips)
one or two small plastic baggies, with a small corner cut out of each (depending on the number of colors you're using, and if you want to decorate with fine lines and squiggles!)
vegan sprinkles, optional*

What You'll Need to Do:
Put the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on high for 1 minute. After 1 minute, remove from the microwave and stir thoroughly with a fork, really pressing down on the softened chips as much as you can. Return to the microwave for another 30 seconds and stir thoroughly again. At this point, the chocolate should be completely melted. If not, continue to heat in 15 second intervals until melted, stirring thoroughly after each additional interval. Be very careful not to overheat, as this will cause the chocolate to seize and make it very difficult, if not impossible, to work with!

Once the chocolate is melted, you can dip your cookies in it, or use the back of a spoon or knife to spread it on to the surface. Then, spoon remaining chocolate into the corner of a prepared plastic baggie. With a very small hole in the corner cut out, you can use this to apply the chocolate as a line. Have fun with it and don't sweat it if you're not an artistic genius--outlining the shapes you've made, and sticking with squiggles and zig-zags is a good way to start!
Valentine's Day vegan sugar cookies
Be sure to let it dry for a while. You can either put the cookies in the fridge, or just let them air out. Just keep in mind that if you're applying everything quite thickly, it could take a while for them to completely set. You'll be able to tell they've set once the surface sheen disappears and they appear matte (in the pictures above and below the white chocolate is starting to dry, but the dark chocolate is still quite wet!).

*If you're looking for some decorations that you're sure are vegan, I like "Sprinkelz" They're vegan, gluten-free, and they get their color from sources like turmeric and red cabbage!
Valentine's Day vegan sugar cookies

Valentine's Day vegan sugar cookies
Enjoy!

If this whole project seems a bit much, but you'd still like some vegan Valentine's Day ideas, you can check out my entry on chocolate-covered strawberries, or try a box of vegan chocolates!

Vegan Boxes of Chocolates

Valentine's Day vegan chocolates


I really wanted some vegan chocolates this year. And I'd planned to make some, too. I'd been checking out all of the great-sounding vegan truffle recipes out there, figuring out my own spin...and then, I ran out of time. So I did some more searching online, and quickly found out that one of my favorite online vegan food suppliers (veganstore.com) offers a lot of different vegan chocolate options!

I was like a kid in a candy store! I ended up going with the 25-Piece Belgian Dark Chocolate Gift Assortment (they also offer a 16-piece assortment), and a box of gourmet peanut butter truffles (for my boyfriend). The 25-piece box contains ganaches and fruit and coffee creams, hazelnut praline, marzipan, chocolate cordial cherries, among others. They are delicious!

Valentine's Day vegan chocolates
25-piece belgian dark chocolate gift assortment, from veganstore.com
Valentine's Day vegan chocolates
Valentine's Day vegan chocolates
Can't wait to try them all!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pushcart Coffee: Vegan Options in Gramercy

Pushcart Coffee and vegan muffin
Pushcart Coffee opened up in the Gramercy area (on the northeast corner of 21st St and 2nd Ave) not too long ago, and it's a really great neighborhood coffee shop, that places importance on the local  community. It's also a nice little cafe--not overly-crowded, but often quite busy. They occasionally host events like writers' groups and musical performances. While I'd stopped in for tea or coffee occasionally (they offer soy, almond, or coconut milk at all of their locations), I'd never tried any of their food until last week.

As I perused the pastries, a vegan muffin stood out to me. I decided to give it a try, and I was glad that I did! I'm always hesitant about places that only serve a few vegan baked goods; I'm often so disappointed at how dry or dense they can be when not properly executed. Not the case here! This was a very hearty muffin--packed with oats and fresh blueberries, and a good amount of banana, which gives it a moist, thick texture that's hearty but not overly heavy.

They also introduced a vegan noodle and herb soup a few weeks ago!

If you're ever in the neighborhood, I'd definitely stop on by and check it out!

They also have a location in Chelsea, on West 25th St (between 9th and 10th Ave).

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Vegan Accessories, etc.


Melie Bianco bag

I know I usually write about food, but the truth is that eating and buying food is just one small part of the daily decisions we make as consumers. I'll be the first to admit, I'm by no means perfect when it comes to buying vegan products. But I've learned (and am still learning!) some things over the last few years, and thought I'd share one of my favorite brands, and a few tips and tricks.

Above, you can see a picture of me with one of my favorite bags. I know it looks like leather, but it's actually a really gorgeous vegan handbag from Melie Bianco. I've had this bag for seven months, and it's has had very heavy (nearly daily) use, and is still in fantastic condition! And Melie Bianco prides itself on being animal and eco-friendly, and high-quality at an affordable price. What's not to like?
Melie Bianco bag
It's a gorgeous bag--I've literally never had so many compliments on an anything else I've owned--and it's also sturdy and practical.

Melie Bianco Andrea cross body tote
So, when I needed a bit more room in my bag, I upgraded to another beautiful shoulder bag made by the same company. Unfortunately, the messenger bag pictured above is no longer available, but the shoulder bag sure is. And they offer many similar messenger bags.

Both bags have the same cute polka dot lining interior, two open pockets (I use one for my cell phone and one for my in-ear headphones), and one zippered pocket.
Melie Bianco Andrea bag

I also love the shoulder straps, which are great for toting the bag around New York City, especially on the crowded subways.
Melie Bianco Andrea cross body tote
These bags aren't cheap (I have to admit, both of mine were presents from very generous gifters!), but they're not so expensive either (they run about $100). I think it's well worth it, however, considering their quality. Before I found out about this brand, I bought some vegan bags from H&M and Urban Outfitters. Of course, I spent much less on those bags, but they just didn't compare in terms of quality or durability.

Melie Bianco bagIf you're wondering about some other "vegan" shopping tips...we can take a look at what I'm wearing in these photos! In the photo at right, I'm wearing a shirt I bought at a benefit concert for Invisible Children. I love to keep my closet stocked with comfy t-shirts, so buying a shirt that benefited a cause I support seemed kind of like a no-brainer.

I also love scouring second-hand stores (which is especially fun in New York!). I bought the pants at right second-hand (from Buffalo Exchange in Santa Monica), as well as the purple top (from the same store) in the photo above. As for the "vegan leather" leggings (above), you can find them at American Apparel. My shoes in the photo at right are made from man-made materials (from Deena & Ozzy--but I wouldn't run out looking for them, I bought them about five years ago).

The shoes paired with the purple top (above) are from Madden Girl, also all man-made materials. The necklace below is vintage, I suppose, (bought in the 70s by my mother), and the metal "feather" earrings were handmade in Seattle (I wish I could remember the name of the store--I love them so much!). And, if you don't want to wear silk, there are plenty of synthetic options out there, such as the polyester zigzag shirt pictured above. American Apparel offers sweatshop free, U.S.-made shirts that are 100% polyester chiffon, which look similar to the one pictured above. The lip gloss I'm wearing is from Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics.

I guess that's about it...happy vegan shopping!

Super Bowl Snacks (2014)!

Super Bowl snacks!


It's that time of year again! You may remember my post from last year, which featured lots of different small appetizer ideas. I thought I'd share some more thoughts this year, and let you know what I'm planning for my menu this year (we'll be expecting substantially more people, so I'll be introducing lots of new ideas, as well as incorporating my old ones!).

Of course, the great thing about all of these recipes, is they make great, easy snacks any time of year!

Here's my menu for this year:

barbecue apricot "meat"balls
polenta cornballs with spicy marinara
"cheesy" roasted chick peas
pineapple, pepper and pecan "cheese" spread (adapted from a Vitamix recipe book--more on this soon!)
cauliflower buffalo "wings" (I may adapt this recipe from my buffalo tofu from last year)
hot caramelized onion "bacon" dip
artichoke dip
chocolate thumbprint cookies
And maybe even some kale chips!

We've also got lots of store-bought salsa, hummus, and plenty of items for dipping on hand!

Which brings me to the photo above! Aside from some carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers for dipping, we've got some Stacy's pita chips, Carr's crackers, Food Should Taste Good chips, and even Ritz crackers (I may have gone a bit overboard, but I figure whatever we don't get to will make for good future snacks...). That's right, Ritz crackers--check out the PETA website for lots of other foods you can find at the grocery store that also happen to be vegan (like Frank's Red Hot Sauce--perfect for your buffalo "wings"). Both Stacy's and Carr's offer vegan as  well as non-vegan snacks--be sure to check the ingredients list before purchasing.

I've got to thank my friend Anne for some of these recipe ideas (she'll be making some of them tomorrow!)--for even more Super Bowl recipe ideas (from a new vegan cookbook), you can check out her Super Bowl post here!

Enjoy your snacking--and the game!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vegan Marshmallows

20140112_marshmallows_0084
This cold weather has me cuddling up with a cup of hot cocoa fairly often these days!

This post isn't a recipe...it's just a discussion of some choices if you're looking for some marshmallow options that do not contain animal by-products. Most marshmallows you can buy in the supermarket contain gelatin. Despair not! There are some other great alternatives.

I've been munching on vegan marshmallow s'more sandwiches by Sweet & Sara for years now. They have them at my nearby health food store, and they are deliciously addictive. A graham cracker base, with a vegan marshmallow on top, all covered in chocolate. What's not to like?! They're awesome.

I have to admit, even for all the joy those s'mores sandwiches give me, I hadn't even considered buying their marshmallows to make actual s'mores. But you can, and I don' think you'll be disappointed. They can be used for rice crispy bars, too! And you can find them at many natural foods stores, including many Whole Foods locations (see their site for details).

The Sweet & Sara marshmallows are large and in charge. Great for s'mores, rice crispy treats, and lots of other baking options! Personally, though, I like something a bit smaller for my hot cocoa...and a few weeks ago I tried out a new brand, Dandies Marshmallows.
20140112_marshmallows_0060

They are very tasty! Nice and soft, a bit airier than the Sweet & Sara brand, although both have a really great, vanilla marshmallow taste!
20140112_marshmallows_0001
They also have a larger size available, which would be great for roasting over an open fire, or throwing in some rice crispy treats or sweet potatoes.

The only disadvantage? Both options are a bit more expensive than traditional marshmallows. But if you're looking for a little sweet indulgence, they're completely worth it.

It's hard to believe that it's taken me so long to explore all of the options for one of my favorite winter beverages (hot cocoa!)...but I am so glad I did. And if you're looking for some vegan hot chocolate options, check out my recipe, here.
20140112_marshmallows_0098

Enjoy!