Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vegan Cadbury Creme Eggs

Last night, I was lucky to be a guest at my friend Sunny's (Vegan Beauty Review) birthday party/housewarming party. I wanted my potluck contribution to be fun and festive, so I knew it was time to take on a challenge.

I looked over this recipe that veganized the infamous Cadbury Creme Eggs (a beloved part of my pre-vegan days) and started thinking about the best way to approach it.

All of my friends have been raving about them, telling their other friends about them, and multiple people told me I should package and sell them. In other words, the vegan Cadbury Creme Eggs were a huge hit and I will absolutely make them again.

EDIT: I've decided to remove my thoughts on the technique and process of this recipe from this post, but if you have specific questions, please feel free to leave me your question and your e-mail address in the comments and I'd be happy to reply.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Vegan Pizza Party

I know that the above is not a photo of pizza. I was too preoccupied at this wonderful pizza party to snap pics of the pizza, so what you see instead is a shot of the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I baked to take with me.

Multiple chefs graced us with a variety of homemade pizzas, some with Teese, some with Follow Your Heart mozzarella. The first piece I had was roasted garlic and spinach, I believe (it's the spinach that I'm questioning). The second had the spicy kick of soyrizo. It felt like the whole gang (Foodeater, Your Vegan Mom, Sunny of Vegan Beauty Review and her husband, the Vegan-LA couple, JennShaggy, Cute & Delicious, Studiodrome, Happy Herbivore and her husband, Brittany of Sick of Lettuce, and many, many more) was crowded into the kitchen of our gracious hosts, Mr. Meaner and Miss Anthrope of Quarrygirl, in eager anticipation of whatever pizza was going to emerge from the oven next. It was a magical night on many levels.

The cookies were born of this recipe that shockingly called for 4 tablespoons of baking powder. I've been baking cookies from scratch for a long time and I've never seen so much baking powder in one recipe. In fact, I even ran out and had to race to the grocery store in the middle of incorporating the ingredients!

In the interest of full disclosure, I modified the method for creating the cookie dough. I just couldn't stray from what made more sense to me as a seasoned cookie baker. So, I whisked the flax and water and set it aside. Then, I combined all the wet ingredients (remember that sugar counts as a wet ingredient when it comes to baking) in one bowl, incorporated the flax mixture, and sifted the dry ingredients into a separate bowl. I added the dry to the wet and folded the ingredients together until they were fully combined. Finally, I stirred in the chocolate chips (Trader Joe's semi-sweet).

My guess is that the 4 tablespoons of baking powder was a typographical error (note that the cookies didn't spread at all, retaining the shape of my cookie scoop). However, the result was an incredibly light and delicious cookie that I'll bake again. It seemed to please who I was aiming to please and that's definitely a good thing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Very Vegan Valentine's Day

Better late than never, right?

This year, for the first time in several years, I had a reason to look forward to Valentine's Day. Although there was no romance involved, I was very fortunate to spend Valentine's Day dinner at Vinh Loi Tofu with great friends: Foodeater, the fabulous duo behind the Quarrygirl blog, and (meeting for the first time...yay!) Melisser of Urban Housewife (her post here), her husband, and their puppy Strummer!

After a great deal of chattering and menu perusing, Kevin (Vinh Loi's owner) brought us four kinds of spring rolls (faux beef, tofu, faux chicken, and faux ham) that I meticulously cut into pieces so everyone could try each type.

Three flavor variations of fried tofu.

I ordered the Bun Bi Thit Nuong (from the menu: Rice noodles with beef patty, shredded fried tofu, mixed greens, and coconut sauce), which also had fresh mint and fresh cilantro to give it a really vibrant flavor.

For dessert, the Quarrygirl team brought a slew of Dee's Bakery Donuts.

Again, I cut these so everyone was able to try a piece of each donut. It's really great to have vegan donuts available in L.A., but I prefer Madeleine's Bistro donuts to these.

The best part of this meal was sharing it with friends. It was the best Valentine's Day I've had in a long time. :) Here's hoping next year is even better...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


This is going to be a photo-heavy post...

Two Saturdays ago, on the same night as the Vegan Drinks Sante La Brea gathering about which I wrote here, a smaller Vegan Drinks crew met earlier for a private tasting at Locali. Locali is a new eco-friendly convenience store in Los Angeles that generously agreed to host 25 of us for a vegan wine, beer, cheese (Sheese brand Gouda, Smoked Cheddar, Cheddar Style with Chives, and Mozzarella) and caviar (Cavi-Art) tasting.

The incredibly friendly Locali owner and staff passed around lovely silver platters of Sheese on Late July crackers, as well as Dee's Bakery chocolate chip cookies (the best of her products that I've tasted so far).

It was also great fun to wander around the store looking the vegan products (remember that this is a vegan-friendly, eco-friendly store and not a vegan-specific store, so there are omni products sold there, too).

Sheese display.

Vegan goodies.

Vegan condoms.

Convenience store-style soft pretzels.

I won a raffle and took home a reusable Locali bag stuffed with so many fun things that it required two photos!

Organic instant coffee, BioBag for dogs, agave-sweetened ketchup (yay, no high-fructose corn syrup!), St. Dalfour giant French prunes that were absolutely fantastic, organic white wine vinegar, garlic-infused macadamia nut oil, and BioBag for cats.

Dry kumquat soda (Locali's owner gave me this to drink because I wasn't sampling the vegan wine and beer), Robbie's vegan Worcestershire sauce, O.N.E. coffee berry juice, Quinoa Gold mango passion energy drink, GojilAnia goji and acai drink, and Lundberg short grain brown rice.

Can you believe the amount of products they gave me? The Locali people are so generous!

I also bought a few things:

A Dee's Bakery cinnamon roll (good flavor, but doughy in the middle).

Some gluten-free vegan treats to share with my mom who has Celiac disease (I rotated the photo in iPhoto, but it wouldn't stay rotated to upload to the blog).

Thank you so much, Locali, for hosting this fun event and for bringing so many vegan products to our neighborhood!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sante La Brea times 2

Last November, Sante La Brea was given a major overhaul on Kitchen Nightmares (you can watch the full episode through this link or here). Even more recently, Sante La Brea has a new chef as of this past January. I don't know whether said chef wants to be mentioned by name, so his name is Chef for purposes of this post.

Chef has been busily creating new recipes to feature on Sante La Brea's menu. He invited Foodeater to come out for lunch three Saturdays ago at a time when he could spend a little time talking to her about his approach and philosophy and, luckily for me, she invited me to join in the fun! Thank you again, Foodeater; I was so happy to get to share this experience with you!

While we perused the menu, Chef brought us each a Green-Aid, which was loaded with antioxidants and oxygenating properties. It was also delicious and I was sad to see the bottom of my glass.

We decided to share the Pizzadilla for our appetizer (from the menu: Tomato, basil, marinara, & soy cheese, folded into a whole wheat chapati), substituting vegan cheese for the casein-containing soy cheese. It arrived at the table garnished with a light cabbage salad (very good) and fresh tomatoes. The Pizzadilla itself had a creamy interior from the vegan cheese, which is more of a cheese sauce, that combined nicely with the marinara. I would order this again (but not until after I've tried the Baked Samosa version of this dish).

Chef also wanted us to try his vegan pate, the description of which I sadly failed to photograph from the menu (my apologies), but that I remember had a base of mushrooms and walnuts. It's usually served with Ezekiel bread, although he brought us multi-colored tortilla chips. I found the pate mild-flavored and pleasant; a very nice way to begin a meal.

I ordered Enchiladas for my entree (from the menu: Two yellow corn tortillas stuffed with garlic spinach and topped with creamy tofu spinach sauce and melted soy cheese. Served with black beans, red quinoa brown rice, and mixed greens tossed in a cilantro lime dressing). These enchiladas were surprisingly light. The filling really was just spinach, which was refreshing, so it was more like eating a big plate of veggies. In fact, you can't even see the enchiladas under that beautiful fresh salad! The beans were perfectly seasoned, while the brown rice that was flecked with red quinoa was plain. I was really pleased with this choice.

Stuffed to the gills from the meal, I didn't think I had room for anything else. However, Chef gifted us with two of the parfaits he's been experimenting with and we couldn't refuse. The one on the left was Caramel Apple and the one on the right was Buttered Almond. My preference was for the Buttered Almond this time around (there was a second time that I'll get to a little later). The base for both parfaits was the same: a creamy layer of blended cashews, banana, and agave. While the Buttered Almond had a middle layer of a chocolaty spelt sponge and was topped with an almond butter layer, but Caramel Apple's middle was filled with applesauce and apricot glaze and topped with more of the base cream.

Fast forward to two Saturdays ago when I attended a Vegan Drinks gathering at Sante La Brea. Chef gifted me with two virgin cocktails (the alcoholic counterparts were made with Soju (Japanese vodka)). Above is Tiger, a melon cranberry iced tea. Below is Sex on the Beach, which is pineapple, cranberry, and melon. Both were delicious. I also sampled a friend's non-virgin Mon Cheri with peach Schnapps and cherry liqueur. It was strong, but had a nice cherry flavor.

As the night wound down and only a handful of us remained, Chef brought out a new parfait flavor. This one was my favorite; chocolate peanut butter banana. I'll spare you the extremely dark photo of the delicious dessert. Just trust me that it was wonderful.

The times, they are a-changin' at Sante La Brea, and I'm very curious about what's going to come next for Chef and the growing chef staff.