Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Dolci Peccati: Miami’s Sinfully Delicious, Non-Dairy Gelato on Wheels

by ashley

by Ashley Morgan

Dolci Peccati, translating to sweet sins in Italian, is a Miami food truck specializing in gelato, the decadently sweet Italian ice cream. While the majority of their menu is sinfully filled with calories and dairy, they have a few heavenly non-dairy options that are great for vegans with a sweet tooth. This isn’t a new invention, non-dairy gelato has been in Southern Italy for centuries, generally called sorbetto. Fruit, ice and sugar mix to create a light, yet still indulgent dessert, and Dolci Peccati offers a few different flavors for sampling.

I tried the lemon, mint and ginger non-dairy gelato, which sounded so interesting. What amazed me at first glance was the obvious creaminess (maybe due to an addition of non-dairy milk?). The flavors were extremely bright, jumping right off the spoon onto my tongue. The ginger added an earthy sweetness, which combined perfectly with the tartness of the lemon and the herby sweet of the mint. My fiancé was impressed with how much better the non-dairy tasted versus his dairy-filled oreo gelato milkshake.

A pair of very sweet identical twin girls run the truck, which is clad in dark purple and black, and the girls wear matching purple outfits (when I visited, they had on super cute purple tutu’s). Prices are reasonable for gelato, at $ 4.50 per generous cup. They travel to most of the food truck meets in Miami, you can follow them on Twitter for location updates @gelatotruckmia.

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August 30, 2011

Imperfect Veganism

by jem614

By Jessica Michael

I’ve been a vegetarian for a while but trying to go mostly vegan is a bit newer for me.  That being said, baking has become quite a challenge.  As a vegetarian I had no qualms about using eggs in my meals and therefore my cakes and baking goods turned out pretty and fluffy.

I’m sure many of you are already experienced in the art of vegan baking but it just hasn’t happened that easily for me.  My last few attempts at making things have kind of been a flop.  Anything having to substitute eggs becomes a sloppy mess.  My corndogs as you may remember, though amazing, were not pretty.

I thought by being open an honest with our readers, it would inspire you to either not be discouraged by not making the perfect dish every time, or get some tips from my mistakes.

Browned Bananas

Chocolate Sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sad part of this mess is that the cake TASTED amazing, the caramel-ed bananas were to die for and the chocolate sauce was incredible.

But the cake fell apart like it was a crumbly mess, even with the chia seeds.  Because there was no eggs, there was nothing to hold it together.  Ashley has been telling me to try an egg substitute for a while and I have been against it because I wanted it “natural”.  I have used chia seeds, curdled coconut milk (with vinegar)- this works for small things like cupcakes; tofu, the list is becoming endless.  I have a feeling I’ll have to break down and just buy the egg substitute, or all my baking could end up looking like this:

My Beautiful Cake (that was sarcastic)

It’s on a foil sheet because it was meant to be a two layer cake with the caramel-ed bananas in the middle.  I couldn’t get it out of the pan, much less into two layers.

So, for vegan Friday, I’m going to break down and make a cake with egg substitute.  Be on the lookout…..

 

August 29, 2011

The Real Fountain of Youth

by ashley

by Ashley Morgan

Photo by: Images by John 'K' on Flickr

Water is the giver of life – so why do so many of us deprive ourselves of this resource, especially when there are thousands that live without it for reasons outside their control? Most of you reading this live in places with abundant clean, refreshing water. Instead of reaching for that soda or “power” drink, try fueling your body with water. Not only will your internal organs thank you for it, but your skin will literally glow with satisfaction.

 

At the age of 21 I was hospitalized for four weeks due to kidney troubles. A combination of kidney stones and an inflamed kidney made me writhe in pain, requiring surgery and weeks of medication. After it was over, I visited my urologist for a follow up and he told me my number one problem was simply water intake. They couldn’t find any other answer. Fast forward two years and I am still learning the hard way that water really does have a huge impact on health. While I have never been a soda drinker, I love fruit juice and teas. I thought that I was healthy, but in reality everything I was drinking is a diuretic, making my body lose liquid and slowly dehydrating myself. I would still have sharp kidney pains, especially when running (I was training for my first half marathon). I drank water, but only when tea or juice was unavailable, and sometimes would go days on only tea or juice. I would sometimes feel so sick without knowing why, but I now realize it was the days that I drank the least water.

 

I cannot say I’m perfect now, far from it, but I have been drinking much more water than before. I don’t drink fruit juices at all anymore and have limited my tea intake to one or two glasses every couple of days. Other than that, I’m on 100% fresh water. While thinking of writing this, I decided to do a little research about other benefits of drinking water. And while I haven’t found great resources, it seems to be a general consensus on the internet that water also has a lot to do with clearing acne, weight loss and general overall health. I completely agree, as I have had first hand experience with all of those things. I notice I have less breakouts the more water I drink, it does help me feel fuller and therefore assist in weight loss efforts, and I certainly feel much better overall when drinking more water.

 

I recently went on vacation, and after losing 13 pounds, have fallen off the healthy eating bit a little. Thankfully I haven’t gained more than a couple of pounds, which really could just be natural weight fluctuation, but today I, along with Jessica, have started over our healthy eating plans with another detox jump-start. Just as before, no pills or scary powders involved; just lots of fresh water (11-12 glasses, or 88-96 ounces per day), fresh steamed veggies on days 1-2 and all-natural smoothies on days 3-5. Focusing on fresh, healthy and under-seasoned foods helps my body rejuvenate itself and to curb cravings for refined sugar and fat. Slowly adding in whole grains and healthy protein after the fifth day really makes the difference in the way you look at food. It works, I’ve already done it once and that’s how I lost the first 13 pounds in about five weeks.

 

This is a plan that anyone can follow: vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, flexitarian…it doesn’t matter. All you need is a willingness to let your body rest, focus on yourself and your long-term health. This is no quick-fix plan, as you can see I only lost an average of 2.6 pounds per week, but this is the type of life change that will really make a difference in your body. The moral of the story is: listen to your body and drink LOTS and LOTS of water! Stay away from processed foods, refined sugar and unnecessary fat. Water is essential to life, any other liquid just cannot hold up to it. The fountain of youth is all around you, and in most places it won’t even cost you more than your water bill.

August 26, 2011

Vegan Friday: Ashley’s Overdue Post, Easy Crusty Vegan Breads and a Watercress Soup

by ashley

By Ashley Morgan

 

Life has been hectic for me over the past couple of weeks, between loads of car troubles and planning a weekend vacation, I’ve just been burnt out. I’m hoping to get back on track soon and I’ll be posting more about my vacation to Fort Myers/Sanibel/Bonita Springs this past weekend.

 

I’ve been growing my own yeast for the past two weeks. I heard online about how yeast are naturally occurring in the air, and since buying it is so expensive, I thought I’d try to do it myself. It’s been a lot of fun, albeit a bit disgusting if you really think about it. The wonders of nature, right? If you are unfamiliar with yeast, it is the bacteria that makes bread rise. Since yeast is so expensive in grocery stores, hence making it the same price or cheaper to buy bread, I thought this was a cool experiment for making cheap bread at home. In the process of researching this, I found many bakeries keep their own colonies of yeast for the sole purpose of cutting cost, which makes a lot of sense to me.

 

So for Vegan Friday this week I thought I’d show off what my little yeasts had made: two types of wonderful bread, foccacia and a crusty white bread. To go along with the bread I whipped up a quick watercress and spinach soup, adapted from a Whole Foods recipe. Enjoy!

 

Basic Foccacia and/or Crusty White Bread Recipe

(Allow at least 24-48 hours for this recipe)

6 ½ cups bread flour

1 ½ tablespoons yeast, either store-bought instant or homemade

3 cups lukewarm water

1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

 

Mix all dry ingredients well, ensuring to incorporate them evenly. Add the water and start to incorporate the ingredients well with a wooden spoon or your hands (if you like to get dirty). Don’t worry about kneading the dough, as this recipe does not require kneading. Once well-incorporated, transfer to a large pot or bowl and let rise for at least two hours at room temperature. The mixture should double in size in the two hours. Once doubled, cover either with lid or plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for at least another two hours to up to 5 days. The longer you leave in the refrigerator, the more flavor the dough will have. It may deflate some in the refrigerator, but that’s okay.

 

Once you’re ready to bake, take a hunk of dough out (if you’re not planning on making the whole thing) and form. Here is where you will make the distinction if you are making foccacia or white bread. Foccacia is formed in a low rectangle, using your fingers to form “dimples” on the top of the dough to ensure even baking. The white bread can be formed into a loaf, rolls or any other shape you desire. Once your dough is formed, let it rise on the baking sheet for about 45 minutes. It should expand more than rise. Cut ½ inch slits in the top of the white loaf just before baking, and add a shallow pan of water to the bottom shelf to add crispness to the crust. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and let bake until golden, 15-25 minutes depending on how you have formed the loaf. A finished loaf will sound hollow when gently tapped on the underside with a knife.

 

OPTIONAL: Just before baking, you can drizzle the foccacia with olive oil and herbs, to add additional flavor.

 

 

Spinach and Watercress Soup

 

1 bunch watercress (to taste)

1 bunch spinach (to taste)

1 ½ cups cashews

½ cup walnuts

½ cup coconut water

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

 

Wilt the watercress and spinach in a large sauté pan. Set aside and add cashews, walnuts, garlic and coconut water to a food processor. Process until smooth. Slowly blend in the watercress, spinach, coconut oil and spices. Once smooth, transfer to a saucepan to heat to desired temperature. Serve hot with crusty bread.

 

The bread needs a lot of love and attention, but the soup is creamy and oh-so-easy. The perfect combination J And there is nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread in your home.

 

Please let us know if you try any of our recipes, we’d love to hear from you.

August 22, 2011

So Simple Vegan Eggplant Parm

by jem614

By Jessica Michael

I had just bought some Daiya Cheez last week and needed to use up an eggplant I’ve had sitting in my fridge for a week, so I put it all together for a simple Eggplant Parmesan (minus the parm).  I could have held back a little on the daiya cheez but I got a little too excited about it.

Here is how I made this delicious and simple Eggplant Recipe:

1 whole Eggplant cut in circles or thin sideways slices (I used a small one as I’m the only one eating it).
1 small can of tomato paste watered down to a little thicker than tomato sauce
Vegetable Bouillon 
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Daiya Mozzerella Style Cheez to your preference
Mushrooms
1/2 an Onion
1 Large clove of Garlic
Two sliced up Tofurky Italian Sausages (or whatever alternative meat you have in the fridge that you have seasoned)

Spray your pan with some olive oil spray or coconut oil.  Then line your pan with breaded eggplant and spread your watered down tomato paste that has been seasoned with the salt, pepper and veggie bouillon.  Spread on some onions, garlic and mushrooms.  Next layer on some of the cut up sausages and then put some Daiya cheez.  You’re then ready for your next layer.  I don’t do more than three layers of eggplant because it won’t stay together when you take it out of the pan.  Daiya cheez can be overwhelming if you put too much on so be cautious in layering it on.

I’m sure many people have their own recipes but this one can be done with your leftovers in the fridge and cabinet.  A great way to get your veggie quota for the day as well!

August 19, 2011

Pizza Fusion for Vegan Pizza

by jem614

By Jessica Michael

After months of wanting to go to Pizza Fusion to try their Vegan Cheese pizza and Gluten Free crust, we finally went last night.  The service was extremely friendly, the decor light and airy and the prices fairly normal.  This place seemed like a great place to chill on a Friday night and spend time with friends, there was even a couple near us drinking wine in rather large wine glasses.

The pizza itself was tasty, very light on the salt (but there are salt shakers there so don’t panic!) and I didn’t feel bloated and disgusting afterwards.  I chose the Spinach and Artichoke pizza on Gluten Free crust with the vegan cheese.  It wasn’t overwhelming or dripping in oil which was a healthy surprise.   We drank Green Tea which was served with Truvia packets (bravo for them). I will definitely be going back for seconds.

For more information on Pizza Fusion, it’s menu, etc. please go to http://www.pizzafusion.com.  They have locations in the following states:

California
Colorado
Connecticut
Florida
New Jersey
Ohio
 
I give them four carrots for not compromising on healthy options!
 
*Note that the Gluten Free crust does have egg- if you are vegan, please be sure to ask for the vegan crust.
August 16, 2011

Visit the Cinebistro at Dolphin Mall for a Royal Vegetarian Experience

by ashley

A special thanks again to Chef Justin of the Cinebistro at Dolphin Mall (Miami, FL) for the amazing vegetarian spread. We recently reviewed Cinebistro for their amazing cuisine and exceptional customer service (see our reviews here and here), and Chef Justin invited us back for an amazing custom vegetarian meal. We were excited to meet the man behind the great cuisine, as well. He is just as down to earth and friendly in person as he was over e-mail, giving his time to speak with us and experiment with some of his vegetarian ideas. Ashley loved the meaty portabello mushroom over Asian noodles, while Jessica thought the caramel-banana cream puffs were divine. We both think all dishes were more than worthy of spots on Cinebistro’s menu. Who knew such creativity would hide behind the kitchen walls of a movie theatre?!

Here are some photos of the amazing meal that Chef Justin prepared for us, we have only praise to give him and his colleagues for the wonderful restaurant experience they have created inside Cinebistro.

Tomato-Jalapeño Ceviche

Vegetable Sushi

Portabello Asian Noodles

Caramel Banana Cream Puffs

Jessica, Chef Justin and Ashley

August 16, 2011

Primal Strips (grrrrrr)

by jem614

By Jessica Michael

I suppose something that refers to our “primal” instincts of eating meat in their Brand name should instill a moment of caution in my brain but I still reached for the Primal Strips at the grocery store to try it.

Primal Strips are Meatless Vegan Jerky made out of Soy strips or Seitan.  I chose the Mesquite Lime as I felt it would be the mildest flavored.  The look, as you can see below, is very jerky-like and in my former carnivore days, I did like jerky.

I even bought myself a “Zevia” Root Beer (fantastic, all natural and sweetened with stevia) to complete my summertime snack.  It may be that I’m too focused on the strips tasting like real beef jerky and that is where I went wrong.  I couldn’t even eat the piece in my mouth, I had to politely spit it back into a napkin and throw the rest away.  I’m not going to caution you against trying these as I think some may actually enjoy them, but I couldn’t eat it.

Becoming vegetarian/part time vegan, has allowed me to try some of the most interesting and creative foods.  Those who say vegetarians can’t eat anything are sorely mistaken.

These strips get one carrot for taste and four for creativity.

August 12, 2011

Vegan Friday: “Bacon” Molasses Sweet Potato Muffins

by ashley

by Ashley Morgan

There is a bakery here in South Florida that makes these bacon maple cupcakes that have addicted so many that they call in advance to order, just in case they run out (they usually do, my fiance is forever upset that he can’t get them). I believe it’s the combination of sweet, salty and umami that really makes a dish like this stand out, so I endeavored to make a vegan version of this phenomenon. Now, with that stated, these flavors are extremely unique and may not be for everyone, but if you’re craving the taste of an omnivore breakfast, these little muffins have the whole plate in one bite, sans the animal products.

“Bacon” Molasses Sweet Potato Muffins

2 cups self-rising flour

1 ½ cups mashed sweet potatoes, plain

½ cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses

2 tablespoons Original Earth Balance Buttery Spread

1 cup almond milk (or soy milk)

1 tablespoon Original Bacon Salt (vegan, can be purchased in many grocery stores or online)

2 tablespoons golden flax meal (as an egg substitute)

6 tablespoons water

OPTIONAL: 1 cup pan-fried hickory tempeh, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix two tablespoons of golden flax meal with six tablespoons of water. It should become the consistency of eggs, which will be used as an egg replacer in this recipe. Add the flour, mashed sweet potatoes, dark brown sugar, molasses, almond milk and Earth Balance. This is also the time you should add the tempeh pieces, if you are using them (it adds texture, almost as if real bacon were in it.)

Mix well and spoon into a greased muffin tin, I used the mini muffin tins that I have. Depending on the size tin you use, bake for 10-18 minutes.

Makes about 20 mini muffins or 10 regular muffins. Enjoy!

August 11, 2011

Banana Date Shake

by jem614

By Jessica Michael

An hour or two outside of Phoenix is a little town called, “Quartzsite”.  Twenty or thirty minutes west of there, on some back roads, you can find an array of date farms that specialize in everything dates, including Date Shakes.

Last year, before my grandmother passed away, my mother and I went to visit her and we combed the desert in search of a date shake. Unfortunately, it’s too hot in the summer for date farming so there were no date farms open at the time. Instead, we settled for some older dates from a convenience store (ew but we were desperate) and made our own shakes. We sat on grandmas back porch soaking in the heat of the Arizona sun and slugged back our date concoction.

So, when I saw a posting the day before yesterday about Date shakes, I went out and purchased the ingredients to make my own.


Cacao Nibs

I ad cacao nibs to pretty much any smoothie I make.  It gives it a little crunch and it’s like finding a buried treasure in your drink.

Brown Flax Seed

Flax is good to have in any meal because it adds some much needed fiber and good fats as well as cancer-fighting properties.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds add a little “plump” to your shakes and have some slow-carbo release mechanisms that keep you fuller longer and they don’t cause your sugar to plummet or skyrocket because they work with your body.

Nutrition S’Mart has large bins of the seeds and nuts, etc. and it’s usually cheaper to get your grains that way instead of pre-packaged.  They do recommend that you freeze them for 24 hours at 0 degrees in order to avoid weevils etc.

Date shakes only need one (if using medjool dates) or two (if smaller type of date) dates to sweeten it.  If you want to stay vegan, which I did, I used Coconut milk and ice instead of ice cream.  Add a little cinamon, any other ingredients you think will work, blend and enjoy!

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