Step into my kitchen and you’ll see I’m a sucker for collecting kitchen appliances, tools, gadgets and gizmos to help make cooking easier. Unfortunately, I’m running out of cabinet and counter space for all these appliances! But fortunately for you I’ve been able to sort through them to come up with my favorites for a veg-friendly kitchen.
Vitamix – It may come as no surprise that the Vitamix is top on my list. I know the price is steep, but since the day I bought it over two years ago, I have used my beloved Vitamix every single day, making it well worth every cent. The primary use in my kitchen is for smoothies, but I also use it to make creamy nut butters, buttery-smooth hummus, quick soups, sauces, and even a vegan cashew “cheesecake” that was nearly effortless to make thanks to the high-speed Vitamix. I find other blenders don’t compare (and I’ve used other high-end blenders) when it comes to super-smooth blending and ice crushing in a matter of seconds.
TofuXpress – When I finally learned how to prepare tofu correctly, I realized so much of it had to do with the water content. I find the dryer the tofu, the easier it bakes, grills, holds together, and soaks up sauce and flavor. Before I discovered the TofuXpress, I was pressing moisture out of my tofu with some rigged up balancing act of plates, pots and pans in my kitchen sink. Now, all I have to do is place the block of tofu in my TofuXpress, press it down with the lid, and the TofuXpress slowly presses out excess water into its container, which you drain off before working with the tofu.
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This time of year always brings on lots of buzz about healthy resolutions and diet changes. More and more Americans have been making the shift towards a vegetarian or vegan diet, and what better time to start than the beginning of a new year? Perhaps your resolution is to move towards a more plant-based diet, or make the full shift from vegetarian to vegan eating. Or maybe you’re just looking for ways to improve your health by including more fruits and veggies into your diet while cutting back on meat and dairy. Whatever your reason, here are four ideas to help you stick with your 2013 resolution to improve your health with more plant-based eating.
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‘Tis the season for festive holiday drinks like eggnog and hot cocoa. But if you’re avoiding dairy, whether for dietary, ethical, or food allergy reasons, you don’t need to feel left out this holiday season. Each year a new crop of festive holiday “milk” beverages pops up on grocery store shelves with sweet selections like nog, chocolate mint and pumpkin spice. Keep in mind that while festive beverages are delicious, they’re not necessarily nutritious. All three beverages contain added sugar, making them refreshing to sip on for an occasional dessert, or a flavorful ingredient to use in baked goods. I rounded up three different drinks to try this holiday season:
Rice Dream Rice Nog: While typical eggnog has a rich, thick consistency, this Rice Nog was quite thin. Rice milk has the watery consistency of skim milk, so if you’re looking for a creamy nog substitute, this isn’t it. The flavor is sweet and slightly spiced, so I enjoyed it most to sweeten my morning mug of pumpkin spice tea in place of my usual almond milk. Half a cup delivers 80 calories, 1g of fat and 11g of sugar which is a drastic reduction compared to traditional nog’s 180 calories, 9g of fat and 21g of sugar.
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If you have a smartphone, you know there’s an app for almost anything, including great vegan and vegetarian resources. As someone who frequently searches for vegan recipes on my phone while waiting in a long line or stuck in traffic (when I’m the passenger!), I rely on a handful of apps to provide me with recipe and restaurant inspiration. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite free apps that provide recipes or restaurants in a pinch:
Vegan Yum Yum (free): If you like this amazingly creative vegan blog, you’ll love the Vegan Yum Yum app. Vegan blogger and cookbook author Lolo created the app to make some of her best recipes easily searchable on your phone, which comes in handy as you’re wondering what to cook while wandering through the grocery store aisles. This app has one of the most clean, easy-to-read displays I’ve seen in an app, and even allows you to check off ingredients as you buy them. (This is the perfect time of year to try Vegan Yum Yum’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling!)
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For my last post, I wrote a round-up of some of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks. But these days, I’m turning to blogs more than books for recipe inspiration. I love when I Google a recipe and a new-to-me blog pops up with the perfect meal inspiration. This is my favorite way to come across new blogs, and fill up my reader with vegetarian meal inspiration posts. Here are a handful of my current favorite vegan and vegetarian blogs.
Fat Free Vegan Kitchen – Susan Voisin’s blog is filled with creative vegan recipes, without the use of any added fats from oil. FFVK is actually the very first blog I ever subscribed to, about six years ago, and I’ve been a loyal follower ever since. I do use oil in my own cooking, and don’t really hold back on added (healthy) fats, but Susan’s recipes are always creative and flavorful. My favorite of her recipes is the Cumin-Grilled Tofu With Papaya Salsa. And for someone who doesn’t typically love chocolate cake, I was completely smitten by her decadent Chocolate Covered Cherry Pudding Cake.
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While I typically pull most of my recipe inspiration from vegetarian food blogs or websites, sometimes I like to curl up on the couch with a hot mug of tea and thumb through my collection of cookbooks to menu plan for the week ahead. Here are the top three vegetarian cookbooks in my collection:
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
I’ve been a fan of Mark Bittman ever since I read his book, Food Matters, and started following his blog posts on the New York Times Blog. He has a witty, easy-to-like writing style that I knew I’d enjoy in his cookbooks as well. I couldn’t wait to dive into How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food. Bittman’s cookbook speaks to not only vegetarians, but omnivores as well. He states in his introduction that his goal isn’t to convert readers to vegetarianism but to, “Increase the proportion of non-meat items in your diet,” by making vegetarian items more appealing. His recipe I can’t get enough of? The chocolate pudding made with tofu and a kick of spice from chili powder. It’s decadent with a protein boost!
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- Grilled Zucchini and Tomatoes, from Food Network Magazine's 50 Things to Grill in Foil.
Most grill recipes may focus on meat, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an assortment of great grilled vegetarian dishes that can be prepared on everyone’s favorite summer cooking appliance. Whether you’re heading to a barbecue or cooking for friends, there are a few things to keep in mind when grilling a mix of meat and non-meat dishes.
Most vegetarians would prefer that their food isn’t touching any meat remnants on the grill. Be sure to thoroughly scrape and clean your grill before cooking any vegetarian foods. You can also keep vegetarian food separate by cooking it on a specific portion of the grill that doesn’t touch meat. Grill baskets are a great way to ensure you don’t lose any small pieces of food between the grates, but it’s also a helpful way to keep foods separate.
Now that you’re ready to get your grill on, here are some of my favorite ways to use the grill each summer (and into fall!), sans meat:
- Slice zucchini, eggplant, and portobella mushrooms into thin strips. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling. Use these as the filling in a healthy panini, or to top a veggie burger.
- Bake potatoes right on the grill. Simply pierce the spuds a few times with a fork, brush with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and place the potatoes directly on hot grill coals for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size, until the potato is cooked through.
- Grilled veggie foil packets mean everyone can put together their own packet with favorite summer veggie combos. Cut a variety of vegetables – potatoes, onions, and peppers, for example – into evenly-sized pieces. Create pockets using heavy duty foil (about 12” square) and place veggies with a dash of salt and garlic powder inside. Drizzle on a teaspoon of olive oil, and close the foil pocket tightly by folding over the edges. Grill covered for about 15 minutes on each side.
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When I was a kid, it was a treat to get an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. But when I became lactose intolerant, I had to give up my favorite cookies-and-cream-flavored treat for something dairy free. Fortunately, I found a favorite summer dessert in raspberry sorbet with rainbow sprinkles on top. It was sweet, refreshing, and I didn’t miss a scoop of ice cream one bit after I discovered sorbet.
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- Creamy, but completely dairy free potato salad.
Even before I switched to a dairy-free diet, I wasn’t a fan of mayonnaise-drenched potato salads. There was something about seeing creamy side salads left out in the sun at summer picnics that never appealed to me. But I do love potatoes, since spuds are loaded with potassium and heart-healthy fiber, and what’s a picnic or BBQ without a potato salad? This recipe is perfect for your upcoming summer food festivities.
Instead of using a dairy-based mayo or yogurt for this potato salad, I tried protein-packed hummus. Its garlicky tang and creamy texture made the perfect coating for baby red potatoes. After serving this dish at a BBQ to two relatives who claimed to dislike hummus, they were converted! Nobody could detect that the dressing was bean-based, and I was pleased to provide a vegan side dish that provided some protein, too.
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- Making almond milk from scratch is much easier than you'd think.
The thought of making my own almond milk always seemed so cumbersome and unnecessary to me. But desperate times call for desperate measures: When I realized we forgot to pick up our weekly carton of almond milk at the grocery store, and I needed some milk for my cereal and tea, I decided to take measures into my own hands.
After a quick Google search for instructions, I simply blended a cup of raw almonds with four cups of water in my Vitamix. I didn’t even strain out the pulp – just poured it right over my cereal. I was instantly sold on the ease of preparation. The next time I wanted to make almond milk, I planned ahead by soaking my almonds. Soaking almonds for at least an hour, or overnight if you have time, is beneficial because it makes them softer to blend. Soaking also releases enzymes in the nut that makes them easier to digest and releases healthful nutrients.
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