Being Vegan is Easy

Being vegan is easy, although many think it is hard. They believe you need crazy ingredients that are rare and hard to find, when really, I can make a lot of things I made as an omnivore, just without the meat.

Take, for example, what I had for dinner last night. I chopped up a giant sweet potato into cubes, cubed some tofu, and chopped up some onions and garlic. I sautéed it in a large pan with olive oil, pepper, some himalayan sea salt and a lot of cayenne pepper for about 30 minutes until the potatoes were soft, and there I had an amazing dinner (and breakfast today!)

I’m starting to realize that many people, especially people around my age, both omnivore and vegan, don’t realize that cooking is actually really easy, so I’m going to start sharing more basic delicious & every day recipes. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of my potato/tofu sautée, but trust me it was delicious!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Vegan Sugar Glaze

For New Years I wanted to make something round, because, when I looked up traditional new year’s foods, it said round things are traditional! I had bananas and chocolate chips, so I decided to make a round banana chocolate chip bread. But I wanted to try something new, which is a vegan glaze.

For the bread I used this recipe for Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread, but replaced the pumpkin with 3 bananas, added some vegan chocolate chips and cut the recipe overall by 2/3. Instead of eggs I used 2 tbsp cornstarch and 3 tbsp water. I also only used a bit of cinnamon instead of all the spices it suggested there.

Now for the glaze. I was imagining all sorts of weird sauce frying techniques to make a glaze, but it was actually really easy. I just followed this recipe for a vegan sugar glaze and made it all in the Vitamix. I did cut the recipe in half because I was pretty sure I didn’t need that much. I found that the recipe didn’t have enough liquid in it and ended up adding more coconut milk, which is what I used for the non-dairy milk. It came out great and was perfect for the bread which was not all that sweet.

Happy New Year!

Vegan Potato, Bean and Kale Soup

So. It is really cold here (yes, I know, I’m a baby, it’s like 50, and I’m from new England.) I’ve never made a soup before, but it seemed like a good time to try. When thinking about a soup, I envisioned this really good kale and white bean soup I had at whole foods. For some reason I’ve always thought soup making might be kind of complex. When I actually thought about making a soup, I was pretty sure that it would just involve boiling a bunch of stuff in water or broth, but I wasn’t sure, so I used this recipe from Tastes Lovely as a guide.

Now, when I went to the store to buy my broth, I didn’t know the difference between broth and stock. According to this recipe, from Oh My Veggies (which I plan to try for my next soup making endeavor), broth is seasoned while stock is not. I already had one carton of STOCK at home, but when I went to the store, I bought BROTH. It all worked out in the end, but I just didn’t end up seasoning the soup at all because the one carton of broth was more than enough salty seasoning.

Anyways, the soup came out really well and just perfect for this type of weather. I didn’t have any cannellini beans so I just used one can of black beans and one can of kidney beans. Other than that, I had everything else at home, except the extra carton of broth/stock. I didn’t make the crostinis that the recipe suggests but they do sound good! Now I’ve been happily eating soup for days.

I think next time I make it I will try to make some kind of breaded tofu to put in it for a crispy element.

Vegan Treats: Peppermint Black Bean Brownies

So with Christmas coming up, I knew I would be going to some Xmas parties on the day, even though I don’t really celebrate, so I thought I would whip up some fun peppermint treats. I googled “vegan peppermint desserts” to get some ideas and what I chose was this recipe for Vegan Peppermint Black Bean Brownies from Minimalist Baker. Like a lot of things I make, I loved this one because it was so easy. All I did was throw all the ingredients in my vitamix and then pour into a muffin tin. Instead of flax eggs as the recipe suggested I used my typical cornstarch eggs (2 tbsp cornstarch to 3 tbsp water) and I didn’t have any baking powder so I used .5 teaspoon baking soda instead. You can’t really interchange them exactly, according to science, but I figured it would do the job, and boy was I right!

I also made some whipped coconut cream and added a bit of peppermint extract to make the dessert extra pepperminty. For the candy canes on top I used chocolate mint candy canes to tie all the chocolate and mintiness together. They came out really well and were so delicious. Even I was surprised that they were both vegan and gluten free! Once again, completely shocked at how easy it is to make delicious, pretty healthy (ok, there is some sugar), vegan food and especially desserts! I don’t have a picture of the finished cupcakes, but they did look very festive!


Vegan Treats: Sweet Potato Pie

Recently I have been having a lot of fun making some vegan desserts and springing them on people who are *gasp* not vegan. A lot of my friends have marveled at the fact that some of these things are in fact vegan. The truth is, it is really easy these days to take any recipe and make substitutes for eggs, milk and butter with all of the faux dairy products and vegan butter substitutes. I think I am going to start gearing this blog more towards my vegan cooking & baking because it is so fun – and easy, and I hope to share it with other people who are either vegan, curious about being vegan or just wanting to reduce their intake of animal products.

For both Thanksgiving and another event, I made a sweet potato pie with coconut whipped cream, and my own crust. For the pie, I used this recipe from Connoiseurus Veg for a Chai Spice Sweet Potato Pie. The marvelous thing about this pie is that there is no added sugar in it. Just sweet potatoes and maple syrup (and some other non sweet stuff of course), but it tastes delicious. The first time I made it, I didn’t quite mix it up well enough so the spicy cardamom kind of came in bursts. The second time I left out the cardamom to make it a more traditional kind of pie and it came out great. When I do the spices for traditional pumpkin/sweet potato bread or pie, I don’t pay attention to the measurements (for the spices) and kind of just throw things together because I like it to have a strong flavor. Actually making the pie was super easy because I just threw all the ingredients in my Vitamix! My technique is to cook the sweet potatoes a few hours before I plan to make it so they don’t make my Vitamix overheat, which I did one time when I made sweet potato soup.

For my pie crust I used this recipe from Vegan Baking. For the “regular vegan butter” I used Earth Balance sticks. For the “vegan shortening” I just used vegetable oil. The first time I made the pie, I didn’t cook the crust a bit before hand, so it was a little too moist. The second time I did for about 10 minutes, and it came out a bit more crisp and flaky.

For the coconut whipped cream, I used this recipe from Lunch Box Bunch. The first time I did it all by hand…it was hard but the results were delicious and very worth it. The second time my lovely roommate had just got a hand mixer…much easier! The coconut whipped cream does have a bit of sugar, but compared to your traditional dessert, the amount of refined sugar is very low.

I didn’t get to take a picture of either time I made the pies but they looked very good and tasted great.

We Made Our Own “Clif” Bars

So, someone gave me a dehydrator because they got a fancy new Excalibur. It’s a Nesco FD-37, which is just a “snack maker” but I’ve been having a blast with it! I dehydrated a lot of my fruits and veggies, especially ones  that were about to go bad. The thing that is surprising about homemade dehydrated food compared to store bought is that it is so much more flavorful! The main experiment is to make snack bars. I tried to look up some recipes online but they all seemed too complex for what we needed, and so I just made one up with what we had. Here’s what I made:

1 Cup Dates (pitted)

1 Cup Raisins

1 Cup Cashews

1 apple

1 Cup Water

I blended it all in the Vitamix up to variable speed 4 because I still wanted it to be chunky like a Clif bar. Then I just poured it into this plastic tray we got for the dehydrator. We did have to dehydrate it for about 24 hours but they came out so delicious!! Given that dates and cashews are so expensive, and that Clif bars only cost $1 in Oakland because they are made in Emeryville, it’s actually not too much cheaper to make your own. I also calculated that it costs approximately $1 to run the dehydrator for 24 hours, estimating on the high side. I’m thinking we probably used:

Medjool Dates: $4 – 66 calories/date * 10 (or so)= 660 calories

Raisins: $1.50 – 1 cup =434 calories

Cashews: $5.00 – 157 calories/1oz * 8 = 1256

Apple: $.50? – 95 calories

Dehydrating: $1

So $12.50 for 2445 calories, or $1 for 195 calories which is about the same price as Clif Bars, which are $1 for 200 calories. We will have to figure out ways to add other caloric and cost effective foods to make making our own bars worth it! I see a bulk date purchase in my future…Costco anyone?

The chunky snack bar mixture in the dehydrator.
The chunky snack bar mixture in the dehydrator before dehydration.
Homemade snack bars with Vitamix and Dehydrator
This homemade “Clif” bar is as big as my head!!!

Edit: I forgot! I also added 1 tbsp of peanut butter to them so that adds 94 calories and $.07…so total 2539 calories for $12.57, making it still about equal to the price of a Clif bar, but way better and cooler than a Clif bar!

The Weirdest Smoothie Ever

I was making a smoothie today and as usual just put in some things i had laying around. It is still delicious but, an unlikely combination of fruits and vegetables! It looks like most smoothies – vaguely greenish brown, due to its combination of greens and fruit. Here is what is in it:

1 banana

1 date

1 pear

1/2 orange (with peel)

3 leaves chard

frozen pineapple

1 carrot

5 ice cubes

Try it! It’s pretty good!

The Weirdest Vitamix Smoothie Ever


Vegan Thanksgiving, 2014

Here are the vegan treats I made (with some help from my boyfriend) for a small Thanksgiving gathering we had this year. The holidays can feel like a lonely time for vegans who are often at family celebrations, surrounded by meat eaters who don’t comprehend their dietary choices, but there are lots of ways to make delicious vegan treats that most people wouldn’t even notice are actually vegan!

Sweet Potato Soup (in the Vitamix!)

Vegan Sweet Potato Soup
Vegan Sweet Potato Soup – pic from

I used the Vitamix to make this amazing soup recipe. We did double the recipe so there would be enough for 5 people but it was so easy. I loved it because it has the same consistency of those soups that you buy from the store in a carton, but I knew exactly what was in it and had made it myself! After, I used the exact same recipe but used the leftover roasted pumpkin from the pumpkin bread recipe below, instead of sweet potatoes, for dinner that evening.

Down East Maine Pumpkin Bread (Vegan Version)

I have used this recipe from for years and years, but this is the first time I made a vegan version. Instead of eggs I used 2 tablespoons baking powder, 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon canola oil for every egg required. I also used a mixture of white and brown sugar, and a mixture of whole wheat and rice flour. For the pumpkin bread, I used a pie pumpkin. It is actually easier than you think, and much more delicious to use a real pumpkin than a canned pumpkin. Pie pumpkins are smaller than jack o’lantern pumpkins, and can be found in grocery stores around the holidays. Here are the easy steps to get the pumpkin ready for any pumpkin recipe:

1. Cut the pumpkin in half.

2. Scoop out the seeds and all the goopy stuff in the middle.

3. Cut each half in half again.

4. Microwave in a dish with some water for about 25 minutes. You can also steam it if you have a steamer basket for about 30-35 minutes, or roast it in the oven for an hour. You will know it’s ready when the whole pumkin is soft and the “meat” can easily separate from the skin.

5. Simply scoop out the meaty part of the pumpkin and either mash it up with a fork or put it in a blender. I put the cooked pumpkin in the vitamix for a few seconds and it was perfect.

Sweet Potato Pie (Vegan Version)

Vegan Sweet Potato Pie
Vegan Sweet Potato Pie – Pic from recipe on


I made this recipe using the same egg substitution I did for the pumpkin bread (2 tablespoons baking powder, 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon canola oil for every egg). I did buy a pre-made graham cracker crust from whole foods that was vegan. Next time I make such a pie I would like to try and make the crust myself.


Everything was delicious. The egg substitution worked really well in the sweet potato pie. In the bread, on the first day, you could kind of taste the baking powder, which has a bit of a metallic taste, and the bread was falling apart when you tried to remove a piece. However, on the second day, the bread was delicious and the texture became perfect. Next time I would like to try this vegan egg substitution: 2 tablespoons corn starch and 3 tablespoons water for each egg. Happy vegan holidays!

2 New Autumn Vegan Recipes: Butternut Squash Mash & Tomato Sauce

Hello! I’ve been neglecting this site because I was off on some amazing adventures in Europe and the midwest, and then more recently just life/work/busy stuff too. But I was so excited when I made two new super simple and pretty fast recipes tonight that I just concocted in my head! Well, ok. One was an idea strictly from me, but the other is based off of a Vitamix recipe from the Vitamix Cook Book that comes with the awesome blender (yes, I got one a few months ago!)

Butternut Squash Mash

You will need:

1 large butternut squash or 2 small ones

3/4 cup of rice

1/2 onion

Some olive oil

Black Pepper

Here’s what you do. It’s super simple. First you need to roast the squash. Preheat your oven to 450. Cut it in half (it’s hard so be careful!) Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and save them for some roasting. Evenly spread a little bit of olive oil on each face, and place them face down on a roasting sheet or some aluminum foil. Then just put them in the oven for 45min to an hour. If they’re on the bigger side, it will take longer.

While your squash is cooking, make the rice. Remember, rice usually has a 2:1 rice to water ratio. This recipe works best with white or brown rice, not wild rice or any husked rice.

While the squash and rice are cooking, chop the onion and throw it into a pan with some olive oil. Sautee the onion until it’s a bit brown and pretty soft.

When everything is ready, just mix it all together in a big bowl and put some black pepper on it, to taste. It’s a great fall vegan dish to make on a Sunday and eat at work throughout the week, saving some time for R&R during the busy weeknights.

Vitamix Fresh Tomato Sauce Redux

The Vitamix Cook Book has a recipe for fresh tomato sauce that calls for tomato paste and sugar, which I don’t like to cook with, especially not when I have amazing fresh tomatoes that were grown right in front of my house, and wonderful whole food sweeteners like dates and raisins. In my rendition, I use cashews as a bit of a thickener as well. This is my version of the Fresh Tomato Sauce recipe from the Vitamix Book.

You will need:

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

8-9 tomatoes (smallish & cut into quarters)

1/2 of a large onion (cut it in half)

1 garlic clove (peeled)

1 date (take the pit out!)

A small handful of raisins

A small handful of Cashews

A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

Put all of this stuff in the Vitamix (or whatever other blender you have, I guess) and start it on variable 1 (if you have a variable speed one) and then ramp it up to 10, then high. After it’s blended, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, pour it into a sauce pan and simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. That’s it! Super simple & vegan tomato sauce. This is another one that I love to do on a Sunday and eat with pasta during the week.

Backpacking in Henry Coe State Park Last Month with my NEW TENT!!!

So, later on this summer, I am going to Glacier, Yellowstone and Teton National Parks for 3 weeks with my camping buddy so I wanted to get a new lightweight 2 person tent. I was reading Backpacker Magazine’s “Best of” issue and the tent they recommended the most was the Kelty TN 2. What attracted me about it was that it was only around 4 pounds and it has a feature that most other tents DO NOT have, which is the ability to partially roll up the fly for star gazing or sun blocking. It was also fairly affordable as lightweight backpacking tents go – it was only $250 but they were having a 20% off for members sale at REI so, I got it at a discounted price! We decided to take the tent on a test backpacking trip, partially to try out the tent, but also just to kind of practice everything we would need to do and see what we should or should not bring with us on our other backpacking trips in the Rockys.

We decided to go to Henry Coe State Park since it’s only about an hour south of Oakland, where we live. We set out on a Friday night and did car camping the first night. That evening was a great test of the new tent because it was really windy, and fairly cold (for the Bay Area in May). The next day, however, dawned sunny and warm as we packed up and set out to the Willow Ridge area. Henry Coe has their backcountry camping set up so that once you get past a certain point you can basically camp anywhere, and that point is about 7-8 miles out. They also kind of parse out different back country campers, so they don’t send too many people to the same area, so you’re guaranteed an experience of solitude.

The hike out there was fairly uneventful. The first few miles were full of people. When we got to a place called China Hole, which is a stream, there were people swimming and basking on the rocks. We stopped on the stream a bit past that to eat a lunch of rice, beans and corn that I had made the night before and put in ziplock bags. It was really pleasant to bask in the sun and watch the little waterbugs balance on the water’s surface.

We finally reached the boundary of where we could do dispersed camping around 2 or 3 pm after maybe 5 hours of hiking with our heavy packs. We hiked about a mile past that and found an old campsite that was just perfect. It was relatively near some water, and had an old fire pit, though, at this time fires were not permitted because there is a huge drought in California. We set up the tent first thing. We put the fly on but rolled almost all of it up except the back part of the tent to block the sun, then we laid down for a few hours and read, napped and just enjoyed the surroundings. It was really cool to be able to be shielded from the sun and bugs but still outside in the middle of nowhere.

That night we made a delicious meal of pasta and vegetables with avocado. The only thing I wished I had was a cold beer or soda, but besides that everything was perfect. We chilled outside until it was dark, then got in the tent and rolled down the fly most of the way except the part that was covering our heads so we could gaze at the stars. It was a bit cold but besides that, it was amazing.

I laid awake for a long time just staring, and feeling very in tune with nature and the universe.

That night I was very proud of myself for one thing: I didn’t not wake up in the middle of the night to pee, which I hate doing while camping. I partially hate it because you have to stumble around in the dark and try to find your headlamp, which you THOUGHT you put right in a specific spot but it moved around while you were sleeping. Then you have to try to put on your shoes if you didn’t bring any flip flops, or stumble around with them half on, and go 100 feet or yards or whatever away from the tent and hope a bear or mountain lion doesn’t eat you. Whenever I go camping I try my best to hold it all night, but usually I just can not. This night, however, I did!

The next day we got up pretty early, ate some oatmeal and packed up and headed out. When I first woke up my body was somewhat sore and stiff after the previous day’s long hike with a 30-35 pound pack. When I first looked at my pack I thought, “There is no way I will be picking that up today!” but by the time we got to hiking, my body felt fine.

We needed to refill our waters which I was excited to do because we were trying a new product called Aqua Vita, a chemical water purifier that is different from iodine and kills more things than iodine. We filled them up in part of the stream and used the chemicals. It was great, it didn’t take too long and it really didn’t taste like much of anything at all. There was a faint hint of a chlorine taste, but it wasn’t too bad.

The hike back out wasn’t too bad, but by the end of it I was definitely ready for it to be over! The last mile or so I was so tired. But in the end it was exhilarating to finish such a great hike. When we got out near the ranger station, a family came up to us and asked us all about our hike. They had never done backpacking before and were intrigued by all of our gear. We gave them some information and I hope they did it! They seemed truly excited by the idea.

Then we went into the nearby town and had some burgers and a beer. A perfect ending to a great weekend. Here are some notes we took, since this was kind of a reconnaissance mission for our other backpacking trips:

– Don’t bring fruits/vegetables that have waste you need to carry out like avocados or oranges

– Instead of bringing heavy pre-cooked food, maybe bring dried food like a box of rice pilaf or something

– Bring instant coffee packets

– We basically used 3 liters of water per person per day in moderate heat conditions

– Remove packaged food from the packages to save weight

– We can easily hike 8 miles/day in moderately strenuous conditions