Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A vegan Nutella substitute?

Well, last week I posted early in anticipation of my weekend away, and this week I'm posting late, with no better excuse than the fact that I spent much of my weekend hanging out with friends and my nuclear family (Marc and Juno, our great dane, and Moony, the cat—can a cat really ever be owned? I don't think so).

As I am drowning in work to do for my thesis (don't even ask), this will be a short post. Years ago, while traveling in the middle east, Marc and I discovered Nutella, a delicious spread with a chocolate and hazelnut flavor. Much to our dismay, we had to abandon it when we became vegans due to what appears to be a very small amount of milk in the ingredients list (makers of Nutella, if you're reading this, please revise the recipe so we can enjoy it again!). However, Marc came home from the grocery store the other night with an adorable container of a product called "Simple Soynut Butter." The charming illustration on the label is created by Nina Frenkel, and the food company that makes the spread is called Simple Food.

We could barely wait until after dinner to try it. Marc lightly toasted a slice of bread and slathered the chocolate spread on top (it also comes in different flavors, including Cinnamon Sugar). Now, it's no Nutella, but it is quite yummy. It's a little bit drier than Nutella, and unfortunately doesn't have that distinct hazelnut flavoring, but we intend to try doctoring it up a bit with some hazelnut liqueur to see if that won't address both (minor) issues. Definitely it's good qualities outweigh the bad; as well as being vegan, it's also certified organic and gluten free, and it's even peanut and tree nut free for those of you with allergies. All in all, I'd give it four stars. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Custom Vegan Belts

So, I'm writing early this week as I'm off to Santa Cruz this weekend to visit a dear friend of mine. Earlier this week, while shopping with a friend, we discovered this great shop in Normal Heights called Eco-Boutique. Now, I have been looking for a good cruelty-free belt for a while, and the great thing about this place is that they have leather-free straps of all different colors and a huge selection of beautiful buckles, many of which are antiques. You can pick the strap you like and the buckle you like and they measure your waist and custom make it for you while you wait. I chose a turquoise micro-fiber belt, which at first I was reluctant to settle on because turquoise does not necessarily go with everything. However, here's the best part: each strap is reversible! So on the other side of my turquoise belt is a light beige color that will go with just about anything. It's like getting two belts for the price of one. There's a brown/black strap that would be perfect for most people (I somehow do not own any brown shows; probably because I don't do real leather, but I know there are fake leather brown shoes out there...).

We chatted with the proprietor, Richard Fredrick, who in addition to being really nice and sweet is also a vegetarian of many years. The boutique also carries a large and very reasonably priced collection of Mat & Nat bags, but don't wait to snatch them up—they will go quickly at those prices. In addition, there are many organic cotton tees, jeans, and tops. Also, they're having an art show featuring the work of Jear Dean and celebrating the grand opening of their new organic tea patio and garden on Saturday, April 19th at 5p. Check them out for yourself at 3316 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116 for some guilt-free shopping!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

So, lately Marc has been bugging me to make his favorite kind of cookies: oatmeal raisin. I'm kind of a chocolate chip girl myself, but sometimes you just have to accommodate your love. This weekend seemed like a good time to try; I had planned on going to a veg picnic on Sunday, but due to a combination of cloudy, chilly weather and a thesis presentation that needed to be put together, I didn't go. However, I had already gotten raisins and oats at the store, so later in the day after I had finished my presentation, I searched online for some recipes. I chose one that used only ingredients I already had around the house, and went to work!

These are a quick and easy to make treat. The whole deal should take only about 1/2 an hour and all the mixing can be (and should be) done by hand. I made a couple alterations to the ingredients, and, after making the first batch, a few changes to the amounts, but this recipe is loosely based on one posted here: http://www.essortment.com/all/veganchocolate_opx.htm. No author's name appears, but thanks to whoever developed this recipe! Here's my version:
1 and 1/4 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Coconut Oil (lightly warmed until it's liquid)
2 tablespoons Soy Creamer (I like Silk, great for coffee or tea too)
1 and 1/3 cups organic Confectioner's Sugar (This is just what I had around the house; I'm sure any sugar would work fine, but be careful. Some refined sugars, such as C&H, are not vegan.)
1/4 cup Agave (You can probably increase this amount and skip the sugar altogether.)
2 egg substitutes (I use Ener-G egg replacer.)
1 and 1/2 tablespoons Vanilla Extract
2 cups Oatmeal
3 handfuls (I have large hands!) Raisins (I also did a batch with pecans for those who don't like raisins. Lucky thing I did, as one of our guests last night hates them!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and put aside. In a large bowl, mix the coconut oil and sugar together. In a separate bowl, mix up your egg replacer until it's light and fluffy, and slowly work into the oil and sugar mix. Then add the soy creamer and vanilla extract and stir. Mix in the agave syrup and then the oats. Add the raisins last and stir once more. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie pan (you can use the coconut oil to grease it), and pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes (check after 10 minutes and keep checking until they have spread out a little and are still soft but not gooey to the touch). Enjoy!