Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats Review, Recipe, & GIVEAWAY!

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

Before getting into today’s giveaway, I’d like to point you all toward Episode 241 of the Our Hen House podcast, on which I provide a review of my three favorite vegan mayonnaise brands. Also check out this post for a backstory of how my passion for vegan mayo began. 

Another week, another giveaway here on Farmers Market Vegan. As I prepare to journey from Brooklyn to Poughkeepsie to begin my junior year of undergrad, I’d encourage you, dear readers, to prepare your cookbook senses for a tingling and your allergy-free treat desires for a sparking.

With the recently increasing incidence of food allergies, celiac disease, and diabetes in children and adults alike – as well as an allergy-heavy son herself – Debbie Adler felt called to create wholesome, nourishing baked goods free of dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, wheat, nuts, and refined sugars. And create she did, launching a Los Angeles-based vegan and allergy-free bakery known as Sweet Debbie’s Organic Cupcakes that specializes in gourmet baked goods including cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and muffins.

Debbie Adler.

Debbie Adler.

Though Debbie ships her creative and allergy-friendly treats nationwide, seven years after opening her bakery she sought to spread her culinary love even further and published her cookbook, Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery. Chosen as a “Best Gluten-free Cookbook of 2013″ by Delicious Living Magazine, a “Best Vegan Cookbook of 2013″ by Green Vegan Living and a “Favorite Book” by Living Without Magazine, Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats features over 50 recipes for truly unique muffins, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, energy bars, donut holes, and breads.

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Guiding you through such mouthwatering recipes as Salted Caramel Apple Muffins, Quinoa Cranberry Cookies, Coconut Crunch Donut Holes, and Krispy Kale ‘n Cheese Soft Pretzel Rods, Debbie provides fun, upbeat, and snarky commentary on every page to inform readers about particular ingredients and the story behind the treat (including a very harried excursion to a neighborhood pumpkin patch).

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Though some of the ingredients Debbie recommends – like coconut nectar, certain gluten-free flours, and powdered erythriol – cost a bit more than is accessible for many of us not beholden to food allergies, substitutions for these ingredients abound, and I can vouch for the fact that smart, budget-friendly ingredient subs still yield delectable goodies.

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The first of  the Sweet Debbie’s recipes with which I experimented caught my attention with its promise of summery, refreshing flavors. The Basil-Lemonade Cookies feature a moist crumb and chewy texture to provide the dessert version of a cooling waterside beverage, complete with a sticky glaze that abounds with citrus flavor. Clearly, Debbie sees the powerful wisdom in accentuating sweet treats with herbs (Rosemary-Plum Ice Cream, anyone?).

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Eager to try out Debbie’s baked version of fried dough balls, I grabbed the saffron gifted to me by my aunt who recently traveled to Morocco and recreated a batch of Saffron and Cardamom Donut Holes. With the sophisticated flavor of saffron infused into both the dough and the glaze, these donut holes boast a gorgeously pink hue. Of course, considering saffron’s exorbitantly high price point, I certainly wouldn’t have made this recipe without my aunt’s herby gift, and I’m confident that the donut holes would taste just as complexly spiced with only the cardamom. Cakey and dense, these bite-sized donut holes provide a fun dessert or snack easy for popping right into one’s mouth.

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An avowed chocolate fanatic, Debbie also includes plenty of cocoa-filled recipes in her cookbook, and she’s graciously agreed to share one such recipe here on Farmers Market Vegan! Debbie’s Caramel-Glazed Fakin’ Bacon Brownies offer an animal-friendly way to participate in the recent bacon-chocolate phenomenon, employing the versatile shiitake mushroom for a vegan meaty topping. Given the rampant worker exploitation in the chocolate industry, I would highly recommend using either carob powder or a cacao powder approved by the Food Empowerment Project in the recipe, which you can find at the bottom of this post.

Photo via "Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats."

Photo via “Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats.”

I’m sure that many of you are eager to enter today’s giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats, so don’t wait any longer and click the links at the top and bottom of this post! Also don’t forget to connect with Debbie and her bakery on Facebook and Twitter.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, August 31, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

Caramel-Glazed Fakin’ Bacon Brownies

Makes 16 brownies.

Must Have (Faux Bacon):

15 x 10-inch sheet of parchment paper
1 cup 1/4-inch-thick sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Must Have (Caramel Sauce):

1/2 cup coconut nectar
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Must Have (Brownies):

Grapeseed oil, for greasing the pan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
1/2 cup cacao or carob powder (make sure to use Food Empowerment Project-approved chocolate if using cacao)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/8 tsp guar gum
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup coconut nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/8 tsp stevia powder
10 tbsp warm water

Must Do

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper.

To make the faux bacon, spread the shiitakes on the prepared pan. Drizzle the grapeseed oil on the mushrooms, toss them gently with your hand to coat, and sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the mushrooms are slightly crisp. Set aside.

Reduce the heat of he oven to 325°F.

To make the caramel sauce, mix together the coconut nectar, sunflower seed butter, and salt in a small bowl until well-combined.

To make the brownies, grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan with grapeseed oil.

Whisk together the flour, cacao or carob powder, baking soda, guar gum, salt, and cayenne (if using) in a large bowl.

Add the grapeseed oil, coconut nectar, vanilla, and stevia and stir to combine. Next add the warm water and stir until it is absorbed and the batter is smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smooth down with a wet baking spatula or the back of a wet spoon, and drizzle with caramel sauce. With a swirling motion, run a pointy knife in and out of the caramel sauce so some of it seeps into the brownie. Top evenly with the “bacon” bits.

Bake the brownies for 11 to 12 minutes, or until the batter starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Rotate the pan from front to back after 9 minutes of baking.

Transfer the pan from the oven to a wire rack and let rest for about 20 minutes before cutting the brownies into 16 squares. Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with a free copy of the cookbook. All opinions are completely my own.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {8-15-14}

Before launching into today’s post, I’d like to point you toward the giveaway I’m currently running for a free pack of savory, vegan, gluten-free snack bars from Slow Food for Fast Lives, as well as toward my recent review of the eBook series entitled “Socialists and Animal Rights” on Our Hen House

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Welcome to the 11th installment of Vegan Chews and Progressive News (#NewsandChews)! This one’s recipes feature two items of summer produce that I hold near and dear to my heart, as well as the non-dairy cheese that occupies an equally cherished place…in my stomach. As for news, we’ve got gender norms, the denial of racism, non-military solutions to the situation in Iraq, corporate efforts to privatize education, and the government’s labeling of activists as terrorists. Fun stuff today, folks!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory
via Veggie Belly
Photo via Veggie Belly.

Photo via Veggie Belly.

 When summer rolls around, one vegetable that I can’t seem to put into my mouth fast enough is sweet corn. Growing up the in Midwest, I devoured the juicy corn-on-the-cob my mother would boil every week during the warm months, smearing corn bits all over my adolescent face. Naturally, I’ve held the majestic sweet corn dear into adulthood, now chopping it into salads, roasting it in the husk, and pureeing it into soups, but always appreciating its familiarity as a childhood family favorite. This recipe for Masala-Coated Corn, however, introduces a completely new application for my longtime summer veggie pal, coating it in a succulent Indian-spiced tomato sauce. Yes. Yes, please.
Sweet
via My Whole Food Life
Blueberry-Bliss-Bars-My-Whole-Food-Life

I don’t know how the folks at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket grow their blueberries, but whatever they’re doing comprises the work of a genius. I honestly cannot remember ever experiencing plumper, sweeter, and more flavorful blueberries than during my time in Brooklyn this summer. With a mere four ingredients –one of which is the true delicacy of coconut cream –the fudgy bars pictured above would surely showcase the perfection of my Brooklyn blueberries (how’s that for alliteration?).

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Broccoli Quesadilla with Avocado, Garlic, and Dill
Adapted from Mountain Mama Cooks

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During my daily perusing of the latest recipes published in the foodie blogosphere, I tend to bypass those that contain animal flesh and secretions rather than seeking to veganize them. With such a plethora of creative, masterful vegan recipes out there that replicate and far exceed the non-vegan online fare, I see no reason to bookmark the recipes that imply animal exploitation. There exist exceptions to every rule, however, and this verdant quesadilla recipe represents one such exception. Boasting a saute of crisp-tender broccoli and sharp garlic contrasted with the refreshing smoothness of avocado and the slightly sweet note of one of my favorite herbs, the original quesadilla recipe required only a substitute of the king of all non-dairy cheeses on the market (aka, Daiya shredsto provide a veggie-loaded and ooey-gooey vegan entree.

Must-Read News Article

Today I’d like to highlight a pair of articles that touch upon two forms of hegemonic oppression that profoundly affect all of us, though about which most of us remain either unconscious or in denial: gender conformity and white supremacy.

Forcing Kids to Stick to Gender Roles Can Actually Be Harmful to Their Health
by Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress

Photo via Shutterstock.

Photo via Shutterstock.

It should come as no surprise that forcing children to conform to an identity with which they don’t actually, well, identify would cause them severe stress and mental anxiety. Indeed, a recent study has confirmed just this intuition, suggesting that the pervasive societal assumption of gender as biological (aka, “natural”) leads to insecurity and low self-esteem in children, who feel the need to exert constant effort to perform in line with established gender norms. Unlike many articles concerning entrenched social issues, though, this one concludes on a hopeful bent, noting that young folks are far less indoctrinated into society’s notions of gender than are older individuals.

We’re Not a Post-Racial Society: We’re an Innocent-Until-Proven-Racist Society
by Danielle Henderson at AlterNet

Photo via AlterNet.

Photo via AlterNet.

Turning to a second hegemony of white supremacy, this article points out with specific examples the general resistance to labeling clearly racist incidents as “racist” (kind of like how only recently did the New York Times promise to start calling torture “torture”). The author astutely attributes this problematic phenomenon to the the promotion in the 1990s of colorblindness, which encouraged whites to pretend not to “see” race, and therefore to deny the existence of racism while at the same time perpetuating it (in the words of Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”). Indeed, if we pretend that racism does not exist, we can not as white folks start to cultivate the anti-racist consciousness necessary in fostering a just society for all.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Two multimedia segments for you today, as well! One on the U.S. intervention in Iraq, the other on the corporatization of the educational system.

As U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq Begin, Will Military Intervention Escalate Growing Crisis?
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

On last Friday’s episode of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez spoke with Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who has written extensively on Middle East-U.S. relations and actively opposes the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Recently, Bennis published an insightful piece entitled “Don’t Go Back to Iraq!: Five Steps the U.S. Can Take in Iraq without Going Back to War.” Emphasizing an end to military “solutions” and a collaboration with other nations, Bennis’ piece counters the U.S.’ patriarchal discourse of war as the answer to all of our problems. Bennis discusses the details of her piece and more on this episode of Democracy Now!.

Debunking Ed Reform
via Radio Dispatch

Photo via The Colbert Report.

Photo via The Colbert Report.

Moving to another war – this time the war on public education by conservative self-titled “ed reformers” – John and Molly of Radio Dispatch debunk in detail claims that we must abolish teacher tenure in an effort to improve the performance of schoolchildren. John and Molly explain that standardized testing does not necessarily adequately reflect a student’s capabilities, and that the low-income students performing the worst based upon this standardized testing is largely the result of their poverty, not their teacher’s presumed incompetence. For more on this important discussion, watch the Colbert Report episode with ed reform advocate Campbell Brown that John and Molly reference on the show, as well as a Washington Post article entitled “Fact-Checking Campbell Brown: What She Said, What Research Really Shows.”

Book Recommendation

The Terrorization of Dissent: Corporate Repression, Legal Corruption, and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
by Jason del Gandio and Anthony J. Nocella II

Photo via Amazon.com.

Photo via Amazon.com.

I’ll finish today by recommending a book that brings together the government repression of activists (particularly animal and environmental), the privileging of corporate interests, and the shoddy U.S. legal system. Edited by powerful intersectional activists and scholars Jason del Gandio and Anthony J. Nocella II, this anthology contains important essays by intellectuals and prosecuted activists alike that concern the government’s labeling of animal and environmental activists as terrorists (even though these groups have never caused bodily harm to anyone, while white supremacist hate groups run free), the free speech-chilling Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) of 2006, and recent “ag-gag” laws. This November, the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) (for which I’m honored and humbled to serve a second year as co-president) plans on hosting a campus event week focusing on the topics explored in this book, featuring three of the anthology’s contributors and finishing on Saturday with a discussion that includes numerous activist groups on campus. An important topic for activists of all stripes to explore.

In solidarity, Ali.

Ranch Potato Salad | Enjoying Food, Enjoying Life

Before I get into today’s post, I’d like to point you toward Episode 234 of the Our Hen House podcast, where you can hear all about the top five most fabulous vegan eats that I enjoyed during my two-week trip to Italy back in March. The rampant vegan-friendliness of Italian cuisine might surprise you!

I also want to thank you all for the outpouring of positive feedback on my recent post on vegan privilege. Thank you all for your kind words and willingness to engage in a tough yet hugely important issue.

If you checked out the latest installment of my Vegan Chews & Progressive News series (#NewsandChews), you most likely noticed the tantalizing plate of food featured in the “Best Recipe I Made This Week” section. Along with a pile of buffalo tempeh and a sweet wilted kale salad, the featured dinner included a mound of young, multicolored potatoes dotted with verdant sweet peas and coated in the ubiquitous childhood favorite veggie dip: ranch dressing. Though, probably unlike the mayo-based ranch of your youth (definitely of mine), the making of this particular dressing did not contribute to the dumping of live chickens into trash pits, the gassing or grinding up of male chicks, or the forced molting of hens (but those are all just “standard industry practices,” right? No biggie?).

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While my switching from egg-based ranch dressing to a vegan, oil-based version in part represents a desire to foster a kinder world, my new-found enthusiasm for vegan mayo represents an act of kindness to myself. Back in the darkest days of my eating disorder, I abided by all sorts of  self-imposed, nonsensical food restrictions based on nutrition pseudo-science: no peanut butter because it’s susceptible to mold, only minute amounts of tofu and tempeh because processed soy causes breast cancer (actually the opposite), no maple syrup or agave nectar because even minimally refined sweeteners are the devil’s handiwork, etc. Policing my every bite of food for its “purity” of health, eating became an act of stress (that my food was optimally “healthy”) and self-punishment (if it wasn’t or if I ate “too much” of it). Because my disorder consumed my identity, this stress and self-punishment permeated the vast majority of my everyday life.

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Fast forward through a ton of psychological healing involving the refocusing of my attention off of food and onto a cause larger than myself (read: animal rights), as well as the cultivation of self-respect through a now approaching six-year yoga practice, I found myself able not only to enjoy the singular act of eating, but to enjoy the continuous act of life.

Life! That once-unhappy phenomenon through which I struggled throughout high school in irritable, depressive, static fashion became an interactive cornucopia of opportunity, action, and joy. My utmost goal transformed from achieving optimal “health” through “pure,” absolutely unprocessed diet, and to bettering the world by fighting against multiple societal oppression while finding pleasure in the everyday.

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Okay, so what does this have to do with vegan mayo? Well, my now-beloved Vegenaise once existed among my extensive list of forbidden ingredients (it was a processed product that contained soy protein, for pete’s sake!!!!). Though it may appear inconsequential to the unknowing witness, my ability to consume and absolutely revel in enjoyment of the foods on my past taboo list—including maple syrup, vegan cheese like Daiya, vegan meat products like Field Roast, and non-dairy ice cream like DF Mavens—constitutes an enormous positive leap in my psychological health and relationship with food.

Back to that Ranch Potato Salad. Bursting with freshness from a hearty dose of herbs and tanginess from that much-adored vegan mayo, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be able to enjoy this perfect-for-summer salad without even the slightest twinge of self-hate. Here’s to enjoying food, and enjoying life.

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Ranch Potato Salad

Serves 4.

Ranch Dressing Ingredients (loosely adapted from Betty Goes Vegan):

3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (Organic Vegenaise and Just Mayo are my favorites)
8 oz (half a package) silken tofu
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp tahini
2 tsp nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp tamari
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp freshly group black pepper

Salad Ingredients:

Sea salt for the boiling water
1 lb fingerling potatoes (I used a mix of yellow, red, and blue)
2 cups green peas, fresh or frozen

Scrub the potatoes and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot about 3/4 of the way full, sprinkle a generous amount of salt into the water, cover, and bring to a boil. Keep the water at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork. Add the peas and boil for another minute. Drain and let cool until you can comfortably handle the potatoes.

Meanwhile, combine all of the dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and blend until very smooth.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice each potato in half (or in quarters, if larger) and place in a large bowl. Add the peas, then add about 1 cup of the ranch dressing, or enough to coat the potatoes and peas to your liking (you may not use all of the dressing. Oh no! Leftover tangy, creamy deliciousness! Whatever will you do?). Stir the mixture until the potatoes and peas are evenly coated with the dressing. Serve warm.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {7-4-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Happy 4th of July! While the news highlighted in this fifth edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News may not contribute to your patriotism, July 4th still provides a fabulous excuse to fire up the grill for some summer veggies and dig into a pint of non-dairy ice cream. Let’s get to it!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Strawberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon-Caramel Glaze
via Yup, It’s Vegan

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Photo via Yup, It’s Vegan.

Though the end of strawberry season is upon us in Brooklyn (hellooo, cherries!), Shannon offers up a chewy, yeasty, doughy, succulent, mouthwatering recipe to make creative use (not that eating them unadorned isn’t a fabulous use) of any late-season strawberries you might be lucky enough to snag. I expect that these whole-grain, refined sugar-free sweet rolls would provide both a comforting breakfast and a lovely warm-weather dessert, perfect for enjoying on the patio just before sunset.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Ranch Potato Salad, Buffalo Tempeh with Homemade Sauce, and Sweet Kale Salad
via Betty Goes Vegan, Post Punk Kitchen, Emeril Lagasse, and Chef Mickiyah

dinner

The “recipe” highlight of this week is actually a full meal made up of three components. The first: a Ranch Potato Salad with sweet green peas and a vegan ranch dressing adapted from the vegan-Betty Crocker remix cookbook Betty Goes Vegan. The second: crispy sauteed tempeh simmered in homemade buffalo sauce, inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe with a DIY twist. The third: a warm salad of wilted kale in a succulent sauce of Dijon mustard and coconut sugar with a sprinkling of juicy raisins, courtesy of Chef Mickiyah of Woodland’s Vegan Bistro (remember my rave review of this DC vegan hot spot last summer?). Hearty, boldly flavored, and nourishing, this dinner would have impressed any July 4th-celebrating non-vegan.

Must-Read News Article

This past week brought an onslaught of landmark court decisions, both inside and outside of the U.S.

canadian-harper-pipeline-protest

Photo via Grist.

Via Grist: In Canada, the Supreme Court ruled that any First Nation land that was never formally ceded to the Canadian government cannot be developed without consent of those First Nations that have a claim to it. In addition to challenging the Northern Gateway oil pipeline that would run from Alberta to China, the ruling recognizes the rights of the First Nations whose land the U.S. and Canada colonized long ago, and who have endured heaps of discrimination ever since. Way to go, Canadian Supreme Court.

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Photo via Slate.

Back home in the U.S., however, the Supreme Court produced decisions much less worth celebrating. Via Slate, Truthout, and Mother Jones: Not only did the Court strike down a Massachusetts law mandating a 35-foot buffer zone that anti-abortion protesters couldn’t enter to heckle patients outside of abortion clinics, it also declared that the government couldn’t require closely held businesses to provide their employees with health insurance that covers types of birth control that offend the owner’s religious beliefs. Both decisions severely infringe upon women’s health and reproductive rights, essentially indicating that corporations constitute “people” more so than do women. A much more sarcastic “way to go” to you, SCOTUS.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

BEST OF: Melissa Gira Grant on sex work, savior complexes, and a vegan dominatrix
via Citizen Radio

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Photo via Citizen Radio.

The topic of sex workers and their rights proves hotly debated, even in feminist circles, as many well-meaning folks attempt to control the actions of women who find themselves in precarious situations and choose to engage in sex work in order to get by. In this “Best Of” episode of Citizen Radio, Melissa Gira Grant—author of Playing the Whore, which is definitely next on my reading list—explains the politics behind the issue of sex workers with elegance, clarity, and wit. A must-listen.

For more information on sex workers’ rights, check out this recent article on Truthout, entitled “Cutting Off Sex Work Advertising Sites Disrupts Communities, Not Trafficking.”

Book Recommendation

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
by Matt Taibbi

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Photo via NPR.

While anyone who hasn’t lived under a slab of tofu for the past few decades has clearly seen the staggering wealth gap into which capitalism has sent our country spiraling, Matt Taibbi highlights the concrete impacts that this gap has upon the bodies of the poor and the criminal justice system. Switching between narrating startling stories of corporate/Wall Street money laundering and the clear discrimination in policing against people of color, Taibbi demonstrates the stark contrast between the treatment of the rich and poor in arrests, trials, and punishments. For example. on the one hand, the police arrest an impoverished Black man for “obstructing traffic” by standing in front of the door of his own home, while “too-big-to-fail” companies like HSBC receive no more than a slap on the wrist for major corporate fraud. A book to make your blood boil and your cynical laughter to ring.

In solidarity, Ali.

Seaweed & Edamame Salad | Thoughts on Vegan Privilege

Before introducing today’s recipe, I’m thrilled to announce the three winners of my most recent giveaway for two free pints of Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream. Congratulations to Becca FergusonRosie Riccio DeRensis, and Megan Digeon! Enjoy the creamy, decadent, coconutty goodness.

I got myself into a Facebook skirmish the other day. I don’t often do so, nor do I know that I can even call this incident a “skirmish,” so much as an instance of me replying to a post I found problematic, and never hearing back from the poster or commentators. The post in question—entitled “Dear White Vegans: This is Your Collection Agency Calling“—elicited enthusiastic responses from two individuals who referred to themselves as “former white, privileged vegans.”

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I responded as such:

“I agree with many of the sentiments expressed in this article. The current vegan movement contains an onslaught of classist, racist, sexist, and ableist elements. Equating the mass slaughter of animals with genocide and slavery co-opts the unknowable suffering of marginalized peoples in an effort to further another movement.

However, I feel that the arguments expressed in this article are a bit ad-hominem. Yes, the way veganism at large is being executed right now is hugely problematic. But at its core, veganism, for me, is simply an extension of an effort to combat the multiplicities of oppression in this world. The exploitation of people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, non-human animals, etc. are not the same, but they share a similar component: an unequal relationship between oppressor and oppressed. I would argue that if this relationship exists anywhere, the possibility for a liberated society becomes greatly hindered.

Consider the powerful activists in history who were also vegan: Cesar Chavez, Thich Nhat Hanh, Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, and so on. They recognized that while different instances of oppression are not at all the same and each need to be understood in their own right, they are also intimately connected by their being perpetuated by a capitalistic, patriarchal, colonial mindset. To fight against these marginalizing power relations, I feel that we must engage in a multiplicity of social struggles in order to empower habitually silenced groups. And I would argue that these struggles should include non-human animals.”

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In essence, I don’t want to throw out the idea of veganism simply because its current execution involves a multiplicity of problematic aspects. Instead, since I’m currently privileged enough to enjoy access to a bounty of plant-based foods, an income to obtain such foods, and a social circle that won’t disown my non-mainstream lifestyle, I’ve passionately added animal exploitation to the list of oppressions I’m actively seeking to combat by leading a vegan lifestyle.

Equally important, however, is that in such a privileged position, I must also engage in actively combating the problematic aspects of the vegan movement, in part by constantly reminding myself that the privilege enabling my vegan lifestyle exists among the phenomena that I actively seek to combat. The actions I’m taking against such privilege don’t involve giving up veganism, since that would actively enforce another very real oppression. Instead, the actions involve supporting admirable organizations like Food Not Bombs and the Food Empowerment Project that work to make nourishing vegan options accessible to marginalized communities; working to free myself of the capitalistic mindset of nonstop accumulation of material goods; working not to reinforce my various privileges in my daily interpersonal relations; and educating myself about the histories and current manifestations of various oppressions by devouring anti-racist, feminist, anarchist, etc. literature and following progressive news sources.

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These efforts don’t stop my occupation of a privileged position, of course. I’m still able to take myself out for expensive dinners at upscale restaurants in Manhattan; I’m still able to host giveaways on the ol’ blog for free products while the vivacious homeless man, who hangs out most days on the bench in front of my apartment building, asks for donations; I’m still able to shell out $12.99 for a 6-oz bag of arame seaweed at Whole Foods.

But these privileges don’t exist because I’m vegan, and they’ll still exist even if I were to throw up my hands and give up veganism tomorrow (which I absolutely will not). They exist because I’m a white, straight, cisgender individual with an upper-middle-class background. And veganism is only the first way in which I hope to engage in a challenge to the capitalist, patriarchal, colonial, speciesist, etc. society that makes it super easy to thrive with such identity factors.

Now, before I recommence all this challenging, please excuse me while I enjoy the following salad that I made with a $12.99-bag of arame seaweed that I bought at Whole Foods after being inspired to make such a salad by a dish I enjoyed at a not-inexpensive restaurant in perhaps the most well-off neighborhood in Brooklyn. Don’t we all love a good contradiction?

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Seaweed & Edamame SaladNut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Serves 2-4 as a side dish.

Ingredients:

3 oz arame or hiziki seaweed (or a blend of the two)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp finely sliced scallions
2 tbsp sesame seeds (both white & black are fine)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Place the seaweed in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let the seaweed soak for 15-60 minutes, or until it has expanded significantly. Drain.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shelled edamame and boil for 4-6 minutes. Drain.

When the seaweed has finished soaking, heat the coconut oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a minute, then add the drained seaweed and saute for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated from the seaweed. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the toasted sesame oil, raise the heat to medium-high, and saute until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and relocate the seaweed mixture to a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the toasted sesame oil. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

Until next time, Ali.

Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Ice Cream Review & GIVEAWAY!

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Welcome to Round 2 of summer giveaways on Farmers Market Vegan! This time, I’m thrilled to offer you perhaps the tastiest, creamiest, richest, most decadent non-dairy ice cream on the market (I’m really not exaggerating here)Luna and Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss.

All Coconut Bliss Flavors

After Coconut Bliss founders Luna and Larry Kaplowitz embarked upon a dairy-free diet out of concern for their health and the ecological impact of dairy production, they had trouble finding a tasty non-dairy ice cream free of questionable ingredients. With soy- and rice-based ice creams proving gastronomically unsatisfying, Luna and Larry turned to coconut milk and– hand-crank ice cream machine in hand – began hosting weekly tasting parties for friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else interested in the wonders of coconut, agave-sweetened ice cream. Once two local shop owners requested that Luna and Larry start selling the ice cream in their stores, Coconut Bliss became an official business venture and expanded from a home hand-crank operation into a manufacturing facility in Eugene, Oregon. Today, you can find Luna and Larry’s top-quality ice cream in stores across the U.S. and Canada.

Luna and Larry at the Thai coconut farm that produces milk for Coconut Bliss.

Luna and Larry at the Thai coconut farm that produces milk for Coconut Bliss.

With this expansion, Luna and Larry made few compromises in terms of environmental and ethical sustainability. At least 95% of all Coconut Bliss ingredients are certified organic, including the coconut milk and agave, both of which are sourced from family-owned farms in Thailand and Mexico respectively with which Luna and Larry have connected in person. Additionally, all of the cacao used in Coconut Bliss comes from a fair-trade certified workers’ cooperative in the Dominican Republic, a production setup that minimizes the incidence of child slavery (read more about slavery in the chocolate industry here). Luna and Larry also offer substantial support to the local Eugene community by sponsoring events and donating to a number of nonprofits, and are currently seeking to donate a percentage of their sales the communities and animal shelters in the area of Thailand where the coconut milk they use is produced.

Coconut Bliss at the Beloved Sacred Music Festival in Tidewater, Oregon.

Coconut Bliss at the Beloved Sacred Music Festival in Tidewater, Oregon.

You’ll notice that I mentioned that Luna and Larry made few compromises in expanding Coconut Bliss. One compromise that they did make, however, I feel the need to mention. As explained in detail in this blog post from Larry, in 2011 Coconut Bliss became majority owned by Lochmead Dairy (and that don’t mean a vegan dairy, folks). As Larry explains, with skyrocketing demand, he and Luna began searching for a co-packer that could make Coconut Bliss for them, and supposedly could not find a vegan co-packer large enough to suit their needs. The couple then turned to Lochmead, who apparently used to manufacture Turtle Mountain’s So Delicious and Purely Decadent lines, and thus have 20+ years of experience manufacturing vegan ice cream in a separate facility from their dairy products.

While I understand the reasoning behind this decision, I’m disappointed that our current society necessitates that many vegan products need engage at least somewhat with animal agriculture in order to reach a wide audience (Tom’s toothpaste, anyone? How about Nancy’s soy yogurt?). I grappled extensively – consulting a number of trusted animal rights activists – with whether or not I should carry out this review, on the grounds that I would be providing publicity for a dairy company by extension. However, I ultimately decided that the unfortunate fact that we live in an imperfect world, in which “pure” veganism proves impossible, should not keep me from promoting what I truly believe is the most impressive widely available vegan ice cream on the market – one that I would venture to say has the power to change non-vegan hearts and minds.

Additionally, I thought that this giveaway might provide a great opportunity to reach out to Lochmead Dairy informing them of how enthusiastically I adore the quality of their vegan ice cream, and asking them to continue to expand their vegan options. I’ve already sent an email of this vein to Lochmead, and would wholeheartedly encourage you all to do the same!

So folks, let’s talk about the ice cream. It’s good. Like, mind-bogglingly good. Like, “OMG am I really tasting this right now this can’t be real” good. Creamy, rich, silky smooth, decadent…I could go on.

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For this review, I had the opportunity to sample two flavors of Coconut Bliss: Mocha Maca Crunch and Cherry Amaretto (though, I’ve tried the Lunaberry Swirl in the past and it remains my favorite). A gorgeous balance of maca maltiness and rich coffee flavor, the Mocha Maca Crunch offered a rather sophisticated ice cream, though its “wild side” shone through the crunchy cacao nibs that studded each spoonful. The Cherry Amaretto hugely appealed to my adoration of the flavor of almond extract, and offered ginormous chunks of icy-juicy cherries throughout the ice cream. I served both of these flavors to a room full of non-vegans, all of whom had nothing but “ooh,” “ahh,” “oh, man,” “this is really just coconut milk?,” and other laudatory remarks to make of the Coconut Bliss quality.

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Other than enjoying Coconut Bliss straight out of the container and sharing it with those not yet enlightened to the world of vegan ice cream, I also experimented with incorporating Coconut Bliss into a widely loved childhood dessert: ice cream sandwiches. Check out the recipe below, which pairs the Mocha Maca Crunch with chocolate’s frequent sidekick hazelnut, and couples the Cherry Amaretto with cherry’s good friend carob.

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Mocha Maca Crunch Ice Cream Sandwiches with Hazelnut Cookies & Cherry Amaretto Ice Cream Sandwiches with Carob Cookies—Soy Free, Low Sodium

Makes 3 sandwiches.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
5 tbsp buckwheat flour
2 tbsp plant-based milk
2/3 cup rolled oats
Pinch of sea salt

1 tbsp carob powder
1 tsp hazelnut extract

1/4-1/2 cup Coconut Bliss Mocha Maca Crunch Ice Cream
1/4-1/2 cup Coconut Bliss Cherry Amaretto Ice Cream

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place two small mixing bowls on the counter in front of you. Combine 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, 3 tbsp buckwheat flour, 1 tbsp milk, 1/3 cup rolled oats, a pinch of sea salt, and 1 tsp hazelnut extract in the bowl on the left: this is your hazelnut cookie batter. In the bowl on the right, combine the remaining 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp buckwheat flour, 1 tbsp milk, 1/3 cup rolled oats, pinch of sea salt, and 1 tbsp carob powder: this is your carob cookie batter.

Drop the batters by the heaping spoonfuls onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread each cookie out with your fingers to create a thin disk. Each batter should yield 3 cookies. Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool completely; they will crisp up as they cool.

You’ll use 1/4 cup ice cream for each sandwich, but you’ll have to use 1/2 cup total of one of the ice cream flavors since you have 3 cookies to fill. The Mocha Maca Crunch ice cream will go in between the hazelnut cookies, while the Cherry Amaretto ice cream will go in between the carob cookies. However, one scoop of one of the flavors of ice cream will go in between one of each cookie. Spoon one flavor of ice cream into a round-ish 1/4 cup measure, then overturn on top of one of the cookies to yield a dome-shaped heap of ice cream. Place another cookie of the same flavor on top of the ice cream and gently smush the ice cream down with the top cookie to create a sandwich. Immediately eat or place in the freezer to save for later. About5-10 minutes before you’d like to enjoy a sandwich, remove one from the freezer to allow to soften slightly.

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Three of you who enter the giveaway will win two product coupons for free Coconut Bliss! So what are you waiting for? Enter the giveaway via the links at the top and bottom of this post.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 29, and I will announce the three winners on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with free product samples. All opinions are completely my own.

Until next time, Ali.

TastyMakes Raw Organic Snacks Review & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

Get ready, dear readers, for a summer of exciting giveaways on Farmers Market Vegan! I have quite a few of these super fun product raffles up my sleeve for the next three months, so I do hope that you’ll keep a close eye on the ol’ blog amidst all of your warm-weather frolicking.

The first of these giveaways comes from the generous folks over at Tastymakes—a fabulous new snack company that specializes in raw, sprouted, organic, and ethically sourced savory crackers, sweet “barbites,” and crunchy granola clusters. Compelled to share the benefits of a raw, vegan diet with others after healing from a bike injury through alkaline eating, Tastymakes co-founder Melissa Lacitignola has joined with her husband and a professional raw foods chef to make her dream a reality. As if that story weren’t inspiring enough, TastyMakes also donates 5% of all its profits to anti-hunger organizations. Can you say “socially responsible company”?

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Not only do the folks at Tastymakes offer top-quality raw snacks, they also run a snack box subscription program through which customers can receive various amounts of crackers, barbites, and granolas each month. Arriving like clockwork every month with free shipping, these TastyBoxes ensure a pantry consistently stocked with energizing, nourishing snacks.

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Melissa and her team were kind enough to send me a couple product samples: one bag each of their Salt & Vinegar Crackers, Garden Herb Crackers, and Vanilla Nut BarBites. All of the snacks boasted a short list of hugely wholesome ingredients as well as an enormous punch of flavor.

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The Salt & Vinegar Crackers (the ingredients in which include apple cider vinegar, sprouted golden flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and sea salt) sported a supremely crunchy texture that dissolved pleasingly on the tongue as a hit of flavor spread through the entire mouth. These crackers will make you guffaw in disdain of those outdated salt & vinegar potato chips, whose muted flavor could never hope to stand up to that of these intensely savory crackers.

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The Garden Herb Crackers (the ingredients of which include sprouted golden flaxseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, rosemary, thyme, sea salt, onions, and garlic) held a firmer texture than did the Salt & Vinegar Crackers, providing more heft for optimal dippability. Indeed, I enjoyed these fresh-tasting crackers spread with a pea puree and fresh almond milk ricotta from Kite Hill—not bad for a rough-and-tumble dinner, if I do say so myself.

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The Vanilla Nut Bar Bites (the ingredients of which include dates, walnuts, cashews, sprouted Spanish almonds, vanilla extract, flaxseed meal, and sea salt) offered a super intense vanilla flavor, coupled with a texture perfectly balanced between chewy and crunchy. I also found that these bites provided ample versatility, able to function not only as an ideal energy-packed snack, but as a premade crust for raw desserts! Check out the recipe below to see what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

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Mini Lemon-Ginger Cheesecake Cups—Raw, Soy Free, Low Sodium

Makes 8 mini cups.

Ingredients:

16 TastyMakes Vanilla Nut Bar Bites
1 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 2 hours and drained
1/2 cup coconut oil (use this lemon-ginger flavored coconut oil for more of a kick!)
1/3 cup coconut or agave nectar (or maple syrup, if you’re not concerned about the cakes being fully raw)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger

Cut a sheet of plastic wrap about double the size of your 8-piece mini muffin tin. Spread the sheet over the tin and press the plastic wrap into each of the 8 cups to line them.

Take two Vanilla Nut Bar Bites and mush them together into one larger bite. Press the new bite into the bottom of one of the 8 cups. Repeat with the remaining 14 Vanilla Nut Bar Bites.

In the bowl of a food processor or the carafe of a high-speed blender, combine the soaked and drained cashews, coconut oil, coconut nectar or maple syrup, lemon juice, and ginger. Puree until very smooth. Fill each of the Nut Bar Bite-lined mini muffin cups to the brim with the cashew puree. Stick the entire mini muffin tray into the freezer and allow the cheesecake cups to set for about an hour. Remove each of the cups from the freezer about 5-10 minutes before you’d like to enjoy them.

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If that tantalizing recipe isn’t enough to get you ecstatic about this giveaway, I don’t know what will. Those of you that are ecstatic, though, have the chance to win your very own TastyBox! Simply click the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway. Good luck!

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 15, and I will ann0unce the two winners on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with free product samples. All opinions are completely my own.

Until next time, Ali.

Tempeh Pita Pockets with Tzatziki

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One of my favorite aspects of living in a 21-person vegan cooperative household involves the high-quality leftovers that my housemates will bring home after they’ve helped to host a catered campus event. In the past, I’ve arrived home to discover samosas and dipping sauces from the nearby Indian restaurant, fried plantains and beans and rice from the Caribbean restaurant down the street, polenta rounds and marinated baked tofu from the Latin American fusion restaurant across the road—all sitting in our refrigerator, free for gastronomic merriment.

Most recently, one of my housemates gifted us with a tray of hummus and whole-wheat pita bread from the nearby Middle Eastern restaurant. Seeking to stuff that pita with more than the standard hummus, I looked through the extensive, mouthwatering Sandwich section of the ever-inspiring Millennium Cookbook, only to come across the ideal recipe with which to experiment: Seitan Gyros.

Millennium’s recipe features homemade herbed seitan medallions stuffed into homemade flatbread and topped with a tofu, mint, and cilantro raita, a tomato relish, and a handful of shredded lettuce. Due to my packed student schedule, the premade pita bread at my fingertips, and the absence of seitan-making ingredients in the house, the recipe required a bit of tweaking to suit my needs. Subbing tempeh baked in a brightly flavored marinade for the seitan, a cucumber variation of the raita (aka, tzatziki) that uses soy yogurt, simply sliced tomatoes for the relish, and the generously donated whole-wheat restaurant pita, I created a less time-intensive spin on Millennium’s original recipe.

Be warned: you will need multiple napkins to fully enjoy this sandwich. But honestly, what sandwich worth eating doesn’t result in a little mess?

Tempeh Pita Pockets with Tzatziki—Oil Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Makes 2 pockets, serving 1-2 people.

Tempeh Ingredients:

6 six-inch strips of tempeh (about 4 oz)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp agave or maple syrup
1/4 cup veggie broth or water

Tzatziki Ingredients:

1/4 cup soy yogurt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup grated cucumber (about 1 small cucumber)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pocket Ingredients:

1 whole wheat pita, cut in half and toasted (use good-quality storebought or one of these recipes)
1/2 of a large tomato, sliced
Handful of mixed greens
1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Prepare the tempeh: Place a steamer basket in a pot of water and set to boil. Place the tempeh strips in the basket, cover, and steam for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small baking dish, whisk together the garlic through veggie broth or water. Once the tempeh has finished steaming, place the strips in the marinade, and place the baking dish in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Prepare the tzatziki: While the tempeh bakes, in a medium-sized bowl, combine all of the tzatziki ingredients. Set aside.

Assemble the pockets: Open one of the pita halves and spoon some tzatziki into it. Layer the mixed greens on one side, three strips of tempeh on the other side, and one or two tomato slices in the middle. Spoon some additional tzatziki over the top, and finish off with a couple small slices of red onion.

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Until next time, Ali.

Salted Caramel Date (or Fig) Loaf

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About one year ago, as I scoured the boards of Pinterest, I came across a recipe title that widened my mouth agape and my tongue lolling: Salted. Caramel. Date. Loaf. Faced with perhaps the most perfect ingredient pairing in all of baking-dom (caramel? And dates? In LOAF form?!?!), I of course clicked on the recipe…only to elicit disappointment. Featuring butter, eggs, heavy cream, white flour, and refined sugar, this particular iteration of Salted Caramel Date Loaf did not comprise something that I wanted to put into my body, largely due to the harm that it would inflict upon the non-consenting bodies of chickens and cows.

I moved on, X-ing out of the webpage and opting not to save the recipe on my extensive “Recipes to Try” Word document. But the recipe lingered. It lingered in the culinary-inspiration node of my brain as I prepared my breakfast that morning. It lingered as I attended my classes that day. It lingered as I started on a Geography essay that night. I wanted to find research articles on the commodification of human body parts in the global organ trade, I really did, but darn it all, that Date Loaf simply begged to be made.

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So I made it. And I made it vegan. And I made it free of refined flours and sugars. And I’ve made it for the twenty members—some vegan, some not—of my on-campus living cooperative about three or four times now, eliciting all but the kissing of my feet and near-weekly requests to replicate the loaf. Once you create this loaf for yourself (and I would very highly recommend, if not insist, that you do), you’ll understand my housemates’ enthusiasm. Dense, moist, succulently yet naturally sweet, and boasting pockets of sticky caramel, this loaf will leave you marveling at the possibility that such utter perfection can result from less than ten ingredients and a stint in the oven.

This loaf utilizes unrefined coconut sugar for the caramel, though I’m sure that Sucanat would also do the trick. I’m not certain, however, that either maple sugar or date sugars would work, as I don’t know if their physical properties would allow them to melt in the necessary manner. I’ve not experimented with this recipe using a gluten-free flour blend, but I have no reason to doubt that one would work. If you find yourself without flaxseed meal, you can substitute equal amounts of psyllium husks—but double the amount of water that you mix with them (six tablespoons instead of three). Finally, as you’ll note from the title, this loaf tastes equally decadent with the substitution of dried figs for dates. I’ve made the fig variety of this loaf about twice now, yielding terrific results on both occasions. Okay, enough with the introductions—get thee to a kitchen stat because you need this loaf in your life.

Salted Caramel Date (or Fig) Loaf—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Makes one loaf.

Ingredients:

1 cup coconut sugar
1 cup medjool dates (or dried figs), chopped
1 cup hot water
6 tbsp coconut oil, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light spelt or whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 3 tbsp water (mix before you start making the rest of the recipe)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium saucepan, place the coconut sugar over medium heat. Stir the sugar gently (and constantly so that it doesn’t burn!) until it melts and caramelizes completely. At first, it will seem like the sugar will never melt, but have patience, because it always does (yay for physics!). Turn off the heat and stir in the water, chopped dates, and coconut oil. The mixture will probably harden as you do this, but don’t fret—simply place the mixture back over medium heat so that it re-melts.

Once the mixture has re-melted, lower the heat all the way and keep the caramel warm while you prepare the rest of the loaf. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour in the caramel, flaxseed mixture, and vanilla extract, and mix well to combine completely.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 30-60 minutes before slicing and experiencing the most intense culinary epiphany of your life.

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Recipe submitted to Recipe Wednesday, Healthy Vegan Friday, and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Mushroom-Chestnut Soup

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I’ve wanted to make a soup with chestnuts in it for the past three months. November failed in chestnut soup-making because who can expect the miniature grocery store just off of campus to stock chestnuts? December fared no better because clearly everyone else wanted to make chestnut soup, too, and thus yanked all of the bags of fresh chestnuts off of the shelves at the Whole Foods in Madison, WI (where I spent winter break) before I could get to them. January didn’t do so hot because chestnuts had just gone out of season and had therefore gotten expensive and I felt guilty spending $10 of my parents’ money on a jar of chestnuts when they’re already paying inordinate sums for my college tuition and soon my unfulfilled desire for chestnut soup resulted in me crying into my mother’s bosom, thanking her profusely for supporting my education and fully acknowledging my family’s privilege in being able to do so and…well, by then I had forgotten about chestnut soup.

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So I finally found inexpensive jarred chestnuts at, who knew, the miniature grocery store just off of campus. And I ate the subsequent soup without experiencing the need to sign my soul to my parents. A lengthy and emotional journey, all for soup with chestnuts, but I dare say that this soup certainly merits its preceding turmoil. Creamy, rich, unctuous, and full of comforting spices, this soup will warm you inside and out during the continuously arctic temperatures. Enjoy.

Mushroom-Chestnut Soup—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Serves 3-4.

Ingredients:

5 cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
3 tbsp melted coconut oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 can coconut milk
2-3 cups mushroom broth
1 cup roasted chestnuts, jarred or fresh
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Toss the sliced mushrooms with 2 tbsp of the oil. Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet and roasted for 20-30 minutes, or until the mushrooms have taken on a golden-brown hue and released some of their juices.

While the mushrooms roast, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the spices and sauté for another minute. Add the coconut milk, mushroom broth, and chestnuts. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the mushrooms have finished roasting, at least 15 minutes.

When the mushrooms have finished roasting, add them and their juices to the soup pot. Let the mushrooms simmer in the broth for another 5-10 minutes, then puree, either with an immersion blender or (very carefully) in a standing blender. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Serve hot.

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Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.