“But I Could Never Go Vegan!” Cookbook Review & Giveaway

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Can you feel it? The twinge in the air? The rumbling in the distance? It’s coming…it’s…another cookbook giveaway!!!

If ya’ll caught my late-December post about some changes I intend to make very soon on the blog, then you’ll remember the dilemma I’ve been grappling with concerning product reviews and giveaways. To sum up, I’m trying to navigate challenging the consumerism that has overshadowed the anti-speciesism at the heart of veganism, and worry that product reviews and giveaways re-center the materialistic focus of the capitalist system in which we as Westerners are so indoctrinated.

Two fabulous readers, however, offered up some super helpful advice in response to my concerns. Here’s what Elizabeth and Raechel have to say:

“I appreciate your dilemma – as Zizek is fond of saying, it’s easier for most people to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism, that’s the extent to which neoliberalism has captured our very capacity to think. So those of us engaged in imagining alternatives have our work cut out for us. The problem is, we anti-capitalists (or vegans, or Christians, or whatever epistemological designation we prefer) inhabit a capitalist world, in which we have to survive somehow. Etienne Balibar distinguishes between “communism” (which doesn’t exist, and has never existed) and “communists” (of which there are many) and the impossibility of extrapolating between the two, because every communist will make different compromises with capitalism. We can extricate ourselves only so much – the more conscious we are, the more we succeed, in avoiding the language of the marketplace in describing social relations, for example – but we won’t succeed completely, so it doesn’t diminish your message if you support your local farmers’ market or a [vegan] company.” ~ Elizabeth A.

“Although it is admirable to not participate in gross consumer habits and although it is super important to make clear that real ethical consumption doesn’t exist in global capitalism, the real struggle rests in the labor and production, not the consumption. Even outside of my politics, by both choice and necessity, I am not a very material person […] but I have come to realize that it doesn’t actually matter that much. […] [A]ssuming our individual consumption habits can do anything to challenge capitalism is a neoliberal idea. I don’t think it’s useless to buy fair trade products, nor do I think it’s meaningless that I don’t buy animal products, but as you know, what those buying habits do is invite more products, not less. What I’ve come to realize now, as a Marxist, [is that] it only really matters to not buy things if there is a call to not buy it/support it/shop at it/etc. *from the workers.* I support worker-led boycotts, and other than that, I buy things that are good on my conscience, while fully knowing it doesn’t make much difference outside of me feeling good. So […]*not* doing product reviews won’t challenge capitalism. And doing product reviews doesn’t make you a bad activist, at least not from a Marxist perspective.” ~ Raechel.

So there we are. We all get some fantastic food for thought, and ya’ll get your chance to win a cookbook. Win-win. Just don’t let it threaten your commitment to anti-capitalism, ya hear? 😉

Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

I do also have an inkling that highlighting the work of those who envision a more just world for all beings has the potential to contribute to fostering the very community that capitalism’s individualistic rhetoric stifles. For example, I’m overjoyed to share with ya’ll the latest project of Kristy Turner, a committed animal activist and talented vegan blogger with whom I’ve had the privilege to connect during my time in the blogosphere. Her just-released book, But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes that Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It’s Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over For Dinner, is an absolute masterpiece, and I’m thrilled that one of ya’ll will win a copy!

Author Kristy Turner / Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

Author Kristy Turner / Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

With a bright and inviting layout, mouthwatering photographs by Kristy’s husband Chris Miller, and charming text from Kristy herself, But I Could Never Go Vegan! serves as one of the most innovative cookbooks I’ve come across in a long while. Organized into sections by the excuses one often hears for not adopting a vegan diet, But I Could Never Go Vegan! playfully and deliciously refutes such justifications as “I could never give up cheese!” (how about after a bite of Tempeh Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Pecan Parmesan?), “It’s all rabbit food” (I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over my enormous pile of Jackfruit Nachos Supreme), “Just thinking about salad makes me yawn” (even this BBQ Cauliflower Salad with Zesty Ranch Dressing?), “You can’t bake without butter or eggs!” (then what on earth is this Rosemary-Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze doing here?), and beyond.

Of course, I would like to note that there are many legitimate reasons for not being able to adopt a vegan lifestyle that are not listed in this book, such as lack of access to plant foods because of geographic location (think “food deserts”) and/or socioeconomic status, desire to distance oneself from a movement made up primarily of people with whom you don’t identify (i.e., people of color looking at a movement where upper-middle-class white people dominate), and desire to preserve one’s heritage — threatened by Western forces of assimilation — through one’s diet. But that’s another post.

I had the pleasure of preparing four recipes from Kristy’s new book, but choosing among them proved a phenomenally difficult task – I don’t encounter recipes this well thought-out, creative, or clearly written very often (and I must have email subscriptions to over 30 different food blogs at this point…). Rest assured, I labored through this heroic effort to bring you a glimpse into But I Could Never Go Vegan! with the following four recipes.

My first foray into Kristy’s realm of culinary genius involved her Thai Seitan Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce, housed in the book’s “Where’s the Beef?: ‘Meaty’ Food, Minus the Meat” section. Subbing tempeh for the seitan to test if the recipe would hold up to experimentation, I was verily impressed by the intense flavor lent to the tempeh by a bright marinade of lemongrass and curry powder. And who can argue with a creamy, spicy-sweet sauce chock full of the master of all nut butters?

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Next up on my recipe testing list: the Chickpea Scramble Breakfast Tacos, which emphatically answer the skeptical question, “What about brunch?” Showcasing a method for plant-based breakfast scrambling that fascinated me upon first read, Kristy first stirs up a polenta-like batter of chickpea flour and savory spices (including the infamous black salt that imparts a sulfurous, “eggy” flavor to foods) that she then chills until firm, cuts into cubes, and browns in a skillet to create a creamy-chewy-umami-super flavorful scramble. Honestly, what could you do with it except stuff it into crispy corn tortillas along with roasted sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and avocado? And then finish it off with cilantro and hot sauce, of course.

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From the “Fake ‘Foods’ Freak Me Out: Solid Vegan Recipes That Aren’t Imitating Meat, Dairy, or Anything Else” section, the Potato & Pea Samosa Cakes with Tamarind Sauce immediately caught my eye. My unquenchable enthusiasm for potatoes and green peas made it very difficult not to rave about these tenderly textured and generously spiced patties, and my tamarind fangirl-ing drew me even closer to the recipe. While I do wish that the colorful cakes cooked up a bit crispier and were perhaps a bit more delicately spiced, dipping them into that sweet-and-sour sauce made it difficult to focus on the ever-so-slightly negative.

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Finally, I tackled the “I’d Miss Pizza” excuse section with Kristy’s Seitan Reuben Pizza with Caraway Seed Crust. I’m sorry, allow me to repeat: SEITAN REUBEN PIZZA WITH CARAWAY SEED CRUST. A winning sandwich transformed into a defining food of my Italian heritage? Be still my beating heart. First, whip up a batch of Kristy’s simple yet juicy and oh-so flavorful homemade seitan, then “corn” it in a bright marinade of beet juice and characteristic spices. Next, get a ball of super easy pizza dough rising, rife with the fragrant savoriness of caraway seeds. An almond-based swiss cheese sauce and mayo-ketchup Russian dressing later, and you’ve got a flavor-drenched pie packed with that classic Reuben sandwich charm, ready for a generous forkful of sauerkraut. Yes.

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I’d feel cruel for tantalizing you with all this deliciousness without offering you the chance to taste it for yourself, so I’m excited that the folks over at The Experiment Publishing have graciously offered to let me share with you the full recipe for Kristy’s Caramel Apple-Stuffed French Toast! Enjoy, and be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy of But I Could Never Go Vegan! by following the links at the top and bottom of this post.

Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

Caramel Apple-Stuffed French Toast

Serves 4 t0 6.

Nut-Free.

From Kristy:
French toast on its own is a normal weekend breakfast, and chickpea flour and non-dairy milk make for a simple vegan version. When you stuff a delicious filling inside, you’ve got more of a special-occasion meal on your hands (or plate)—especially when that filling is warm, caramelized apples tossed in a rich, date-based caramel sauce, and even more especially when the French toast is dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with extra sauce. One of my recipe testers made it for her husband on Valentine’s Day, and they thought it was the perfect celebration meal. Breakfast in bed, anyone?

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:

10 Medjool dates, pitted
2⁄3 cup (160 ml) non-dairy milk
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) water
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt to taste

Apple Ingredients:

1 tablespoon vegan butter
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coconut sugar or vegan brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

French Toast Ingredients:

1 cup (250 ml) non-dairy milk
1⁄2 cup (125 ml) canned coconut milk or vegan creamer
1⁄2 cup (55 g) chickpea flour
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1⁄2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of salt
1 large loaf of French bread, about 4 to 5 inches wide (not a baguette)
Vegan cream cheese
Cooking spray
Maple syrup, for drizzling
Vegan powdered sugar or powdered xylitol, for dusting, optional

In a food processor, combine the caramel sauce ingredients. Process until completely smooth, scraping the sides as necessary.

Melt the vegan butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the apple slices and coconut sugar; stir to combine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is gone and the apples are softened and golden. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the caramel sauce.

In a large shallow bowl or baking dish, mix the non-dairy milk, coconut milk, chickpea flour, maple syrup, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Slice the bread into four to six 2-inch (5 cm) slices. Use a bread knife to make a slit in the top of each slice, keeping the sides and bottom intact, creating a pocket.

Carefully spread the cream cheese inside one side of each pocket, then stuff it with about 1⁄3 cup (80 ml) of apples.

Preheat the oven to its lowest setting. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

Heat a large frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Spray generously with cooking spray. Take one “sandwich” and soak in the milk mixture, 15 to 20 seconds on each side. Place the soaked sandwich on the heated pan and cook until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches, spraying the pan again before each. Serve warm, topped with maple syrup, the remaining caramel sauce, or both. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Variations

Simplify the recipe by leaving out the caramel sauce and replacing the apples with uncooked strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or even mango!

Make plain French toast by slicing regular-size slices of bread and leaving out the fruit and caramel altogether.

Recipe from But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It’s Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over Dinner, copyright © Kristy Turner, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. www.theexperimentpublishing.com

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Thursday, January 29, and I will announce the winner on the following day on #NewsandChews.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

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.

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Cinnamon Plum Granola | Rishi Tea Giveaway

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Back home in Madison, one of my favorite yoga studios keeps its lobby well-equipped with pots of strong-brewed tea, steaming hot from the tea lights flickering beneath. The tea in question? Cinnamon Plum Tea from Rishi Tea – rich, succulent, hued in deep magenta, and intensely spiced like a good mulled cider. Unwinding after a sweaty yoga practice with a small mug of this tea simultaneously awakens and calms the senses, tempting my fellow yogis and I to stick around the studio long after savasana.

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With the biting cold setting in and my return to Madison for winter break fast approaching, I’ve recently found myself in a state of nostalgia for the heated yoga studio and the Cinnamon Plum Tea that accompanies it. To concurrently quell my longing for the time being and share the Cinnamon Plum wonders with you all, I crafted a Cinnamon Plum-infused granola and reached out to the wonderful folks at Rishi Tea (based right near my hometown in Milwaukee!) to provide a couple boxes of loose-leaf Cinnamon Plum Tea for my blog readers.

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Though virtually anyone engaged in a business endeavor is operating under the oppressive logic of our capitalist system, the folks at Rishi are trying to do so in a manner as conscious as possible in such a harmful framework. Maintaining long-term personal relationships with farmers and artisans whose families have been making traditional teas for generations, Rishi commits itself to environmental sustainability and social responsibility through its organic and fair trade certifications, eco-friendly packaging, partnerships with other socially conscious organizations, and more.

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(Quick side note: On the subject of capitalism, I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating lately surrounding the functioning of veganism as a consumerist movement, and intend to flesh out my thoughts in future posts. I’ve also been pondering the privileges that come along with blogging and running giveaways – an idea that I brought up in my last giveaway but hope to expand upon in the near future, as well. But for now, allow me to play into your consumerist sensibilities with this giveaway. That is all.)

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The following granola recipe celebrates the full-bodied flavor and comfort of my beloved Cinnamon Plum Tea. Crispy, nicely sweetened, and oh-so fragrant, this granola proves ideal for topping smoothies, with ice-cold non-dairy milk, or plumped up in muesli. Don’t miss your chance to win the tea that makes this granola possible by clicking on the links at the top and bottom of this post!

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Cinnamon Plum Granola

Makes about 12 cups.

Ingredients:

4 cups oats
3 1/2 cups mixed raw nuts and seeds, chopped if large (I used almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and black sesame seeds here)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup Rishi Cinnamon Plum Tea, ground into a powder in a spice grinder
1/4 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp hazelnut extract (can substitute vanilla)
3 cups chopped dried fruit (I used raisins here, but mission figs or currants would work quite well)
3 cups neutral-flavored vegan cereal of choice (optional; I prefer the Millet-Rice Flakes from Nature’s Path)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have two large baking sheets ready, coated in parchment if you so choose.

In a large bowl, place the oats, nuts and seeds, salt, and ground Cinnamon Plum Tea. Stir well to combine.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the maple syrup or agave, oil, tahini, and extract until well-combined.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir very thoroughly to coat. At first it will seem like there isn’t enough of the wet mixture to sufficiently coat the dry, but have faith! (And mix with your hands if necessary. I find that handiworking the granola is much more effective in getting everything coated).

Divide the mixture evenly between the two baking sheets and spread it out in an even layer on each sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

Once the granola has turned golden brown but definitely not burnt, remove from the oven and stir in half of the raisins to each baking sheets. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

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Now you, dear readers, have the chance to win the tea that can help you make this granola a reality. Three of you will win two boxes of loose-leaf Cinnamon Plum Tea from Rishi. Simply click on the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway for your chance to win! And don’t forget to connect with Rishi Tea on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Flickr, and Vimeo.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, December 14, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

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Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I was not paid to run this giveaway. All opinions are completely my own.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vega Review & GIVEAWAY!

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In the past decade, the vegan community has borne more top-level athletes than the world ever expected of we sickly, malnourished, and deprived plant-eaters. From bodybuilders to fighters to endurance athletes to runners, competitive athletes fueled by animal-free diets have demonstrated not just the viability, but the power of plants(Of course, many non-Western, largely plant-based cultures have demonstrated this for years, but for the most part we haven’t been willing to look).

Photo via BrendanBrazier.com.

Photo via BrendanBrazier.com.

I first encountered the world of vegan athleticism after picking up a copy of Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health by Brendan Brazier, Canadian vegan ultramarathoner and creator of the award-winning line of whole-food nutritional products known as Vega. After developing an increasing concern for how individual food choices affect the lives of human workers, non-human animals, and the planet, Brendan became determined to create a conscious diet that would also enable top performance in his endeavors as a professional Ironman triathlete. With a focus on nutrient density, alkaline-forming foods, and nutrient-to-resource ratio, Brendan succeeded in developing just the diet that would maximize his athletic performance and minimize his environmental impact: one based on whole plant foods.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Three years after the publication of Thrive Foods, Brendan’s line of Vega products has aided countless nutritionally and athletically minded folks in their health- and performance-related endeavors, receiving numerous accolades along the way. Brendan launched Vega with his plant-powered protein powder – based in pea protein, seeds, brown rice protein, chlorella, and maca – now known as Vega One and available in french vanilla, chocolate, berry, vanilla chai, and natural flavors. Since that first protein powder, Vega has expanded its meticulously formulated line to include meal and snack bars, sacha inchi seeds, chlorella, maca, and an antioxidant oil blend – all completely vegan, nourishing, and selected for peak athletic performance and environmental sustainability.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Photo via MyVega.com.

The Vega team generously provided me with three products from their line: the Vega One Nutritional Shake in French Vanilla flavor, the Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend, and the Maca Chocolate bars (recommended by the Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List!).

Imparting a warm sweetness and full-bodied mouthfeel to my morning smoothies, the Vega One Nutritional Shake contributed to a fantastic pre-workout meal without the chalkiness from which many other protein powders suffer. With 15 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, three servings of leafy green vegetables, and tons of antioxidants, omega-3’s, and probiotics, Vega One can provide a comprehensive answer for the oft-asked question, “Where do vegans get their nutrition?”

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The Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend starred in the latest rendition of my famous Liquid Gold Salad Dressing (which in turn stars in my Everyday Salad!), lending it a vibrant green hue thanks to the blend’s inclusion of hemp seed oil. Also featuring flax seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut seed oil, green tea seed oil, pomegranate seed oil, black cumin seed oil, black raspberry seed oil, blueberry seed oil, and cranberry seed oil, the blend boasts a balanced two-to-one ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, in accordance with widely accepted nutritional recommendations.

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For dessert, I sampled Vega’s 70% dark chocolate bars, infused with the unique malty flavor of maca – a Peruvian root touted for its ability to improve energy, stamina, fertility, and libido. While I cannot definitively say if I experienced an increase in any of these characteristics, I can say that I wholeheartedly enjoyed the silky smooth texture and complex flavor of the bars (slavery-free!).

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While expensive and not-widely-available “superfoods” like maca, chlorella, and sacha inchi seeds do not play necessary roles in a diet for quality athletic performance – indeed, insisting they did would prove quite elitist – at the heart of Brendan and Vega’s work lies a passion for the health and environmental benefits of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds: foods available to many more people (though still not enough). Showcasing this passion, the Vega team offers a bounty of free, nourishing, performance-minded, vegan recipes and meal plans on their website.

In my increasingly privileged position as an established blogger, these foods have become very available to me thanks to vegan companies attuned to the benefits of collaborating with prominent online presences. As such, the availability of products has increased for blog readers, as well, showcased by the constant flurry of giveaways on the blogosphere.

And you, dear readers, have the opportunity to experience Vega’s products: one of you will win a prize pack of surprise goods from the Vega line. Simply click on the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway for your chance to win! And of course, don’t forget to connect with Vega on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, September 28, and I will announce the winner 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.

In solidarity, Ali.

Three Little Birds Vegan Ice Cream Review & GIVEAWAY!

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I’m fairly confident in estimating that about 62% of my diet this summer consisted of vegan ice cream (no complaints here). Over the past few months, I’ve come to consider myself somewhat of a vegan ice cream connoisseur, familiarizing myself with which brands boast the silky-smoothest, richest, most full-flavored dairy-free frozen treats (check out my past reviews of Coconut Bliss and DF Mavens for two such brands). Of course, obtaining an ice cream maker of my own remains an ever-present fantasy of mine, but until then, commercially packed pints will have to satisfy my ice cream desires.

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Today, I’m dancing with excitement in introducing you all to my new favorite among these commercial vegan ice cream purveyors: Three Little Birds. Derek and Wei, the company’s founders, launched Three Little Birds out of NYC’s East Village just back in July, and have since found great success with their 100% handmade, hand-packed, organic vegan ice cream at health food stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as at the monthly Vegan Shop Up and the weekly Hester Street Fair. Vegans themselves, Wei and Derek know quite well the vegan ice creams currently available on the market, and sought to best them all. With Derek as a co-founder of Lula’s Sweet Apothecary (aka the most magical place on earth), and therefore a veritable genius of the nuances of vegan ice cream, this goal certainly doesn’t seem too lofty.

Photo via Three Little Birds.

Photo via Three Little Birds.

I had the immense pleasure of chatting with Derek and Wei at Dunwell Doughnuts on one of the last few days of my summer stay in Brooklyn, and immediately felt drawn to their ethos and outlook on the current animal rights movement. Discovering that we shared a critical eye toward the various forms of human oppression (racism, sexism, ableism, classism) that prevail in AR today, Derek, Wei, and I conversed animatedly about our histories of activism and future plans. I’ve never felt more connected to a company whose product I’ve reviewed on my blog, and am overjoyed to offer my support.

Three Little Birds' ice cream at the Village Farm Grocery in Manhattan (photo via Three Little Birds).

Three Little Birds’ ice cream at the Village Farm Grocery in Manhattan (photo via Three Little Birds).

Not only are Derek and Wei phenomenal people, they also craft phenomenal ice cream, the likes of which I’ve honestly not encountered in vegan ice creams I’ve enjoyed in the past. Currently, Three Little Birds offers ten classically inspired flavors, seeking to perfect the basics before diving into experimentation: Death by Chocolate, Peanut Buttacups, Wafer Thin Mint, Strawberry, Cookies n’ Cream, Chocolate Fudge Swirl, Coffee Almond Fudge, Vanilla, Neapolitan, and Mint Chip (all of their chocolate flavors use products sourced from areas whose chocolate industry does not employ conditions of slavery). Excitingly, Three Little Birds just started offering ice cream sandwiches, as well!

Three Little Birds' just-launched ice cream sandwiches (photo via Three Little Birds).

Three Little Birds’ just-launched ice cream sandwiches (photo via Three Little Birds).

During our conversation at Dunwell, Derek and Wei informed me of a couple of their taste-testing requirements: they seek to eliminate the subtle cashew aftertaste present in many other cashew-based ice creams, and they strive for generous and even distribution of mix-ins within the ice cream (to this end, Derek goes so far as to hand-place every nut, cookie piece, and fudge swirl in each pint).

Derek and Wei offered me three of their flavors to review, and I more than happily obliged.

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Intensely peanutty, fantastically rich, and creamier than any ice cream I’ve ever put into my mouth, the Peanut Buttacups flavor embodies the magic of peanut butter in frozen dessert form. This ice cream left me completely satisfied after only a couple of spoonfuls – a meaningful testament considering how much ice cream I can pack away at any given time. I would have loved to find more of the chocolate-coated peanut butter cups distributed throughout the ice cream, but the chocolatey fragments I did encounter offered a gorgeous crunch for textural contrast to the superbly smooth ice cream. I may need to start sleeping with this stuff underneath my pillow.

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Next, the Coffee Almond Fudge boasted a ribbon of fudge sauce of impeccably sticky-smooth consistency masterfully swirled throughout the coffee-flavored ice cream. Laughing in the face of the nut crumbs I encounter in many other vegan ice cream brands, this pint’s heftily sized almond pieces are distributed in ideal proportion throughout the ice cream. Though I would have enjoyed a bolder coffee flavor, my difficulty sleeping the night after consuming this ice cream for post-dinner dessert suggests the adequacy of its coffee level.

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Finally, the Neapolitan transported me right back to childhood, when enormous tubs of tri-colored ice cream packed the grocery store freezers. All three of the flavors featured in this ice cream prove spot-on: the vanilla proves delicate yet harbors character; the strawberry boasts an intense berry flavor, surprising because of the fact that Wei and Derek use no flavor-enhancing ingredients; and the chocolate offers an ideal combination of bitter-sweet that all good chocolate should strive to attain.

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In my effort to spread the word about Three Little Birds far and wide, I’m thrilled to offer one of you lucky readers a selection of flavors from Derek and Wei’s burgeoning line of exquisite vegan ice cream! They’re offering one pint of Peanut Buttacups, one pint of Neapolitan, and an ice cream sandwich. Simply click on the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway for your chance to win! And of course, don’t forget to connect with Three Little Birds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, September 14, and I will announce the winner on the following day. Please note that due to shipping restrictions, this giveaway is restricted to residents of New York City and its five boroughs.

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.

In solidarity, Ali.

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

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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.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

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.

Slow Food for Fast Lives Bars Review & GIVEAWAY!

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I know, I know – the amount of Farmers Market Vegan giveaways this summer has gotten a wee bit out of hand. Somehow, though, I feel that you, dear readers, don’t really mind all of these chances to win free, high-quality vegan products…so what the hey? Howsabout a fifth summer giveaway here on FMV?

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Today I’d like to introduce you to a truly unique line of products from the on-the-go, health-conscious folks over at Slow Food for Fast Lives. Finding themselves with hectic schedules that made sitting down regularly for a nourishing meal quite difficult, the company’s founders – Danny, Mel, and Patricia – combined their appreciation of good food with their desire to provide healthy options for individuals with bustling agendas. With Danny’s innovative idea of launching the market’s first savory snack bar and Mel’s entrepreneurial skills behind her, Patricia employed her imaginative cooking skills in combining farmers’ market produce with nuts, spices, and unrefined sweeteners to create a line of vegetable-based bars in a variety of globally inspired flavors. Not only did these bars far surpass a taste test, they also each contained 1-1.5 servings of veggies and ample amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

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Since Patricia emerged from her kitchen with that first batch of sumptuous home-cooked bars, Slow Food for Fast Lives has shared its breakthrough products with retailers in California and the Southwest, as well as online, in the hopes of helping busy folks across the U.S. to “eat present, not tense.” While the company’s line currently features four bars – California, Indian, Moroccan, and Thai – the founders constantly have their culinary thinking caps on, perfecting such future flavors as Italian, Japanese, and Mexican. They also eagerly welcome suggestions from consumers on what slow food flavors they’d like to enjoy in their fast lives at info@eattruefoods.com.

While all of Slow Food for Fast Live’s bars are gluten-free and kosher, the California bar does contain honey; the rest of the three are completely vegan! (Check out why I don’t advocate the consumption of honey here.) As such, in this post I’ll only be reviewing the Indian, Moroccan, and Thai flavors.

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I first journeyed into the world of Slow Food for Fast Lives with the Moroccan bar: a vibrantly hued blend of crunchy pistachios, chewy currants, sweet carrots, protein-rich lentils, attractive black sesame seeds, and smooth tahini spiced up with lemon, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cumin. Featuring hearty chunks of each ingredient instead of constituting a homogeneously blended bar, the Moroccan bar offered a multiplicity of interesting textures mingling with bold flavors. Of the three bars I sampled, I might just prefer the Moroccan bar the most.

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The Thai bar made the next appearance in my Slow Food for Fast Lives tasting tour. Boasting a double whammy of peanuts and peanut butter, crispy brown rice, succulent red bell peppers, and zippy green onions in a bright and spicy mix of lime juice, dried basil, garlic and onion powders, and chiles, the Thai bar definitely got the spice sensors on my tongue all a-tingling. Though I didn’t expect such a pleasant piquant-ness in my snack bar, I found gastronomic memory harkening back to my favorite Thai restaurant in my hometown of Madison, WI after biting into this bar.

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My snack bar trip around the globe ended with the Indian bar – a close second favorite behind the Moroccan bar. Reminding me of a samosa dipped in mango sauce or a coconut curry (but in snack bar form), the Indian bar made supremely savory use of rich cashews and coconut, cauliflower, lentils, hearty potatoes, sweet peas, and buttery mangoes accentuated with tomato powder, turmeric, onion, chili pepper, ginger, and cumin. Redolent with the flavors of curry without being overwhelming, this smooth, chewy bar proves warming and satisfying.

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Have I engaged in enough culinary wordplay to persuade you all to incorporate some slow food into your fast lives? Well, lucky for one of you, the folks at Slow Food for Fast Lives have generously offered to gift a pack of their nourishing, tasty, and inventive bars to a Farmers Market Vegan reader. Simply click on one of the links at the top and bottom of this post, follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter giveaway, and get those fingers crossed. Also be sure to connect with Slow Food for Fast Lives on Facebook and Twitter!

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, August 17, and I will announce the winner 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.

In solidarity, Ali.

DF Mavens Ice Cream Review & GIVEAWAY!

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Another week, another giveaway – the fourth of the summer here on Farmers Market Vegan, to be precise. This one comes at the prompting of my Coconut Bliss giveaway back in June, in which I relayed to you all the inner turmoil I experienced in deciding whether or not to run the giveaway after a representative contacted me. If you remember, soon after agreeing to host the giveaway, I discovered that in 2011 Coconut Bliss became majority owned by Lochmead Dairy, and thus that by following through with my agreement I would essentially be providing publicity for a dairy company by extension.

Obviously, I did end up running the Coconut Bliss giveaway, concluding that the imperfect state of the world renders “pure” veganism impossible and that the giveaway would provide an ideal opportunity to contact Lochmead and encourage them to expand their non-dairy options. But I still felt a bit of discomfort in devoting a blog post and giveaway to an ultimately non-vegan company – no matter how impressive their non-dairy ice creams and otherwise ethical practices – especially considering the existence of quality vegan ice cream purveyors that don’t engage with animal agriculture (or, at least not as directly. Again, imperfect world, people).

Photo via DF Mavens.

Photo via DF Mavens.

So I contacted one of those purveyors: the NYC-based DF Mavens (the “DF” standing for dairy-free, of course!). After explaining my desire to highlight a less questionable brand of ice cream, the folks at DF Mavens responded with enthusiasm, explaining their devotion to supporting the animal rights movement and vegan community. Indeed, a portion of all of DF Mavens’ profits goes to the national animal advocacy organization Mercy for Animals, while the company’s Board of Advisors includes such passionate and well-known animal/vegan advocates as Victoria Moran, Joshua Katcher, and Rich Roll. Though headed by one of the premier (non-vegan) ice cream consultants, DF Mavens functions independently of any dairy operation and is strongly backed by the decidedly vegan managing and marketing firm known as PlantBased Solutions.

Photo via DF Mavens.

Photo via DF Mavens.

And, oh-so importantly, DF Mavens’ ice cream positively excels in quality, thanks to its unique variety of flavors, full-bodied taste, rich mouthfeel, and unparalleled creaminess. Certified gluten-free and kosher, and named by VegNews as the Best New Vegan Product at Natural Products Expo West 2013, DF Mavens claims that it has set a “new standard for dairy-free ice cream,” and I honestly cannot argue. DF Mavens produces three lines of ice cream, each based in a different type of non-dairy milk: coconut, soy, and almond. Impressively, all of them harbor the same decadent, silky-smoothness – the almond-based ice creams taste just as rich as the coconut-based ones! Clearly mindful of dietary allergies and restrictions (please note: I don’t include vegan in this categorization since I don’t consider it an inherently restrictive diet), DF Mavens also produces two sugar-free flavors, both of which have a coconut base.

And DF Mavens is opening a storefront in the West Village of NYC sometime this year! (Photo via EvGrieve.com).

And DF Mavens is opening a storefront in the West Village of NYC sometime this year! (Photo via EvGrieve.com).

The generous folks at DF Mavens sent me a sampling of five of their flavors, including at least one from each of the company’s three lines. From the coconut milk line, I received the Del Lago Chocolate and the Alphonso Mango; from the soy milk line, New Orleans Salted Praline; and from the almond milk line, Mint Almond Cookie and Caramel Apple Almond(NOTE: though the Food Empowerment Project does not yet include DF Mavens on its list of recommended ethically sourced chocolate companies, the folks at DF Mavens assured me that they source the chocolate in their ice cream from areas where industry slavery is not practiced.)

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Described as “a deep dark dreamy chocolate crafted from the finest cacao in Venezuela’s tropical lowlands,” the Del Lago Chocolate held a complexity of flavor that I certainly don’t usually expect from chocolate ice creams – they tend to taste rather one-note to me, and have since childhood. Surprisingly, I found myself “mmm”-ing just as happily with spoonfuls of DF Mavens’ chocolate ice cream as with the others sent to me.

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Harboring a more unctuous creaminess than the other ice creams, the Alphonso Mango boasted small chunks of mango for pleasant textural interest and provided me with clear recollections of biting into juicy, succulent fresh mangoes.

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Perhaps my favorite ice cream of the bunch, the New Orleans Salted Praline featured a swirling river of sticky salted caramel punctuated by glorious pecans – the richest and sweetest of all nuts, in my humble opinion. I only wish that each pint of this flavor contained a higher density of pecans, for I enthusiastically welcome a contrast of crunchiness among the otherwise smooth ice cream.

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Though not usually a huge fan of mint-flavored desserts, I absolutely inhaled the Mint Almond Cookie ice cream, which offered a chunk of homemade, gluten-free, Oreo-like sandwich cookie with every intensely minty spoonful.

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Finally, the Caramel Apple Almond sufficiently wowed me with its saccharine flavor and sticky texture, impressively akin to a real caramel apple – indeed, DF Mavens claims that licking a cone of this ice cream “is almost the same as eating a caramel apple.” Crunch factor aside, I would have to concur in regards to flavor.

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After this foray into DF Mavens’ world of non-dairy ice creams, I’m eager to taste their other flavors, most notably the Cardamom Pistachio, Peanut Butter Fudge Mash, Sicilian Hazelnut Truffle, and Key Lime Creme.

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I’m also eager to help one of you enjoy a DF Mavens foray of your own! Simply click on one of the links at the top and bottom of this post to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win four whole pints of DF Mavens vegan ice cream. Unfortunately, due to shipping costs and product sensitivity, this giveaway is only open to residents of New York City and its five boroughs. For those of you not included in this stipulation, check out the retailers near you that carry DF Mavens or order some for yourself!

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, August 3, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

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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.

In solidarity, Ali.