New Recipe…Citrusy Pepper Chili From Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking by Celine Steen

The title says it all but yet there is sooo much more in these pages!

When I was asked to review this cookbook, I had no idea who Celine Steen was so naturally I was pretty curious about her and checked out her blog, cutely named Have Cake Will Travel.  All I gotta say is WOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!  Seriously…if you want to see vegan food-porn, go to that page!  Don’t worry, I won’t be offended whatsoever if you stop right here to check it out 😉  And when you look at her intro page, she has been in the vegan cookbook scene for a while but this is her first solo cookbook and let me tell ya, I am beyond excited to share the recipe I am about to share with all of you!!!   Continue reading

A Taste of NYC Vegan (…and of course a giveaway!)

So much food porn on this cover…I do not know where to start!!!

Where do I start???  I first wanted to open up this post by talking in great detail about how last year my dear friend Zoe and I left for an extended weekend to New York City and despite all the vegan eating that took place, we met soooooo many amazing people in the NYC vegan community, including Michael Suchman who is one half of the power couple that is Vegan Mos (Sadly, Ethan Ciment was out of town…).  However, talking about that trip would take eternity and you would get bored before you ever got to the recipe and the giveaway…hahaha!

Continue reading

The Engine 2 Diet Review part 2…The Lifestyle!!!

Grab life by the kale!!!
Before I start, it’s been an exciting week (if you are a foodie) in my household…We finally discovered Spaghetti Squash and had a chance to try the Beefless Burger from Gardein, currently my favorite mock meat people!   That will be in my next blog so make sure you stick around!!!  I am now on Twitter and also have a Fan Page on Facebook so there are plenty of ways to keep in touch with your favorite vegan housewife 🙂  Also, in even more exciting news, I finally sent off my finished article to T.O.F.U. Magazine and hopefully soon I can share with all of you what I wrote about once the new issue comes out.  Now without any further delay….Here’s my take on the Engine 2 Lifestyle.  And since this review was split in two parts, I am also enclosing a recipe that is definitely worth trying 🙂

The best way to start is to go back to a couple years ago when my old vegan neighbor Meredith sought help and advice from a nutritionist.  It was cool enough that she was vegan but then she told Chuck and I that her vegan friendly nutritionist told her to cut out the oils in her foods and she mentioned about sauteing food in water or stock…I was blown away!!!  My first thought was “How dare you get rid of fat!” and “Fat is good for you as long as it’s a healthy fat, right?”  Of course, back then I thought all vegans were healthy and for the most part, thin.  Whenever I saw a fat vegan, I just figured they had bad genes or had a medical condition.  What I now know is that Meredith was way ahead of me and probably most vegans who embrace this lifestyle.  Veganism in general will without a doubt help you lose weight, but that alone is not the whole picture.  Like with any eating lifestyle, you have to consider portions, calories, fats, etc. to really make this work in your best interest.  One doctor on TV said it best that eating an orange is good for you, it’s just when you eat 500 oranges in one sitting is when you run into dietary trouble.  The Engine 2 Diet book addresses this issue very well and Rip Esselstyn did a great job making this as easy as possible.  Just look at the photo I posted above with Rip embracing those fruits and vegetables….Trust me, you will be hugging your produce good and tight well before your 28 Day Challenge is over 😉

I just want to break for a moment and mention that you do not have to be vegan in order to embark on the Engine 2 lifestyle.  Those who took the 28 Day Challenge with me for the most part were not vegan.  Some were all about the meat, oil and cheeses but wanted to see if this route was any better than the diet they were used to eating.  It amazed me how every week when I attended the support meetings that their views on veganism became more and more positive.  They no longer saw this as deprivation but saw this as an eye opener.  Non-vegans aside….Even the current vegans got a wake up call as well in their own way.  To further explain…I swear to everyone that vegans are the biggest foodies out there.  Not even touching the subject of restaurants, whenever a new vegan product comes out, we will try it and if it’s really good (in most cases it is!), we will buy so much of it that we need an extra storage unit in our house to hold it all (my pantry alone is proof of this theory!).  We will also tell our vegan friends who in turn, will do the same.  Not all vegan food is created equal and most importantly, not all vegan food is necessarily healthy.  There are the same obstacles we face that come in the form of white flour, sugar, added oils.  Also, vegans have a way of showing extreme financial support to any company (or restaurant) that has made an honest effort in making our lives easier.  Sounds all too familiar, huh???    During these weekly support meetings, it became apparent to everyone that the struggles were all the same, regardless of what you ate like before.  We all had to lean on Kristen, our Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods, to make it through the 28 Days…Just luckily, Kristen always had healthy treats waiting for us every Wednesday evening and additional recipes to help us through the week 😉

To continue on to the Engine 2 Diet book, none of the claims Rip Esselstyn makes can really be disputed.  Everything he mentions in the book has a very solid medical backing, courtesy of his whole family background of doctors, especially his father, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who has written a similar book a while back that is still being promoted by cardiologists to this date.  Also I should add that Dr. Esselstyn was one of the driving forces that inspired former President Bill Clinton into a vegan lifestyle.  Best of all, Rip is not pushing supplements or telling you to count points.  In fact, his website gives you a good gist of his program along with posting a handful of recipes from the book.  It’s pretty clear that he wasn’t out to get rich writing this book, he was trying to save lives.  If there is one thing I would advise while reading his book is to be prepared to know a lot about Rip as a person as this at times came off as a personal book.  At times while reading it, I could hear Rip’s voice narrating as my eyes were moving with each word.  Now after taking this 28 Day Challenge, I am more mindful of what I add to my food…especially the oil.  Right now as I am typing, I have a Vegan Moussaka in the oven that was an old favorite recipe of mine (I will post a recipe if it turns out well!) but I gave it a total overhaul.  In my old recipe, I would put a generous one cup of olive oil total from start to finish…That’s of 1,920 calories and 224 grams of fat!!!  So the dish is about roughly 6 servings so you are looking at an additional 320 calories and a little over 2 grams of fat per serving in oil alone….This may sound mild to some of you but just remember that there are other ingredients to consider that will make those numbers creep up in no time.  Hopefully as you are reading this, those numbers concern you as much as it concerned me…And the healthy modifications are so simple and best of all, you are not going to miss the added oils- I promise you that! 

So even though the 28 Day Challenge has came and gone, a lot of what Rip has taught me has stuck.  He lives “Plant Strong” 100% of the time and I admire him for that.  If you look at my household currently, I would say it’s safe to say that we are currently eating Engine 2 friendly meals about 85% of the time.  Although everything we eat is vegan but I will admit, Chuck and I have indulged in a piece of non healthy sweets here and there.  But at least now we are more aware and for whatever unhealthy recipe I have saved in my MacGourmet, I can come up with a couple good healthy modifications to make it better for your waistline 😉 

So with all of this being said, I am happy I took the 28 Day Challenge and I definitely have Whole Foods Market in Charlottesville to thank, and most importantly, Kristen Rabourdin, their official Healthy Eating Specialist for making all of this happen (did I forget to mention those awesome treats she made for us during our meetings?).  Now since you have been so patient about my review of Engine 2, I am pleased to post a VERY delicious recipe, courtesy of the lovely Kristen Rabourdin…This spread was a HUGE hit at one of our meetings and it would be a crime not to share it with you!!!  This healthy dip reminds me of carrot cake and has a perfect sweet/salty ratio.  My equipment of choice is to use a really, really, really good blender, like my trusty Vitamix (worth every penny!) or a decent food processor.  If your pureeing equipment is subpar, you can always lightly steam the carrots beforehand….

Carrot Cashew Spread
3 carrots, chopped (no need to peel just a good, gentle scrub)
1 cup of raw cashew pieces, divided (Kristen used 1/2 raw and 1/2 roasted…I only had raw at my house so I just added a pinch of salt to taste)
15 dried apricots, cut into quarters (approx 1/2 cup)
Blend and add carrot juice or water as needed until you reach desired consistency (think hummus!).  Serve with whole grain crackers or bread (especially any that qualify for Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here line)
I am not the best photographer but I swear it is worth trying!!!

Bon Appetit!!! 

A Working Vacation…

Thank goodness for vacations!!!  Chuck was fortunate enough to have some “use or lose” time on his hands and I couldn’t have asked for it at a better time.  We are not planning on going anywhere big during the time he has off (which is a first) but it’s nice to have him around to take care of Raegan while I am trying to blog and get a few other projects out of the way.  Which brings me to a few great updates….

The first project I need to get out of the way this week is my article for T.O.F.U. Magazine.  They are based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and they offer a great vegan magazine composed of many contributing writers from around the world and it seems that they are always looking for people to write about things going on in the vegan community-no matter how big or small that they seem.  Their magazine issues are on a “pay as you want” basis with a minimum purchase of $0 (therefore you can get it for free but I am encouraging all of those interested to donate a little something to help out a great cause!).  I think this would be a great opportunity to not only promote my blog, but to also show readers a side of veganism that often gets looked over.  Also, I can inform people that there is a vegan movement growing outside of the “college hipster” scene and into what most people consider the typical, traditional “All American Family” or those who are considered established in their careers.  I want to thank Ryan Patey, the editor of T.O.F.U. for giving me the inspiration to write about it 🙂

The next big project is to revive a website my husband and I founded nearly two years ago called C-ville Veg*n.  It kind of fell by the wayside mainly due to the fact that back then we both had hectic jobs and were just too tired to even post once a week.  And then with Raegan’s arrival, it just gave us more of an excuse to be even more lazy about it 🙁  My chief complaint was that it lacked real direction and I feel that this “revival” is going to fix that.  In my honest opinion, I feel that every successful website or blog out there needs to have a vision.  You don’t have to aim high, it can just be a small, simple purpose that means something to you and comes from the heart.  To me, C-Ville Veg*n needed to be kept in C-ville, hence the title.  Chuck and I made a deal that we would make more of an effort to try places off the beaten path in Charlottesville that would appeal to vegans.  Afterall, there’s only so many times you can hear about the same 5 veg-friendly places in Charlottesville until you feel like you are trapped.  I think for any vegan entering our town, this website could serve to be a great resource 🙂

On another topic, I have been cooking my way through the Engine 2 Diet book and I am confident to say that I probably tried more recipes than most of my friends who are taking the 28 Day Challenge with me right now.  I promise all of you that I will provide a run down of the recipes I have tried and give you my honest opinion on each of them once I am finished with the 28 days.  My “graduation” is on July 13th so that’s merely around the corner! 

While on the topic of Engine 2, I have decided to share with you a recipe inspired by the book.  It all started when I was talking to Kristen, who is the Healthy Eating Specialist at our local Whole Foods Market, about the Blueberry Dumpster Cobbler recipe.  We both agreed that it was NOT pretty looking (OK-I referred to it as “puke” but please bear with me!) when you combine the ingredients together and the final result was a blueberry creation with a crust that seemed like there was something significant missing to truly call it a “cobbler“.  Overall it was a tasty dessert but something was definitely missing.  That conversation led to me to looking at the local peaches I had in my kitchen and the ideas I threw around with Kristen.  Needless to say, I truly believe that I invented a healthier Peach Cobbler!!!  I’m not sure if you ever watched the movie, Duece Bigalow: Male Gigolo, but in one scene Deuce is with one of his “clients” and they are playing a game of Trivial Pursuit that was based around “Cakes and Pies…Cakes and Pies!” and if there was one thing I learned from that scene is that Peach Cobbler is a pie that contains the most sugar out of all the varieties out there!  In this version I am about to share, there is only 3 Tablespoons of raw agave nectar which to me is saying a lot since is did turn out to be a pretty good cobbler 🙂  I wish I could have a picture to go along with this recipe but it was so good it didn’t last long enough for a photo session!!! 

Robin’s E2 Approved Peach Cobbler
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 milk substitute (almond, soy, hemp…you choose!)
3 Tablespoons of raw agave nectar

2 cups of chopped peaches (I left the fuzzy skins on to keep the peaches intact but I’m sure you can peel them if you wish and get the same effect…same goes with frozen!)


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Combine all the ingredients except the peaches in a medium sized bowl.  The batter will be very runny!  Pour the runny batter in a 9X9 non stick pan or a pan that has been lightly sprayed with oil and top with peaches.  Bake for 45 minutes or until browned.  A great option is to serve this with Rip’s Magic Banana Ice Cream which is NOT found in his book 🙂

Still keeping on the subject of cooking and cookbooks, last week I got an exciting email from Wendy Vigdor-Hess, RD.  She is from the Charlottesville area and has been a nutritionist, educator, speaker and consultant for nearly 18 years.  She just recently came out with her first book titled, Sweetness Without Sugar and I was offered by Wendy to cook my way through her book the same way I cooked my way through the Engine 2 Diet.  Sweetness Without Sugar is a cookbook/cooking resource that is not only sugar free but also free of other common allergens such as dairy, egg, wheat and soy (obviously all vegan!).  Now before anyone reads the term “sugar free”, I am in no way talking about using Splenda or any of those commercial artificial sweeteners…Wendy’s book replaces refined sugars with natural sweeteners and gives great alternatives to recreating your favorite desserts.  I have met Wendy at a few Vegan Meetup events for nearly two years and I can tell you, she is very passionate about total wellness.  Being offered this opportunity is so exciting that I have also decided to delegate Chuck into providing photography (it’s his new hobby and he has a serious camera to prove it!) for the sweet creations I plan to recreate from Wendy’s book.  You should expect this shortly after my Engine 2 Diet graduation.

Wrapping things up, I am pretty excited about the things I will be taking part in this summer and I haven’t even mentioned all of them!  Although this week is technically a vacation in our household, there is still so much work to be done and so many opportunities to share on my blog so…

"Where’s the dough???" My Engine 2 Diet Saga…

Clara Peller’s famous words were “Where’s the Beef?” but I wonder what she would have said had she been vegan…

So here I am on Week 2 of the Engine 2 Diet…I have literally cooked my way through a majority of Rip’s book during this 28 Day Challenge and I find myself in the Pizza area of the recipe section of his book.  Let me just start by venting a little bit…Rip sucks when it comes to providing a pizza crust recipe 🙁  I have all these toppings but nowhere in sight is there any guidance when it comes to making my own “E2 Approved” doughy foundation to support my attempt at an Italian creation.  His only advice is to buy a store bought pizza crust and lists a few brands that he prefers.  I just cannot rationalize spending three bucks on premade cardboard that tries to pass off as pizza crust when I can easily make one at home for literally pennies!  Being the savvy person that I am, I looked online on multiple recipe sites to look for the perfect whole wheat pizza dough.  Now this is where the frustration starts…

Let me first start off by reminding some of you on what the Engine 2 Diet entails.  In brief, it’s no white four, no white sugar, no white pastas/bread/rice, no processed foods, very minimal oil, no meat, and no dairy products.  In addition, for every 200 calories a food product has, it cannot exceed 1.5 grams of fat.  It sounds restricting but it wasn’t until I tried to make a simple cheeseless pizza.  So my discovery took me in two directions…The best reviewed whole wheat pizza crust recipes included a mixture of both white and wheat flour.  Well, that’s not something I can do during my 28 Day Challenge.  Then I found recipes that did not include white flour and the reviews went something like… “The crust was hard as a rock” or “My dog even refused to eat it” or “I have eaten poster board better than this!”.  You get the picture…

So amongst the many roadblocks, one suggestion was to use whole wheat pastry flour.  For starters, that stuff comes in measly 5lb bags (or smaller!) and they are not very cost effective for a simple pizza crust.  Instead, I save that flour for something more special…like brownies. So here I am with a 10lb bag of whole wheat flour and no way to use it for pizza crust.  Upon further sleuthing I found a couple constructive ideas but I discovered that wheat gluten (yep the same stuff they use for seitan!) can be thrown into the wheat flour to make the dough more pliable and thus, resulting in a pizza crust that doesn’t give you the sensation of eating glass…So in my mission to spare anyone the grief that I went through to get to this point.  I am providing you the VERY first recipe in this blog.  I’ll admit, this is not New York pizza by a long shot and could use a but of tweaking, but for a pizza crust that would make Rip Esselstyn proud, this will definitely do the trick.  I also provided poorly done photos that I took with my iPhone 4, just so everyone gets an idea of the step by step process.

So without any further delay….

Robin’s E2 Approved Pizza Crust
1 cup lukewarm water
1 Tablespoon of raw Turbinado sugar  (Sugar in the Raw)
1 envelope of yeast (not fast rising!)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon wheat gluten
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (if using table salt, you might want to cut the amount in half)
Mix the sugar with lukewarm water until somewhat dissolved.  Add yeast and mix.  Wait 10 minutes.  During this time the yeast will “proof” and once those 10 minutes are up, you should notice a bit of foam on top on the mixture.  If there is no foam, your yeast is probably dead (or expired) and you will have to repeat again.  This is vital!!!  In a large bowl, combine the wheat flour, wheat gluten, and sea salt.  Then add proofed yeast mixture to dry ingredients.  I prefer mixing with your hands because your hands can give you a better idea on whether or not your dough is too wet or dry.  The dough should feel somewhat grainy but have a little (not like regular pizza dough so don’t get too picky here!) stretch to the dough (probably due to the added wheat gluten).  Once thoroughly mixed, your dough should look something like this:
Place a wet towel over your bowl with the dough and let sit for an hour until the dough has doubled, which should look something like this:
Dough so awesome that even my toes wanted to share the photo op!
Once the dough has risen, you will want to stretch/roll/press (whatever suits your fancy!) the dough into a standard size pizza pan (not the jumbo one!).  Let the dough rest in the pan for 10 minutes.  This will allow the dough to rise slightly again which is what we are looking for.  From there, you want to add your sauce, toppings, and any herbs you might want to use.  I used low sodium crushed tomatoes as my sauce and topped with peppers, onions, artichoke hearts, and pitted kalamata olives.  As far as herbs go, I used dried basil, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flake, and freshly ground pepper and I baked the pizza at 425°F for roughly 15 minutes (check the crust every 5 minutes or so to prevent the potential of burning!).
The end result is a pizza with a crust that kind of reminds you of toasted wheat bread…

So there you have it…my first official recipe.  I never thought it would be something as simple as pizza crust but this was a desperate time and I figured that there were others who were in the same rut.  I would love to get feedback on this recipe along with any modifications you made because this recipe probably could use a few in order to turn it into perfection.  I’m definitely open to suggestions and a great place to start is putting in the “Comments” section below….