November Not-So-Guilty Pleasure: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

First off, these past two days have been a flurry of excitement in my little corner of the vegan universe. A piece I penned on expert tips for becoming vegan went viral-ish and I’ve received a wave of thank yous and HECK YES from so many awesome champions of this lovely plant powered movement of awesomeness and deliciousness. (Can you tell I’m a little too high on beet-carrot-apple juice right now for my own good?) Hooray!

So when Livvy of 86Lemons, one of my vegan eating idols, wrote this lovely post sharing my article with her network and these babies for growling stomachs:

…I knew what my celebratory snack would be. Excepts, I also knew, my rendition of these pumpkin-spiced cookies, would not come out looking nearly as pretty, so I figured I’d send you over to her drool-inciting blog instead to get it. Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies. Yes, they are going to be that good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This Week in Vegan Droolery: Cinnamon Pull-Apart Brioche, Apple Pie in Pecan Crust, and More

I have a problem. A serious problem. I could spend all day on my favorite food blogs staring at tantalizing recipes I’ll probably never have time to test. Luckily, my incredible job as resident Editor of Yumminess at Reader’s Digest allows me that indulge, and recently I even got to crank out a now blockbuster piece on “I Can’t Believe It’s Vegan!” Comfort Food  from my favorite blogettes (Yet to run in a male vegan food blogger in my travels, but I sure hope they’re out there!). What follows is a mix of recipes from some of the most delightful and creative vegan food blogs that I’ve already stocked my pantry for and others I’ve tucked into my “THIS IS HAPPENING FILE” after I go apple picking in a few weeks.
So, yes, apples. I can’t stop thinking about them. This Apple Pie in a Pecan Crust from Have Cake Will Travel is seasonal, perfectly crumbly and for the love of pie…just sublime-looking.
Because everybody needs a Cinnamon Pull-Apart Brioche to win over their steak-and-eggs guzzling boyfriend. Am I right? Okay even if I’m not, how can you argue with brown sugar, cinnamon and dough in the AM? Thank you, Have Cake Will Travel for salvation from Sweets for Breakfast Withdrawal Syndrome.

What first made me fall in love with Fat Free Vegan Kitchen’s recipe, was her use of exotic flavors and ethnic influences into flavor-packed, easy-to-pull-off meals. This Cumin-Infused Vegetables and Chickpeas over Quinoa is no exception. I’ve fluffed away quinoa lately for ethical reasons, so i plan on digging into this one with farro or sorghum. Yum times twelve.

There are two things you should know about me. I am a bread addict. And I am a tomato addict. Apparently Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes already knew both. Behold: the Eggplant Tomato Bialy Sandwich. To quote a crooning Eddie Vedder on his new album, infallible.

Time to get a-cookin’…just one more quick browsing adventure…

Wok-Tossed Crickets, Anyone?

This weekend at the New York City Wine and Food Festival, I had the chance to watch Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern prepare Wok-Tossed Crickets with Chives & Black Beans. Though the dish wasn’t exactly vegan fare I was drooling to get my hand on, chatting with my food hero reminded me of how we’re both champions for better health, a cleaner world and a safer food system. I hope he can open your eyes too for a different way of approaching our nation’s factory farming problems besides veganism: Alternative proteins. Because let’s face it, we’re not going to turn all carnivores into plant people anytime soon, and turning to different sources of meats offers a viable solution to our country’s food issues.

Though I’m not about to eat goat, crickets or various animals’ brains and bladders in the near future, he stressed to me that these options are more sustainable than their industrial, hormone-laced, pumped up counterparts. Sure, it might seem taboo to eat rabbit or horse or Cricket Flour Protein Bars  (Oh and, insects may be the new beef patty.), and I’m not about to anytime soon. But Zimmern certainly raises a valid and convincing argument: By eating these alternative sources of meat, we can support local farmers, promote healthier eating, put pressure on industrial farms to change their practices and work towards preserving our earth’s limited resources. And hey, is it just me, or are those goals pretty much in line with what ever conscious veganand any kind of conscious eater for that matter strives to do?

Read all things Andrew and Awesomeness at Learn more about the General Mills and Andrew Zimmern hosted Munchies Awards here. Follow him @AndrewZimmern.

The Best Cookies You Won’t Believe Are Vegan

I’ve had my fair share of vegan cookies, and quite frankly, most of them just don’t do it for me. And it sucks. But most of the time, that’s when you buy an overpriced one at a health food store or you are PMS-ing, desperate for a cookie fix and trying to convince yourself that the lame granola bars you’ve fashioned out of oats and assorted pumpkin seed-esque leftovers are, in fact, cookies (they’re not. C’mon, they don’t even stay together). So when I stumbled upon this beautiful Mason Jar and recipe from the folks at Pompeian Olive Oil, I was excited to see how I could veganize it up.

Here’s the recipe they gave me:

Pompeian Chocolate Chip Cookies

In Mason Jar:

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips (Note: make sure you use non-dairy ones!)

Additional Ingredients:

¾ cup Pompeian Grapeseed Oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grapeseed Oil Spray

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. In large bowl, blend Pompeian Grapeseed Oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat until mixture

is combined.

3. Add contents of mason jar; stir until mixture is thoroughly combined.

4. Spray cookie sheet with Grapeseed Oil Spray and sprinkle with flour.

5. Drop 1 tablespoon mixture onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-11 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Repeat with remaining batter.

Makes about 4 dozen.

So what brain-pushing and crazy recipe tweaking did I have to do to make this work? Brace yourself…

Swap the 2 large eggs for 6 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (ratio of water to flaxseed meal should be 3 tablespoons to 1; this works for pretty much any baking recipe that calls for eggs as a binder). Mix the water and flax together and stir. Let it sit for a few minutes and put your spoon back in. Behold: the mixture will take on a gummy consistency, just like eggs.

Yup. That’s it.

Yield: About four dozen that will disappear in mere minutes.
Note: If you feel like going really crazy, get creative like we did and add cinnamon to a few, a scoop of dark chocolate peanut butter to some others, and a few flakes of sea salt (gotta love that savory sweet contrast of sea salt a nd olive oil with warm, gooey cookies) to a few more. I dare you not to be in Levain-esque Bakery-infused heaven post-eating session.

Suja Juices: The Best Tasting Edible Rainbows You’ll Ever Have

I’m late to the whole juicing game. But about a year ago, I ponied up and began juicing on my own. My go-to is six carrots, two golden delicious apples, a handful of spinach, a lime and a bit of ginger. Yum times twelve, right? The downside of this, of course is 1) You have to drink it fairly quickly before it goes bad 2) You wind up with random amounts of leftover produce and either have to a) buy more to juice again or b) turn orange from roasting, sauteeing, salad-ing and blending carrots into just about everything possible to finish that five pound bag and 3) having to deal with a lot of kitchen clean up.

Simply put, juicing is great, and I love doing it on my own when I can, but if I want to make it a consistent part of my diet (which, after all, a green drink or two a day, should be the goal, not just to go on some overly-ambitious seven-day cleanse…), I have to find a more convenient way.

Lo and behold: Suja Juices. These stunningly fresh juices (available at Whole Foods) are cold-pressed using a special method that lets them last in your fridge for several weeks and makes sure they’re never “cooked” like many other juices on the market (learn more here).

Some of my notes in case you decide to indulge in a delicious sipper (You won’t regret it).

Glow: My favorite. Beyond refreshing. Also served it to myself in a wine glass, to make it feel more “special. I was a skeptic at first, but it totally quells hunger pangs for a serving of seconds after dinner (okay, thirds). You can add a few sprigs of mint to it to make it even more festive. (P.S. Who wants to “drink” alone? Pictured here with my roomie Natalie’s Fiji Suja)

Fuel: This carrot orange concoction is great for sweet tooths–the carrots lend it a natural sweetness coupled with the oranges and a sprinkle of cinnamon (okay, a tablespoon) helps keep insulin levels steady if you want to spritz it up. I’m confident your dessert cravings will go away if you gulp one down post-meal.

Vanilla Cloud: Like a “gateway drug” for those adverse to trying green juices. Its subtle sweetness is the perfect morning breakfast or nighttime treat. Is it bad that I first thought it would be great with a kahlua cocktail? Okay, maybe. But seriously, this one was good enough to get my totally non-sweet-toothed boyfriend to enjoy multiple ones in a twenty four hour span. So yes, it’s that good. And I even noticed a bottle of V8 in his fridge the next week.

Vegan Foods I Won’t Be Eating Anytime Soon

Recently, Huffington Post did a roundup of “12 Surprising Vegan Foods.” Among the shockers, Sara Lee Oven Fresh Apple Pie, Ritz Crackers,Betty Crocker Bac-o’s Bacon Flavor Bits and Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili (Sorry for ruining the surprise). PETA even has an awesome list of Accidentally Vegan foods. And while it’s great that I can know when I indulge in an Oreo (or seven…) that no animal products were involved in the process, it’s these kinds of additive-laden, salt-sugar-fat-so-full, products, that in my eyes, at least, somewhat defeat the principle of going vegan: being a conscious eater who makes food choices designed to preserve the health of animals, the environment and yourself. While unintentionally vegan products are certainly worth doing a happy dance over every now and then, if you’re making these processed foods staples of your diet, even if you’re “vegan,” you’re probably treating your body just as badly as any processed-food addicted carnivore.

Easy Vegan Fast Food Meals You Won’t Even Notice Are Missing Meat

I try to cook as much as possible, but when I can’t, there are plenty of easy vegan meals to grab when you’re on the go and fast food is your only option.

Here are three of my favorites:

1. Tropical Smoothie Cafe Flarbreads, Wraps or Salads

I only wish this incredible fast food chain (those smoothies!) had more locations. It’s got 300-something sprinkled around America and the first major chain to offer my plant-based protein obsession, Beyond Meat.  Tropical Smoothie Café has a variety of delicious combinations you can create with Beyond Meat Chicken Free Strips.

2. Chipotle Burrito

Load it with peppers and onions, black beans (FYI: their pinto beans are cooked with bacon), rice, salsa, corn salsa, medium salsa, hot salsa, lettuce, guacamole…or whatever combination of those items that your heart desires. It’s incredibly filling and so full of flavor you won’t feel like you’re missing out. And currently available in select west coast locations, their Sofritas,shredded, organic tofu brasied with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and aromatic spices is 100% vegan and we hope coming nationwide in the near horizon.

3.  Subway

It may not be ideal Vegan-a-vore heaven, but when you’re in a pinch, The Veggie Delite at Subway may actually pleasantly surprise your taste buds. They’ve got a good mix of veggies and I like to fill up a 9-grain hero with olives, jalapenos, peppers, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, spinach and avocado. Just make sure you pick a bread without any milk or cheese, like their flatbread (milk) or any of their cheesy breads (Read the full list of bread ingredients here)

4. Juice Generation

How could I not include Juice Generation? Currently only in NYC, this juicer’s haven has turned my meat-and-eggs body building boyfriend into a Joyful Almond aficionado. We always add spinach for an extra nutrient-boost (you don’t even taste it), but you can also add kale to any of their smoothie creations. In their cooler, they’ve always got dishes to send me over the vegan rainbow like cashew cheese ravioli (drool times twelve), maki rolls with microgreens, live pizza, and chia seed tapioca or young coconut cream pie for a sweet finish.

New Vegan Snack Obsession: Emmy’s Organics

I can be pretty much the world’s most boring person when it comes to snacks: I’m a fan of the one-ingredient ones that health magazines applaud, but regularly people pass up for more enticing options (almonds, pistachios, bananas and pears are my go-tos). But having recently sampled some of Emmy’s Organics raw, vegan delights, I think I might have to be just a little more open-minded. Her perfectly chewy macaroons are low in sugar, high in antioxidants and give you that perfect mid-afternoon perk or post-dinner treat. They’ve got a variety of tantalizing flavors (mint chip, coconut vanilla, dark cacao) but my favorite are the lemon ginger, with their subtle hint of spice. At only 5g a sugar per macaroon and with an ingredient list that’s completely recognizable, it’s a guilt-free indulgence I might just have to start making more regularly

The Easiest End of Summer Vegan Dinner Ever

Having recently read Mark Bittman’s “Zuke Alors!” piece in the New York Times Magazine, I was inspired to use this great veggie for a dinner. Hardly meriting a recipe, I simply used a vegetable peeler to make silky, slightly curly ribbons. I combined the zucchini with other veggies I had on hand (half an avocado, an orange bell pepper, cherry tomatoes) and gave the mixture a generous squeeze of several lemon wedges, a bit too heavy a drenching of extra virgin olive oil, some sea salt and black pepper and folded it all into Romaine lettuce leaves. Done! Sweet alors!

As for the not-so-pretty concoction on the side? Total snap too: Sauteed eggplant, mushrooms, some of those leftover tomatoes in some extra virgin olive oil and served it with sublimely crusty, fresh-from-the-oven (well, Whole Foods’ oven down the street from home…) sourdough. Sometimes the best Sunday night dinners are the no-effort ones.

P.S. A special thanks to my dear friend Lily who inspired this idea, by illuminating the simple beauty of a Romaine lettuce leaf as a vestibule for any matter of deliciousness.

3 Healthy Alternatives to My Least Favorite Grain

I have a confession to make. I don’t like quinoa. Yep, you got that right: A Manhattan-based food editor who can’t stand the city’s trendiest grain (Don’t worry, I’m a fan of kale). A little part of me cringes every time I see it as an overpriced side (or even worse, a main) gracing an otherwise un-offensive menu and when I peruse supermarket aisles, I silently lament when I see almost every last box of that fluffy fail has flown off the shelves but its heartier cousins remain neatly stacked, like valiant warriors praying they won’t be the last picked in a game of Red Rover. Indeed quinoa has sparked much ethical debate (the farmers in places like Peru and Bolivia who harvest it can no longer afford to eat it themselves), but even if that doesn’t upset your stomach enough to boycott the grain (it did for mine), there are plenty of great grainy cousins that make a delectable swap. As a (casual) vegan though, I know getting proper nutrition is important, so what protein-packed grains can a gal turn to? Easy.

1) Farro

This chewy, nutty superstar can be subbed for any salad recipe that calls for quinoa and I find that its heartier mouthfeel keeps me full for longer. My roommate and I offered up this simple creation for a potluck dinner this past weekend, and the lack of leftovers indicate it was a definite hit: Sautee onions, garlic, zucchini and eggplant until browned. Mix with cooked faro and add your favorite extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and red chile pepper flakes to taste; let sit for an hour to absorb the juices and serve cold.

2) Kamut 

This ancient grain makes me happy. Available as kamut berries, rice, flour, pasta spiral form and more, this heirloom delight (soak kamut berries over night to reduce cooking time) works well in pilafs and generally containing 30% more protein than wheat.

3) Barley

You call it barley; I call it Pearls of Goodness. Oft overlooked compared to its lamer and trendy pal quinoa, it’s a low-glycemic grain that works double-duty to keep your blood sugar levels steady while providing beneficial bacteria for your large intestine from its fiber content. Try swapping it for oatmeal (or quinoa, since people are into that these days….les sighs) in a breakfast dish with warm almond milk and sprinkling it with cinnamon and some berries for a nutritious treat.

My favorite brand for grains is Bob’s Red Mill because of its diverse offerings, commitment to nutrition and how company’s employees are treated (for his 81st birthday, Bob gave away his business through an Employee Share Ownership Program) but feel free to experiment with whatever works best for your taste buds and budget.