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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tsubi Soup Review

I love reviewing new vegan products. The most recent request for my consideration arrived in my mailbox all the way from Japan. Tsubi Soup is a new (to the US) company, offering portable, instant, healthy, delicious miso soup. What a great idea!

Tsubi Soups are all natural, organic, and vegan. They're also free of GMOs, chemicals, gluten, and, since you might be wondering, radiation. According to the website (which is really well done), all the ingredients come from a safe and healthy place in the southern tip of Japan. So there you go. No worries.

The soup comes as small freeze-dried blocks, about an inch and a half square, in little foil packets that keep it all fresh for up to 1 1/2 years. Just drop the soup-cube in a cup, add 2/3 cup of boiling water, and you have soup. It tastes great with no added seasonings or sauces needed, so it's perfect for travel and work days when you want a handy snack in your bag.

I also used it in my morning hot miso-and-greens smoothie when I had run out of actual miso paste at home. It was perfect. Tsubi Soup saved my breakfast and tasted every bit as good as what I normally make.

You can order Tsubi Soup online for now. Tsubi herself is in the process of bringing her soups to US stores, and I look forward to meeting her when she visits Portland in March. Thank you, Tsubi Nishitani - CEO / Founder of Tsubi Soup, for reaching out to me about your wonderful product. I look forward to seeing it on store shelves near me! Come on Whole Foods! Do this for us!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Change Your Sauce, Change Your Life

I'm deep enough into the process now, that I can make an announcement - I'm working on a book of vegan sauces! Just sauce. Well, and maybe a few basic dishes to go under the sauces. Did you know that most of us, when we cook at home, rely on a meager handful of 5-7 meals that we know and trust and make over and over again? For this very reason, I'm a big believer that changing up the sauce can make an average dish new and exciting, and as a result of such excitement, might indeed even change your life. Butterfly Effect: change one thing, change everything.

OK, so maybe I exaggerate the life changing superpowers of sauce, but I do know with absolute certainty that a good sauce can make a dull meal magnificent. With this in mind, I'm hard at work (and play) creating a collection of super sauces that are easy to make, and go with a variety of dishes.

I'm giddily knee deep in this project. I'm also a little surprised at how much work it is. I'm getting there though! My plan is to self-publish it through CreateSpace, same as I did with my Mandala Coloring Book. I'd like to offer it on Kindle, as well as in print. It appears to all be do-able.

I'll post updates here, and hope to have it finished by say... end of February, although that might be overly optimistic, given the time it takes to edit and have proof copies printed. Wish me luck! I'm doing it all by myself, which is how I learn the most. I'm having fun! I'm especially looking forward to a sauce-making frenzy when it comes time to take photos. Right now I'm haunting thrift stores, in search of dandy little serving bowls. It's amazing what people get rid of.

Have a happy weekend. Eat some sauce! I'll see you back here next week sometime. xoxo

Monday, January 11, 2016

Reviewing Rawxies Healthy Raw Snacks

I first saw Rawxies healthy raw snacks at Portland VegFest in November. I say "saw" because I couldn't get anywhere near the booth to get a taste. They were swamped with eager tasters the entire show, which is a pretty good indication of what I was missing. Recently though, I was contacted by the company, and asked if they could please send me some samples. Lucky me! And I didn't have to wait in line!

I received both the sweet and the savory varieties, the Banana Nut Bread, and the Smoked Paprika Crunch. Both were delicious, substantial, and tasted like real food - because they are. Unlike a lot of packaged snack foods that are fluffed up with a lot of air, these raw delights are hearty and full of flavor.

The Banana Nut Bread cookie was moist and chewy, and really good with a cup of coffee. And it's cute to boot, shaped like a heart! Gluten free, soy free, dairy free too, it's a dreamy little treat, with ingredients we can actually recognize: gluten free oat flour, organic sunflower seeds, almonds, organic coconut, organic bananas, organic dates, organic palm sugar, walnuts, organic cinnamon, organic vanilla, pink himalayan salt.

The Smoked Paprika Crunch was a yummy surprise. Nice big pieces of crunchy goodness with tons of flavor and nutrition. Just look at the ingredients: organic sunflower seeds, organic flax meal, organic flax seeds, organic sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, pumpkin seeds, organic chia seeds, olive oil, organic lime juice, organic spice blend (smokey paprika, onion, garlic), sea salt. So, so good!

Rawxies is a growing company, and it's easy to shop for their products online. You can also search for a store near you, and ask you favorite local markets to carry them if they don't already. Oddly, nobody in Portland carries Rawxies... yet. I'll be putting in my request to several key places in my area. Come on Food Fight, Alberta Co-op, People’s Co-op, New Seasons, and Food Front! Your customers are going to love Rawxies!!! Portland needs these!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Welcome 2016!

Happy New Year, my veggie friends! I hope you're off to a good start, inspired and energized to make some happy, healthy changes in the coming months. I'm not one for "resolutions." They've always been a waste of time for me. But if I change the word to "goals," there's also a mental shift that automatically creates forward motion. I love the fresh start a new year brings, and I'm ready for this one.

My motto of the the moment is, "I have no plan, and I'm sticking to it." I have goals though, and leaving out the cast-in-stone plan part makes a lot of wiggle room for things to fall into place, as if by magic, in ways I never would have thought of if I were to take the whole grand design into my own hands.

I have three goals in the works at the moment, and they're subject to change, always. The first is to finish writing the vegan sauces book I've been tinkering with for longer than I care to admit. I know so many people who find plant-based cooking daunting, or who really just don't like to cook. Truth is, most of us, vegan or not, rely on only a small handful of dishes we're comfortable cooking, and tend to make over and over again. But in my experience, sauces make all the difference. You could literally make a stir-fry every night, serve it with a different sauce, and it would always be a new and exciting meal. I'll get that sauce book out there for you ASAP. Promise!

Next in the works is to teach some small, cozy cooking classes, either in my apartment, or in friends' kitchens. Short, not-overwhelming, useful classes like vegan cheese making, or wraps and rolls, or maybe even basic shopping-and-chopping. If you have an idea for a class that would be fun and useful to you, please drop me a note!

And third up, like so many others this time of year, I'm feeling a bit, um, "fluffier" than I like to be, after all the holiday fun mixed with a slower pace in the cold weather. I'm feeling ready to get out there for longer walks - even in the snow we have today! - and to nudge my diet back to where I know it needs to be for me to feel my best. Just because cookies can be vegan doesn't mean they're good for us... just sayin'. My solution to the extra padding problem is simple. Eat more greens!

I hate diets and I'm convinced they're more bad for us than good. My way of cutting back a bit is to simply put a nest of chopped greens under practically everything I eat. It's kind of a Lean Green Bowl idea that doesn't take a lot of explanation. Get a bowl. (A big one, but not a mixing bowl.) Fill it half full with any kind of greens, chopped finely so you can pack a lot in. Top that with whatever hot dish you're having. You're automatically eating about half of what you would have if you'd filled the bowl with the "big food," you get the benefits of all that wonderful green-ness, and there's no feeling of deprivation, because your bowl is still full, full, full!

For instance, here's my green bowl with Mideast Chickpea Soup. I had already added a lot of cabbage and kale to the recipe, and as you can see, I'm a big fan of "rooster sauce." 

In this case I used romaine. Sometimes I go for mixed lettuces, kale, spinach, or super-green mixes. It's important to change up your greens, and there are so many good ones out there, all washed and ready to eat. I love the flavor and texture of hot food over raw greens. The heat wilts the greens a little bit, but they stay crisp and add a nice contrast to whatever is on top. And it's almost as easy as grabbing a cookie.

So here we are, four days in, and off and running. If there's anything I can do to help you meet your goals, do let me know. More often than not, if you have a question, someone else has it too. So ask! And now, let's all go out there and make this an amazing year, with lots of room for happy surprises and adventures. We got this!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Thai Peanut Rolls

Rick and I hosted a little party at our place on Christmas night. It was supposed to be simple, but of course I kept expanding the menu, and as always, ended up making way too much food. We made a huge pot of green coconut curry with vegetables and sticky brown rice, guacamole, spicy adobo chile-laced queso, garlic truffle popcorn, mini rum balls, and threw in some good spreads and bread from Trader Joe's.

The favorite nibble of the night though was the big platter of Thai Peanut Rolls, which were inspired by a killer peanut butter sandwich I had at a food cart. Make these for your New Year's Eve festivities, or for no special reason at all. They're a great little appetizer when sliced into rounds, and also good simply cut in half and munched for lunch.

Thai Peanut Rolls

flour tortillas, any color
vegan cream cheese (I like Tofutti)
peanut butter
orange marmalade
fresh basil, chopped
grated carrots
Sriracha sauce
curry powder
red bell peppers, thinly sliced
baby spinach leaves

For each roll, spread cream cheese on about two thirds of a tortilla, going all the way to the edges. Spread a stripe of peanut butter, and one of marmalade onto the remaining third of the tortilla. Sprinkle basil over most of the spreads, leaving about two inches of the cream cheese bare. Add a thin layer of grated carrots over the basil. Drizzle lightly with Sriracha, and sprinkle with curry powder. Lay several bell pepper strips across the center of the tortilla. Top with a single layer of spinach leaves covering the half with the peanut butter on it. With the peanut butter end closest to you, roll it all up as tightly as you can, and let the plain cream cheese bit on the far side act as the glue to hold the roll together. Repeat the process to make as many rolls as you'll need. Slice them into bite-size rounds, and arrange on a platter. These don't really need a dipping sauce, but I like a little extra Sriracha on the side.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dining Out at New Taste of India

Dinner with friends is even more fun when we get to try someplace new to us. We're lucky to have friends here who have lived in Portland a long time, and know lots of vegan-friendly places to take us. New Taste of India, not too far from us, on Macadam, was a great surprise. They also have two downtown food cart locations, one of which turns out to be right across the street from where we live. Who knew!

The family-friendly restaurant is in strip mall, but don't let that trouble you. Once inside, you'll be comfortable, well taken care of, and the food is just amazing. There are lots of vegan options to choose from, most of them clearly marked on the printed menu, under the vegetable section, plus a few others under the appetizers, which our server pointed out to us.

We started with two plates of Vegetable Pakora (crispy fried veggies in garbanzo batter) for the table, which vanished almost instantly.

Rick and I shared two dishes - the Mixed Vegetables, and the Saag Channa (chickpeas and spinach). Both were cooked beautifully, spiced to our liking, and served with fluffy basmati rice.

The other vegan dish on the table was the Aloo Gobi, made with potatoes and cauliflower, and seasoned more tamely for our 8-year-old friend, who loves adventurous food, but can't take much spice. And although we didn't need it, we couldn't resist an order of Garlic Naan, fresh from the tandoor oven.

Do I even have to say how good everything was? So, so good! And we all commented on how those small looking serving bowls held a lot more food than we thought. We all took home leftovers to enjoy for lunch, which is exactly what I'm doing as I write this.

I'll be popping over to the New Taste of India food cart soon, and will look forward to the next time we visit their restaurant for another relaxing, delicious evening.

Monday, November 30, 2015

I Heart Keenwah Review

The nice folks at I Heart Keenwah asked me to check out their snack products and tell you what I think. I'm always up for a snack! And if it leans over to the healthier side of snacking, I'm all in. As you probably know, quinoa, the adorable little super pseudo-grain (it's actually a seed) is packed with complete protein. As a base for a snack, it's really much better for you than a lot of the other crunchy-salty things we love to munch on. One serving of the savory flavors has 5 grams of protein, and the sweets have 3 grams. That's pretty good.

First of all, I think it's brilliant of them to spell the name phonetically, so people can learn how to say it. KEEN-Wah! Now we got it!

On to the taste test! There are 5 varieties of the "sweet and crunchy" snacks, and 4 varieties of "savory and airy," which turned out to be my favorites.

Rick helped me sample 3 of the savories - Herbes de Provence, Sea Salt Truffle, and Sweet Chili. All 3 were great! They're a lot crunchier than your typical old school cheese puff, and smaller than they look on the package, which is not a bad thing at all. They're munchable!

The flavors are pronounced and real and identifiable. Rick liked the Sweet Chili the best, because he goes for a sweet slant, even in savory foods. They were spicy too! My favorite flavor was the Sea Salt Truffle. These tasted sort of... elegant. I like that right out of a bag! And we both agreed that the Herbes de Provence tasted a lot like Thanksgiving, and thought they'd be really good used as croutons on a salad or soup. Any of them would, really.

The 2 sweet flavors we sampled were The Chocolate Sea Salt and the Cashew Cranberry. We loved them both, but as usual, I preferred the saltier one, while Rick reached more for the sweeter fruity one. It all works out so perfectly.
Bottom line is, would I buy these? Yes! And you can too. Get I Heart Keenwah snacks online, or check their Stores page for a store that carries them near you!

A Happy Cow Look at Portland VegFest 2015

Check out this video link from the folks at Happy Cow! It's a fun look at VegFest, and doubles as a mini tourist guide to some of Portland's vegan highlights. You're going to want to visit us!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Easy Meatless Monday Recipe - Winter Lentil Soup

Living in Portland, I don't cook as much as I used to. There's so much great, affordable vegan food here, and I have such a crummy little kitchen, I'm just not feeling the recipe-inventing love. However,  a lot of you ask me for easy vegan recipes to either help you get started on a plant-based path, or add variety to your already-vegan diet. I'm happy to help with that! A little research turns up hundreds of great, simple plant-based recipes. I know you don't have a lot of time to filter through all that, so I'll dig around for recipes that look like something I'd like to try in my minimal kitchen, and share them with you here. Hope it helps! Enjoy!

Thank you for the lovely photo and recipe!
With Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday, it's nice to have some easy recipes to float us through the early part of the week with minimal effort. Make a big pot of this, and eat it for days!

Winter Lentil Soup

Here's what's in it:

olive oil
canned whole tomatoes
sweet potatoes
brown lentils
fresh thyme
salt and black pepper
grated [vegan] Parmesan (optional)

Look good? Get the whole recipe at!