Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Sweet Vegan & a giveaway!

Please head over to my new blog at, where you'll find this post & more!

The past few months have seen the release of a plethora of fabulous vegan cookbooks & My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky is no exception! From the minute the book landed in my hands, I was drawn in by the beautiful layout which includes full color photos, taken by Hannah, for each & every recipe! Upon closer inspection, you find a collection of unique & tempting recipes such as Caramel Macchiato "Cheese" Cake, Lemon-Lime Sunshine Bundt, Turtle Shortbread Wedges, & Wasabi Chocolate Cupcakes, & as well as a selection of classic cookies, muffins, pies, tarts, & cakes! This isn't your standard vegan dessert book, Hannah's approach is a refreshing & exciting take on vegan sweets, yet it's approachable & easy to follow.

Before reviewing this sugary sweet selection for you, I had to try out a few recipes to see if they taste as fabulous as they look on the pages. I am a fiend for marshmallow, so the Marshmallow Mud Cake was the first up to bat, a treat to share with friends as we celebrated the new year! This chocolate cake makes use of chocolate soy milk for extra flavor & is topped in a confectioners sugar & ricemallow blend that makes for a fluffy topping for the true sweets lover! I had a bit of an issue with my frosting slipping down the sides of the cake, but that didn't stop me from trying to load it as high as possible before drizzling the top with chocolate!

I let Ryan pick out another recipe to try & of course it was a peanut butter & chocolate combination in a cookie form; Peanut Butter Bombs. These are a chocolate cookie with a baked-in peanut butter center & a true treat! I was lucky enough to have Ryan on filling duty, so these came together quickly & were immediately dipped in soy milk & consumed once they came out of the oven.

My favorite way to enjoy a new cookbook is to go through every page & put tabs on the recipes I'm interested in making. I have no doubt you'll be seeing Lace Sugar Crisps, Black Bottom Blondies, Peach Melba Layer Cake, & maybe even a Mocha Devastation Cake from My Sweet Vegan coming out of my kitchen in the near future!

Do you have a copy of My Sweet Vegan yet? Want to WIN one?
I am giving away one copy of My Sweet Vegan to a reader!
To enter, leave a comment letting me know your favorite unique flavor combination & you may find a copy of My Sweet Vegan on your doorstep! The winner will be selected at random, but you must play along & answer the question to be entered. I will announce the winner on February 6th & hopefully it will arrive in time to make something on St. Valentine's Day for YOUR sweet vegan!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Do unto others..

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While hiding indoors from this awful weather we're having in San Francisco, I thought I'd do a little update about some recent events going on in my world.

Rocket Dog Rescue is an amazing organization in San Francisco who has saved over 1,900 dogs in its existence! Sadly, Pali Boucher, the founder of Rocket Dog, lost her home and three beloved foster dogs, & her parrot in a house fire not too long ago. While I was unable to attend a recent benefit being thrown for her, I whipped up some cupcakes to be sold at the event. Mini Chocolate cupcakes were topped with either Peanut Butter buttercream or Mint icing with crushed chocolate cookie bits & the large cupcakes were dressed with Peanut Butter buttercream & a Scharffen Berger chocolate snowflake piece on top. I received the most lovely email after the event letting me know the treats were well received! Rocket Dog is an amazing organization & I'm glad I could help in a small way.

Last week Amy, Danielle, & I went to Santa Clara University & tabled for Californians for Humane Farms. While we didn't anticipate so many students would be from out of state, we gathered a good amount of signatures from a friendly crowd. We were lucky enough to have donations from two companies to entice students over to our table! Let's Do Organic was kind enough to supply vegan gummy bears in both regular & sour flavors & Vegan Sweeties donated individually wrapped Chocolate Chip & Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies! The cookies were perfect for students to grab & they went quickly! Of course, gummy bears are a crowd pleaser as well. Laurie from Vegan Sweeties also sent some Blueberry Jammies for the girls & I to test; they were FABULOUS! I named them the "donut cookie", as I felt like I was eating cakey donuts with a little zing of blueberry jam. Vegan Sweeties is mainly mail-order, so if you need cookies for an event, check them out, I've heard the brownie cookies are awesome!

By the way, if you're in California, it's not to late to sign up to reduce the suffering of 20 million animals on farms in this state. Even if you collect a few signatures from friends & family, it will be an amazing help! Every signature counts! Californians for Humane Farms needs 650,000 signatures to see this important bill on the ballot & we can't do that without your help!

Finally, we had another successful installation of the Vegan Brunch Cartel this past weekend. I am lucky enough to be a tester for the new vegan brunch book by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, so I made her Cauliflower & Red Bell Pepper Quiche for the event. This was my first attempt at a pie crust, it was well worth it; the quiche was a success! If this recipe is any indication to what's in store for the book, it's going to be another amazing publication for your kitchen shelf!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Birthday Mania, I'm a Cupcake Hero?!, & Europe!

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After the madness of the Holidays, there's always one more day we celebrate in my household; my birthday! In years past, I've hid from this day, as I'm not fond of growing older, but recently I've decided to mask my distaste of aging with a party! As you know, I always like an excuse to gather people together & this was no exception.

I debated my birthday cake situation for weeks. Should I order one? Should I make my own? In the end, I went with an ice cream cake from local shop Maggie Mudd, purveyors of Muddslinger's vegan frozen desserts. The "cake" was an oreo-style cookie crumb crust & was topped with two types of ice cream of my choice, placed side by side. Death Squad; a combination of chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallow, fudge, peanuts, & brownie bits took up one side & Twisted; peanut butter ice cream with peanut butter & marshmallow swirls & peanut butter covered pretzels took up the other! It was rich, decadent, & the crumb crust was a perfect addition, although I must say the mix-ins were sparse, as many bites were only ice cream. I took advantage of the photo cake offering & threw my blog logo on there! I thought the birthday message of "Life Ain't Nothin' but Bitches and Money" would be written in fluffy pink frosting, but unfortunately they just digitally altered the file I sent. Overall, it was a good cake & a nice way to enjoy my birthday without laboring over my own celebratory dessert!

In addition to the cake, I pulled out one of my favorite treats; the chocolate fountain! While it may seem insane to own a chocolate fountain, I assure you, it's a delicious treat enjoyed at any party. Deep dark chocolate flowed as people drenched both sweet & savory items in it before consumption. Cherries, strawberries, pineapple, apples, rice krispie treats, pretzels, & of course, Candy Cane Joe Joe's were the items on display & I noticed some other salty treats, like chips, started to be dipped in as well! Bottom line? I love the chocolate fountain & don't have one ounce of regret that I bought it!

There was also non-dessert food there, surprise, surprise! A mini potluck occurred & we noshed on pita & hummus, chips & guacamole, crackers & creamy Sheese, & Ryan's popular dish; cream cheese with hot chili poured over the top! It was the first thing to go, as people ravenously scooped the dip up with chips.
I received amazing presents; gift cards to my favorite places, an adoption of a sheep named Sophie at Animal Place, Sweet & Sara marshmallows, Sheese, & Liz Lovely cookies, an adorable heart covered Jessie Steele apron I've had my eye on, & more! Ryan's gift surprised me most of all, as I never expected something so amazing, especially as we never exchange gifts for holidays. A 9 piece stainless steel All Clad Cookware sets is now in my possession & it is the most beautiful thing a girl with a love of cooking could ever ask for!! To end the night, I headed out dancing at one of my favorite clubs. I ran out to the dance floor with a major sugar buzz & while I probably looked like a maniac, it was a perfect end to my 27th birthday!

In a previous post about my Rich Chocolate Cupcakes topped with Mint Icing & Bittersweet Chocolate Dipped Candy Cane Joe Joe’s, I'd mentioned I may enter them in to the monthly Cupcake Hero contest. Well, I'm happy to say I entered them & I WON! December's entries were all fabulous & I was especially happy to see other vegan entries in the competition this time around. I was totally surprised to take home the title for December & it was a perfect way to wrap up my birthday!

In other news, Ryan & I are heading to Europe in March!
We'll fly in to Frankfurt on March 10th & spend just over 2 weeks traveling around; my birthday present to him. As of now, we plan to visit friends in London & check out Berlin, but we're looking for other destinations to explore. Recommendations on things to see, places to eat, cities to check out, ways to travel, inexpensive places to stay or if you have a place we could crash at for a few days, I'd love to know! Get in touch via email (melisser AT or leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wheeler's Black Label Vegan Ice Cream!

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For those of you who are avid veg blog readers, you've probably been reading the hype about Wheeler's Black Label Vegan Ice Cream. Everyone from Isa at the PPK blog, Emilie at the Conscious Kitchen to the crew at SuperVegan is raving about this tantalizing treat. Well, I'm here to say, BELIEVE THE HYPE. I was able to get my hands on two flavors of Wheeler's ice cream & I'm here to give you the scoop (sans additional puns).

It all started with a visit to the VegNews headquarters where the goods were delivered after being flown in from Boston. That's right, an actual person brought them on a plane, then walked in the door with a box of ice cream for us to sample! I acquired Chocolate Chocolate Chip (rumored to be Wheeler's favorite) & Passionfruit, then quickly ran home to try them.

I'd planned to wait for Ryan to come home, but decided to have a little taste of Chocolate Chocolate Chip. Wow. It was tough not to devour it all on the spot! Of course, I had to taste a bit of Passionfruit as well & it invoked the same reaction.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip is a smooth & creamy ice cream with a deep chocolate flavor and hand cut pieces of chocolate. The depth of flavor & texture is decadent & unparalleled by any vegan ice cream out there, but it will also give any diary drenched dessert a run for its money.
I decided to use a portion to make a sundae topped with peanut butter & toasted Sweet & Sara marshmallows, it can only be described with one word: HEAVEN. Wheeler's is using Sweet & Sara in some of their new ice cream flavors including "Sweet and Sara Hot Chocolate" & "Ambrosia"; yes, please!

Passionfruit is not a sorbet, but a luscious ice cream & while it didn't immediately register as passionfruit, it does register as smooth, mellow flavored, & delicious. I'm not normally a fruit flavored ice cream person, I like my desserts sinful & over-the-top, but this tickled my taste buds in a way fruit rarely has!

To say I was impressed would be an understatement, both Ryan & I found ourselves wondering how something this creamy & smooth could be a vegan ice cream. While the current market options are fine, this blows them all out of the water! Based on what I've tasted thus far, I give Wheeler's ice cream a solid 4 1/2 stars & we all know how strict my rating system is!

Do yourself a favor & check out the Wheeler's Black Label Vegan Ice Cream blog. While this treat is currently only available on the East Coast, & a Wheeler's storefront is forthcoming in Boston, rumor has it there's other ways you can get your hands on some!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Holiday Survival, Los Angeles Eats, & a Peanut Butter Fudge recipe!

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Happy New Year! I hope everyone survived the Holiday season & is ready for a fun & fabulous 2008! Here's a shot of our vintage silver tree complete with vintage ornaments. I wish I could capture the lighted color wheel as well, but the reflection of the tree on the walls will have to suffice.

The Christmas season started for us with a road trip to Southern California to spend time with Ryan's family. Being so close to Los Angeles, we decided to check out restaurants & meet up with friends. To kick things off, we dined together at Madeleine Bistro in Tarzana, a lovely restaurant with organic, vegan fare & a seasonal menu. The meal was just what we needed after the stress of a long drive! Lemon rosemary seitan with an asparagus crepe and vegetables, as well as a holiday special of "chicken fried seitan" with mashed potatoes, cranberry, & sweet potatoes tickled our taste buds! We wrapped up the meal with a trio of pies; pumpkin, pecan, & french apple & I insisted on the chocolate souffle. At the time, I didn't realize what a feat a vegan souffle can be! It was delicious & I feel as though I should replicate it when I have the time.

Another night brought us to Pure Luck in Los Angeles with a group of awesome friends from the blog world to the PPK! Bazu from Where's the Revolution, Teresa from MaybePigsCanFly, Sharon from To Live and Eat in LA, Trina from Your Vegan Mom, as well PPKers Mike, Jenny Shades, Jenny Stench & friends all gathered to nosh & drink beer together!

The jackfruit carnitas tacos are something that need to be tried to be believed! Ryan & I practically inhaled them with a side of fried pickle chips in BBQ sauce, as well as two more tacos filled with plantains with sweet cream! The jackfruit carnitas tacos have been on my mind ever since this meal, so I'm going to attempt to make them this week.

After the grub, we headed to Scoops across the street only to find they were just about out of vegan flavors! A few of us ended up with some Lemon Jasmine ice cream, not my first choice, but it was smooth & refreshing nonetheless. It sounds like I'll have to make it back to Scoops earlier in the day sometime in the future as we missed out on flavors like Strawberry Balsamic & Tiramisu!

Sharon was kind enough to bring mini cupcakes from Leda's Bake Shop for Ryan & I! Everyone "oohed" & "ahhed" at their lovely decor & they were throughly enjoy later that night in our car before heading home. In addition to the lovely cupcakes, Teresa gave me a copy of Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan & Bazu gave me a Make Your own Chai kit! Aren't I the luckiest?! Thanks again ladies!

On Christmas Day, we were back in the Bay Area to spend time with my family. I didn't think I would have time to bake, but I managed to whip up some goodies for the celebration! Once again the Snickerdoodles from Kelly & Garrick's upcoming cookie book were made with the addition of their amazing English Toffee Bars, which you can find a recipe for here! Make them! The easiest thing I whipped up was Peanut Butter Fudge, which doesn't get baked at all, so you can whip this up for yourself anytime.

Peanut Butter Fudge
3/4 cup Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
1 cup peanut butter (natural works best, as sweetened will be far too sugary.)
3 cups confectioners' sugar (sifted, if clumpy)
2/3 cup cocoa powder

Lightly grease a 9x9 baking dish, parchment is another option for the bottom.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt margarine.

Remove margarine from the heat and whisk in peanut butter until smooth.

Stir in the confectioners' sugar & cocoa, a little at a time, until well blended. It should be thick!

Smooth & press the mixture into your prepared pan & chill until firm.

Once it's firm, cut it in to squares & enjoy!

This fudge tastes awesome right out of the freezer! It's a somewhat soft fudge, & it melts a bit, so it's nice to have some completely solidified.

In addition to sweet treats, I had quite the feast of savory foods! Family dinners can leave a vegan's plate pretty empty, but my mother was wonderful & prepared the mashed potatoes & green beans dairy-free, plus she surprised us with delicious fruit kabobs. My plate was full with Celine's Seitan "steaks", mashed potatoes & punk rock chickpea gravy, Ryan's cranberry sauce, green beans, & fruit kabobs. Needless to say, I was very satisfied with my holiday feast!

Well, 2008 is here! I started it dancing on a bar & playing Guitar Hero with friends, but after some rest time, I attended a brunch at the home of Shane & Mel from Veglicious Recipes! Mel was the most amazing host & made all the food herself, which included Lettuce Wraps, Peanut Butter coffee cake, roasted vegetables, Apple & Pear salad, & Cherry Coconut muffins, many of which you can find recipes for on her blog! It was an excellent way to start 2008 & if it's any indication of the year in store, it will be a fabulous year!