March 28, 2012

New Contest Winner

Hello! So Katie, the original winner of my Blissful Bites by Christy Morgan giveaway, never contacted me. Sorry Katie, I tried to give you lots of time to respond, but I had to choose a new winner. The new winner, chosen at random is...


Who wrote: "Fresh fruit is absolutely blissful!"

So many fruit fans around here! And I'm one of them.

aschwitters, please email me at hally dot thornton at gmail dot com as soon as possible and a new cookbook will be on its way to you! Have a great day everyone!

March 26, 2012

Recipe Testing

Just a quick peek at some of the recipes I've been testing for Isa. That's a homemade peanut butter granola bar with a smoothie that I had for breakfast one morning.

Don't they look pretty all browned in the pan? I didn't even really know you could make granola bars at home. And they're GOOD.
These are the Lunchbox Chocolate Chip Cookies. They're quite healthy (well, at least they're not unhealthy) and so yummy. Can't wait for the cookbook to come out so all of you can try the recipes, too! Have a great Monday!

March 25, 2012

Recipe - Zesty Chickpea Salad

You know the old saying, "Opinions are like a**holes; everybody's got one"? Well, chickpea salad recipes are to vegans like opinions: everyone has their favorite way to make it. I decided this week to come up with my own and I've gotta say... I kinda killed it!

In my pre-gan days I loved tuna salad from a certain deli in Tucson. One of my friends who worked there said that the secret to really good tuna salad is fresh dill. Since then I've been using fresh dill in everything I can sneak it into, I adore it! It is one herb that doesn't get enough love, so I knew it would definitely make it into my chickpea salad. I also like a lot of crunch in recipes like this, so I used celery, green onion, and (the dark horse ingredient) diced red pepper. I love the way the peppers burst in your mouth with each bite, they really add an unexpected flavor here. Finish it up with some fresh lemon, vegan mayo, salt and pepper and layer it on toasted multigrain bread with tomato and lettuce. SO GOOD.

I'll let Johnny's words speak for themselves: "Next time you make this, don't change ANYTHING." "You have to blog about this." "This is one of the best sandwiches I've ever had!" Oh, and we ate this for dinner two nights in a row. Unprecedented in our household! I served it the first night with a simple vegetable soup and the second night with roasted sweet potatoes. I had a ton of leftover cilantro in the fridge, so I made a cilantro pesto to go with the potatoes. Stayed tuned for that recipe in my next post! 

Zesty Chickpea Salad
Serves 6-8

2 cans organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
5 tbsp vegan mayo

In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas until they are nearly all broken up, leaving a few whole. Add in all other ingredients and stir to combine. It's as simple as that!

March 19, 2012

Giveaway Winner for "Blissful Bites" by Christy Morgan!

Just a quick note to announce the winner of my giveaway from last week. The lucky reader who will receive a copy of Blissful Bites, the wonderful new cookbook from Christy Morgan, is.... Katie! She wrote:

Congratulations, Katie! I couldn't agree more, mangoes are way up there on my list of blissful foods. Please drop me a note at with your address and BenBella Books will send you your prize. Yay!

Also, I made the most AMAZING chickpea salad sandwiches for dinner tonight. Recipe for that coming soon. Have a great evening everyone!

March 15, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway - "Blissful Bites" by Christy Morgan

As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently sent a copy of Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals That Nourish the Mind, Body, and Planet, the new cookbook from Christy Morgan, to review. I have been following Christy on Twitter for awhile now and her comments never fail to make me laugh or inspire me to try something new in the kitchen, so I was interested to find out what her recipes would be like.

First, a bit about Christy: she is a vegan macrobiotic chef. She was trained at The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts in Austin. She teaches classes and gives lectures about how to change your life through healthy cooking. And she has a blog called The Blissful Chef where you can find tons of information about vegan cooking, recipes, etc. It's safe to say that this chick knows her stuff!

Now, onto the book... let me start by saying that it's absolutely gorgeous. I love that it is paperback rather than hard cover because it is easier for me to use in the kitchen and lighter to carry around. Christy's introductory comments pulled me in right away because it's quickly apparent that her food philosophy is very similar to my own. She urges you to listen to your body and feed it with the foods that make it feel best. When your diet focuses on fresh, organic produce, whole grains, lean proteins, etc. you just end up feeling better -more balanced, calm, and energized. It's not about stigmatizing foods and labelling them as "good" or "bad", but simply about being intuitive. There will always be a time and place for an indulgence or two, but the goal should be to stay away from caffeine, sugar, white flours and highly processed foods, since they tend to drag you down physically. Common sense, really.

I know all of that is easier said than done, but flipping through Blissful Bites, I was amazed at how many of the recipes called to me. Christy makes eating well seem very appealing and not at all like you're giving anything up. The book is divided into categories like "Breakfast and Brunch of Champions", "Delectable Vegetable Sides", and "Healthier Desserts You Crave". Each of those categories is further broken down by season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Anytime. This really helps you to focus on fruits and vegetables that are in-season and readily available. I love that! Cooking seasonally and locally is always a goal of mine, so this is right up my alley. 

Christy also marks each recipe with applicable icons for raw, gluten-free, soy-free, low or no oil, and less than 45 minutes making it very easy for people with special diets to quickly find recipes they can enjoy. Because Christy is also a private chef, she has marked some recipes as "Chef Favorites" and "Fan Favorites" based on those for which she's had the best feedback. And there are beautiful full-color pictures of most of the recipes, which always helps you to know that you're on the right track when tackling something for the first time.

I had a REALLY hard time figuring out which recipes to test first because they seriously all look so good! One in particular really stood out to me and that was the Veggie Stuffed Pasta Shells with "Mama Mia Magnifico Sauce" and Tofu Ricotta Cheeze. As someone who suffers from acid reflux, I am always looking for ways to cut down on trigger foods like tomato sauce, and the "Mama Mia Magnifico Sauce" contains no tomatoes whatsoever! I had to give it a try. The base is butternut squash (which is pretty genius, since it has a texture very similar to crushed tomatoes when it's cooked and blended) and it is given a red hue from  grated beets. I was surprised at how much it looked like the real thing! 

I knew it would be tough to get Johnny to try this one since he is serious about his Italian food. But I explained this was not meant to taste exactly like tomato sauce. Rather, it was more like a vegetable sauce that should be judged on its own merits. He finally gave it a shot and he totally loved it! I was equally impressed and coming away from dinner without that acid feeling in my throat was a big bonus.   

My lovely mother-in-law and brother-in-law were in town this past weekend, so I thought it'd be fun to make brunch for everyone one day. The Pumpkin Spice Pancakes sounded too good to resist, so I made up a batch of those and they were very well received. They are a great spongy, fluffy consistency and are perfectly spiced. Johnny was once again the lone holdout, busying himself with his fruit salad before daring to try the pancakes (I guess he has something against pumpkin due to his dislike of pumpkin pie). I left the room for a minute or two and when I came back, he had gobbled up three pancakes and also had his foot in his mouth.

I was a bit more hesitant to serve the Sizzling Tempeh Bacon to everyone as I knew my MIL and BIL had never had tempeh before. But they both really enjoyed it and my MIL even said she would cook it at home if I gave her the recipe! You can buy some pretty good pre-packaged tempeh bacon at the store, but it doesn't really compare to making it yourself. This version is slightly sweet, salty and smoky - the perfect accompaniment to any breakfast or brunch.   

I plan to cook many more recipes from Blissful Bites and highly recommend everyone pick up a copy for themselves. If you are lucky enough to be in one of the cities Christy is visiting on her book tour you should definitely go! Here are some upcoming dates:

Thursday, March 15th @ 5:30pm - Roots Market, Washington, D.C. - book signing with food samples

Saturday, March 17th @ 4:15pm - Whole Foods Tribeca, New York, NY - cooking class and book signing

Monday, March 19th @ 6:00pm - Sun in Bloom, Brooklyn, NY - dinner, cooking demo and book signing

Tuesday, March 20th @ 6:30pm - Whole Foods Market, Dedham, MA - cooking demo and book signing

For additional info on any of these events or for additional dates, visit Christy's web site here.

*** BenBella Books, the publisher of Blissful Bites, has graciously offered to send a copy of the book to one of my readers! To enter to win, just leave a comment below saying what blissful food is to you. The deadline to enter is Saturday, March 17th at 12:00pm EDT. Good luck! ETA: We can only ship to addresses in the US or Canada on this one. Sorry international peeps, I'll get you next time! ***

March 13, 2012

Vegan Sweet Treats

You may have noticed that there has been a lack of food related entries as of late here. A few reasons for that. First, I have been testing recipes for some upcoming projects for the lovely Isa Chandra Moskowitz (!!!). This is quite exciting as Isa has always been such a favorite of mine. She's written quite a few cookbooks that are essential to any collection such as Veganomicon, Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Pie in the Sky, and my favorite, Appetite for Reduction. Right now, I am testing recipes for her contributions to the upcoming Forks Over Knives cookbook (her contribution will be low-fat and low-sugar dessert recipes) as well as meals for her latest cookbook that will focus on easy weeknight meals.

I've also been cooking my way through Blissful Bites, the new cookbook by Christy Morgan. Her publisher contacted me to see if I'd be interested in reviewing her book and I jumped at the chance. Christy's food philosophy is very close to my own - lots of whole foods, veggies, fruits and nothing too complicated. The book is amazing and I'll be posting a full review very soon. I'll also be hosting a giveaway for a copy of Blissful Bites, so keep your eyes peeled!

*** Note that Christy's book tour is underway, so if you're interested in checking her out or attending one of her cooking classes, check here for dates and locations! More about this in my upcoming post, just want to give people a head's up. ***

Anyway, it's been nice not having to be too inventive in the kitchen the past few weeks, but the downside is that I don't have any new recipes to post here! So I thought I'd just share some of my favorite vegan treats that I've been enjoying between mouthfuls of Isa's healthy desserts and Christy's healthy meals. Everything in moderation, right?

On my way home from therapy on Saturdays (yes I go to therapy, I'm a real New Yorker now!) I always walk by this statue at the Polish Consulate's building. He looked so chilly on this day, I kind of felt bad for him. I was tempted to bring him a treat to warm him up. Then I realized why I'm in therapy.

Maple Leaf Sandwich Cookies from Trader Joe's. These are one of those "accidentally vegan" products and hot damn are they ever delicious! They are mapletastic and how they make the "cream" layer without using dairy is beyond me, but it tastes really good. They are very bad for you (like 5g-of-fat-in-each-cookie bad), but for an occasional treat they are perfect. I like mine with black tea and soy milk.

BTW, I use a nifty device called the AeroLatte to froth my soy milk when I'm having tea or coffee at home. It's really neat! You just warm up your milk in the microwave, froth it with the AeroLatte, then add in the tea or coffee. It feels more ceremonious and special than just pouring the milk in.  

Cookie Butter. Cookie butter originated in Europe under the name "Speculoos Spread". The name says it all - this is butter made from blended up Speculoos cookies. This stuff was mythologized by vegans because it contains no animal ingredients and vegans in Europe were always bragging about how good it is. When news hit that Trader Joe's was carrying their own version here in the States... well, let's just say if there was a "Vegans Gone Wild!" video series, the camera guys would be provoking us to show our naughty bits in exchange for a jar of this stuff. I have to say, the best way to enjoy this treat is with a spoon. It tastes just like a buttery cookie full of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Delightful! It seems now that the original Speculoos Spread has invaded the U.S. and I've been seeing it in my regular grocery store packaged as Biscoff Spread. Do yourself a favor and try it sometime.

ARGO TEA. Has anyone else experienced this magical place? They are only in select cities for now, like Chicago, NY, St. Louis, and Boston, but I anticipate this place is gonna blow up in the near future. It's like Starbucks, but for tea, and way better. There is one near Johnny's school so he took me in one night. I don't know why I was skeptical (probably because it feels insane to spend $4 on a cup of tea), but I was quickly hooked. So far I've tried the Mojitea (an iced mint tea concoction), the Teapuccino (I got it with black tea, soy milk and vanilla flavoring - cracktastic!), and some sort of sparkling iced tea drink. They have sugar-free options for those watching your sugar intake (as I am obviously failing to do), and they have some yummy looking food including several vegan options.  If you're ever near an Argo Tea you should totally check it out. Oh, and they have coffee, too, but coffee is so passé.
Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate Marzipan Bars. I remember one year for Christmas, my Dad went all out and decided to make a cake that was covered in marzipan. He sculpted it to look like a giant present with a red bow and it took him hours! It was the coolest, yummiest thing ever and I've had a soft-spot for marzipan ever since. So when you fill delicious European dark chocolate with sweet almond paste, you really can't lose. This is one of my very favorite vegan candy bars and the best part is that it's so readily available. If I need a fix, I can always find them at Duane Reade or the grocery store.

Enjoy Life Mini Chips. These little guys are the best chocolate chips I've ever had, vegan or not. Luckily for me, they are dairy-free as well as soy and gluten-free. They are great in cookies and baked goods, but you can also just sneak a few from the bag if you have a sweet tooth. I've also melted some in the microwave with non-dairy milk and blended it with my AeroLatte for a perfect cup of hot chocolate.

So there you have it! I'll be back soon with that book review and giveaway!

March 1, 2012

Field Trip - Central Park and FAO Schwarz

We have been experiencing some freakishly warm weather in New York this year. While it's a little scary to think about the part that Global Warming may play in this (it's real!), it's also kind of nice to be able to get out of the house on the weekend instead of trembling under a blanket on the couch and watching "People's Court" episodes (Johnny is mildly obssessed with Judge Marilyn Millian). A few weeks ago, we decided to take a jaunt up to Central Park and soak up some nature, something we don't get nearly enough of in our Concrete Jungle-y lives. 

Central Park is pretty much my favorite place on earth. No matter how many times I go there, I always find something new to explore. This is the Turtle Pond, which should really be called the Duck Pond, because it's full of the most adorable little ducks! Check out that blue sky... I forgot the sky was actually a thing.

There's a little pier that you can stand on and the ducks will paddle right up to you, undoubtedly seeking food. 

We all know what this is... a memorial for everyone's favorite defunct toy store, "The Imaginarium". Remember that little entrance that was just for kids? Sigh... Just kidding! This is obviously the John Lennon memorial located in the Strawberry Fields section of the park. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I'd never been there before this day. We visited on a non-descript Saturday, but there were lots of tributes to Lennon laid out on the memorial and many people paying their respects. A couple of musicians nearby were singing and playing his songs on the guitar. Johnny said he always gets sad at this place, but I actually felt really hopeful. Lennon accomplished so much in his short life and his message is still so relevant. 

That's The Dakota, the building where John and Yoko lived for many years, and where he was shot. It's such a gorgeous building, but there's a definite darkness around it.

After the park, we walked to The Paris theater on 58th Street and took in a showing of "The Artist". It was the perfect venue to see it in, it's a really old theater and has lots of charm. The movie was also quite excellent, that doggie just slayed me!

On the way back to the subway, we happened upon FAO Schwarz. How is it that neither of us had ever been there?! We hightailed it inside and feasted our eyes upon all that was before us...

A statue of Indiana Jones made entirely of Legos? Yes, please.

A foosball table with Barbies as the players? Don't mind if I do!

Johnny wearing a Minnie Mouse hat intended for a small girl? Well, that's just a bonus!