Thursday, December 13, 2007

Convenient Burritos Not Vegan

Cedarlane Foods had a labeling problem that resulted in a minor recall. The burritos use soy cheese but it's made with dairy casein. The large boxes are labeled properly, but the individual burritos were not.

Sadly, if you thought these burritos were vegan, you were mistaken.

From the FDA recall news feed:

"Cedarlane Natural Foods of Carson, California is conducting a voluntary recall of Cedarlane Low Fat Bean Rice & Cheese style Burritos because they contain undeclared casein, a milk protein. People who have an allergy, or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. No illnesses have been reported to date.

The reason for this voluntary recall is due to the fact that an allergen, casein, (a milk protein) was not noted on the printed packaging of the individual units. Specifically, the printed outer carton contains the word casein in the allergen statement. The individually wrapped burrito however does not reference casein in the allergen statement. The labeling error was detected by a routine review at Cedarlane Natural Foods as well as the Food and Drug Administration.

Cedarlane Low Fat Bean Rice & Cheese Style Burritos are available in a 6 oz plastic film wrapped packaging as well as cartons of an 8 count, 6 oz family pack. The affected open code dates are from "062808A" (June 28, 2008) through "082908A" (August 29, 2008) and is located on the bottom right, after the heating instructions, of the print plastic wrap of the individual burrito. The open code date of the outside printed carton is similar to that of the individual units but without the 'A' and can be found on the right hand side panel, near the bottom of the carton.

Cedarlane Low Fat Bean Rice & Cheese style Burritos are distributed through all 50 states (U.S). Consumers that possess this product with the respective open code dates are advised by Cedarlane Natural Foods to return the product to the store of purchase for a full refund. Refunds can be obtained until June 1, 2008.

Grocers and distributors have been advised by Cedarlane Natural Foods to withdraw the product with respective open code dates listed above from sale and hold it for pick up from the company. Consumers with any questions may contact the company either by telephone at (800) 826-3322 and speak with Linda Manzo, extension 800, or by e-mail at"

I'm thinking Cedarlane needs a few emails sent to them asking that they make their burritos the vegan way.

To get the FDA recall news, sign up with your email here or get the feed for a feedreader here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Frugal Essentials

How many times have you heard or thought that being vegan is expensive?

A lot of people have the misconception that special diets require more money than traditional diets. It's not true and one blogger proves it. One Frugal Foodie blogs about a variety of special diets, (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.), all the while showing how to be thrifty. In a recent post, the Frugal Foodie outfits a kitchen with necessary cooking equipment with less than $100. Here are the recommended items:
  1. $10 - Spice Grinder
  2. $25 - Blender
  3. $11 - Rice Cooker
  4. $11 - Electric Tea Kettle
  5. $15-20 - Hand Mixer
  6. $10 - Toaster
It got me thinking: this is a great list of tools for a cabin, dorm, RV, or motel. It's perfect for the traveling or temporary vegan who cooks.

Read the whole article for more details >>

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Convenient Vegan Meals

What's more convenient than eating free food someone else prepares? Well, if you're interested in going that route, try prison!

Hahaha, just kidding.

But PETA just released a list of the top ten vegan-friendly US prisons.
It's worth a look >>

Friday, December 7, 2007

Quick 'n easy snack

toast with tomatoes This simple snack - or lunch, or, for that matter, breakfast - can be made with bread or bagel. Toast the bread, layer thin tomato slices, drizzle with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with pepper or lemon-pepper. Add salt if you like. It's easy and it's elegant. And it's good. Another variation is to slice some avocado onto the top, sprinkle with a bit of fresh cilantro.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ode to the pressure cooker

There are specialized pans to have, and specialized pans to not have. The pressure cooker is one to have if you ever cook at all.

Pressure cookers are good for vegetables, grains and dried beans, use much less energy and time to cook and therefore are also good for the environment and for you.

For example, you can "presoak" dried beans in a pressure cooker in five minutes, and then cook the beans (with all the trimmings) for about a half-hour or 45 minutes and you're done. With prep time (chopping onions and carrots and so on) and time to bring the pot up to pressure, then, getting dried beans on the table, cooked perfectly, will take about an hour and a half - or less. Cooking beans conventionally can take up to eight hours for presoaking plus two to three hours for cooking, not including prep time. I have learned that sometimes the beans I buy are not the freshest (yes, there is a difference in dried beans) and they take a really long time to get done. Even the tough ones give in to pressure cooking, though.

Pressure cookers do an admirable job on fresh veggies, like carrots, and on grains like rice and can even be used to make some interesting desserts. You might be lucky, like I was, and get one for free on freecycle or craigslist, but however you get it be sure to use it!


picture of hash

So you decided to cook the other day? Or you went out to dinner and couldn't finish? So there are bits and pieces of leftovers in the fridge? And maybe you are a little leftover-phobic? Hash might be the solution. Hash can be made with a wide variety of leftovers, combined with a few fresh ingredients if you like.

Hash usually contains potatoes so if your leftovers don't include any you might want to zap one in the microwave. Hash usually contains some sort of protein thing, too, and bits of whatever else might go with it. My general method is:

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a frying pan. Chop up a bit of onion, toss it in. The onion usually goes first, if you are going to use it, because it needs the chance to soften up. Add any other fresh veggie type ingredient, like bell pepper, and any fresh protein thing, like the fresh mock sausage (gimme lean is one type) so these things can cook a bit and even get a little crispy, then the chopped cooked potato. Turn the heat up a little to crisp it up (I think hash should have some crispness to it), then it's nice to add a bit of spinach or other bright green leafy veg (I use frozen). Sprinkle with some paprika or red pepper (depending on your heatness tolerance and what's in the hash) and some parsley and pepper, and that's it. At the table you can give it a shake of salt if you like.

The hash pictured has onions, leftover half baked potato, leftover cooked portabello mushroom, a bit of fresh gimme lean sausage, 1/4 red bell pepper, a bit of firm tofu, sliced, and a sprinkling of spinach. It tasted great!
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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Convenient Vegan Gifts

Want to give a gift to a vegan? Or how about a vegan gift to anyone? Here are some vegan gift ideas. But since this is Vegan Convenient, all these gifts are pre-made, ready to go, totally convenient:

Vegan Gift Baskets:

Vegan Divine makes some wonderful looking gift baskets. They have a special holiday basket (shown here).
Check out Vegan Divine for more information >>

The Vegan Store has lots of vegan gifts including an assortment of gift baskets. These baskets are pre-made so all you have to do is buy one and have it sent to your special someone.
Check out the Vegan Store for information >>

The Vegan Gift Shop has some baskets as well. One great choice is the cookie basket.
Check out the Vegan Gift Shop for more information >>

Vega*n Magazines:
What's easier than a magazine subscription? They make great gifts both for the giver and the receiver!

Veg News is an excellent veg*n magazine that most vegans, vegetarians, and health conscious people will enjoy. Another good option is Vegetarian Times magazine.

T-shirts, belts, purses, and shoes are good gifts for people you know well. Just be careful and get the right size.

This cute shirt comes from Alternative Outfitters, a vegan boutique.
Check out Alternative Outfitters for more information >>

Matt & Nat is a vegan purse company. They make awesome, beautiful bags. The purse above is from their holiday collection.
Check out Matt & Nat for more information >>

Support a vegan/animal organization:

Buy something from a non-profit.

This heart necklace comes from the PeTA shop.
Check out PeTA's store for more >>

Or you can gift a wine membership from the Humane Society.
Check out the Humane Society for more information >>

These are just some of ideas for convenient vegan gifts. I'm sure you can come up with more ideas...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Trying out a new cookbook

I purchased this cookbook recently and am testing some of the recipes. From a quick review of the pages I think I will find it useful.

This is a variation of one of the dishes in the cookbook. The dish goes by the title of "sauteed cabbage/corn" (I don't know why the slash. Why not just "cabbage and corn"?)

The recipe calls for a 6-ounce package of vegan "bacon", chopped, a small green cabbage, a ten-ounce box of frozen corn, and three tablespoons of vegetable broth. My version depended on what I had in the fridge: two vegan Italian sausages, a small chunk of cabbage, a bag of frozen corn, veggie broth. The dish goes together quickly and tasted good. I suspect the cookbook version, with more cabbage (I like the Italian sausages and would probably stick with those) would taste even better than what I made.

The combination of sausage and cabbage is a good one, good country fare really. Most of the recipes in this book make no pretensions about being elegant or gourmet. There are few ingredients, most easily-available and familiar. From what I have looked over (but not yet cooked) I think it's a good book to have on the shelf and I expect to use it rather often.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nutrition Bars - The Ultimate Convenience Food

Not all nutrition bars are equal. And not all nutrition bars are vegan. But many are. They make for great snacks and convenience meals. I recommend that all vegans (and anyone with dietary restrictions) carry a nutrition bar in their bag or purse for those moments when you can't find a restaurant or don't have time to get a real meal. These things are lifesavers for anyone whose diet is limited.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A vegan thanksgiving

We cooked a simple vegan thanksgiving this year and everyone liked it. Our menu came primarily from the Farm Sanctuary's handout, which you can download. We eliminated a few of the items on the menu and added one from another site. In addition, we added a simple dish of rainbow chard with red bell pepper, because the market had bunches of fresh colorful chard and we couldn't resist.

The meal:

clockwise from left: vegan sausage pot pie, another pot pie, sweet potato biscuits, apple streusel, green beans with ginger and almonds, garlic mashed potatoes


Corn chowder


rainbow chard, sauteed lightly with red peppers in olive oil


vegetables, crackers, dip, plus a cup of mushroom gravy.

The recipes for everything except the pot pie and chard are on the handout linked above. The pot pie recipe is from We substituted vegan Italian sausage for the vegan chicken in the pot pie. We also used frozen whole wheat crusts - which we had to modify to accommodate the large amount of filling.

We found that the pictures on the Farm Sanctuary handout didn't all look the way they actually should. All of the dishes are easy to prepare and require no special skills. There were no duds in the menu and I intend to cook several of these recipes again. I can hardly wait, in fact.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Veggie Bake

Those marinade mixes can be used to make a flavorful baked dish. Choose compatible fresh veggies. Here I grabbed red potatoes, summer squash, onion, bell pepper, and a tomato. Later I added some olive oil. Here's how I put it together:

Slice the onions, throw them in a casserole that allows them to spread out a bit. Slice up the potatoes and add them to the pile.

Cut up the squash and bell pepper, toss on top,

then slice the tomato and layer it last.

Mix about a quarter-cup of olive oil (or less) with the marinade mix. Pour it over all. Stir a bit to mix.

Cover the casserole and place in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, opening to stir two or three times. When it appears that the veggies are pretty much done, take the cover off and let the mixture steam off some of the liquid.

Serve on plates - two to four - and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Notes: I found the marinade a bit spicy. You may want to use less of it or more veggies. I also believe the mixture would do well with less oil, maybe 1/8 cup. If you don't have fresh veggies or are in more of a hurry, this dish would work with frozen vegetable mixtures quite well. Dump in one of those bags of potato mixtures, add the marinade-oil mix, throw in the oven.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Ode To The Rice Cooker

I love my rice cooker. Oh, how I love my rice cooker. Let me count the ways:
  1. It cooks rice perfectly
  2. I can walk away from the kitchen while the rice is cooking
  3. It can cook quinoa, couscous, and so much more
  4. It can steam vegetables
  5. It can be carried to potlucks
  6. It keeps rice warm hours after it's been cooked
  7. Some rice cookers can be used like crock pots
  8. Rice goes well with almost anything
  9. Rice is cheap, easy, and convenient

10 Minute Vegan Meals

The Urban Vegan has posted another installment of 10 minute vegan meals.

Here are some examples of the meals:
  • Throw 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin in the food processor with 2 T olive oil, 4 or 5 garlic cloves, and a cup of beans. Spread on a toasted, Earth-Balance-spread baguette.
  • Make a grilled vegan cheese sandwich. Don't forget the sliced onion and tomato.
  • Fried rice: In a hot wok, saute an onion in canola oil until soft. Toss in thawed frozen veggies (peas & carrots, for example). Toss in rice, and coat with oil. Add soy sauce, Bragg's or Nasi Goreng paste, to taste.
  • While boiling pasta, toss in some chopped Swiss chard and loads of sliced garlic. Drain, toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes. Top with vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast.

Take a look at both of them:

Monday, October 29, 2007

Breakfast! Yum version of chorizo and eggs

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1966 I was 20 years old and had not ever seen or heard of chorizo.

Living in Los Angeles was a great way to find out about Mexican food, obviously. My stepmother took me to a little hole in the wall place that made chile rellenos "the right way". I have to agree with her that the usual version is pretty awful in comparison to simply stuffing the chile with cheese, then dipping in egg white, beaten, and frying. There may have been a little flour in that egg white but not much. Anyway, those days are gone, no more chile rellenos for me. Well, honestly, I'm not a vegan 100% of the time and on occasion I get something made with eggs or cheese, and I wouldn't turn down eggs from a truly happy hen. I can also imagine using a vegan cheese and that being just fine.

One thing I discovered was chorizo. I suspect that at first I was afraid of this weird sausage. But then I tried it, and like most people I tried it with eggs. I would fry the chorizo to let loose some of that fat (and get rid of it), then I'd throw in the beaten eggs and scramble it up. Served with potatoes and toast, perfect.

Now I make the vegan version and honestly I think it's better. It's lower in fat by a whole lot, it has the flavors and the crispiness I like. It's very satisfying. Here's how I do it:

1/2 small onion, chopped
1-2 T neutral oil
6 oz firm tofu
4-6 oz soyrizo or equivalent (I don't know if any other company makes it)
1-2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper

Saute the chopped onion in the oil for a few minutes, until soft. Crumble in the tofu, which you have drained for a few minutes. Add the cumin and turmeric and stir until it achieves that nice yellow color.

Cut open the soyrizo package and squeeze out the amount you want into the pan with the tofu. Mix together with a fork and heat. Turn a few times with a pancake turner, letting the soyrizo get crispy in spots. When it's all heated through, add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

One generous serving. Two servings not quite as generous.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tortilla Soup

My daughter Mary called to tell me about a tortilla soup she had made that was really easy and tasted great. Over the phone she told me how to make it. This is my version of what she said.

two or three corn tortillas
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons oil (neutral is probably best)
1 14.5-oz can stewed tomatoes, Mexican flavored (with jalapenos, cilantro)
1 Qt. vegetable broth
fresh cilantro (optional)

Slice the tortillas in strips.

Either fry them in a little oil until crisp (what Mary did) or
Spray with cooking spray (like Pam) lightly and then sprinkle with salt. Spread in a layer in a flat pan and put in the oven at 400 degrees until crispy.(what I did)

In a two-quart saucepan, heat the oil, then toss in the chopped onions. Cook until soft, a couple of minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, stir. Add the vegetable broth and heat through. Stir and break up tomatoes now and then.

When hot, ladle into serving bowls. Sprinkle with tortilla strips.

Makes about 4 generous servings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vegan Pork And Beans

A very simple, easy vegan dish is the vegan version of pork and beans.

Here's how you make it:
Take a can of vegetarian beans. Red beans work well, but you can use whatever you like. Then take a vegan hot dog or two and cut the hot dogs up into chunks. Heat up the beans, add in the hot dogs, and voila! You're done! Eat it with rice or toast.

I decided to showcase here a slight variation of veggie pork and beans. I make this version often.

1 can of spicy navy beans
2 Italian flavored veggie sausages
1 cup of cooked macaroni noodles

Heat everything up in a pot on the stove for about five to ten minutes.

Another variation I like to make is the caserole version. Take the pork and bean mixture and pour it over crackers or toast in a caserole dish. Top with crackers or toast and bake for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees F. You can even add a bit of shredded vegan cheese on top if you like.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chili impromptu

Chili can go together with a few basic ingredients, plus odds and ends. The variety makes it fun and possible. You can throw this one together in 20-25 minutes.

Chop up a small onion. Saute in a little neutral oil until soft, a couple of minutes. Chop up a few other veggies if you have them. I used some zucchini and carrots. Throw those in, cook for a couple of minutes. Toss in a 14.5-oz can of beans (in this case I used Cuban black beans, which means they come with some nice extra ingredients well suited for chili), a 14.5-oz can of chopped or stewed or diced tomatoes, and as much chili powder as you like. I used maybe two tablespoons. I also added a healthy shake of cumin for that extra smokiness.

In a pinch, use frozen chopped onions or dried onions or onion salt, add dried veggies and skip the saute steps.

Heat until it all until hot. Break up large pieces of tomato if you like. I served it over brown rice, which I had in my freezer. When cook rice, I make big batches in my rice maker and freeze serving-size amounts in freezer bags. They microwave perfectly in about two to three minutes.

Preparing apples

Sometimes we find ourselves with apples. Fresh apples. And while eating them fresh is a good thing to do, sometimes we want to make something with them. This can lead to paring and coring and slicing. Here I offer the quickest way I have found to do these things.

Paring. Start by slicing off the two ends.

Then pare the rest of the apple, from end to end:

Cut the apple in four pieces, through the root ends. Then, angling the knife, cut the core out of each of the four pieces.

Chop or slice, as needed. Slicing goes quickly if you use a chef's knife and just run through the pieces. Watch a cooking show for the technique. In fact, I gleaned all of this from various cooking shows.

Incidentally, it's wise to position the fingers of your non-knife hand, the one holding the apple, so that the knuckles face the knife rather than the finger ends. I have done it wrong in this photo, but I'm careful.

Another tip from cooking shows: use a paper towel, piece of plastic, bowl or something else for the scraps. Then you can dump it all later - preferably into your composter.

It's a lot faster than running to the wastebasket with every handful of scraps.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Southwest Vegan Enchiladas


* 1 package of tortillas (corn or flour, whatever you like. I prefer corn.)
* 1 can of vegan baked beans
* 1 large jar of salsa (I like mild or medium southwest style.)
* 1/2 bag of frozen veggies (southwest mix or corn and peppers)
* 1-2 cups of shredded vegan cheese (I like Monterey Jack flavor)


Mix beans, veggies, lots of salsa, and most of the cheese in a bowl. Pour some salsa into your baking dish (I like a rectangular casserole dish). Arrange your tortillas sort of like tacos opening upwards. If you have a round baking dish or just a few tortillas, make a pie instead by lying the tortillas flat on the bottom of the dish. Scoop your bean and veggie mix into the tortillas (or on top of them if making an enchilada pie). Then roll up the tortillas and dump more salsa on top (or layer again with tortillas if making a pie, then spread salsa over them). Spread the salsa around with a spoon or rubber spatula so all the tortillas are smothered in salsa.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes.

Then sprinkle a little more cheese on top and bake another five minutes or until cheese is melted.

You can serve it with vegan sour cream, guacamole, rice and beans, or alone. It's a yummy, easy meal that almost everyone enjoys.

Tofu, Quinoa, Artichoke

The tofu: I took a 16 ounce chunk of tofu and cut it up into 6 large slices. I marinaded it in teriyaki sauce and then stuck it in the oven at 350- 400 degrees F on a greased baking tray for 30 minutes. (You can broil it too to get a crispier texture.)

The quinoa: I put half a cup of dry quinoa in the rice maker with 1 cup of water and turned the rice maker on. Quinoa is incredibly easy to cook, you can make it like rice or polenta. It's super high in protein and good for you; it's basically a vegan power food.

The artichoke: I cut off the stem, the leaf tops, and the outer leaves of an artichoke. Then I boiled it for 30 minutes (you can steam it instead), cut it in half, scooped out the fuzzy stuff and dropped a dollop of margarine or vegan mayonnaise inside.

Vegan Groceries Online

Shopping for groceries on Amazon sounds weird, but it's definitely easy and convenient. Here are some vegan selections:

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Work in Progress: Roasted vegetables en croute

The real cook will test and retest, work on a recipe until it's just right, and only then present it to the world. But I'm not a real cook. I want to share the steps along the way to the finished product. The trials that maybe aren't perfect.

I read a review of a restaurant recently that noted one of the specialities: roasted vegetables and cheese layered on top of an olive tapenade, wrapped in a flaky puff pastry. I thought I could come up with my own version. This is my first try. I'll describe what I did, how it came out, what I learned. If you have comments or suggestions I'd love to hear them!

I used:

puff pastry - frozen
vegetables: in this case carrots, onions, zucchini, portabello mushrooms, green bell pepper
olive oil for roasting veggies
seasonings for veggies: rosemary, parsley, oregano
tapenade: in this case green olive

First, I roasted the veggies. I cut them into strips, placed them in a casserole dish along with sprinklings of olive oil and the seasonings, and covered the dish. I roasted them in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. When it looked like they were about done, I took off the casserole top and let the veggies brown up a bit and let the steam escape, about ten minutes.

Wonderful alternative: Trader Joe's (and some other markets) offers roasted vegetables in a package, all ready for you!

I just guessed at amounts. I think, though, that the total bulk of one bell pepper, two carrots, two largish portabellos, and a medium onion is about right for this dish. More on that later.

When roasted my veggies looked like this:

When done, I let them sit a while to cool down.

After I put the veggies in the oven I took out the puff pastry to defrost. I took one sheet out of the package.

When it was defrosted (40 minutes) I rolled it out a bit.

I fit the pastry into my pan, having determined how much to roll it out by how large the pan was.

Then I started layering. I used up what was left in my jar of tapenade.

It is spread rather thinly there. Then I attempted to layer by color:

Some veggies did not cover.

I finished with the scrapings of onion and bits.

I folded one side of the crust over and the other on top of that, and pinched it to the side. On top, then, were two layers of puff pastry.

I baked it at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until puffed and golden.

I let it cool a little and then sliced into it.

Not bad but there were issues. Here is what I learned:

* Use more tapenade, make a real layer of it. I couldn't even taste it.
* Cut the veggies into smaller pieces and cook enough of each color to make a full layer. When I bit into my piece it was not as neat as we might like. I think smaller pieces would make it more layered, it would look more elegant, and it would "eat better".
* Don't overlap the crust. I found that two layers had some trouble. Both did not puff fully.
* Use a cookie sheet or other large pan with lips (to catch any spills or oil). I think this will allow it to blossom and will take full advantage of all of the pastry.

I also believe that this is the type dish that does well served at room temperature, could be made in little packets rather than in one big layered dish, and could even be the basis for an alternative Cornish pasty. I want to explore those alternatives in the future, and when I do you'll be sure to hear about it.