Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Heaven...Continued!

No Bake Black Bottom Peanut Butter Silk Pie from Vegan With a Vengeance is definitely one of the best dessert I've ever had, let alone made! This was my first time working with agar...it was tricky but well worth it! The crunch of the chocolate cookie crust paired with the creaminess of the peanut butter filling was perfection! My "go to" chocolate peanut butter pie recipe used to be: combine tofu, peanut butter, and melted chocolate chips in a blender, put in prepared graham cracker crust and let sit in the fridge. The VWAV recipe is more time consuming than that, but so worth the effort. This will be my new special occasion dessert!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes and Ice Cream

I followed the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World recipe for peanut butter cupcakes and chocolate buttercream frosting, then topped them with peanuts. They were so sweet and rich, I just love the magical combination of chocolate and peanut butter!

Using the idea for frozen yogurt from Hannah Kaminsky in VegNews, I made ice cream with soy yogurt instead of soy milk. I added a package of Dr. Oetker's chocolate pudding mix to the yogurt in my ice cream maker, then I put in some extra cocoa powder and about a half a cup of peanut butter. The texture came out great, much creamier than it normally gets when I use soy milk. The taste, however, was just OK...it had a slight tangy after taste which not even the chocolate and peanut butter could totally erase. The frozen soy yogurt idea would be best for flavors that could handle the tangy after taste, like maybe lime or a berry flavor.

Next time I think I'll stick to soy milk, which doesn't have an after taste. Since I liked the texture the soy yogurt gave the ice cream, I'll make the Dr. Oetker's pudding first, getting a thick consistency, then freeze it in the ice cream maker after letting it cool in the refrigerator (I usually just throw it all in the ice cream maker since I don't have the patience to let the pudding cool first!).

I'll post more vegan cupcakes soon (red velvet cupcakes and sea creature-inspired cupcakes!).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Vegan SPF and Green Sun Safety

(Top photo taken at Sapphire Beach, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, bottom photo taken at Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands)

It's not easy picking the right sunscreen, whether you spend every day at the beach, or just a week here and there on vacation. Spending a lot of time in the sun can be really bad for your skin. On the one hand, you need some sun exposure so that your body can produce vitamin D, on the other, UV rays are known carcinogens. In addition to the scary possibility of skin cancer, too much sun can make your skin age faster than it should. I'm super picky about my sun protection since skin cancer runs in my family, and I've done almost ridiculous levels of research on choosing the best sun protection.

Needless to say, I love the beach, and I spend a lot of time in the sun. It's not always easy to find a high SPF (SPF 50 or more) vegan sunscreen, especially one that has mostly natural ingredients, little or no petrochemical-derived ingredients, and is considered safe by the Environmental Working Group (see the Cosmetic Safety Database). Generally, I look for physical UVA and UVB blockers that sit on the skin rather than getting absorbed into it. The two big ones are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Most zinc oxide and titanium dioxide particles are micronized, so they sit on the skin but allow the lotion to sort of "disappear". If they weren't micronized, you'd likely end up with a white film all over you.
Nature's Gate Aquablock SPF 50 is 100% vegan, and the best sunscreen I've tried. You can generally find it at Whole Foods or natural food stores. It goes on white since its active ingredients include zinc oxide, but once you rub it in, it's clear. While it's water resistant, it's always best to reapply any sunscreen after swimming/snorkeling/surfing/whatever. Reapply often. Even if you don't get that wet, and you're just chillin' on the sand. That's really the key to effective sunscreen use.

While I love Aquablock, I've read really good things about Mexitan 100% biodegradable, all natural (and vegan) sunscreens, and they make an SPF 50 version. It's more expensive than Aquablock, and not as readily available, but it has a lot more attractive qualities in that it's all natural, 100% petrochemical free, and has a better rating on the Cosmetic Safety Database. Mexitan uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and unlike Nature's Gate and many other "natural" sunscreens, Mexitan does not include oxybenzone. Oxybenzone, also known as benzophenone-3, is a chemical sun screen that can get absorbed by the skin and has been known to mimic estrogen. I haven't actually tried Mexitan, so I can't personally recommend it (yet).

California Baby products also got high ratings for safety from the Cosmetic Safety Database, are all natural, and most of their products are vegan (their diaper rash cream contains lanolin and sunblock sticks contain beeswax). I've tried their bubble bath and love it, but I've never tried their sunscreens, so I can't vouch for them (yet!).

In addition to the SPF 50 Aquablock, I love Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 30, which is labelled animal cruelty free. I can't speak for all of the Peter Thomas Roth products, but I can say that this mineral-based powder rocks it! It has really simple ingredients. Basically, it contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, mica, silica, corn starch, vitamins A, C, and E (antioxidants), and willow bark extract to help with inflammation. It just adds extra sun protection to my face, and it makes it feel less lotion-y at the beach. You can also try Eminence Organics Sun Defense SPF 30 powder, which has the added benefit of being organic, but it's way more expensive. Jane Iredale Powder Me SPF 30 is also similiar but a bit more expensive than the Peter Thomas Roth product.
If I'm going to be swimming, surfing, or snorkeling for a good amount of time (which is almost always the case), I also put on a high SPF rashguard. It's like a T-shirt for the water. Just another assurance that you won't burn your shoulders or back. Patagonia makes some good ones that are made out of recycled polyester. Of course, there's cheaper ones at places like swell.com or your favorite surf shop.

Back on the beach, I always wear sunglasses and a baseball hat (less squinting and more sun protection for the face). Also, don't forget your lips! Lavera is an organic, vegan cosmetics and skincare line from Germany that makes an SPF 15 lip balm. Arbonne makes an SPF 30 lip balm and is vegan as well.

If you're going to be traveling and want to bring your vegan sunscreens with you, you can put them into little travel sized containers like these from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Even better, use The Urban Vegan's idea and reuse your old airline approved bottles.

Enjoy the summer sun and stay safe!

(Photo taken at the Jersey Shore!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tofu Eggs Benedict

The recipe I used to make this came from How it All Vegan, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. It's basically English muffins, Candian bacon, marinated and baked tofu, tomato slices, and homemade Hollandaise sauce. I got the muffins and bacon from the health food store, though if I were feeling up to it, I could have followed The Urban Vegan's recipe for English muffins. The tofu got marinated and then baked in a baking dish with a really simple mixture that included apple cider vinegar (I love the tangy-ness that apple cider vinegar gives to the tofu!). The Hollandaise sauce is the best part of this whole meal. It's a really simple mixture that includes nutritional yeast and Dijon mustard. It's really filling, super delicious, and one of my favorite breakfasts ever (even better than the Tofu Eggs Benedict at Kate's)!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sesame Ginger Tofu, Vegan Coffee Cake, and Carrot Apple Ginger Juice

I've been using ginger a lot lately. I started with some fresh ginger in Sesame Tofu, a recipe from Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler, which has some of my favorite tofu dinner recipes. The ingredients are pretty simple, and it didn't take long to make. Basically, you dredge the tofu in a fresh ginger/fresh garlic/soy sauce (I like Braggs) mixture, then a flour/sesame seed mixture, then bake it. The result is crispy, ginger-y, and garlic-y, with the little sesame seeds adding interesting bits of texture and flavor (they kind of pop and crunch in your mouth). I also like using fresh ginger in my juicer. Here I juiced two red delicious apples, three carrots, and a cube of ginger (organic preferred, of course). This is one of my favorite juice combinations because it's a little sweet with a little spicy kick from the ginger.

I used organic powdered ginger in a coffee cake recipe I got from The Garden of Vegan. I ran out of oil mid-recipe, so the result is that my topping became more powedery than crumbly. It was still super good though. The cinnamon, ginger, and walnuts are a stellar combination!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Vegan Waffles

Yum! I was organizing/rearranging my kitchen the other day, and I came across a few gadgets that I rarely ever use. One of these was a waffle iron! When I first got it I was a waffle maniac, making waffles every weekend...but then I guess I got sick of them and put the waffle iron away. Well, I'm super excited to say that they're back in my life! Here is how I made them:

  • 1 cup of flour

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • pinch of salt

  • 1 tbsp canola oil

  • 1 cup Silk

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

I mixed all of these ingredients together until just mixed, then poured about 2/3 cup of the batter into the prepared waffle iron (pre-heated and coated with canola oil spray). I waited until the indicator light went off on the waffle iron, then for all of the steam to stop, then I popped them out of the iron and that's it! I topped them with some fresh blueberries from my fridge and some maple syrup. They were heavenly, especially since I paired them with French pressed organic coffee sweetened with some Silk soy creamer.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Vegan Certified Bath and Shower Stuff

Fresh Body Market makes "fun products with serious benefits by using real fruits and vegetables, rather than commonly used extracts, synthetics or artificial preservatives", according to their website. They're all vegan certified! I first picked up their Foaming Milk Bath at a store, because I thought it looked like a milk container and I wanted to see if it had milk in it. I was so pleasantly suprised to see that it was vegan with yummy smelling coconut milk! So, I immediately bought the bubble bath and their Vanilla Granola Body Buff and Body Cream made with almond butter, organic oatmeal, ground almonds, and powdered nut shells. Although some may think that it's weird to use products that smell like food, I'm totally OK with it. In fact, I almost prefer products that have edible ingredients in them, because I think they're safer to use (hey, if you can eat it, it must be OK to slather all over your skin!). Some of these products are not only are packaged to look edible (they also make a cleanser and moisurizer that look like little soy yogurt containers), they smell like they're fresh from the kitchen and work really well. The bubble bath is super bubble-y and really soft, and the scrub and body cream are as mouthwatering as they are effective. You can get their products at their website or through the PETA mall, although I wouldn't recommend actually eating them!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

Celebrate by signing The Declaration of Compassion for the Planet and its Inhabitants, then watch some fireworks and eat some vegan ice cream.