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Super Easy Raw Chocolate Vegan Birthday Cake

It's my husband Brad's birthday today! And he loves healthy superfoods, so I concocted this raw chocolate cake this morning after perusing a few recipes (plant-based pixie, this rawsome vegan life, eating vibrantly). I took what I liked from one, and something else from another, and substituted what I had on hand, and, tada!, it surprisingly turned out great! 

If you haven't tried raw cacao (not cocoa) powder, I highly recommend it for baking and putting in smoothies for a rich, chocolatey, raw superfoods boost! I use Navitas Naturals Organic, available on Amazon

DIRECTIONS

CRUST

1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup walnuts
(pinch of sea salt and a dribble of coconut oil, if you like, but not necessary)

Using a food processor, blend the walnuts into a powder, then add dates and continue to blend until sticky. Firmly pat down into a 7-9" springform pan. (A round cake pan will do, but it'll be harder to cut it out.) Place in freezer.

FILLING

3 ripe avocados
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup raw cacao powder
pinch of sea salt
3 - 4 tsps. agave
1/2 cup pure maple syrup

Using a food processor, blend the avocados, vanilla, and coconut oil until smooth, then add remaining ingredients. If you don't have agave, just skip it. Add more or less sweetener, depending on your preference. (And really you can add any liquid sweetener.) I added the sweetener slowly and kept tasting to my preference. 

Spatula ingredients onto crust, then freeze for a couple of hours (even overnight). Let thaw like 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

I decorated mine with walnuts, dark chocolate pieces, and blueberries, but you can add whatever you like--coconut flakes, strawberries, bananas--that's the fun part! 

PS. For all those purists out there, it should be noted that with maple syrup and agave, and possibly the vanilla extract, this cake isn't technically totally raw, but it's like 95% raw.

Enjoy! 


 

 

Vegan 4th of July Products Worth Trying. Oh, and Zero Cholesterol.

 
 

Indistinguishable from a regular hot dog. No, scratch that, way better. 


Hard to beat Beyond Meat's Beast Burger, but harder to find than most. They're always sold-out in LA. Crazy delicious.


 
 
 

Our go-to veggie burger. Has a nice smokey flavor and great on the grill, too. 


3. Daiya: Cheddar Slices (Swiss and Provolone, too)

 
 

People seem to either love or hate Daiya. I love it. And I say, save the hate for the dairy industry. Melt these on your veggie burgers for extra flavor.


 
 

Quick and easy, great for kids. You'll love them, too. 


Crunchy, tasty, and so many flavors. Awesome company, super eco friendly. And it's hard to find natural, nonGMO chips. 


 
 

I'm so in love with the taste of this "ice cream." The cashew milk makes it wonderfully creamy and dreamy. 


Happy 4th, friends! If we love this country, doesn't it makes sense that we take care of it? Enjoy celebrating! 


Current Vegan Product Obsession: Little Secrets (Classic Dark)

 
 

I've done away with my monthly Favorite Vegan Things posts, but I haven't left you high and dry. I'll continue to occasionally post a vegan product I'm currently obsessed with. And right now, it's Little Secrets Candies (Classic Dark), out of Boulder, CO. Basically, it's a vegan M&M! For weeks I've been trying to curtail, for my husband's sake, the extent to which I'm capable of consuming these. I don't want to scare him. 

Now you can have the same M&M experience, but without the cruelty (dairy), cholesterol, and artificial ingredients. These are all natural, even the colors are made with fruit and vegetable extracts. 

I've linked them to Amazon, where you can buy a 4 pack. Trust me, that won't even be enough. 

(Classic Dark, Raspberry and Sea Salted Peanut are the vegan flavors.)

Click here to purchase.

Enjoy!

Viva la vegan!

Natural Products Expo 2016: Vegan Report

Brad and me at Natural Products Expo '16.

(Lots of interest in Brad's Veganized Seinfeld Logo T-shirt that he designed. Purchase here.)


I'm still in recovery mode from a whirlwind Natural Products Expo weekend. My husband Brad and I ate and drank ourselves high and low, walking about 15 miles, carrying the latest coconut waters on our backs, to scope out the hot new vegan products. And I still didn't make it to the household or cosmetics areas. 

This Expo was particularly fun this year because we ran into lots of vegan-food movers and shakers who didn't have booths there, but were just checking things out like us. Heidi of Heidi Ho (you might have seen her on this Shark Tank episode) was sampling cheese at Miyoko's booth, and we had a chat about how well her company is doing--500% growth last year! (She's a warm person, btw. Always nice to know when you're a super customer, like us.) We also ran into the amiable Stanley Chase of our favorite (really, the best out there, vegan jerky) Louisville Vegan Jerky Co checking out the scene. He was kind enough to give us three bags of jerky, and we ended up giving one to Doomie (of Doomie's Vegan Restaurant in LA) who we ran into at some booth selling vegan pate. (Vegan pate, no thanks! Kinda like vegan veal--disgusting premise, IMHO.)

And guess who was behind the cooking of the new VeganEgg at the Follow Your Heart booth? None other than the super talented and super cute Spork girls of Spork Foods, Heather and Jenny. We reminisced about how I used to go to their first incarnation of vegan cooking classes in their apartment in Silverlake like 10 years ago! Now they're super stars, on TV, with a new beautiful space, and a wonderful cookbook Spork Fed: Super Fun and Flavorful Recipes from the Sisters of Spork Foods. And as a long time listener to the Rich Roll Podcast and huge fan of his page-turning book Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself, Brad and I finally got to meet Rich at the Expo and chatted with this true pioneer in vegan health and fitness about what else? Veganism. Want to be inspired? Get his book here. 

 
 

Cynthia's Favorite Vegan Products from ExpoWest '16


Last year someone left a snarky all CAP comment on my post that went on to say "ALL THESE PRODUCTS ARE PROCESSED"! Yes, these products are from the Natural Products Expo, not the Farmer's Market Expo. Sorry, person, I'm a vegan blogger, not a nutrition blogger. If you're into super healthy, Brad's list is for you. But here are my favorite new vegan food products.

1. Gardein: Scramble Breakfast Pocket / Skillet Meal / Pizza Pocket (none are yet available)

The Scramble Breakfast Pocket was my favorite new vegan food product from the Expo. It tasted like an Egg McMuffin, only better!

Pepperoni Pizza Pockets 

Skillet Meal 

I tried the Asian Chick'n Fried Rice and the Italian Rigatoni. Brilliant idea to make Gardien into super easy skillet meals. 


2. Follow Your Heart: VeganEgg (available)

This came out like 5 months ago but I finally got around to trying it, and it was AMAZING! Texture, taste, it's all there. Other companies are coming out with a vegan scrambled egg, but I don't know how they would be any better than this. But bring them on! The more the merrier. (Shelf stable.) Click here to purchase on Amazon.


3. Daiya: Salad Dressings / Pepperoni Pizza (none yet available)

Daiya knocked it out of the park with each of these dressings. I tried all three and each one tasted exactly like the original they were replicating. It's quite impressive. Other vegan blue cheese, ranch, and caesar dressings exist, and they all deserve an A for effort, but these get an A+ for taste, too. 

Pepperoni Pizza

I ate their new pepperoni pizza so fast that I didn't take a photo of it. Duh! No meat-eater would be able to tell it wasn't a "real" pepperoni pizza. Seriously. If you like pepperoni pizza, this is the one for you. 


3. Caroline's: Fishless Tuna (available)

I was surprised at how much this tasted like tuna! I've tried another vegan tuna and to me, it does the trick just fine, but this one more closely resembles and taste like tuna. Click to purchase on Amazon.


4. Golden Brew Tea: Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic (not yet available)

I grew up drinking Apple Cider Vinegar because of its remarkable healing qualities, but I never got used to the taste. Partly because I don't taste the vinegar, though there are approximately two tablespoons in each serving. I'm a sucker for ginger and turmeric. I tried a lot of drink concoctions at the Expo and this was my favorite. Golden Brew Tea out of Portland, OR is a newish, small company, so this tonic is not yet widely available. 


5. Kite Hill: Ravioli / Soft Ripened (available)

Ricotta Raviolis 

Kite Hill has been a leader in artisan cheeses, and they keep branching out into other amazing products. I haven't tried the ravioli yet, but Kite Hill is such a high quality company that I know it's going to be great! Made with almond milk ricotta.

Soft Ripened Almond Product 

This is my favorite of their many delicious cheeses. Soft Ripened is velvety and aged with a white, fluffy rind, and it has a delicious tangy mushroom-y flavor. Kinda like a Brie.


6. Banza Pasta (available)

I love pasta, but every time I eat it, I can't help but think that there has to be another, better way--to get good nutrients out of the noodles, rather than empty calories--and have the noodles not fall apart into mush. Apparently, I'm not alone. I was stoked to happen upon this company, started by a 23 year-old guy in his Detroit apartment who thought the same thing, but did something about it. Packed with protein and fiber, because it's made with chickpeas. Purchase here on Amazon.


7. So Delicious Cashew Milk Ice Cream: Chocolate Cookies N' Cream (available)

I sat at their booth eating ice cream for so long that they gave me a coupon for a free container, just so I would leave, I think. No, they were super nice. And let me eat all the ice cream I wanted. I filled up on this new delicious flavor. So creamy and chocolatey. 


8. Miyoko's: Cultured VeganButter /  Aged English Smoked Farmhouse Cheese (available)

Cultured VeganButter 

I'm a huge fan of Miyoko's. She's been doing artisan vegan cheeses for awhile, and now she blesses us with a wonderful palm oil free vegan butter. Melts, cooks, bakes, spreads and tastes like butter. Made with Organic Coconut Oil & Organic Cashews. It's so good.

Aged English Smoked Farmhouse "Cheese"

It's hard to pick a favorite Miyoko's cheese, but if I had to, I'd say this one. It's a semi-hard wheel with rich, smoky and sharp tones. Reminds you of the tasty fancy cheeses I used to eat. What am I talking about? All her cheeses do. 


9. Skinny Pop: White Cheddar Flavor Popcorn (available)

Brad, who doesn't normally like popcorn all that much, enjoyed this as much as I did. It tastes just like that white cheddar popcorn you used to love. Low calorie and non-GMO. Purchase here on Amazon. 


10. Teatulia: Red Energy Tea (available)

I drink tea to relax, but I love the idea of using it as energy. I had not heard of this Colorado company that gets its tea leaves from Bangledesh. Their secret ingredient is Eleuthero Root, used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine to help the body perform optimally and recover faster. It tastes great with a slightly sweet natural flavor. Purchase on Amazon here.  


11. Vegetarian Plus (available) 

I've seen this brand in grocery stores but I shied away from it because I thought it was vegetarian, not vegan. IMHO, their name isn't doing them any favors. Come to find out at the Expo, they're a 100% vegan company. We don't eat a lot of frozen foods, but I would totally stock the freezer with these for a quick meal. If you see these entrees at your local store, pick them up, doesn't matter matter which product, because I sampled nearly all of them, and they're super tasty. I love the idea of having a quick vegan meal of tikka masala when the craving for Indian food strikes! Purchase here on Amazon.

Vegan Tikka Masala

Vegan Black Pepper Steak

Vegan Ham Roll


12. Ginger's Healthy Habits: Raw Veggie Trail Mix / Raw Kale Chips (available)

I'm actually not a trail mix type of girl, nor do I like anyone else's kale chips except my husband's home made ones (recipe here). But I can't really say those things with confidence after tasting Ginger's Raw Pepperoni Pizza Trail Mix and her Raw Cheezy Chia Kale Chips. I gobbled them up! It's the first trail mix made from only veggies! These products aren't widely available yet, except online. 

Yes, this does actually taste like pepperoni pizza! 


Brad's Favorite Vegan Things from Expo West '16

Written by Brad Klopman


1. Mother in Law's: Tangy Vegan Liquid Kimchi (not yet available)

When I first found Farmhouse Culture’s “Gut Shots” I was instantly hooked. Probiotics, hydration, flavor, all from what once was considered a waste byproduct in the process of making sauerkraut. At Expo West this year I saw two more versions. Mother in Law’s Tangy Vegan Liquid Kimchi and Wildbrine’s “Kimchi Shots” up next). Both are great!


2. Wildbrine: Kimchi Shots (not available yet)

Again, probiotics, hydration, flavor, all from what once was considered a waste byproduct in the process of making sauerkraut. So smart.


3. Sir Kensington's: Fabanaise (not yet available)

Another great idea of the food byproduct space was Sir Kensington's Fabanaise. Sir Kensington has its fanbase for their "regular" mayo and condiments but wanted some skin in the Hampton Creek dominated vegan mayo space. They set out to create a mayo that didn't use the powdered soy, pea or modified food starches as a base but instead a naturally occurring byproduct of hummus production: aquafaba, the water you pour down the drain when buying canned chickpeas. They've turned it into an amazing more whole food vegan mayo that's not "made it a lab" as they put it. Really tasty.


4. REBBL: Maca Cold Brew (available in some Whole Foods)

Having accidentally fallen back into the flavor of coffee thanks to complimentary K-cups from staying at Los Vientos Hideaway near Joshua Tree I was trying all sorts of vegan cold brew drinks. This one was my favorite. Not just because it tasted great, but because it puts a little something extra in there, maca. Maca is an adaptogen used to enhance vitality, stamina and energy. Why not add it in there, right? REBBL stands for “Roots, Extracts, Berries, Bark, and Leaves,” Great company that prevents exploitation in the Peruvian Amazon.

 
 

5. Detox Water: Bioactive Aloe Water (available)

This is a "healing elixir in the form of a bioactive, aloe infused water". I love aloe water because it feels like I'm really doing my insides a favor. Ever buy aloe water with pulp in it? Turns out that's nothing more than a marketing ploy. The guys at Detox Water educated me on aloe waters, and now my buying habits are forever changed. Their motto is "Not all aloes are created equal." It tastes great, too. Big fan. Even my wife Cynthia, who doesn't like aloe water, has been drinking them up! 

 
 

Our entire haul from the show!


Even though this month was my last blog post of my monthly "My Favorite Vegan Things," I will continue to bring you articles on veganism and animal rights, as well as healing your life. Likewise, each year I will report on the newest vegan products from the Natural Products Expo. It's exciting to witness the explosion of veganism!

Thanks to all the vendors for samples and to you my reader-friends for reading.

Viva La Vegan!


Meatless Monday Recipe: Vegan Hummus Lasagna (easy and healthy!)

I know, I was skeptical at first too. Hummus in lasagna? But I'll be darned if it doesn't work beautifully! Mixed with tofu and nutritional yeast, it imitates a flavorful ricotta-like cheese. I've found this to be a good template recipe for a quick, easy lasagna. Sometimes I add kalamata olives, sometimes mushrooms. I might add vegan cheese topping to my side and none on Brad's. Each time I make it, it's a bit different depending on what I have on hand, but it's always delicious.

Vegan Hummus Lasagna

INGREDIENTS

  • 6-9 lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 5 oz garlic hummus (heaping ½ cup)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup chopped spinach (thawed from frozen or fresh)
  • ½ - 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp dried basil (I use fresh from my garden)
  • 1 26 oz jar of marinara sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook your lasagna noodles according to package directions until they're a bit underdone (mine took about 6-8 minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, crumble drained tofu with your hands until it resembles the texture of ricotta cheese.
  4. Add in hummus, nutritional yeast, spinach (squeeze water out if using thawed from frozen), garlic, salt and basil. Using your hands, mix ingredients together until a creamy, ricotta-like texture is achieved.
  5. In a baking dish (I used a 7" by 11" but 8" by 8" would work too), pour in enough sauce to cover the bottom. Layer 3 lasagna noodles on top, breaking them if necessary to fit the pan. Top the noodles with enough cheese to cover evenly. If you made 9 noodles, you can make three noodle layers with less cheese. If you use use 6 noodles, make 2 layers with more cheese.
  6. Top cheese mixture with more sauce, then noodles again, then more cheese. Top cheese with the rest of the sauce. It's ok if it looks like a lot of sauce!
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.

Enjoy! 

Happy Meatless Monday, Friends! 

Recipe from Hummuspian, who adapted it from Hungry Hungry Hippie.

My Favorite Vegan (Fashion) Things (On Sale!) for February

I have each of these animal-friendly products and love them dearly, which is why I'm sharing them with you. And they're now on sale!

1. CLOVER CANYON: Burgundy faux fur slip-on

Originally $220.00, on sale for $66.00

I feel lucky to call Rozae Nichols, Creative Director for Clover Canyon, my friend. She is a woman of great intelligence, creativity, beauty (inside and out) and compassion. And her personal style leaves you breathless. 

Rozae's designs reflect her quintessential California spirit and have garnered her not only a world wide following, but big time celebrity support from the likes of Michelle Obama, Oprah, Beyonce--it's hard to keep up with the who's-who who are wearing Rozae's collection. Open any fashion magazine and Clover Canyon is bound to be found. Flip through the latest Elle Decor magazine and there is Rozae and her husband Ian's Laurel Canyon home as the main feature. (Check it out online here.

But what I especially love and respect about Clover Canyon is that it's a highly conscious company (the line is also manufactured locally in Los Angeles) and it is animal friendly--totally on purpose, as Rozae is a lifelong supporter of animal welfare issues. None of the things she is doing are easy to execute in today's fast, cheap, imported fashion world. She is a true fashion pioneer. I have a couple of pairs of Clover Canyon shoes, including these slip-ons. They are so well made, luxurious, and comfortable. Rozae's line not only makes you feel instantly super styley, but you feel like a good person, as well.

Here is a photo of us at Last Chance for Animal's (LCA) Gala last year. We spotted one of her dresses on an attendee. Of course! 

 
 

Read an interview with Rozae on Huffington Post. 


Originally $105.00, on sale for $31.50
(And if you sign up for their mailing list you receive 20% off, making it $25.20!) 

Vegan bag lovers, rejoice! A new age is dawning! Fiiiiiiinally! It used to be that vegan bags were cheap--cheaply made, cheap quality, cheaply styled (except Stella McCartney, which is out of most people's budget). But companies like Deux Lux are changing that game. This duo set out to make high quality, glamorous, fun, edgy and ethical bags, and not only succeeded but broke the glass ceiling. Their bags are beautifully made. What's not to love about a company that uses animal-friendly synthetics in their designs in honor of their mascot, Dylan--a lovable chocolate lab? I could spend hours on their website


 
 

Originally $298.00, on sale for $69.98

Free People isn't a vegan company, but they should be! People aren't free as long as animals are enslaved. That's the metaphysical, spiritual, hippie truth. Rant aside, I really like Free People, they've definitely made strides in the vegan department--and why wouldn't they? They're a "bohemian" company. I've noticed that they've added more vegan clothes, shoes, and bags to their line, as well as labeling their vegan clothes "vegan." Bravo! 

It's not easy to find a sweater coat so stylish and toasty that doesn't contain wool or some other type of animal hair, but here it is. This product is no longer available on the Free People site, but you can find it at Nordstrom Rack.  


Compassion is in fashion, friends! Get these great animal-friendly products while they last. 

Happy Conscious Consuming! 


My Plastic-Free Kitchen

This summer I got rid of about 97% of the plastic in my kitchen. It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time. Google the dangers of plastic and you'll come up with a half million results. It's no secret that plastics are at best questionable for our health. This isn't some hippie idea, it's serious enough that leading scientists, top research schools like Harvard, global environmental organizations, EPA programs, medical organizations and more have done research into the harmful effects of plastic. 

We can't avoid plastic. It's so ubiquitous we don't even notice it. Even though it's only really been in daily use, like in dishes, since the 50s. It's still too early to fully understand the daily effects of our modern reliance on this toxic chemical known as plastic. But we do know that BPA (Bisphenol A) is one of the most pervasive chemicals in modern life. BPA is a building block of plastic and is used in thousands of consumer products, including food packaging. It's one of many man-made chemicals classified as endocrine disruptors, which alter the function of the endocrine system by mimicking the role of the body's natural hormones. Creepy stuff with adverse consequences, like obesity, breast growth in men, early puberty for girls, breast and prostate cancers. Many plastic additives have been banned across Europe, Canada, and China, surprisingly. 

There's sufficient evidence to make you scratch your head, and perhaps think "Maybe I don't need all this plastic in my life." I can't control every piece of plastic I come in contact with, but I do have control over what I put in my mouth and on my body and in my home. I can limit my exposure to plastic, and make choices that align with what I value. 

By the way, I am of the belief that fear is one of the greatest killers. No fear mongering here. I promise. Just good old-fashioned pre-plastic common sense. It's important to find a balance between being practical, living normally, listening to your own inner guidance, heeding health warnings, but also not caving to fear. I don't live in fear of plastic, nor should anyone else. But that doesn't mean it's good for us. Just like I would get rid of black mold if it was growing in my house, I am getting rid of unnecessary plastic, particularly in my kitchen where it comes in contact with what goes into my, and my family's, body.

I actually found it liberating to get rid of most of the plastic in my kitchen. It felt like I was taking back a part of my life in some strange way. I couldn't believe the copious amounts of plastic I had tucked away--food/storage containers, cutting boards, measuring cups, dog and cat bowls, cooking utensils and more.

But when it came time to let go of some of the bowls I've always liked, it wasn't easy. 

I replaced what I wanted with metal or glass. I searched high and low for an all glass storage container set, but couldn't find one. So I bought this set below on the left with the red lids. The lids are BPA-free (when you buy plastic look for BPA-free) but my husband and I are still careful to not pack them so the food touches the lids. We love this set. I'll include a link to some of the things I purchased below at the end of this post. 

I love these 100% cotton food storage bags!

I suppose it's like when you clean out your closet, you then wear only your favorite clothes. I started using the beautiful midcentury glass cooking ware and bowls that my grandmother passed down to me years ago as storage containers. It now makes me so happy to see them being used every day! (And I'm sure it makes her smile, as well.)

See, I'm not going bananas and feverishly ridding my house of every ounce of plastic. I used plastic bags to toss (donate and recycle) my plastic containers. (On the hunt for BPA free plastic garbage bags!)

Goodbye plastic kitchen stuff!

I hope this has inspired you to at least reconsider the plastics in your kitchen, which I think, is the most important place to start. We can't do everything, but we can all do something. And sometimes, that's enough. 

Here are some of the things I bought. And I can honestly say I would purchase them all again. Great products all around! I've linked the titles to their Amazon page. 

Happy BPA Plastic-Free Zoning Your Kitchen!










"Plant Food + Wine" Review. Hint, it's Ambience + Hospitality + Delicious

There's this thing about LA--you don't leave your neighborhood much. If you're vegan and live in West Hollywood or Silver Lake, you know all the spots and exactly what to order in each. But if you happen to be in Encino for the day, you have to pull out your Happy Cow or Yelp app to find the best vegan place around you. If a new vegan restaurant opens up in LA and it's more than five miles away, it might as well be in Ojai. (Or is that just me?) 

Meatless Monday Recipe: Easy Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo

When I became vegan, fettuccine alfredo was one of the top things I missed. Over the years, I tried different recipes and nothing really tasted quite like the dairy version, but this recipe comes close. I found it on the Silk website. I tweaked it a bit, and tada! It's awesome. And really easy to make too. If you've been missing alfredo sauce, say hello to your new friend!