Vegpod goes food booth


This lovely lady rolled over 200 tamales!

Greetings from the western side of the vast Lake Michigan. Vegpod has been on hiatus to seek out and thus enjoy some soul searching. Through travels afar, hindered language(s), bewildered metric conversions, and a much needed cold and dreary winter, I can proudly say I have grown within myself, and re-inspired my idled culinary skills. Deciding to leave the vegan fast food industry was long overdue, and I am pleased to say my ‘studies’ abroad have brought me back to the gleeful fine dining chef I had once been. I miss San Diego almost everyday, but am pleased to find myself with more of an ambitious objective. And where better to find it then in the dairy state.
Wisconsin is mainly known for dairy & wheat production. So who could I possibly tempt with my vegans treats in a town of 50,000 cheese curd connoisseurs?
In the past, the thought of running my own food booth at the local markets in southern California had passed through my mind quite frequently. Since the restaurant had kept me busy, day and night, the idea had passed quickly, never thinking to return until the right time. Here in Sheboygan, Wi. there appeared to be no better occasion then Earth Fests’ 20th Anniversary.
Earth Fest is an annual festival showcasing an eventful two day weekend to help promote the environment through music, art, education, and food. And every Earth Fest needs a little vegan love.
Upon my arrival here, I had been approached by a women putting together this festival. I figured why not, and called in some worker bee troops for help. Luckily I didn’t have to look to far. We decided to stick to something simple, as well as something the locals could relate too. We went with three varieties of cold wraps, vegan ho ho cupcakes, and the winner of the weekend, a trio of Americana style tamales, complete with an array of homemade salsas. Sticking with the concept of choosing locally, we were able to arrange most of our veggie purchases from local farmers. And thanks to my new found favorite place, Paradigm, I had a certified kitchen, and a wonderful convection oven to work with

Bicycle powered smoothies, I heart Paradigm

The tamales proved to be the most popular by far, and with the hours upon hours worth of wo-man/man power that went into each hand rolled, and tied off cornhusk, it’s no wonder. They were by far the most labor intensive project I’ve ever seen attempted.

Before this weekend I had definitely been under the impression that Sheboygan had no desire in attempting to try any vegan eats. And though many of the Earth Festers traveled from other cities, I was definitely inspired to do more, feed more, and hence, start a vegpod food booth. There will be more to come possibly starting in spring 2011, and until then I will be trying to cater and shine my best through the wonderful Paradigm Coffee & music.

A big thanks to Kate and all of the Paradigm crew for being so darn cool, and making me feel like there is a warm place to just be myself. And a super, I mean super, duper, duper, big thanks to Melanie, Jared and Erik. For without them, I would’ve lost a piece of my sanity. You guys ruled it!

Love you Mel!

The Ex List

Kevin Sorbo (aka hercules) & Elizabeth Reaser, shooting at Alexanders on 30th, North Park

Aside from my busy veg adventures with opening the San Diego location of Nature’s Express, I’ve been doing some black market catering. Well not really, but I have had the opportunity of a lifetime. There is this new TV show, and the lovely lead actress just happens to be a vegan. Since the show is being filmed right here in San Diego, they needed someone to provide on set food for the actress, Elizabeth Reaser, playing the role of Bella.
When this first fell into my lap, I thought it was a one time gig. Turns out they needed more vegan goodness then I had dreamed of.
The show revolves around Bella, an early thirties woman who is trying to find ‘the one’. She meets a fortune teller that tells her she has one year, or she’ll never be getting hitched. the catch is that she has supposibly already met the one. So like most single women out there, she starts a list. The Ex-List. Each episode is centered around Bella reconnecting with a former ex boyfriend. Not a terrible idea for a sitcom.
So whats a vegan actress to do when a scene calls for food, and there’s no way she’s bitting into something thats not vegan? Well, she gets a personal vegan chef to cater her every acting bite! How darn cool.

Tea Platters in the wonderbread factory

I’m not sure if I should be posting these pics, but oh well. It’s too fun to not write about. I’ve done about 10 different dishes for the series so far, and up until 2 weeks ago, I didn’t even feel comfortable taking pictures on set. So far I’ve done vegan eggs benedict, penne a la vodka, chocolate cakes, thai stir-fry, cookies, gourmet dinner for 2, omlettes tea platters and a carpacchio salad. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not just one plate each. Every time they shoot a scene they film the shot from 4 different angles. Which means the food has to look the same every time. So for the one vegan chocolate cake, I needed to make 6. And so on.
There is usually a ton of leftovers, that everyone wants to take home, or I end up bringing to the treehouse kids…. lucky vegans. Its crazy to think about how much time, and energy go into a single 23 minute episode. From hair & make up to lighting and sound. It really does take a lot of manpower. It was so great to see all the beautiful places in San Diego turned into a TV sitcom. Newport beach, cool restaurants and pubs, and one of my most favorite places in all of San Diego, the mission hills nursery. ex-ist-photo-5.JPG
Heirloom tomato Carpaccio with vegan mozzarella, and balsamic reduction

In the end, the show started getting bad reviews, and CBS decided to cancel it. The Ex List had a total of thirteen episodes whom all aired on French-Canadian television in 2009.
Elizabeth went on to star in the motion picture Twilight, playing the role of Edwards’ ‘mother’. And I returned to dividing my time between Ritual Tavern, and Nature’s Express, yet again.
In the time of 2 months I received 5 paychecks from FOX studios. After hanging them on the fridge to show my personal A+, they will be framed, and saved in the grandkids box. Gold star for me.

Cajun Style Dinner


Creole vs. Cajun cooking.
Most natives will jump at the chance to tell you the vast differences in style. In fact, most Cajun’s get offended when you don’t know the difference.
Both styles tend to be heavy in flavor, and rich at soul. Which goes along with the city’s motto, “Laissez les bon temps rouler” or “Let the good times roll”. But getting technical, what is the difference?

When the Spaniards governed New Orleans they became known to Europe as Creoles. Today Creole style cooking has the influence of French, Spanish, and African cuisine. Cajuns are descendants of the French Acadians as they learned to live in the south Louisiana swamps. It is said the Creoles tend to use more tomatoes, butter and cream. Cajuns tend to use more spices and animal (pork) fat.
After flipping thru a few recipes, I decided to make a Cajun influenced meal….. Minus the pork fat of course!

For the protein of the meal, I used tempeh, marinaded and baked it, then patted it in Cajun spices and lightly grilled the triangles. Garlicky greens are an essential for me with any southern style food. For the rice, I used white basmati, seasoned with Lemon zest, black pepper, and fresh parsley. As a bonus, and to help with the spice factor of the Cajun tempeh, I made a naturally sweetened corn relish.

Here’s the corn relish recipe. Had I have used red bell peppers, instead of gold, the color would have been a bit more vibrant. I jut can’t help but love the taste of sweet golden peppers!

For the relish:

3 cups corn, fresh, or frozen, then thawed
2 Tablespoons tomato juice
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup diced red bell pepper, or gold:)
1 teaspoon sea salt
pinch of cayenne, or more

Combine 2 cups of the corn, with the tomato juice in food processor. You may want to add a tiny bit of water to help smooth it out.

in a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil, and add the onion and bell pepper. When tender turn flame down to medium heat. Stir in the pureed corn mixture. Allow to simmer for a minute, then add the whole corn kernals, along with spices.
Garnish with some sliced green onion.
Serve warm!

I did find this cool blog about where vegans can eat in NOLA. Just in case anyone was planning a trip:)
And below is a picture of Sweet Mama Janisse, owner and chef at Bless My Soul, a veggie-friendly creole style restaurant in Eureka, Ca. She specializes in delicious sauces, all mostly vegan friendly. And her vegan hush puppies are delectable.


More Love for M Cafe


I’ve said it before, and will I say it a million times more, I LOVE M CAFE!
LA can be the most draining city on all levels. But with the help of good company, especially those who desire amazing vegan eats as much as I, LA can be sooo incredibly yummy!
In case you haven’t yet heard the scoop on this place, M Cafe “quoted” is Contemporary Macrobiotic Cuisine — featuring balanced, nutritious, creative cooking which can be enjoyed daily by everyone, not just vegetarians or people with dietary restrictions.
Instead of going for the amazing Tempeh Florentine, which is my favorite brunch option, (see my old post on M cafe!), I decided to go for the Japanese Bento Breakfast Special, pictured above. It’s starter was a Kyoto style miso soup. Thinly sliced shitake mushrooms, wakame, scallions, cubed tofu, and yellow miso broth.


When the Bento Platter arrived, I hadn’t even gotten thru 2 sips off my fresh celery lemon juice. And boy was the platter huge! Simple scoop of brown rice, salad with ginger dressing and homemade pickled radishes, grilled tofu drizzled with a katzu glaze. And lets not forget about the gingered-arame-cucumber salad to help the digestion of all the food I was about to pile into my belly!
My friends had the blueberry pancakes, served with fresh strawberries and sweet maple syrup.
You’ll have to admit that Brunch like this on a Thursday is quite impressive!


The following morning was a run around. But of course, I needed a little treat to help fuel my energy for the day. So where else to stop for a quick grab-n-go? M Cafe take out! In under 5 minutes, perfect for LAers, I grabbed a Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant, and a Raspberry Chocolate Muffin from the take-out counter. On a side note, I haven’t had a croissant in about 7 years, and more importantly, I’ve NEVER had a vegan croissant! Let alone chocolate drizzled.


Evan more exciting, I get to actually “work” in LA soon on the weekends. I’ll be demo-ing, and promoting the Nature’s Express Wraps at 20 different Whole Foods in LA county! So stop by and see me, and let me know what you think of the wraps! We are switching to bio-ware soon! Whole Foods is also making a movement to stop using plastic bags in all locations. It starts April 22nd. EARTH DAY! Pretty cool. Genevieve (in picture below) is so excited about the wraps being in Whole Foods LA, that she is forced to do a dance!


Holiday Cranberry Sauce


What is a more grown-up way to get that sweet, tart, cranberry fix that goes along with your holiday meal?
Now I’m not trying to knock down anyone’s favorite canned cranberry mold, but how about a homemade orange ginger cranberry sauce, with crunchy, toasted pecans! Made with using fresh, yes fresh cranberries! This recipe is so much fun, and you and everyone that surrounds it will be amazed!
And you can feel like a healthy grown-up too!

This recipe is delicious served warm. You can pre make this in advance, if you feel overwhelmed with all the cooking on Thanksgiving. Just make sure you stir in the pecans minutes before serving so they hold a slight crunch. If you want to lower the glycemic level, agave nectar works as a great substitute for the sugar.
This recipe also allowed me to use my microplane, for grating that hard ginger. A microplane is a super sharp zester, you not only use for your citrus, but coconut, whole cloves and nutmeg as well! What better season than fall to go out and get one! They are heavy duty durable, and last a long time! Zesting has never been easier!


If you can find a juicing orange, you will have less of a hard time trying to get the fresh juice out of the orange. And as a bonus, they usually don’t have any seeds!   Fresh cranberries should be at any grocery store this time of year. If you can’t find em’ get your butt to the farmers markets! I know you can definitely find them there!  Did I forget to mention all the Vitamin C this recipe has to offer?!

1/2 cup organic cane sugar, granulated

1 orange

1 tea. grated fresh ginger

4 cups of cranberries, fresh

1/2 cup pecans, toasted

***To toast your pecans, preheat your stove to 350 degrees. Spread you pecans evenly onto a cookie sheet. Place in oven and allow 4-5 minutes to toast. Be careful not to let them burn! Allow to cool, and chop till small (chocolate chip size) pieces.

Pick over your fresh cranberries and make sure non are discolored or shriveled.  I’ve heard that rip cranberries ‘bounce’ but I am not urging you to make a mess in the kitchen! If they are slightly firm and have a reddish hue, your good to go!
Grate the orange peel and ginger and place in a medium saucepan along with the sugar. Add the juice from the orange. Over medium heat, cook until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and reduce temperature to low, and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes until you hear them pop! Cool sauce till warm, and add those chopped Pecans!


Save some of the orange zest and pecans to garnish!
I don’t have a picture of my finished project this year yet, but I wanted to share this before the holiday! Have a safe and fun weekend everyone!

Rice Paper Lunch Fun

Recently, I’ve been using rice paper wrappers to make various versions of spring rolls.
If you haven’t worked with rice paper before, HAVE NO FEAR! When treated gently, and with care, they can be your new best friend. Not to mention they are unbelievably cheap! You can buy a package of rice paper wrappers for under $2 at a local Asian market. Rice paper is usually gluten free, only slightly cooked, and adds an edge to just your basic tortilla.
Here’s how to use em’

Fill a large shallow bowl, with filtered water. Submerge a rice paper sheet in the water, follow with another. Meanwhile, make sure you have a clean, dry, table to roll you wraps. After about 3-4 min. take one out, allowing to drip off excess water, and place on prep table. Follow with the other paper, laying vertically below, and covering the bottom 2 inches of the first paper wrap. Allow another minute to dry
Try to assemble your fillings in a horizontal line, across the bottom rice paper. Once you’ve stacked them, pull the bottom part of the rice paper over the fillings and start rolling upward, tucking and GENTLY securing to a hold. Slice in half, and serve.

Fillings can range from any favorite cold filling, a salad you bought at the market, leftover veggies with your favorite salad dressing. Go for color! They look so pretty when sliced and served!

My favorite fresh veggie filling consists of shredded purple cabbage, julienned yellow bell peppers, alfalfa sprouts, sliced avocado, fresh chopped cilantro and mint, with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. For a dipping sauce try nama shoyu with some thinly sliced scallions.

In the mood for something more hearty? How about some slices of Tofurky, a spread of tofutti cream cheese, fresh chives, sliced avocado, spring mix, and a dash of hot sauce!

These pack well for lunch in a plastic container, and will refrigerate well if wrapped tightly:)

Saag Paneer, Pakoras, and the Queen of Fragrance.


Indian flare nights are always exciting at the homestead. Rich spices & flavors, fresh vegetables, and wholesome grains. I also love meals where there are plenty of condiments to choose from. Chutneys are a delicious accompaniment to Indian dishes. Traditionally they contain fruit, vinegar, sugar, and spices, and can range from mild to hot, chunky or smooth. So tonight we made a HUGE meal, with the hopes of leftovers carrying us through the following day.

If you live in San Diego, I have recently been introduced to our “Little India.” And might I add, I can’t believe its taken me this long to get there!
Over in Clairemont, by Black Mountain road, you can find all sorts of cheap, Indian grocery stores, restaurants, and other fun things such as fashion outlets for saroongs! I was blown away with the minimal prices, as well as the authentic selection of food. For a couple staple items, I grabbed a big sack of basmati rice, a bag of imported chick pea flour, incense, bulk turmeric, cold lychee drinks, and some culinary tips from the store-run family!

Saag Paneer tends to be a favorite amongst us veg-heads. I believe its a result of all the minerals we intake when we eat large doses of spinach. But whats a girl to do when most of her favorite Indian restaurants are consumed with using ghee, and paneer?
Get to work in the kitchen thats what!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Paneer, it is a homemade cheese, made by curdled milk and lemon or lime juice. It is quite similar to tofu, so its easy to substitute. Ghee is actually a very healthy way of eating butter, but of course, I ALWAYS use my favorite, earth balance butter. I couldn’t give away my favorite saag recipe, but here is my pakora recipe. This is awesome for those of you trying to stay away from wheat and gluten. It is also *super* fun and simple to make! If you have a mortar and pestle, I suggest using that to grind your seeds and mix your other spices. If not, a coffee grinder will grind them just fine!


Assorted Veggies, broccoli & cauliflower florets are a hit! If your going to be using thicker vegetables, such as yams, or carrots, try steaming them first to soften up.

1 1/2 cups chick-pea flour (besan flour)
1 cup filtered water
2 tea. turmeric
1 1/2 tea. cumin seeds
1 tea. mustard seeds
1 tea. garam masala
1/2 tea. sea salt
1/2 tea. hing
1/2 tea. cayenne

***Start by mixing the flour and water in a bowl to make a stiff dough, then adding a little more while beating with wire whisk, to make a thick batter. Let sit for 30 min.
Meanwhile, grind and mix your seeds & spices.
After 30 minutes, mix spices in, batter should still be thick.

If you have one of those cute little home use deep fryers, they will turn out perfect, but those of us who don’t…..
Heat a pan with a fair amount of oil. (I use sunflower oil)
Submerge a vegetable floret into the batter, then quickly & gently drop into heated oil.
If entire floret is not covered, batter may slightly fall, so just be quick on turning them. When all sides are slightly browned, remove and drain on paper towel. Serve at once, accompanied by a sweet mango chutney.


Rub my belly Chocolate Puddin’


Yes, even Buddha would appreciate a healthy chocolate pudding every now and again.

As I’ve said before, chocolate is my favorite feel-good super food!
If you’ve read the key lime pie post, I mentioned being fascinated with my new hip grocery item, carbonated soy-whip cream! So this is what else I did with it.
Simple, yet elegant, Rich Chocolate Pudding. Made with only a few ingredients, this dessert can be made in a jiffy. Its also a bonus that most of the ingredients are a probable staple in most veggie pioneer kitchens!

This recipe is really about getting the basics, and using your own taste buds.

Start with 1 pound of silken tofu, drain and set on paper towel for 15 min.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt 1.75 cups of your favorite vegan chocolate chips with about a 1/4 cup of soymilk (I use grain sweetened sunspire chips!)
Crumble tofu, and place in food processor. Add melted chocolate, 1 Tab. of coconut oil, and 1/2 a scraped vanilla bean.
Blend till smooth. Test for sweetness, and richness. If you feel you need a little more sweetener, add in some blue agave syrup. For a boost, you could add a teaspoon of extract such as mint, almond, or orange.
This makes about 4-5 servings. Get funky and add some whip cream, chocolate chips, sprinkled cinnamon, shaved coconut, etc. Have fun!

Some more recent fun facts about Chocolate:


I’ve recently read an article on chocolate fueling our cars….
Well sort of. But how???
Scientists extract hydrogen through gases in waste food. They then began converting formic acid to hydrogen like mad.
The discovery of a way to extract hydrogen from food waste could be a real breakthrough for both industry and the environment, because the process isn’t restricted to chocolate waste. It works equally well on many other types of food waste.
The ability to convert food waste into clean renewable energy instead of garbage has the potential to transform the food industry. Using this process, food factories could conceivably use their own waste products to power their manufacturing operations, or to fuel a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Wouldn’t that be nice? I still have no sympathy for the Hummer drivers of the world, but this guy gets a star…….
The first H20 powered Hummer!