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Why I Fell In Love (with Tofu Sour Cream) February 2, 2010

Filed under: Recipes & Food Ideas — sharonsweets @ 5:03 pm
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I have this white container of Tofutti Sour Supreme that I bought from the super for $1.99. It was sitting unopened in the fridge for a few weeks when I needed to make some dinner in a hurry for my kids. I don’t eat this nondairy sour cream a lot because–while there’s no cholesterol in it and it way less fattening than regular sour cream–it is processed and has some ingredients in it that you don’t want to live on every day. It’s fine in my book though for an occasional addition to a meal. A little goes a long way.

Green & Cream

So after realizing I had this container sitting around, I cooked some fresh broccoli crowns, chopped them up, mixed in nondairy cheese shreds (my favorite Daiya, though any will do, or none at all), threw in some of the cooking water, some Sour Supreme, nutritional yeast for protein and b vitamins, garlic powder, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. I stirred it up and voila–creamy, cheesy broccoli that we all–kids included–ate up pretty darn quickly.

Make Your Own

It’s easy to make your own creamy dish. You don’t have to do any planning ahead,  just stir up some tofu sour cream into your dish, add a little water, and it’ll cream up nicely.

For Hanukkah, when we make vegan potato latkes, I always make my own tofu sour cream with a “bite” using silken tofu, fresh garlic, lemon juice, and sea salt blended until creamy, occasionally with some vinegar too. You can make your own for a healthier version of tofu sour cream and store it in a sealed container in the fridge for the next time your creamy craving comes on strong. And if you want, you can season it your way with fresh or dried herbs blended right in. Cilantro is my favorite.

Or you can just blend the drained silken tofu and use it without seasoning, right in your dishes, and season the dish as a whole. I do this with my Pasta Vodka and Stroganoff dishes.

Alfredo Who?

I was so impressed with my broccoli dish, that the next night, I boiled some pasta shells and made a cheesy cream sauce. I added some of the cooking water from the pasta, Daiya cheese shreds, Sour Supreme, olive oil, nutritional yeast, minced fresh garlic, cayenne pepper, and sea salt, cooked it together with the pasta on the stove top for a minute or two, and score! I have not had such a creamy pasta dish in years. It was so fast to make and so unbelievably–deceptively–rich and creamy.

Dip It

I also use tofu sour cream to make quick dips. You can buy a natural vegan onion dip mix in the health food store to stir in, or make your own dip using roasted red peppers, chipotles, or whatever tickles you.

Spice Control

Another great use of tofu sour cream is as an addition to Mexican or Indian food–to cool things down when they’re too spicy. Or in a seven-layer dip that is always a big hit at parties.

…and Dessert

Tofu sour cream can be a cool balance to a sweet fruity dish, or can make a vegan cake super rich and moist. My mom eats it along with her cranberry fruit salsa. Try it over vegan crepes with fruit on top.

As usual, there are many more recipes and ideas to come. Check in with the Sweet Utopia blog regularly.

Love, Sharon



Indulge: 10 Easy Rules for Feeling Great January 29, 2010

I don’t deprive myself of cravings, I don’t diet, I don’t count calories, I don’t eliminate any vegan foods from my diet, I will eat anything vegan, and I have chocolate every day. Today I’m sharing some of the food wisdom that helps me get through the week and keeps me healthy, happy and fit.

1-Enjoy a rainbow. Eat all colors of foods, especially when it comes to veggies and fruits. Take time in the produce aisle or farmer’s market to explore and try new things. Don’t be intimidated; you can always Google a vegetable’s preparation. Buy what tickles your fancy because food should be enjoyable.

2-Get a bit of fat. I gained the most weight when I tried the fad fat-free diet. Now I eat a decent amount of healthy fats from soy, avocados, nuts, seeds, olive, flax and coconut oil, and I feel full, without my body freaking out that it’s not getting any fat and thus holding on to whatever it can produce from sugar and carbs.

3-Protein. I don’t feel full without eating protein at each meal and most snacks. I always make sure I roll that in or else I stay hungry. Good sources are beans, nuts, seeds, and veggie meats. Some whole grains already contain a lot of protein, like quinoa.

4-Don’t forget the treats. No chocolate? I don’t think so. Yes, Ms. Sweet Utopia eats treats each day. I just make sure I don’t overdo it. And if I do, I drink extra water, reduce the next meal substantially or eat only veggies for a little bit, and I kick up the exercise. Once you are in tune with your body, you can really tell where your body’s balance is, and do what it takes to maintain it when something like sugar comes around a little too strong.

5-Build your meals using carb blocks. Whole grains are best, but don’t overdo portion sizes of any of them. Using fat, protein and plenty of raw or lightly cooked vegetables with your carbs allows you to eat less carbs and still fill up. I eat various breads, pastas, rice, quinoa, millet, etc. but I don’t overdo it too often.

6-Snack a lot. I have a healthy, filling snack between each meal so I don’t have to eat 3 huge main meals.

7-Drink up. Keep hydrated with water. A glass or two of green tea, coffee, herbal tea, fortified nondairy milk, or very watered down juice is also good. Bonus points if you break out the juicer.

8-Mix it up & be happy. Vary everything you eat to maximize nutrition and enjoyment. Vegan and healthy should never bore you.

9-Movement and Rest. You really do need to get off your butt! Especially if you’re stuck at a computer all day. Carve out exercise time. Take a few extra minutes at your break to go to the gym and at least do cardio. Get up earlier. Run around or dance with your kids. Use weights. Do yoga. Go for walks and hikes. Or just jump around for a few minutes here and there. All this will kick up your metabolism so you can eat what feels good to you and not worry about it. And make sure that you get lots of rest. A good solid chunk of sleep at night, naps when you can, and just resting any other time you feel you need it will keep you healthy and less burned out.

10-Supplement. Everyone-especially vegans-needs to make sure they are getting the basics. I always add things in to our meals like flax oil or flax meal, DHA, nutritional yeast for B vitamins, dulse flakes for trace minerals, and green probiotic powder. We take multivitamins and calcium/vitamin d/magnesium, and other vitamins as needed. If we feel we’re getting sick, we’ll fight it with zinc, vitamin c and echinacea and herbal immune support supplements. It works well. Take some time to tour the vitamin section of your health food store. We’ll talk more about supplements another time.

You can eat really well and be radiantly healthy, without extremes and deprivation. It’s all about making smart choices and finding your own balance so that you can be fit and feel great.


The Munchies January 28, 2010

Filed under: Recipes & Food Ideas — sharonsweets @ 2:53 pm
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I like to munch. And my family cannot survive without snacks, little meals, and small goodies to pick on. Sometimes I have the munchies so bad that I end up eating too many and that becomes my next meal. My kids snack all day long when they’re home, right up to the next meal and soon after. They’re tall, thin, growing boys. Here are some examples of snacks I keep on hand that don’t require much preparation, that are mostly healthy…

-Flavored humus, especially chipotle pepper. Trader Joe’s makes a great one, with no preservatives, but there are many supermarket brands. Also Baba Ganoush. If you make these yourself, that’s even better!

-Ready guacamole.These are unpreserved and they come in plastic in the refrigerator section.

-Peanut butter. For an extra decadent treat, try flavored peanut butters like those from Peanut Butter Co. The White Chocolate flavor is like eating candy, but they are all natural. The kids love spoonfuls of peanut or sunflower butter after meals for a little extra filling up of the tank, extra good fat and protein, and it’s also entertainment for them.

-Dips. Tofu sour cream with a natural onion dip mix from the health food store stirred in. Or a homemade dip, of course.

-Crunchy stuff. Tings, Veggie Booty, Potato Crisps, Organic Tortilla Chips, Snapea Crisps, whole grain crackers (Trader Joe’s makes organic crackers with flax), seeded flatbreads, peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets, and endless natural crunchy things we find.

-Of course, we do snack on fruits and vegetables. Apples and bananas are always big, but for me lately, I cannot get enough red grapefruits. Kids love them too because they are so sweet and juicy. Bugs on a log (raisins on peanut butter on celery sticks) are always fun. My toddler will eat any vegetable, like red pepper strips or carrot sticks. Cucumbers and grape tomatoes are popular too.

-Nuts. Always a great snack, and even the kids are beginning to love them. Brazil nuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios. I always try to push the super-healthy but apparently less yummy seeds, like sunflower and pumpkin. I will even eat black sesame seeds for a snack–they are super healthy.

Sometimes snacks get a little more substantial, like tortillas rolled up with Earth Balance and sprinkles of nutritional yeast, or a slice of Tofurkey rolled up. Or we’ll have sheets of sushi seaweed. Popcorn is a good one, with the healthiest version being organic kernals popped in a plain brown paper bag and then seasoned with oil or vegan butter and nutritional yeast. There are also tasty organic microwave popcorn packets.

My favorite snack in the world is dark chocolate, but I am trying to keep that to myself and off the list!


A Little (Vegan) Taste of the World January 27, 2010

Eating out is one of the joys of life. No planning, shopping, cooking or cleaning required! And if you do it right, you can get amazing vegan food anywhere you go, just like I manage to do. A little thinking and investigating goes a long way when you want to dine heartily vegan style. Here are some of my secrets to making sure I eat well on the road like I always do.

* Plan your meal when you can. Look up menus online. See if there is a meal that is either already vegan or there is an entree that can be prepared vegan.

* Stay away from entrees altogether sometimes. Some of the best dishes in restaurants are actually the small dishes, the appetizers. Go for a few of these and make a meal of it. Appetizers tend to be lighter and smaller dishes that are often vegetable or mushroom based anyway.

* Do a search for vegan restaurants before you travel. Keep the list safe in your bag. Sites like happycow.net, supervegan.com, veganeatingout.com, vegguide.org, and friendsofanimals.org feature comprehensive vegan resources that you can use to plan your meals. I’ve been using these for many years when traveling around the country and abroad, and being prepared has enabled me to not only eat like a vegan queen in distant lands, but to travel off the beaten path to explore the less commercial points of cities, far away from any McDonalds or Pizza Huts.

When there’s no vegan restaurant in sight, you can still eat like royalty! My golden rule is, the more ethnic the restaurant, the better shot you have. As long as the staff speaks English or a language you do, that is. You don’t want to end up like I did, in downtown LA at 2 am in a Korean restaurant, where no one understood what I said. They kept coming back to my table with various animal products! Yuck! Well, that’s rare, so let’s break it down by ethnic food type and you’ll be sure to leave full.

* Italian. Ask if the pasta contains eggs. Fresh pasta usually does, so if you are fine dining, you might be more limited in options. If you can’t find vegan pasta, you can still make a dish out of vegetables, white beans, and bread with olive oil. You can also sneak in a little shaker of vegan parmesan if you need that sprinkle to enhance a pasta marinara or arrabiata. It’s not unheard of (to me, anyway!). Be sure to ask the server to prepare your food without any broth, and using only tomato, vegetables, mushrooms, beans, olive oil and optional wine as the base. You’re safe with salads without cheese or meat, or with sauteed spinach with garlic. I love to get the greens at Italian restaurants and some white beans on top. It’s a great way to boost the protein in your meal. You can’t be shy when you are ordering or you just won’t get what you want. Don’t worry about what the menu reads. Ask for EXACTLY what you want, how you want it. Make a point of saying that you CANNOT eat ANYTHING with ANY meat, chicken, broth, cheese, egg or fish in it. If you’re feeling especially frisky, give the waiter a list of ingredients you like and have the chef come up with something. This is really fun and I do it all the time. My list usually goes something like this: green olives, mushrooms, garlic, wine, tomatoes, broccoli, artichokes and spinach, spicy. I’ve had some amazing creations made for me this way! If you like pizza, you could go the route of a cheeseless veggie pizza sprinkled with your little shaker of cheese, but that doesn’t usually cut it for me.

* Indian. Another one of my all-time faves. There are many South Indian restaurants where you can get all vegetarian food, however, this isn’t really helpful when you want to eat vegan. So the vegetarian restaurants and those that serve meat are usually on the same footing for a vegan. You’ll have to ask for non-creamy dishes to be prepared without any cream or ghee (clarified butter). They will ALWAYS accommodate you. Now, I’m really lucky because I live near a South Indian restaurant that has buffets which are 95% vegan, as they cook with coconut oil rather than ghee, and only make about one creamy dish. ASK, ASK, ASK! Don’t ever take anything for granted! My favorite dish to have prepared especially for me is Saag Chana/Saag Chole, spinach with garbanzo beans, a very satisfying, iron and protein-packed dish. If you don’t like spicy food, ask for it extra mild, because without the dairy, it’ll be extra fiery. And ask them not to butter the bread too. Occasionally there will be milk in the Naan (oven-baked bread). You’re fine with any condiments as long as they don’t put yogurt in them. So with a few initial questions (hopefully it won’t come across to your server as interrogation!), you can eat at any Indian restaurant.

* Japanese & Chinese. If you don’t want MSG in your food, you better clear that up before you even sit down. Some places use it on everything, even in the miso soup. You can otherwise do fabulously in these kinds of Asian restaurants. So many of the dishes are vegetable and tofu based already. Just double check that there is no fish of any kind in the sauces. And mixed vegetable sushi is to die for. You can make a meal of just that! Tempura uses dairy and egg so stay away from that. You may once in a blue moon encounter a wild card like I did a long time ago, ending up with tofu wrapped in fish skin. Yikes, that’s something you want to catch before biting into it.

* Thai. Again, watch carefully for the fish sauce. Some places will list a dish that has fish sauce in it in their vegetarian menu (sigh). I have seen that many times. So make sure the chef will make you a dish special with no fish sauce. Say you’re allergic if you have to. Once you’ve cleared that up, you should be ok with green or red curry, pad thai with no egg or meat, made with tofu and vegetables and NO FISH SAUCE, or other noodle or vegetable dishes. You can even get lucky on a dessert once in a while, if they make something based on coconut cream with no dairy cream in it. And my favorite is to ask for Thai Iced Tea made with coconut milk rather than cream. You sure will get some strange looks, but it’ll be worth it, I promise.

* American. It cracks me up that our own country gives us vegans the hardest time. It’s rare that there is a vegan veggie burger on the menu unless you luck out with a vegan Boca burger like at Johnny Rockets. You could always eat a plain baked potato with ketchup and olive oil, salad and pickles on the side. Always ask for some type of protein, in the rare instance there are beans somewhere in the kitchen that are not cooked with meat. If you’re super desperate you could scan the kids’ menu for PB&J or pasta marinara (again, keep your vegan parmesan handy). If you like vegetables, you can ask to have a plate made, with portobellos if you’re lucky, and a good marinade, like olive oil, lemon and herbs, with NO BROTH. Definitely first scan the appetizers because you could get lucky with something like hummus on the menu that you could double to make an entree portion.

* Mexican. Ole, this is my favorite. So many burrito joints are popping up left and right. The key is to make sure that there is no lard in the beans or the tortillas, and no chicken broth in the rice. The chips are always fried in oil. Then you can load up with guac, veggies and salsa. If you’re bold, you can bring your own shredded vegan cheese and even ask the burrito roller to throw it in there. But if not, you can have a perfectly filling, protein-packed, well-rounded burrito without any cheese at all.

If you like extra-exotic, go for an African restaurant like Ethiopian, which has a huge number of vegan vegetable and legume dishes. Vegan heaven! And don’t even bother with French restaurants in the US, unless you just want to eat plain bread! I think this is funny because when I was in France, they prepared the best vegan pasta dishes for me, better than I got in Italy.

If you can’t find a restaurant that suits you, you can always eat straight from a health food store. Often they will heat up a frozen meal for you in their microwave. If you can’t even get to a health food store, they definitely use one of my main traveling tips: Always carry peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, or soy nut butter with you at all times. This way, all you need to make a filling meal is some local bread and vegetables,fruits, etc. Nut/seed butters travel really well and will really fill you up with good proteins and fats if you’re in a jam!

Bon Voyage!!


Baby Steps Toward Veganism October 26, 2009

You may be one of the many people who are interested in veganism (well, hey, you are reading this aren’t you?). But you don’t know really where to start. It’s so overwhelming to imagine your life without. Just without. Because you think of it that way. You think of all the things you’ll have to give up. Here are a few steps to help you on your journey toward a healthier and kinder diet.

1. Change your mindset and brace yourself for an adventurous ride. Prepare as if you were going to do a massive experiment, because this is what you will be doing. You will be buying all kinds of things, tasting things, exploring recipes and new ways of eating. Be open to new experiences.

2. Embrace nondairy milk. Take your pick. There are about 20 varieties or more of soymilk. There are ricemilks, almond milks, whole grain milks, hazelnut, coconut, hemp, oat, and many more kinds of milk. Please make sure that you get the fortified variety. You will need the calcium, vitamin D, and B12 that are added. Make sure the vitamin D is D2, which is laboratory-created and not D3, which is derived from lanolin, from sheep oil. Taste different kinds of milk and decide which you like best plain, in cereal, coffee, or however you use cow’s milk currently.

3. Find the new and great meat subs. The new meat substitutes are amazing!! Go out and scan your supermarket, health food and specialty stores, fresh and frozen sections, and just try out lots of things. If you’re not in an area where you can get much, you can order frozen and packaged vegan specialties that will be delivered via UPS, http://www.veganstore.com is one example. There are vegan versions that really do approximate bacon, chicken strips, chunks, nuggets or patties, hamburgers, ground meat, sausage, hot dogs, ham, turkey, cold cuts, and so on. And they have gotten so good that you would be fooled!!

4.What about CHEESE???? You’ve hit on the sore spot of vegans for a very long time. I bet you could attribute a great percentage of failed conversions from vegetarian to vegan to the lack of a tasty cheese alternative. But that problem has just about become obsolete with the new products. My favorite are Daiya shreds for any melting (pizza, other Italian and Mexican food, grilled, etc.) and Sheese hard cheeses for slicing or toasting, plus Dr. Cow for eating straight. Vegan Gourmet, Tofutti slices, and Vegan Rella are also great. Yes, they are relatively expensive, but worth it. Why let cheese stand in the way of becoming a vegan when you can use these cheeses? You might have to special order them from an online vegan store, but they are entirely worth it. It’s gourmet and a real treat, and good enough to use in your every day cooking and eating.

5. Check out other dairy food replacements. Try soy versions of yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, butter and mayonaise.

While you’re exploring, try to add more vegetable dishes to your diet. We’ll talk more about this later.