The Big 5-0-0

Although I've been busy and away from the blog a bit this month, I've still been active on The Verdant Life's Facebook page. That's where I usually share interesting links, random food photos, and burning questions generally related to what's for dinner.

Over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, when I wasn't connected umbilically to my computer, a great thing happened on the page. The Verdant Life reached 500 Facebook fans!

I'm lucky that The Verdant Life has so many subscribers to the blog (far more than 500) but I'm pleased and honored that 500 people have chosen to follow me on Facebook as well. I thought this made for a great opportunity to thank all my readers, regardless of how my posts come to you. Whether you subscribe via RSS or e-mail, like the blog on Facebook, or simply visit via a bookmark, I'm so glad to have you here. After all, I really am writing every post for each of you.

Thank you for your continued support. If you're not yet following the blog on Facebook and you'd like to see updates from The Verdant Life in your feed, please join us today.

Stay tuned tomorrow to the blog for the big reveal of my May Vegan Food Swap goodies and a run-down of posts you can expect to see coming up in June!


Giveaway Winner, Pizza, and Sexy Vegan Food

First up, a winner! Congratulations to Jordan Dunne for winning my giveaway for a box of 15 PureFit protein bars! Jordan's comment was selected by the Random Number Generator at

If you're wondering why I haven't been posting a ton of original recipes lately, there's a good reason. You see, we've been eating a LOT of pizza lately, as I test recipes for Julie Hasson's upcoming vegan pizza book. I think you all know how near and dear to my heart the art of vegan pizza is, and it's been really interesting to try out someone else's take on the whole pie thing. Here are a few of the test pies I've been noshing on:

Mushroom and Potato Pizza -  Mmmm, shroomy goodness.

Korean Pizza - a new favorite!

Pesto and Asparagus Pizza - a celebration of spring asparagus.
Pizzas are not the only new recipes I've been testing around here.

Last month, I received a review copy of The Sexy Vegan Cookbook, which has received stellar reviews across the web. The author, Brian L. Patton, is a bit of a web-celeb, mostly due to his YouTube videos. Patton's videos largely how-to recipes and cooking methods, with a few bad jokes and ukelele songs mixed in.

Now, back to that cookbook. Touted (via the book's subtitle) as "Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude," most of the recipes in the book are what I'd call, let's say, less than extraordinary. Relying heavily on soy products and meat analogs, Patton's dishes consist mostly of veganized versions of classic comfort foods, like spaghetti and meatballs, sliders, bacon, and nachos. Since I was never in love with those foods, I found it challenging to decide which recipes to try. I enlisted the help of my own resident "ordinary dude" and we decided to make the following:

My Balls (p. 26)
New England Blam Chowder (p. 62)
The Portly Fellow, a marinated portabello sandwich (p. 107) which also uses Sun-Dried Tomato and White Bean Spread (p. 108)

My Balls - These are baked tempeh and walnut balls, intended to go with spaghetti or in a faux meatball sandwich. They tasted good, but they were a huge mess and somewhat time consuming to make, and ended up being much more crumbly than I anticipated. My aforementioned ordinary dude liked them and requested that I make them again in the future, so I probably will, but with some modifications. I neglected to photograph mine, but you can see them on my friend Bianca's blog in her review.

The Sexy Vegan's New England Blam Chowder
New England Blam Chowder - This soup is a riff on clam chowder, which my omni dude loves. I prepared the recipe as written and ended up with a bland milky bowl of liquid. On its own, I wouldn't call this recipe "sexy" in the slightest. Luckily, I was able to doctor it up with the addition of some thickener, additional herbs, some acidity, and an additional 15 minutes of simmering. The result was completely edible, but unremarkable.

The Sexy Vegan's Portly Fellow portabello sandwich (shown with sweet potato fries)
The Portly Fellow - This is a recipe within a recipe, as it requires you to first make Sun-Dried Tomato and White Bean Spread. The spread is quite tasty, and the recipe makes more than you'll need for the sandwiches, so you'll have leftovers for other sandwiches, wraps and (my fave) pizza. I would absolutely make the spread again. However, the whole sandwich as assembled wasn't that exciting. I adore portabello mushrooms in sandwich form, but I didn't find anything special about this one. The white bean spread even gets lost in the sandwich and both I and my dude found it difficult to discern its flavor against the meaty mushroom, spicy arugula, and raw red onion.

Aside from being underwhelmed by the recipes, I found myself a bit frustrated by the instructions at times. The preparation instructions are often vague, especially where time and doneness come into play. Although it wasn't a problem for me, a veteran cook, to work my way through a recipe, I think that someone with less experience in the kitchenor who was new to vegan foodmight get into some trouble. That's a shame, because I think these vegan versions of comfort food classics are best targeted at new vegans with little cooking experience. For that reason, I think Patton missed the boat just slightly, and I hope to see more complex flavors, detailed instructions, and sharp wit in his next book, should he pen one.


Review: PureFit vegan protein bars (with Giveaway!)

The last time I had a protein bar was probably over 10 years ago.

I remember them being gummy, chalky, bland, heavy, and not-at-all appetizing. So, when PureFit approached me about sampling their gluten-free, vegan protein bars, "skeptical" became an outright understatement. I strive to keep an open mind, though, so I agreed to give the bars a try. 

Sometimes, it's good to be wrong. 

PureFit bars are not only vegan and gluten-free, but also high in protein and have a low glycemic index. That last bit is particularly important to me these days, as I'm making more of an effort to keep an even blood sugar level throughout the day, because I find it means I have more energy and stay in a decent mood. Foods with a low glycemic index are also popular in my household because I share my pantry with a diabetic snackaholic. So, the shipment of PureFit bars was a welcome trial. 

Currently, there are five flavors available from PureFit: Granola Crunch, Chocolate Brownie, Almond Crunch, Peanut Butter Crunch and Berry Almond Crunch. 

Each bar is 1 serving and contains 210-220 calories, depending on the flavor. Boasting 18g protein (mainly from soy), PureFit bars make a great pre-workout snack. And since they won't melt, they'd be a great addition to summer hikes and outdoor travels. 

I was fortunate to sample all five flavors. Among them, Almond Crunch and Peanut Butter Crunch were my favorites. Both were nutty and slightly sweet without being too heavy. Chocolate Brownie rounded out my top three, and tasted like a real treat. Any of my chocoholic readers would probably love that one. The other flavors were okay, but just not my jam. I celebrate diversity, so that's okay. 

The kind folks are PureFit have extended a special offer for you, my dear readers. Order a sample pack (one each of the 5 flavors) and receive 25% off your order, plus free shipping. Just enter coupon code VERDANTLIFE when placing your order! That means each bar will cost you just $1.49. (You're welcome!) 

If that great discount weren't enough, PureFit has also decided to offer a special prize pack of 15 PureFit bars to one lucky reader (winner chooses the flavor). Each reader can gain up to 3 entries. Get started below!

UPDATE: Contest Rules 
My contest widget appears to be broke, so here's how to enter:
1. Leave a comment and let me know what flavor you'd like to try. (Worth 1 entry)
2. "Like" PureFit on Facebook and leave a comment that you did. (Worth 1 entry)
3. Tweet the giveaway: "Enter to win @PureFitBars #vegan protein bars on @TheVerdantLife" and then come back and leave a comment. (Worth 1 entry)

The contest ends Wednesday, May 9 at 12:01am EST and the winner will be announced that afternoon. 

FTC: I received a sample of this product at no charge in exchange for my unbiased review.


Sesame Ginger Sauce

Dear Readers: Please don't be mad, but I made stir fry.

I hear from vegetarians and vegans near and far that the ubiquitous stir fry is a despised dish, reminiscent of their early days of meatless eating, when they just didn't know what to make. The mere mention of stir fry can send some of you into sour-faced shuddering spasms. I know. I've seen it.

I'm not going to give you a recipe for stir fry. What I am going to do is offer up a simple, flavor-packed Asian-inspired sauce that can turn your average, every day, run of the mill stir fry into a delicious dish that even your omnivore friends will love. This recipe also makes a great dipping sauce for springrolls and other appetizers, so feel free to skip the stir fry is you're in the aforementioned spasm camp.

Sesame Ginger Sauce 
Yield: 2 servings

2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp mirin (or sherry)
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (I use both white and black)
  1. Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. 
  2. Toss with desired ingredients and serve. 
If using for stir fry, prep your choice of veggies totaling about 5-6 cups. I like a combination of mushrooms, red bell pepper, lacinado (dinosaur) kale, broccoli and mung bean sprouts. Fry veggies in a dry nonstick pan, adding a little water if needed, until everything is cooked the way you like it. Remove from heat and toss with Sesame Ginger Sauce before serving.

For noodles, cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain but do not rinse, and then toss with Sesame Ginger Sauce.

If you want to combine your noodles with your stir fry, I recommend dressing them separately and then portioning them out. I'm not sure why, but it just seems to work better that way, as opposed to mixing the cooked noodles with the stir fried veggies before adding the sauce.

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