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Welcome Back…

We’ve been gone a minute, but we sure have missed you!

To our friends in Asheville, North Carolina, we miss you and thank you for your continued support. We are happy to say that Charlotte has been a great home for us, and we are getting back to all things vegan baking and spreading that good vegan love.

New! New! New!

One of your requests over the years has been tutorials. You want to know how to make beautiful vegan treats at home. Well, I am happy to announce that vegan baking and cooking tutorials are coming your way! There will be free content, online subscription-based content, and in-person classes available!

bowls shaped as hearts
Baking that vegan love!

Additionally, we have some good news coming soon — stayed tuned. Nope, our lips are sealed. That is all we are giving up at the moment. 🙂 If you know me at all, you know that I don’t want to jinx anything. Let’s just say that we are working hard to bring that vegan sexy back to your hungry belly!

Stay tuned, and until then, we will begin throwing lots of new information and fun stuff your way. It feels good to be back.

-Jeannie

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Vegan Atari Birthday Cake – Vintage is Best

Cake in the shape of Atari Game Console

Loren’s birthday was a great time for me to experiment and whip up a vegan birthday cake shaped like an Atari game console, complete with joysticks. Atari was my beloved companion when I was little. I still have my original console, and it is fully operational. We love to play it, and I’m still collecting games for it.

atari game console shaped vegan cake

For Loren’s cake I made our vegan chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. The joysticks and game console are all cake, and covered with fondant. The vertical joystick controller is chocolate fondant. All trim on the controller was cut from fondant by hand.

vegan atari cake

The little details on the cake make a difference. Due to the scale, I did not replicate all of the print on top of the game system. I did, however, hand paint a little Atari logo homage. The wood grain was a mix of brown and white fondants.

Packed up and ready to share with co-workers!

vegan atari shaped fan cake

This shaped cake was a blast to make, and Loren loved it.

 

Atari shaped cake for Loren

 

He’s a bit more thrilled than when he turned 3. He must have been afraid of the cake sliding off of his legs. Little Loren is counting the minutes until he can dig in.

Child Birthday

 

Cake in the shape of Atari Game Console

The gamer boy in his Pac-Man ghost tee.

striegel I heart veg

Happy Birthday, Loren! 🙂 You can have your vegan cake and play with it, too!

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Food Should Taste Good Chip Review

bags of food should taste good chips

I’ve already spoken about my love for the humble potato, so it should come as no surprise that when I was given the opportunity to try a variety of Food Should Taste Good® chips, I was more than willing to give my taste buds a workout. All chip varieties are gluten free, cholesterol free, have zero grams trans fats, and many are certified vegan. Yes, certified by Vegan Action. All of the chips included in this review are vegan.

Disclosure: I am a BzzAgent and was provided a free sample of this product to review. My reviews and experiences are my honest opinions of the products tested.

bags of food should taste good chips

Before I opened a bag, I was in love with the fact that the vegan status of each product is clearly labeled. I am immediately comforted that I will not have to spend the evening on the phone with the manufacturer asking if ingredient A or C is animal or plant based since they failed to note it. Hungry vegan, you are green lit to begin salivation.

certified vegan label on chip bag

This happens to be the back side of the “Olive” tortilla chip bag.

Food Should Taste Good Olive Tortilla chips

This lovely bag of “Olive” tortilla chips beckoned me to dive in and taste the black, green, and kalamata olives that are used to create the chip. Olives are another favorite food of mine. These chips quickly made their way to the top of my favorite snack list. They are delicious. While other products may tease that certain ingredients are used to create a product, one can actually see and taste the olives in this chip.

Aside from chip duty, the round shape makes it a perfect surface to be used as a cracker. Don’t worry, the chips won’t buckle under the pressure of a roasted pepper or artichoke dip. They would also make a great substitution for bread when used for a light tomato bruschetta.

olive chips food should taste good

My next favorite of the bunch were the jalapeno tortilla chips.

jalapeno food should taste good chips

jalapeno chips food should taste good

Jalapeno flavored chips always find their way into my basket at the grocery store. I love spicy foods, especially the flavor of the jalapeno pepper. Unfortunately, many jalapeno flavored chips on the market either swing to the flamin’ hot and no flavor side, or they have a distinctive chemical taste that isn’t remotely close to the true flavor of a jalapeno pepper.

The savory flavor of the jalapeno pepper is showcased in this chip, thereby creating a chip that doesn’t overwhelm the mouth with heat. The chip flavor is not dominated by a painful spice that will have you running to the nearest faucet, but it still has a spicy bite thanks to the crushed red and jalapeno pepper ingredients. The chip has a very natural flavor. It reminds me of the flavor created when one makes their own picante sauce. I would be confident serving this chip to the person who isn’t truly a fan of spicy foods, as I think the spice in this chip wouldn’t scare them off.

While I am a salsa lover, I refrained and ate these chips sans any topping. If you scoot over to the Food Should Taste Good website, you’ll find plenty of dip and drink recipes to get your next gathering or snack fest off to a great start. They would make a great chip to serve with our Vegan Garlic Strong Guacamole.

Next up, featuring one of the the most loved foods of North Carolina, the sweet potato tortilla chip. FYI:  North Carolina is the No. 1 sweet potato producing state in the United States.

food should taste good sweet potato chip

The sweet potato chip exceeded my expectations. I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, but I don’t happen to love them in many other forms. I’m neither a fan of the sweet potato french fry, the sweet potato tofu shake, nor sweet potato soup. The sweet potato chips are slightly sweet, and I found myself reaching for one after another. While they are a chip, I felt like I was eating a little bit of dessert. These might be just the pantry item to keep on hand when you want to squelch that sweet tooth demand. I think you’ll be surprised how a little sweet taste can fulfill a seemingly big craving. They really are very good, and I suspect even a vegetable-hater would find these delightful.

The bag suggests serving them with fruit salsa, raspberry jam, or apple butter. I’ll leave that for you to test out.

food should taste good chips sweet potato

Ah, the blue corn tortilla chip. Blue corn tortilla chips and I have a difficult relationship. I always want to love them, but they frequently leave a bad taste in my mouth. I am happy to report that Food Should Taste Good has released me from my blue corn tortilla chip battle, as I now know I can turn to them when I am in need of a blue corn tortilla chip.

food should taste good blue corn chip

These chips succeed where others have failed because they are not huge slabs of blue corn. Many competitor chips are so thick I’m in a state of panic biting into one, fearing my tooth will snap off with it. This is not the case with these blue corn tortilla chips, as they are crispy and thin. They are clearly still a tortilla chip, but they are thinner than most other brands I’ve tried.

blue corn chips Food Should Taste Good

They are slightly nutty in flavor, thanks to the flax and sesame seeds, but you don’t have to worry about damaging your teeth on the seeds, as they are not hard rocks of texture, but rather soft flavor enhancers. The seeds used in this chip did not bother me at all, and as someone who has had recent dental work, I’m especially sensitive to the way a flax seed can become an ingredient to avoid. Whatever Food Should Taste Good is doing to their sesame and flax seeds should be industry standard, as I’ve given up on other chip manufacturers who obviously had no concern for dental care. I can’t eat your chips if you break all of my teeth with the hard flax seeds you threw into the mix to appease the omega-3 seeking consumer.

Lastly, the good ol’ standard multigrain tortilla chip. Again, I was apprehensive, as my multigrain chip experiences of the past rated right up there with the blue corn tortilla chip, but Food Should Taste Good came through once again.

chip multigrain Food Should Taste Good

The multigrain, as the blue corn, has brown rice, flax, sesame and sunflower seeds, and quinoa as featured ingredients. They are very good–a great staple to keep in the pantry as they will be welcome at any party. The nutty flavor makes this a great chip to combine with a hummus dip. You won’t have to worry about the chip breaking off mid-dip, and thanks to the dental awareness at Food Should Taste Good (see blue corn statements regarding flax seeds), you won’t have to worry about breaking your tooth off either. The multigrain tortilla chip is a solid performer, as it is really just a good tasting tortilla chip.

None of these chips were extremely salty or oily. You won’t walk around with colored fingers or create large oil spills when you eat them.

Check out the Food Should Taste Good site. The company has an interesting history. There are many more products to test out at Food Should Taste Good, so look for them in your favorite shop.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, you can pick up a small bag for $1.00 at the snack bar in Target (at least at the N. Charlotte SuperTarget location). Go forth hungry vegan shopper, grab a bag on your next outing, and let us know what you think!

 

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You Can Make This: Vegan Potato Tots

There really seems to be a divide between the potato tot lover and the french fry aficionado. That divide is proven here at I Heart Veg, where Loren is soundly on the side of the tot, and Jeannie is all about the fry (but she is not picky about the cut- thick, ripple, whatever you got will do).

Jeannie has now added the tot to her potato love thanks to a great recipe from Cook’s Country for Crispy Potato Tots. Their easy to follow instructions were just the thing to get us into the kitchen and experimenting. Who knew you could make these delightful potato treats right at home? Jeannie always envisioned a special device that was secret to only the official tot makers. Now you can be that tot maker.

I know, it sounds taunting, but it really isn’t. The idea of it takes longer to absorb than the actually making of them. Just follow the instructions closely, and you’ll be sure to find success. See the photos below for our experience and twist on the recipe. Click on the photos for larger images.

There are a lot of frozen potato tots in the grocery store. There are some vegan ones, but many companies still try to throw in an egg or spray on beef fat for “flavor” or color. If you can find a vegan one, you’ll have to deal with hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils, and possibly high fructose. I recently picked up a package that had enough dairy, egg, hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils, and high fructose on the label that potato was the last ingredient. ??? How does that happen?

We love that they can be made up and frozen for up to a month, so you can make up a mess of them and eat at your leisure. Additionally, you can add onions, different spices, and you’ve got endless variations of tots.

If you are gonna have a fried treat, these should be it. Now get off your bum and go make some tots. Now. Don’t keep looking at me.

Processed potatoes
We processed the potatoes per the recipe, and they came out just right.

Processed potato pieces
Process the potatoes until they are uniform tiny bits. Don’t forget your water and salt!

cheesecloth bowl
We lined a bowl with cheesecloth for draining the water off the potatoes.

Cheesecloth potato drainage
Just line your bowl with cheesecloth, and dump in your potatoes.

Draining potatoes in cheesecloth
Gather your cheesecloth, pick it up, keeping the potatoes inside, and you have drained potatoes. You might need to give it a squeeze or two.

Excess water
Removing the starch from the potatoes is essential to fluffy tots. We had just a little more excess water than the recipe anticipated.

potatoes microwaved
Drained potatoes go into a bowl or plate, and we cooked ours for 8 mins. in the microwave. If you don’t get your potatoes cooked, they’ll be raw in the middle when you fry them.

potatoes cooked
Don’t forget to add your flour and pepper when the potatoes come out of the microwave. The potatoes are sticky, very much like sushi rice. Spread them out for cooling.

potatoes ready for chilling
Gather the potatoes in the center of the foil, and place in an 8×8 pan. Pop it in the freezer. Check it after 30 mins. We needed to push the potatoes down for more compression so the tots would stick together and gave them another ten mins. in the freezer. Next, you’ll cut them up.

frying potatoes
A handy thermometer helps you keep on the right temperature while you fry the tots. The oil temperature will drop dramatically when you add the frozen tots.

homemade tots
These homemade tots barely made it to a plate, as they were quickly consumed. Golden brown tots.

homemade potato tots
Homemade potato tots and ketchup were made for one another.

We think you’ll find these tots worthy of a zippered pant pocket.

[pinterest image_url=”http://iheartveg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/100_8873.jpg” count=”horizontal”]

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Video: Vegan Garlic Strong Guacamole Recipe

We had a great time hosting an Amazing Holiday House Party that featured Avocados from Mexico, and thought we’d keep the fun going by creating a video of one of our favorite recipes. Guacamole is a simple food, but so many people avoid making it because they are afraid something could go horribly awry. We really want you to learn to put your cooking and baking fears aside and just dive into the experience. Even is something doesn’t turn out right, you’ve learned something from it, and you are only improving. We hope you enjoy our first step into the video tutorial pool.

Some interesting facts about avocados from Avocados from Mexico:

* Avocados are a fruit, not a vegetable

* Mexico is the only place in the world where avocados bloom four times a year.

* The word avocado comes from the ancient Aztec ahuacatl (meaning testicle, because avocados hang in pairs).

* Nutrients in avocados help your body metabolize food.

* Avocados can be used in place of oil or butter when baking. Its mashed pulp can substitute up to one-half the fact you’d typically use.

* On Super Bowl Sunday, Americans eat enough guacamole to cover a football field more than 30 feet thick.

* Avocados are climacteric. They don’t ripen on the tree. They actually ripen seven to ten days after they are picked.

 

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Will Travel for Vegan Food Visits I Heart Veg

image of Kristin and Jeannie

In May 2012 in Weaverville, North Carolina, I met Kristin Lajeunesse, the vegan who “Will Travel for Vegan Food” and through whom I live vicariously as she drives around the United States seeking out and exalting the amazing vegan fare being produced by compassionate hearts and hands throughout the country.

A great journey driven by passion and benevolence motivates and inspires everyone met along the way.

– Jeannie’s motto for living

Kristin wanted to meet me and chat about my new vegan bakery. Unfortunately, the weather had turned cold, windy, and rainy, but good conversation warms the heart. When I get the chance to talk about veganism, my love of Asheville, and my own business dream, I warm up pretty quickly. Thank you, Michelle Wolf, for telling Kristin about I Heart Veg!

Kristin drives her trusty van “Gerty” around the United States to uncover vegan eats and share her hungry vegan adventures with the world. She has a goal of eating at every 100% vegan restaurant in the country. She’s relied on generous spirits along the way who have offered her a spot on their couch or welcomed her trusty steed into their driveway.

As Kristen explained her idea behind the journey and the obstacles she has tackled along the way, I quickly became an admirer of hers. Instead of making excuses for the stumbling blocks she’d encountered on the trip, she stayed true to herself and released that which held her back and forged ahead on her journey. This lesson can take a lifetime to learn.

Her journey is a difficult one, and she is driven with passion. Driving solo for miles across this nation is an exhausting endeavor— both mentally and physically. The great vegan food and people who make it keep her fueled and rejuvenated for the miles that lie ahead.

She is supporting vegan entrepreneurs. It isn’t always easy being a veggie. While our numbers continue to grow, we need all the advocates and ambassadors we can get.

She is chasing a dream. I have the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who tries to accomplish a goal. I love courageous people. I know how easy it is to be distracted by negative thoughts and take the easy road and choose to shut out your vision.

Kristen is open to where the road ahead might lead, the detours that may require a reroute, and the impact others can have on our own lives. She is truly blossoming on her trip, and the impact it has had on her shows in every update and blog post.

Additionally, I love that her parents are vegans, and that her brother got the ethical food choice ball rolling in the family.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of her journey.

Kristen wrote about I Heart Veg in the blog post detailing her trip to Asheville, North Carolina. The post went up when Loren and I were faced with the decision to close the bakery in Asheville and move to Charlotte. Needless to say, when we read the post, we dissolved in tears, and I couldn’t write about it at the time. Her kind words were just so beautiful, and came at such a time of grief, that I, frankly, couldn’t speak.

After 13 months on the road, Kristin has recapped her year, and listed me as one of the 14 most memorable people she has met on her journey. I bawled. Heavy, ugly bawling. Kirsten, thank you. I’m so touched and empowered.

It has been a difficult year. We had a major move (twice), incalculable struggles and obstacles, a family death, and an uncharted map. We, like Kristin, are still on a journey. I don’t know what the future has in store for us, but I know we will continue on; we must. Passion should NEVER be ignored, and once it has taken hold, it will not be silenced without a fight.

Three times in my life I refused to take a leap. I was offered opportunities that would have expanded my world and taken me on a very different path. I’m not saying any path may have worked out, but I was scared of the unknown, and that fear was life altering. I cannot know who I would have become had I taken those chances, but I know my lack of action affects me to this day.

Life is short. I want to jump, leap, and do all I can while I can. I want to live. Not exist, not get by, but live. Once you recognize how precious every moment is, you can’t help but be forced to live in every moment.

Kristen, drive on, my sister! Thank you for coming out to meet me, and the generous spirit in which you’ve shared my work and dream with others. I am, forever, a member of your sisterhood of the traveling vegan expanding pants. You are on a great journey, thank you for taking us along. You will always have a spot at our vegan table.

Follow her travels, and send loving thoughts her way! Make a donation to help continue her journey.

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Vegan Whipped Cream Off the Shelf

We often make our own whipped cream, but we’ve just stumbled across a wonderful, shelf-stable vegan whipping cream that tastes simply amazing. It looks pretty darn good, too.

What is the magical stuff? Healthy Top Whipping Cream from MimicCreme. The coconut oil base is not heavy, and there is a slightly nutty taste from the almond and cashew ingredients. The sweetness is subtle and is full of that fluffy creamy goodness you may have been missing. Check out the recipes they have in the MimicCreme Community.

Purchased at: Food Lion, Charlotte, North Carolina

If you can’t find it locally, thanks to the aseptic processing, it can be shipped without refrigeration.

 

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Avocados From Mexico Holiday House Party

Ingredients for Vegan Guacamole

We’re hosting an Avocados from Mexico Holiday House Party where we will feature some vegan recipes that center around Avocados From Mexico. We have limited space, but we’d love to meet as many of you as we can and enjoy some good food while we get the holiday season off to a great start. We know you can’t all make it, so we are filming videos of our recipes for you to watch and recreate this holiday season. We’d love to see what you make with avocados for the holidays. Is this magical fruit a staple in your holiday planning?

The party is Nov. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina at 7:00 pm. If you can make it,
let us know.

Stay tuned, the first recipe video we’ll feature is for our Garlic Strong Vegan Guacamole.

Ingredients for Vegan Guacamole

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Vegans on the Move: An Update

Hello, friends!

First, let me suggest that you never move during a major heat wave. Second, never move to a third floor apartment during a major heat wave. The 115 degree heat guaranteed a slow motion move that I honestly thought would never end.

So, where has I Heart Veg landed? After a major shake up in plans and planning, Loren and I both landed in Charlotte, North Carolina. We were saddened to leave Black Mountain, but are thrilled an opportunity for Loren at UNCC opened up that allowed us both to stay in North Carolina. We currently still have our property in Illinois, so there are still trips back and forth in my future, but at least I can remain a resident of North Carolina alongside my partner in life and business. To our Asheville/Black Mountain family, don’t think of us as gone, and most certainly don’t forget us.

We don’t have a kitchen here in Charlotte, yet, so we are not shipping out food stuffs. New plans and projects are on the horizon, so stay tuned. We’ll be revamping site info. and updating listings. We’ll have more educational information, fun stuff, and tips and tricks thrown your way. We are excited to meet our new Charlotte vegan neighbors!

I’m going to be volunteering at the Democratic National Convention here in Charlotte, so keep your eyes and ears open for videos and posts coming your way.

We want to thank each and every one of you who sent us a kind note of support during our move. You know we heart you. We agreed to start this journey over a year ago and are still making our way. Thank you for welcoming us into your lives, your hearts, and your stomachs.

While it was difficult to shut the door on the bakery in Black Mountain for the last time, we are excited for the future. We feel like a little seed that was planted, tended to with love and care, and is now a plant that requires repotting or subdividing for further expansion and growth.

Much luv,

Jeannie & Loren

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Transformational Moments in Life – An Update

Dear Friends,

The future is uncertain for us. Our property in Illinois has not sold. Having to care and pay for two residences has been a hard stretch. As we’ve said before, we went all in for this dream, and there isn’t room for excesses.

Since the property hasn’t sold, and the business is not yet self-sustaining, we will have no choice but to return to Illinois. As many of you know, we work around the clock. We work in the bakery long hours and we have additional jobs. However, we have been actively searching for local employment all year. Asheville is one tough employment nugget to crack. We’ve had interviews and have more lined up, but employers are moving slowly, and if an offer doesn’t come by June 24,2012, we will be packing and moving back as our current lease is up on the 30th of June.

I Heart Veg will still exist, but we won’t be providing baked goods. Illinois does not offer the same opportunity for small businesses to exist as a cottage food industry. So, no, we can’t ship you our sweet treats, as we would not do that from an unlicensed kitchen.

All current orders will be fulfilled as promised, and any new orders will be taken on as time allows. We have to be prepared to move, so time is a precious commodity at this point.

Your support and encouragement has been amazing. Thank you for loving our products and spreading the word about us. We enjoyed meeting everyone, and for those of you who went out of your way to meet up at markets, order online, or phone in an order- we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for supporting our small business dream and helping to make delicious vegan food a viable option. We will keep you updated on our progress.

We heart you all,

Jeannie & Loren