Saturday, October 19, 2013

Change is in the Air!

UPDATE 5/22/204: We have a couple of people who are interested in guest blogging and keeping updates for vegan news in Iowa. Please contact us if you are interested in contributing!

Vegan Iowa has been my “baby” so to speak for a very long time. After many excited brainstorms with friends, the Vegan Iowa blog emerged. Over the last four years, this blog, and now the Facebook page, have grown to be exactly what I wanted it to be, a resource for the Iowa Community and anyone visiting the state looking for veg friendly businesses, classes etc.

Now, I’ve moved to South Dakota - accepted a dream job – the only job that would have pulled me back home to the Dakotas. I am not far from Iowa though, Vermillion, SD is just 30 minutes from Sioux City. Iowa will always be home in my heart. Iowa welcomed me with open arms and I stayed for 12 years thanks to the great friends I made.

My dilemma becomes do I hand over the blog and Facebook page to someone else to manage and continue growing? Or should we change the page a bit and make it a Midwest vegan resource?

As soon as I crossed over the South Dakota border everything became more rural and resources are even more sparse than I expected. The Hy-Vee in town doesn’t even have a full health food section, it has one-half of one aisle. The resources aren’t all around me like I have been used to. I am sure this is the same way many of the rural Iowan’s feel.

I want to explore and share resources in my new home of South Dakota. But before I look to change this resource started for my Iowa friends or start a new one – I need your input.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pancake Perfection

Vegan Pancakes

My obsession with pancakes is well known among my family and friends.
Ask me what I want for breakfast on any given day and PANCAKES! is the first thing that pops into my mind. There are even days when whipping up a batch of pancakes sounds like the perfect gourmet dinner menu.

Of course my pancakes are not your average lightly browned breakfast cake. Instead, they are filled with gobs of goodies both healthy and unhealthy, to round out whatever mood I’m in.

My favorite pancake is reminiscent of an Almond Joy, a candy bar this vegan misses dearly. This addition is simple, sprinkle in some chocolate chips and coconut into your pancake batter. Then, pour onto the griddle and cook to perfection. When you flip the pancake onto your plate, immediately slather on fresh almond butter to create a decadent dessert worthy breakfast. (or lunch, or dinner…)

There was an old waffle recipe I found online 10-12 years ago. I’ve adjusted added to this and made it more my own. Now, I share and encourage you to explore and create your own perfect pancakes.

Vegan Pancakes

1 ¼     Cup Flour
¼        Cup Sugar
¼        Cup Earth Balance (or vegan margarine)
2 tsp   Baking Powder
½ tsp  Vanilla
½ tsp  Cinnamon
1-2     Cups Water



It helps to get out all of the ingredients and have everything within arms reach as you begin. Turn on your griddle or flat pan to medium heat and allow your cooking surface to get hot while you are preparing the pancake batter.

Fill a large measuring cup with water and set aside for a few minutes. Combine the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir with a fork to distribute everything evenly. Create a nice hole in the middle of your dry ingredients.

Next, melt the earth balance (margarine) in a small cup or prep bowl in a microwave for about 15-30 seconds. Add the vanilla to the earth balance bowl.

Add the margarine/vanilla mixture into the center of your dry ingredients. Begin stirring slowly, and then immediately begin adding water into the mixture. Slowly mix, from the center so you are getting out lumps as you go. Don’t let the batter get really thick and goopy, keep enough water so that it is the consistency of a thick brownie batter. Add more water until the dry ingredients are mixed in well. You may not need all of your water, so do not just dump it all in. You don’t want your batter super thin, it should be just a little thicker than an average cake batter.

If it looks too watery, slowly add a touch more flour, a tablespoon at a time (to make sure you don’t make it too thick again!)

If you are new to making pancakes, read the instructions below for preparing your cooking surface and knowing when to flip.

Instructions for Pancake Perfection

Making pancakes is as easy as child’s play. This past summer I taught my 11 year old nephew how to make pancakes, flipping them at just the right moment. He thoroughly enjoyed himself. The key to making pancakes without creating a gigantic mess is perfecting the heat of your griddle, and then timing the flip just right.

Heat: Turn on your burner to medium heat. Choose a large non-stick skillet with a flat bottom. If you have a griddle that covers more than one burner – even better! Allow the burner to heat up for a few minutes.

Test your cooking surface by pouring a teaspoon of batter into the middle. Within a few moments, you should see little bubbles appear all over the surface of the mini cake and the edges will harden. If it takes more than a few seconds for this process, then your griddle is not hot enough. Following the instructions at the beginning, if you turned your stove on before making your batter and your cooking surface is not hot enough yet, you may need to turn it up just a touch. Not a lot, just one notch. Too much heat and you burn your pancakes! Wait a minute for the extra heat to distribute and try your test cake again.

When you have a surface of bubbles and the edges have stopped moving, swiftly slide your large flat spatula beneath the pancake and flip! A swift movement helps to make sure that the batter does not run off the sides and create a mess.

Allow the other side to cook for a few moments. If your first side was not brown enough, go ahead and flip back over and give it a bit more time.

Serve immediately with your favorite garnishments!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trumpet Blossom Cafe - YUM!

Dinner with a friend is always good for the soul.

When dinner with a friend is at a fabulous vegan restaurant like Trumpet Blossom Cafe, your soul gets to lean back and smile. At least that is what mine did.

My friend and I met up at Trumpet Blossom for food and conversation this past Thursday evening and were pleasantly surprised at the great atmosphere and steady flow of patrons arriving for dinner, drinks, or just to visit and catch up over appetizers. It always makes me happy to see people enjoying great vegan food.

Everything on the menu looked tasty and tempting with gluten free options marked clearly. We took quite a bit of time choosing our dinner selection. I finally decided on the classic, Tempeh Reuben and my friend went for the Sesame Shiitake Mushrooms and Potato Cakes. We were both wholeheartedly happy with our selections.

My favorite test of a vegan restaurant is to bring along a non-vegan to get their opinion. And the mushroom dish definitely passed the carnivore test. In fact, my friend attempted to eat every last morsel on her plate! The mushrooms were marinated and then sauteed to perfection. Locally sourced carrots and turnips garnished the dish adding a surprisingly complementary flavor (I am not usually a huge turnip fan.) Yes, I nibbled off of my friends plate just a little and am glad I did!

The Tempeh Reuben was served on fresh baked bread and was perfectly flavored. Crisp homemade sauerkraut and a tasty thousand island style dressing provided the perfect balance. I chose the sweet potato fries for my side and happily dipped them in the special sauce. Of course, I couldn't eat something like a reuben without making a mess, and I did finally give up eating it like a sandwich and just ate the second half with my fork. My appetite was fully sated, but I could not resist indulging in dessert.

We chose to split a piece of the chocolate cake with chocolate ganache drizzled with an orange sauce. I love the taste of orange and chocolate together. And the subtle citrus flavor made this dessert divine.

Trumpet Blossom boasts a full service bar with a great list of classic drinks that have a vegan twist. For example the White Russian has a splash of vanilla soy creamer. I went for a classic blended strawberry margarita. My drink was a little bit too strong, and not quite blended all of the way. It tasted to me like iced tequila. The waitress kindly added a little extra strawberry, but did not blend the drink anymore. So I had chunks of ice and strawberry. I know, you are probably rolling your eyes thinking, why didn't she just tip the drink back and smile? Well, sorry, I am a little bit picky and like my smooth blended margaritas.

However, next time, I am going to try the coffee martini. I can't remember the name of it, but it had coffee liqueur, chocolate and chocolate covered espresso beans in it. It sounded like the perfect drink for a Sunday Brunch to me! (By the way Trumpet Blossom is open for Brunch on the weekends!)

At the end of our meal, we got to chat with chef and owner, Katy Meyer. As one of the former owners of the Red Avocado Restaurant, Meyer has carried over some of the same strong ethical values from the former restaurant. You will find that meals are made from locally sourced organic foods whenever possible. Staff are paid fairly, with servers making minimum wage plus tips (practically unheard of in the restaurant industry!)

Trumpet Blossom Celebrates their one year anniversary open for business on April 20! Congrats on a year of great food Trumpet Blossom!!

Visit Trumpet Blossom at:
310 E Prentiss St, Iowa City, IA 52240
(319) 248-0077

Check out the menu online:
Like Trumpet Blossom on Facebook:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vegan Girl Scout Cookies

Thin Mints are now Vegan!

No, this is not a dream.

Go ahead, pick up a sleeve of those melt in your mouth, chocolate mint delights and eat them until they are gone...

Yes, I know you are smiling recalling the pre-vegan days of doing just this.

If you live in Iowa and are buying Girl Scout cookies from an Iowa Girl Scout, not only do you have vegan choices, but you are also purchasing an Iowa made product. As a bonus, you are helping a girl reach goals while gaining courage, confidence and character. What could be better?

Of course, having spent most of my professional career working for Girl Scouts here in Iowa, I have known which cookies are vegan friendly for years. However, ABC Bakers located in Sioux City, Iowa has finally decided to market this little known fact right on the cookie order form. Peanut Butter Patties, Thanks A-Lots, Thin Mints and Lemonades are all vegan!

ABC has gone one step further and changed the chocolate used in Thin Mints, making these best selling cookies even more accessible to people with food allergies! Last year there were only 3 vegan cookies, this year there are four. After all, that is what girls asked for. And, in an organization dedicated to girls, a girls voice goes a long way.

Following the Girl Scout cookie sale last year, a troop of girls wrote into the office and asked the cookie company to make Girl Scout cookies more accessible for people with food allergies. A co-worker and I cheered on the the girls who sent the letter and forwarded on the girls' request directly to ABC.
There is also a little bit of differentiation and competitive marketing happening here as well. You see, there are two bakeries nationwide producing those delectable chocolate covered pieces of heaven. (Did you know that Thin Mints are the #2 best selling cookie in the nation right behind Oreos? AND they are only sold for a month or two each year in each region of the country!!!) They are also competing for the business of the 110 Girl Scout councils, and looking for ways to make a stronger business proposal. Little Brownie Bakers, a subsidiary of Keebler, has ZERO vegan cookies on their cookie list.  Zero.

How do you know if you are buying the vegan version of cookies? Well if a Girl Scout comes to your doorstep with Tagalongs or Samoas, then your Girl Scout council does not have the vegan friendly Girl Scout cookie company.

ABC Bakers has slightly different names for the five primary Girl Scout cookies that are sold by both bakers. They also have slightly different recipes for those same cookies. Obviously, ABC Bakery has the right idea. The Iowa Girl Scout councils also have the right idea by buying directly from an Iowa based business. It is the best of both worlds.

So when those girls come knocking at your door order away! But first, remember that the Girl Scout cookie program is first and foremost a program. Girls are gaining skills like goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics. Ask that Girl Scout what her cookie goal is and how far along she is towards that goal.

Need to find a Girl Scout cookie booth near you?  Here are links to Iowa's two Girl Scout council websites: - Girl Scouts Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois - Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa (central and western Iowa)

Did you know that 80% of women business owners were Girl Scouts? This isn’t just a national statistic. Girl Scout staff spoke at a Des Moines Chamber event last year and mentioned this statistic. A curious chamber staff person called every woman business owner on the Chamber list, and sure enough, 90% of the local women business owners were Girl Scouts! The number one leadership development organization in the nation has a strong 100 year history of breaking down barriers and helping girls grow to successful women.

Oh, and while you are supporting Girls and the future they have in their hands, don’t forget to check out this fabulous website dedicated to creating a better future for our daughters:

Want to learn more about ABC Bakers? Here is their website:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Vegan Super Bowl Menu

Football madness will enter my home in approximately 7 days. As a lifelong San Francisco 49ers fan, I am pumped to throw a Super Bowl Party – vegan style of course!

Just because it is vegan, does not mean you take out all of the tasty fun! I’ve been trying to decide the menu and thought I would share some ideas and resources I found.

I'm leaning towards making a big pot of chili and setting out my mason jars with a tray full of toppings like daiya cheese, vegan sour cream, olives, onions, crackers, etc. as a "Chili Bar" With some munchies and sweets on the side, I think this sounds simple enough to prepare in advance without a lot of day of energy.

Mexi-themed Super Bowl Menu:

Chips  & Salsa – Duh!
Chili Bar – with all of the fun toppings!
Southwest Rolls
Fruit Tray
Taco Bites
Football Themed Dessert Dip! (see link below)

Other Simple Ideas for Snacks

Yes… those original Pillsbury treats are *gasp* vegan! You can roll anything up in these tasty babies… chocolate chips are my favorite of course, or add a little jam and make them jelly rolls. Get creative!

Veggie Tray & Hummus
This has been a staple at my weekly football parties, I guarantee it makes everyone smile.

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
Peel, season and roast those magic orange potatoes and wha-la an instant delicious snack.

Links & Resources:

Since it is not quite Super Bowl Sunday, I have not tested out every one of these recipes. However, I thought I would include some links for vegan or easily veganized football foods!

Football Themed Dessert Dip!
Crazy For Crust has a fun recipe you can make dairy free, using some vegan cream cheese and Earth Balance instead of butter.

Southwest Rolls
Emily Bites has a great recipe that can easily be changed up to use won ton wrappers or tortillas instead of eggrolls!

Traditional Appetizers
Check out these Super Bowl Party suggestions from Green Apple Baby’s Blog including: Vegan Buffalo Bites, Spinach Artichoke Dip and Cheezy Mashed Potato Quesidillas. YUM!

The Mercy for Animals Blog has some fun Super Bowl suggestions and links as well!

Vegan Jalapeno Poppers – yummy!

This is another great list of Super Bowl Party food!