Vegan in a Hurry: Kashi's Black Bean Mango

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We're pretty sure no one has the time to make three meals every day from scratch, but it can be a real challenge to find healthy, good quality convenience foods, especially when dietary restrictions are added to the equation. So, we're keeping an eye out in the grocery stores to see which vegan packaged foods make a great lunch or snack.

First we tried Trader Joe's Spicy Lentil Wrap, a tasty and filling option, but it requires a trip to a specific grocery store. A quick vegan convenience meal that can be found in most markets is Kashi's Black Bean Mango frozen entrée. The box boasts that it's all natural and packed with 37g of whole grains, 8g of protein, and 7g of fiber. As great as that might sound, it's not going to be worth the $3.99 unless it tastes as good as it is for you.

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Tuscan Kale Salad Recipe from True Food

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DrWeil.com
Last week, we shared our ten favorite vegetarian entrees in Phoenix, but an unforgettable salad didn't make the cut. Why? Because you can make it at home! It's always a treat to go to True Food Kitchen to enjoy fresh juice drinks or inventive cocktails with their signature Tuscan Kale Salad. But when you don't have time to enjoy lunch or dinner out of the house, luckily True Food has been nice enough to share the recipe so that you can quickly toss it together for a healthy meal.

Lemon juice gives the salad a bright flavor, which is rounded out with garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian hard cheese, like Pecorino. Steer clear of Parmesan, however, because the real stuff from Parma must be made with animal rennet, as are many European cheeses. Be sure to check labels, and to play it on the safe side, go with a vegan substitute, like Daiya Shredded Vegan Italian Cheese or Eat in the Raw's Parma.

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Flavor-Packed Vegetarian Food at Chakra 4

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The name of Chakra 4 Herb & Tea House is somewhat misleading in that it offers so much more than dried leaves. We're not saying that you shouldn't sip some tea and stock up on herbs and spices for your kitchen, but while you're there, stay and have a healthy, flavor-packed lunch or dinner. They serve more than run-of-the-mill salads and wraps, and they don't offer any of the million varieties of fake meat. Okay, we admit that it might look like a new agey hangout, but if you reserve judgment, you might just be surprised by the relaxing, satiating experience.

Perhaps the best part is that owner Kita Centalla is an herbalist who has been studying herbal medicine since 1983. So while "vegetarian" doesn't automatically mean that food is good for you, thanks to Kita and Chef Justin, Chakra 4's menu features a ton of nutrient-rich ingredients that have proven health benefits. The restaurant's website also touts: "Chakra 4 sources only the highest quality organic produce and ingredients for our dishes. Maintaining this level of quality and integrity is our number one priority...We take great care not to serve foods that are pre-made, frozen, or in any way un-naturally preserved."

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Fresh Vegetarian Fare at 24 Carrot Juice

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Photo by Dayvid LeMmon
Thai Coconut Curry Pita Pizza
It's not always easy to find a place that serves quick, healthy, and satisfying vegan and vegetarian options. Even a lot of meat lovers like to hunker down to a big plate of vegetables, beans, and grains from time to time. 

There are a handful of restaurants in the Valley that fit the bill, and each neighborhood surely deserves their own vegetarian spot. Those in Chandler are lucky to have 24 Carrot Juice, conveniently located on Chandler Blvd. near the 202, I-10, and the 101.

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Nami's Vegan, Organic, and Gluten-Free Desserts

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Photo by Dayvid LeMmon
Clunky Monkey tSoynami
Here in Phoenix, there's no bad time of the year to enjoy a frozen treat. Unfortunately for vegans, the lactose intolerant, and people who simply don't like the heaviness of milk, the most popular frozen desserts - ice cream, gelato, and frozen yogurt - are all dairy-based.

Thanks to Nami, located next to Green's new 7th St. location, everyone now has a place to stop for ice cream and pastries regardless of dietary constrictions.

And, the place even has a full coffee bar. The highlight of Nami is the specialty tSoynami treat, made of housemade organic soy-based "tsoft tserve" and mix-ins. Their menu features 18 varieties, including Chai Tiramisu and Vegan Ts'mores, or you can get creative and come up with your own original concoction.

How does tSoynami compare to regular soft serve? Find out after the jump...

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Vegan in a Hurry: Trader Joe's Spicy Lentil Wrap

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Photo by Dayvid LeMmon
We're pretty sure no one has the time to make three meals every day from scratch, but it can be a real challenge to find healthy, good quality convenience foods, especially when dietary restrictions are added to the equation. So, we're keeping an eye out in the grocery stores to see which vegan packaged foods make a great lunch or snack, and we'll also warn you to steer clear of the tasteless, overpriced ones.
 

Of course, you can grab some pita and hummus to quickly munch on, but why not shoot for something even better, like Trader Joe's Spicy Lentil Wrap? For $3.99, this is a pretty good value. It's enough food to fill you up, and if you're a light eater, this wrap could even equal two servings. And, don't let the "spicy" in the name fool you; this wrap doesn't have too much of a kick. Plus, it comes with tahini sauce (sesame paste) to help cut the heat.

Find out more after the jump...

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A Merry Vegan Christmas Menu from Chakra 4, Green, and Pomegranate Café

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Vegan English Toffee from Pomegranate Café
Still don't know what you're making for your holiday table? Here are three recipes from local chefs and restaurateurs to get you started. First up, Kita from Chakra 4's Red & Green Holiday Salad will get you in the festive mood. Next, Lemongrass "Chicken" à la Chef Damon from Green makes a nice light entrée, ensuring you'll still have room for plenty of toffee and Bûche de Noël. And speaking of toffee, whip up some Vegan English Toffee from scratch using a recipe from Pomegranate Café's mother-daughter duo.

You don't have to be vegan to enjoy this menu. If you know and love a vegan (and these days, many of us do), sometimes the most thoughtful gift you can give is home cooked food.

During one holiday season, I baked vegan cookies so as not to leave out my three vegan coworkers, and everyone - carnivores included - was overjoyed. So, use one of the following recipes to win over the vegans in your life, or head to Pomegranate Café, Green, and Chakra 4 to pick up delicious dishes made by the pros.

Want to know these chefs' secrets? Find out after the jump...

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Vegetarians and Carnivores Can Unite at Hillstone

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​It's December, the month when the holiday season reminds us to actually make time to spend time with one another. Whether meeting family or friends, chances are good that once or twice this month, you'll go out to eat somewhere fancy. Don't make the same mistake as last year and overlook the other thing that the holidays are known for -- bickering.

Everyone wants to go to their favorite restaurant, and yet they have to accommodate different diets and tastes. A majority of diners settle for a steakhouse, the one place that all Americans are supposed to love. Vegetarians, however, might not be too thrilled with that idea. Sure, they have salads and baked potatoes, but where's the variety?

Enter Hillstone. It's not exactly a vegetarian paradise, but it is a restaurant where the whole family will find something to enjoy. They have numerous vegetarian appetizers, and for entrees, they have a House-Made Veggie Burger or a Seasonal Veggie Plate that comes with three fresh vegetables. This week, they were serving Brussels sprouts, spaghetti squash, and beets, which can also be ordered individually as an appetizer for only $4.

How was the food? Find out after the jump...

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Kale: Stick a Superfood in Your Soup

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Photo by Dayvid LeMmon
On the comfort food end of things, it's all about mac 'n cheese and bread pudding these days. Wanting to balance your diet, maybe counter-act those Christmas cookies you ate over the weekend? Here's a trendy veggie: kale.

If you're looking for an easy way to add nutrition to your diet, this is the stuff for you. Rightfully called a superfood, one cup of this leafy green is packed with 5 grams of fiber plus tons of vitamin B, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. But that's not all - how about some antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, beta carotene, and phosphorus too? With kale, you can pretty much forget your daily vitamin pill.

Find out what we did with our kale after the jump.


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Pomegranate Café Now Open for Dinner

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Photo by Dayvid LeMmon
Nutritious, delicious kale salad
Located in Ahwatukee, Pomegranate Café is owned by mother-daughter chef duo Marlene and Cassie Tolman, who are living out their dream of "utilizing fresh organic ingredients to prepare food and drinks that tempt the palate and create wellbeing." Their menu includes ever-changing vegetarian and vegan options for breakfast, lunch, and now dinner; plus, they have a wide array of vegan baked goods for dessert. The space is bright and inviting, and it's easy to picture spending the day there with a cup of coffee and a laptop.

We stopped by at 7:30 pm, a half hour before the café's new closing time, and we were surprised to see several other diners - most of whom did not look like the stereotypical veggie heads. 

Does all of the food justify the price? Find out after the jump...



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