Posts Tagged ‘cheap eats’

Where do we eat?! Where DON’T we eat!?

One of the top reasons/complaints/questions I get pertain to where and what I get to eat. “Well doesn’t it suck, like not being able to go to restaurants?”  Why can’t I go to restaurants? Silly people! There are so, so many places in

Azia, we almost had our wedding reception here!

the Twin Cities where I can get vegetarian meals it’s remarkable! Below, I have an extensive list of places that are either all veg, all vegan, or are vegan/vegetarian friendly! The crazy thing? This isn’t even all of them…there are hundreds more from where this list came from! Do a little digging on the internet and you are bound to find more! Happy Hunting!
Vegetarian Options
128 Cafe, St. Paul
Adelita’s (Mexican), Mpls
Amici Pizza & Bistro, Mpls
Azuki’s Sushi, Stadium Village Mpls
Bagu Sushi, Mpls
The Barbary Fig (Moroccan), St. Paul
Barbette (French), Mpls
Barley John’s, New Brighton
The Bean Factory, St. Paul
Bob’s Java Hut (soup, sandwiches, salads), Mpls
Bombay Bistro (Indian), Mpls
Bravo! Cafe and Bakery, St. Paul
Bryn Mawr Pizza and Deli, Mpls
Burger King (I’m serious, they have a Veggie burger!), all over
Chatterbox Pub, Mpls and St. Paul
*Chili’s, all over
*Chino Latino, Mpls
Christo’s (Greek), Mpls and St. Paul
*Davanni’s, all over
Delicious Cafe and Brazilian Grill, Minnetonka
*Dino’s Gyros (Greek), Roseville
Dulono’s Pizza, Mpls
Fuji-Ya (Japanese), St. Paul
*Green Mill, all over
Hard Times Cafe, Mpls
II Gatto (Italian), Mpls
*Jimmy John’s, all over
*Mt. Fuji, Mpls and Maple Grove
*Olive Garden, all over
*Panco Villa (Mexican), Mpls
*Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Rosedale Mall
Solera (Tapas Bar), Mpls
Vegan & Vegetarian Options
5 Spice Asian Take-out, Blaine
501 Club, Mpls
Acadia Cafe, Mpls
Amazing Thailand, Mpls
Anodyne, Mpls (Cafe)
*Asia’s Finest Restaurant, Vadnais Heights
Asian Express, St. Paul Skyway
*Azia, Mpls
Back Door Deli, Vadnais Heights
The Bad Waitress, Mpls
*Baja Sol, all over
*Bambu (Vietnamese and Chinese), Maplewood
Ban Thai Restaurant, White Bear Lake
Bangkok Thai Deli, St. Paul
Bar Abilene (Mexican), Mpls
BD’s Mongolian BBQ, Burnsville
Beirut Restaurant (Lebanese), St. Paul
Best of India, St. Louis Park
*Big Bowl, all over
Birchwood Cafe, Mpls
Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, St. Paul
Black Sea Restaurant (Turkish), St. Paul
Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza, Mpls
Blue Moon Coffee Cafe, Mpls
Blue Nile (Ethiopian), Mpls
*Bona Vietnamese Restaurant, Mpls
Bordertown Cafe, UofM Campus
Breadsmith, all over
Broder’s Cucina Italiana, Mpls
*Bruegger’s Bagels, all over
Bryant Lake Bowl, (bowling alley with vegan options-weird but cool), Mpls
*Buca di Beppo (Italian), Maple Grove and Mpls
*Burrito Loco, Dinkytown
Cafe Latte, St. Paul
*California Pizza Kitchen, all over
Caspian Bistro (Iranian), Mpls
Cheng Heng (Cambodian), St. Paul
Chiang Mai Thai, Mpls
Chin’s Asia Fresh, Minnetonka
*Chipotle, all over
Cosmos, Mpls
Crave (Italian), Edina
Cupcake, Mpls
*Dunn Brothers, all over
*Ecopolitan, Mpls
Eden Pizza, St. Paul
*Einstien Bros. Bagels, all over
*Erbert and gerbert’s, all over
Everest on Grand (Nepalese and Tibetan), St. Paul
Falafel King (Middle Eastern), all over
French Meadow Bakery and Cafe, Mpls
Galactic Pizza, Mpls
*Good Earth, Roseville and Edina
*Gopher Express, UofM Campus
Grand Szechuan, Bloomington
*Grumpy’s, Roseville and Mpls
*The Independent, Mpls
It’s Greek to Me, Mpls
Izzy’s Ice Cream Cafe, St. Paul
*Jamba Juice, all over
*Jasmine 26, Mpls
*Jasmine Deli, Mpls
Johnny Rockets (60’s drive thru), Bloomington
*Khan’s Mongolian BBQ, Roseville and Richfield
King and I Thai, Mpls
Little Tijuana (Punk Rock Mexican? Whatever that means. Lol, that’s what their site actually says), Mpls
*The Local (Irish bar), Mpls
*Lucky Dragon, Mpls
moto-i (Japanese), Mpls
*Muddy Paws Cheesecake, St. Louis Park
*Napa Valley Grille, MOA
*Noodles and Company, all over
OM (Upscale Indian), Mpls
*P.F Chang’s, all over
*Panera, all over
*Pei Wei (Fast food Pan-Asian), all over
Pineda Tacos, all over
*Pizza Luce, Mpls (3 locations) and St. Paul
*Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge (Bar food), Mpls
*Rainbow Chinese Restaurant and Bar, Mpls
*Sawatdee (Thai), Mpls, Maple Grove, St. Paul
*Shuang Cheng (Chinese), Dinkytown (My favorite restaurant of all time!)
Triple Rock Social Club (Punk Bar-serves breakfast-I need to go here!), Mpls
Tucci Benucch (Italian), MOA
Turtle Bread Company, Mpls (2 locations)
*Village Wok, UofM Campus-open hella late, like till 2am!
Vincent A Restaurant (French), Mpls
W.A Frost and Company, St. Paul

*Places I’ve ate vegetarian meals at, so feel free to ask me questions!

Pictures (Click to enlarge.)


Blue Nile.

Everest on Grand.


The Good Earth.

Izzy’s Ice Cream Cafe- Vegan ice cream? So cool!

Cafe Latte.





The Substitute Teacher

So you already know I am frugal. So today I attempted to make a cheap vegan cupcake. I love doing things as cheap as possible, but due to my laziness I also love it when they are easy on top of it! A lot of vegan cupcake recipes I have read involve too many ingredients for me or involve too much time. I found a very simple way to make vegan cupcakes and what is great about them is that they cut so many calories, cholesterol and other bad things that anyone, vegan or not, will appreciate them! On top of that it took close to no time at all to make! I’d say the whole thing, including baking time only took 20 minutes.

My helpers and also taste testers were the two lovely children that I nanny. These two kids do not eat anything. They don’t consume enough nutritional food in their diets and also have way too much sweets. They are beyond picky and do not have any variety in what they eat. In my eyes? Perfect taste testers!

(This is my assistant. The midget was very excited for the frosting.)

To be as simple/lazy as possible I used whatever I could that was already in the house. And you can do that too. I think if I were to become some cupcake artist I would probably look into more natural ingredients and find different products. But as I’ve said this was made without any additional purchases! Very frugal!

To begin with we used:

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cake Mix (Yellow) -We had this in the pantry and I decided this would work just fine. It also happens to be vegan! The original recipe on the back of the box requires a full stick of butter, vanilla and three eggs, and those are the things that I substituted in my version. Whole Ground Flaxseed -Any brand will do. This replaces the eggs by being a binder in the mixture to keep the cake from crumbling. It’s also full of great things that I will mention later on. Hungry Jack Lite Syrup -If I had my choice I would have gotten organic maple syrup but since we had this I went for it. At least it is Lite! Organic Unsweetened Apple Sauce -You can really use any brand of apple sauce. Canola Oil -If you don’t have it, vegetable oil will work too. We had Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Vanilla frosting which is deadly but I cut the servings in half and saved 75 calories per cupcake. And this brand is vegan!

Here is the recipe!


Your box cake mix.

3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed mixed with 3/4 water (The general rule is for every 1 egg in a recipe = 1 tablespoon flaxseed ,mixed with 1/4 water.)

1/2 cup applesauce.

2 teaspoons canola oil.

2 teaspoons maple syrup. (Acts as a binder.)

2/3 cup water.

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease your pan (for cake) or use paper baking cups for 12 cupcakes.
  • You can hand beat the cake mix, water, flaxseed mixture, maple syrup, canola oil and apple sauce until all the lumps are gone. Pour into your pan.
  • Bake! Remember to test your cupcakes with a tooth pick to make sure it was cooked all the way!
  • Frost!

Hard at work!

12 cupcakes: roughly 20 minutes. 9” round pan: roughly 43 minutes. 9” x 9”: roughly 35 minutes. 8” x 8”: roughly 38 minutes.

Easy isn’t it? And the great thing was they were super healthy! In this version the cake mix itself contributed less than 250 calories per cupcake and 0% cholesterol. The serving of frosting I cut in half, saving us 75 calories. Here’s a whopper; If we had used the stick of butter that would have been 810 calories and 92 grams of fat! Since we used applesauce and a dash of oil we only had 130 calories and 10 grams of fat! Holy smokes. When we substituted the eggs we saved 330 calories and 1020mg of cholesterol! Using the flaxseed we only had 90 calories and 0 cholesterol! As if that wasn’t good enough flaxseed contains lots of fiber, (only 4 grams of flaxseed is equal to 1-1/2 cups of oatmeal! Only 4 grams! We used 20 grams!) lignans, (which are natural antioxidants! Its like we ate 30 cups of broccoli!) and omega-3 fats. Not only did the flaxseed have no cholesterol but it also has been proven that flaxseed lowers harmful cholesterol already in your body. How super is all that?

Test taste results:

(My Diego and Dora gave me an A+!)

The kids knew no different. They loved it! Both kids devoured their cupcakes! I also liked it. This cake was a little more dense than a regular yellow cake, so it almost tasted like a muffin. I think next time I would even get rid of the frosting altogether and use an organic strawberry or raspberry jam! Try it for yourself or come up with another variation! It’s fun!

End result:

Other pictures:

Flaxseed + Water should look like this. Kind of gooey and clumpy.

Diego and Dora had to have sprinkles.


Tofu Wars

Although I try to limit my soy intake (substituting rice milk for soy milk, for example) I still have a special place in my heart for tofu. Tofu is definitely an acquired taste and most people think they don’t like it even without trying it. For all of us tofu veterans out there, we know how tofu can vary in texture and taste based on how it is cooked. Because we know this, we enjoy lots of tofu! The common folk are missing out!

When I am actually using my kitchen (rare!) I sometimes like my tofu sautéed in sauce with veggies, or baked in the oven with soy sauce, or in a broth served soup style. But my talents usually run dry after these recipes. So what’s a girl with no cooking skills to do? Eat out of course. You already know, my husband and I are professionals when it comes to eating out. I have tried tofu from almost every place that serves it in the Twin Cities and have found many different varieties. I have to say only a handful of places really stand out to me, in good and bad ways. Although I could list many places from all over, I’m going to keep this restricted to common places that most people already dine at. This is to help the tofu lovers out there as well as the people out there who are nervous about trying it.

The Good

P.F Chang’s – I absolutely love this restaurant. I loved it when I ate meat and I love it now that I don’t. They have an exclusive menu of vegetarian options and even a gluten free menu. They have three tofu dishes to choose from, one being my favorite tofu dish…ever.

Buddha’s Feast: This is a vegetable medley with five-spice tofu served with steamed or fried rice. This is not my favorite, although still good. I originally ordered this because I love spicy food but the tofu was too soft for me. I do enjoy soft tofu, but in this dish I would have preferred it to be a bit thicker to resemble meat in this dish. C

Buddha’s Feast

Ma Po Tofu: OMG. This is my favorite tofu dish of all time. The tofu is crispy on the outside, silken on the inside and in a yummy sichuan vegetarian sauce with steamed broccoli. I order this a little too much. Actually this is the only thing I order at P.F Chang’s now, ever since I first tried it. Only complaint? Sometimes when you get it take-out, the sauce sits at the bottom making the dish towards the bottom extra salty. A!

Ma Po Tofu

Coconut Curry Vegetables: This is stir fried veggies with the same crispy silken tofu with peanuts in a vegetarian coconut curry sauce. This sounds really good, but unfortunately I cannot tear myself away from the Ma Po Tofu. Opps. Someone else will have to grade this one for me!

Coconut Curry Vegetables w/ Tofu

Big Bowl – Good old Big Bowl. It’s becoming as commonplace as Leann Chins (which does not serve any meatless dishes! Grr…). Big Bowl is a favorite of mine as well since they serve all natural, organic and fresh foods daily. I always get a ginger beverage there and it’s so fresh and good every single time. Hmm. Like P.F Chang’s they also (just started to) have a gluten free menu. Perks! Of course they have bountiful options for vegetarians but my focus here is tofu!

Noodles w/ Kung Pao Tofu & Spinach: A-mazing. I love this dish which consists of wide wheat noodles, little pieces of tough tofu, blackened chilies, roasted peanuts and a sweet and spicy sauce. Really if you like kung pao anything, you’re sure to like this. The tofu in this one is good because it’s small and a little bit tougher, really mimicking meat. The tofu also really soaks up the sauce, acting as a sauce sponge making it even more yummy. A

Noodles w/ Kung Pao Tofu & Spinach

Vegetable Pad Thai with Tofu: Good good good. For anyone out there who isn’t familiar with pad thai, it’s Thailand’s signature dish made with fresh lemons, herbs, big rice noodles, basil, eggs, sprouts and peanuts. It’s a really refreshing dish that seems light when eaten but still fills you up! The tofu version comes with medium texture tofu and fresh asian vegetables. (Think bok choy.) It’s a really tasty meal, especially for lunch. A-

Vegetable Pad Thai w/ Tofu

Yellow Curry Vegetable with Tofu: This dish is fried or steamed rice with bok choy, green beans, seasonal veggies, soft textured tofu and yellow coconut curry sauce. I have to say this one isn’t my favorite. But it doesn’t really have to do with the tofu, but the sauce is a bit runny for me. It resembles soup more than sauce in my eyes. But if you’re fan of curry, be my guest! The yellow curry is a bit sweeter and they also offer Thai Green Curry instead which is spicy! C

Yellow Curry Vegetable w/ Tofu

Jasmine Deli: Most of us that grew up in or around Minneapolis know about Eat Street…the amazing strip of Nicollet in Minneapolis filled with food for every type of taste bud possible. You will find authentic Asian restaurants, Mexican Restaurants, gourmet breakfast diners, fresh vegetable markets, etc. It’s a foodie’s heaven. jasmine Deli is on this strip and is most commonly known for their pho (a Vietnamese soup as common as the chicken noodle) and banh mi (Vietnamese subs made with French baguettes) but their tofu should not be overlooked! On this certain day I was looking for a place that offered vegetarian pho (a blog will come later about this) but something else caught my eye on the menu. Tamarind Tofu. So I asked the owner about it and he told me just to try it. I shrugged, said what the hell and ordered it. And thank goodness I did. This is a phenomenal dish for the little Jasmine Deli! Here is an appetizer portion of fried and baked tofu in a tangy tamarind sauce. The tofu looks and tastes as if someone fried it to get it to be the texture it is, then baked it afterwards to make the extra crisp outer layer then smothered it in this sauce that’s both sour, tangy and sweet. It’s almost citrusy but is not the typical sweet and sour sauce. Hmm hmm. I ended up eating that, a veggie pho and ordering another portion of Tamarind Tofu to bring home. A

Tamarind Tofu

The Bad

Noodles & Company: I hate to rip on Noodles, since I do like their pastas but the tofu here can definitely be passed. I had the misfortune to try this, not once but twice, and not liking it either time. For whatever reason the tofu here is really tough and chewy. Not like a tough piece of steak but like a dog’s chew toy. It virtually has no flavor and seems to have been fried so much on the outside that no moisture or sauce can even get soaked up into it. My sister in law had her first tofu experience at Noodles, and now her tongue doesn’t trust it anymore. It’s a shame because almost anyone’s tofu is better than Noodles. D-

Doesn’t matter what kind of noodles you get. The tofu stinks.

The Ugly

Benihana’s: This is a great restaurant. Not too pricey for what it offers, good entertainment, great for kids, delicious…Here’s the thing though. It’s only delicious because everything is smothered in butter. If you want to get something healthy, or something without meat, it’s not going to be pretty.

Spicy Tofu Steak: The description says: tofu, scallions and cilantro grilled in a spicy tofu hot sauce. Sounded good. Tasted bad! The tofu in itself was, get this, slippery. This was no steak. It was uber soft and slimy, had little to no taste (it isn’t marinated before hand, which you see when the cook pulls out the cold tofu straight from the container and plops it onto the grill), and has seriously no texture to the point where I after a few bites it was like tofu slushy in my mouth. Now, the sauce. How disappointing! It was not a sauce. It was a spicy soy sauce, without the spice. Total waste of money in my eyes and something I wouldn’t eat again even if someone paid me. F

Spicy Tofu Steak

Hope this somewhat helps you tofu newbies out there. Get out there and try your first piece!! At least try it at the restaurants, instead of buying it and attempting to cook it! Hopefully you won’t be disappointed!

Maple Grove Hidden Gem!

Being that I am a frugal vegetarian foodie it’s kind of hard for me to find places to eat. Being cheap/poor often puts a dent into my dining experiences and being a vegetarian makes dining out even harder. Add on top of it that I expect the food to actually taste good and really we’re in a bind. I have found however a handful of places that meet my criteria.

My current favorite is 3 Squares in Maple Grove, MN. It’s funny because you wouldn’t expect such a gem nestled there. My husband and I currently go here almost twice a week (that may be one reason why we’re poor) and cannot get enough. They are owned by the same peep who own the Edina Grill, Longfellows Grill, Groveland Tap and Highland Grill. So if you like those places, I don’t know how you could miss 3 Squares. I was really shocked when I read some reviews on the restaurant and was amazed that some people out there don’t like it. It baffles me. There is so much to choose from, and it’s not your average restaurant fare. They offer things that I didn’t even know existed before.

For example my husband and I cannot get enough of their Pierogies.  (Little dumplings stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese. Drool.) Or how about the Walleye and Shrimp cakes? Or the big chunks of Sweet Potato Fries served with pesto aioli? Or the Grilled Meatloaf with garlic and asiago cheese mashed potatoes with sauteed garlic green beans?

Pierogie Greatness.

Pulled pork quesadillas. My husband loves these.

Like I’ve mentioned, I’m a vegetarian so what do I get there? Oh let me tell you the options! If you are a mushroom lover like me the Wild Mushroom Flatbread will not disappoint! On there you will find button, crimini and shittake mushrooms with smoked gouda cheese, mozzarella cheese and tasty caramelized onions. You can get this as a meal or an appetizer to share-it’s so good. There’s also a delicious Parmesan Crusted Grilled Cheese sandwich that is made with sourdough bread, or the Avocado sandwich which is like a very fancy (and yummy) version of the Veggie Sub at Jimmy John’s. Now my favorite…the Veggie Burger. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You would be surprised at how many places do not serve veggie burgers. A place as popular and common as Applebee’s should serve some Boca or Morningstar burgers…but they don’t. So trust me, I was excited. Best part? It’s so good. It comes with mixed greens on it with some sweet and some spicy peppers. My husband always gets his with a slice of pepperjack cheese on it and swears by it. But for the salad lovers out there, don’t be worried, there are a bunch of salads to choose from. One thats tasty as well as vegetarian is the Pear Salad, which has balsamic poached pears on it with oven roasted apples, greens, candied walnuts, gorgonzola cheese and cider vinaigrette. Is this a salad or a dessert? Both. Yum.

For the people out there who aren’t looking for anything too wild or uncommon, they do have the signature dishes we all know and love, however be prepared to be dazzled by how much better they are! Their macaroni and cheese put others to shame, and their breakfasts are often in my daydreams. (And they serve breakfast all day so you don’t have to go to Perkins to get your fix anymore!)

Fresh Strawberry French Toast!

My friend had this Brie & Spinach Frittata and said it was good!

Now onto the important stuff. Alcohol. They have a banging bar! It’s fully loaded and ready to get you to your happy place. What my husband and I love is that they serve every kind of Summit you can imagine, and it’s affordable. At $4 on tab, you cannot beat this. Especially since they also serve IPA (which is almost 9% alcohol content!) on tab as well.

And if you come during Happy Hour (everyday 3-6, or 9-close) you can get it even cheaper and $3 off your appetizers! (Pierogies and beer? Yes please.) As if this wasn’t good enough, all day Tuesday they have half off wine. (And they have an extensive list of wines for your pleasure.)

Other little things I love? The patio. The towels instead of napkins (how conservative!). The homemade lemonade with unlimited refills for $3. The changing specials each couple weeks.  And have I mentioned the pierogies?

For anyone who is looking for somewhere new to try, give this place a chance. To the people who dined here and were unimpressed…I just don’t get it! I may as well get a cot and move into the kitchen.

For their full menu and more information check out their site.

Monday-Thursday 7AM – 11PM
Friday-Saturday 7AM – Midnite
Sunday 7AM – 9PM

Ecopolitan in the Metropolitan

My best friend G and I got to experience an entirely vegan and raw restaurant, Ecopolitan recently which exists in Uptown, Mpls. I had found this place one night while rummaging through the internet, also known as my other husband. Ecopolitan seemed very interesting. This restaurant is also a juice bar, spa, an eco-shop and a wine bar! Background: They are non-profit and pride themselves on many accomplishments, such as serving 100% uncooked, plant-based meals that are 100% organic with no additives, GMOS, or toxic processing. Seems pretty cool!

So we ventured out to try this place.We didn’t really know what to expect. It ended up being in a quaint little old school Mpls home with roughly 6 or less tables. It was very dark, lit only by one lamp and several candles and had a great eclectic feel to it. It’s as if someone went to a garage sale and brought back everything and put it into this room. None of the chairs matched, or the tables, or the napkins, or anything actually. G and I were feeling pretty hip and cool.

We drank our filtered water in reused jars and G paid for a jar to take her smoothie home in. (They have a fee for you having to take something home-which seems weird, but if you come back and bring the jar/container back they will refund your dollar. Or you can just come with your own containers. We may not be adjusted to this yet, but hey, we’re reusing bags at the grocery store now aren’t we?)

There were many interesting and intriguing options to choose from but I decided to go with the Eco-sausage pizza. The “cheese” is made of macadamia and cashew nuts, the sausage made from walnuts and the rest of the pizza was loaded with raw veggies (mushrooms, bell peppers and onions) and ginger marinara sauce. G settled for the Spicy Thai noodles, which consists of coconut curry sauce, noodles made from raw zucchini, carrot and daikon radishes, and loaded up with pineapple, bell peppers, cilantro, almonds and coconut flakes.

One word of advice? Bring your homework, business, laptop or a good reading material. G and I had no idea that we would be waiting for a very long time to be fed. Considering that the food is made entirely raw (meaning probably very fresh and on the spot) we assumed it would take a while. But a while was a long while. Dare we say 45 minutes? And this was us being the only customers besides two ladies that were already on dessert.

After we got over the wait and starting dissolving into one of your deep and probing conversations, our food arrived. It looked wonderful. It tasted…different. Mine was a good different. My first bite certainly was cautious considering this pizza was entirely raw and cold. It had a very nutty taste and a thick texture from the buckwheat crust (that is dried instead of baked-remember all raw here). In some ways it tasted “too raw” for me, in some other ways it was delicious. After the first piece I was satisfied. My body had been eating vegan, but not entirely raw so my body went into a slight shock. I knew better than to freak out my body by eating the entire thing. The next day I would eat my leftover piece for lunch, and for whatever reason it was even better than it was the day before. It really just tasted like leftover cold pizza.

G’s pasta was also different. Incredibly different. I didn’t take a bite because as adventurous as I would like to think I am, I don’t have a great experience with coconut curry. She described the noodles to me, which were cold, very thinly sliced and soft. Slightly softer than real pasta. She said overall it was good although one could never mistake this for real pasta. However, that night she got ill. ( I didn’t. Hmm. Who knows.)

We ended our experience with the blueberry “cheese” cake and folks, this was AMAZING. By far the best cheesecake I had ever had in my life. G agrees. The first bite was “Hmm, this is weird. Hmm…tangy. Hmmm.” By the third bite it was “Oh my god, this is the best thing I ever tasted.” By the last crumb it was “Why isn’t there more??” We both agreed that this cake only got better with each bite. Most desserts leave you feeling full and beyond satisfied because they are so sweet and rich. Normal cheesecake usually starts off with a few delicious bites and then turns into overload. This was cheesecake crack. Delicious. I still dream of this cheesecake.

After our meals, and paying for the leftover containers (which were biodegradable), we decided to venture through their shop. It is small, but definitely fun. There are assortments of raw and vegan desserts, snacks, sauces, and nuts pre-packaged for your convenience, juicers, books on raw/vegan lifestyles, cookbooks, CDs, DVDs, air purifiers, SAD light therapy lamps (very cool, especially for us Minnesotans), body care, supplements, art and even knick knacks and clothes.

So overall conclusion? We would both try it again. There were a number of items we would both try-including the raw vegan burger, the cold soups, and more desserts. Something to be cautious about though is to make sure you make time for this dining experience as well as bringing your own containers to bring leftovers in.

Cool side note? They also do free lectures, films, “uncooking” classes and have free meeting spaces for non-profit groups! Go to their site to learn more, and also check out their online menu which showcases their goods as well as more information on their community events!

I can’t believe it’s not…meat!

By request from my good friend J, I will be posting some great vegan processed foods. Yes, that is such an oxymoron but it is true. It would be great to be 100% all natural but it does get hard, and new processed foods make life that much easier. Of course since they are processed the most healthy thing to do is eat things in it’s most natural form, like grains, oats, fruits and veggies but we are human after-all and Americans! As a nation we have grown to expect certain foods as everyday normalcy’s, like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, bacon and the like. Since thats what we are used to, its nice that we can still be vegan and enjoy our food. Luckily, most vegan processed foods are significantly healthier for you than true meats and dairy.

You can find anything these days, soy sliced turkey, beef, chicken, chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs, butter, cheese, the works. It has not been hard for me at all, and not really expensive either! Since I am buying these things instead of real meat (which is costly by the pound) I’m really not spending more money. As for the dairy, it is slightly (I’m talking cents) more expensive, but think of your health in the long run. Dairy is a huge contributer to high and bad cholesterol numbers, and soy or nut dairy has NO cholesterol. You are saving money AND your health in the long run.

So, the big questions J has are what is out there? Where do I find it? How much is it?

I don’t know about anywhere else in the States but the most common brands I find are: Tofutti, Earth Balance, Tofurky, Amy’s, Morningstar, Boca, Annie’s, Rice Dream, Silk, and Trader Joe’s brand. There are tons more out there but these are the ones I think are most common.

I swear by Trader Joe’s. (Here in MN we have locations in Maple Grove, Minnetonka and St. Louis Park.) I luckily live by one so I frequent it enough to call it my home store. I will occasionally shop at other places but I am pretty loyal to Trader Joe’s. They so far have offered me the most and best choices of vegan food out of all the groceries store in my vicinity. They are also very reasonably priced; I have found that they have cheaper prices than Target on vegan products which makes this frugal gal pretty happy. They offer so much stuff its unbelievable. There are bars, beverages, bread, candy, cookies, cereal, dried fruits and nuts, frozen desserts, produce, nut butters and snack foods that are vegan. (They also supply lists there that you can take with you that will list the vegan products, vegetarian products, gluten-free products and low fat products.) The key is to turn around the product and look for a bolded caption underneath the ingredients that says CONTAINS blah blah blah…. Almost all products have this and it should say if something has milk or dairy in it since many people have those allergies. It will also tell you if there’s wheat in it, nuts or soy (other common allergies.) This makes life a lot easier because you don’t have to stand there and read the whole list of ingredients,you can look at that one line and it will tell you automatically if you can put it in your cart or put it back on the shelf.

I find that Trader Joe’s will carry many of the product brands I listed above, but their version is superb. It tastes good and it’s the cheapest. They also offer great variety. This is where I got my BBQ Pulled “Chicken” that my non-vegan husband liked. I also purchased “Beef” Strips and “Chicken” Strips here. My favorite thing though from the “meat” section is the chicken nuggets. They are entirely made of soy and taste just like the chicken nuggets I grew up on. And it’s only 120 calories for 4 of them! Seriously! You can eat 8 and only have consumed 240 calories! Only 4 chicken nuggets from McDonalds is over 300 calories not to mention they are bad for you.

As for the other brands, you can find them at most grocery stores. In my circumference I sometimes go to Cub Foods, Byerly’s, Target, very rarely Rainbow and never Wal-Mart. But I have gone to all these places to compare variety and prices for this post.

Cub Foods: B- They have a really rather large natural/organic foods section that is full of different brands and selections. However most of it is vegetarian friendly, not vegan friendly. Of course you can find things but you have to look. (Though it’s not very hard to look.) They offer Amy’s, Tofutti, Earth Balance, Tofurky, Morningstar, Boca, Rice Dream, Silk and others.

Byerly’s: B- The only reason why this got the same score as Cub is because they offer awesome cheese. They are called “Veggie Slices” and “Veggie Shreds” and it tastes almost identical to real cheese products. I cannot find this cheese anywhere else! Of course I haven’t traveled far, but out of all the common places I have listed, they are the only ones that have it. They have other products as well that are hard to find. Amy’s Soy  Macaroni and Cheese can be found here, and damn, this is SO good. I actually prefer this macaroni to the one’s I grew up with. It tastes almost homemade for being a frozen meal. Much tastier (and healthier) than Kraft. One icky factor? Byerly’s stuff is more expensive. And you are paying for the ambiance much more than the product. I know this because I can get Tofutti Cuties ice cream sandwiches (which taste 100% like the real thing) at Byerly’s for $4.99 or go to Trader Joe’s and get the same thing for $2.99. Come on Byerly’s! Just because your grocery store has carpet!

Target: C Target does okay. They offer organic and natural foods but very slim vegan foods. This really puts them at a disadvantage because if they offered vegan food I’d probably do ALL my shopping at Target. They do offer Silk milk (which is soy milk) for the cheapest price out of all their competitors. (Trader Joe’s soy milk is still cheaper however. But Silk has the best taste.)

Rainbow: C+ They are getting on the bandwagon. They are very much like Cub…getting more health conscious to retain their customers. They are getting better although selection is still low and unfortunately they are overpriced. Everything you find here will most likely be more expensive than at Cub or Target, unless it is on sale/special.

Wal-Mart: D Terrible, terrible, terrible! The only brand I could find was Amy’s and the selection was only 4 measly rows in the frozen section. One small perk that saved them from failing? They were cheaper.

I have mentioned some tastes and preferences above but I can go into farther detail here.

Tofutti: They offer a lot of stuff man. They first came out with just ice cream (which is SO good you can’t believe it isn’t the real thing) but now have expanded. They now also offer frozen foods, cookies, cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, and other frozen treats. I have had their cream cheese (good) and a lot of their ice cream and frozen treats. My freezer actually always has something from Tofutti in it, because my husband eats it too! Again like I have mentioned, go to Trader Joe’s if you can for this because at Byerly’s it is off the wall expensive.

Earth Balance: I use their “butter” which is very similar in taste to margarine. I have no problem with margarine’s taste so I have no problem with Earth Balance. They also offer peanut butter and other spreads like jams but I have never seen them anywhere. I can easily find the butter but never anything else. Their website says that it can also be bought at Whole Foods, which I have yet to go to.

I cannot believe it’s not butter.

Tofurky: They offer our most common “meat”, like deli slices, sausages, links, jerky, but also have pizza. I have tried the turkey deli slices (A+ in taste) and the sausages (okay…but I’ve only had the italian sausage, not the plain).

Amy’s: They have way more natural and organic food than vegan but the stuff they do have is really tasty! It’s sick how addicted I’ve become to Amy’s burritos and macaroni and cheese. Hmmm….the mac and cheese is divine and the burrito is sooo yummy. All the burrito is, is straight up pinto beans and rice. Delish! They also have a veggie burrito with black beans but isn’t my favorite. The beans and rice one reminds me most of true Mexican food. There are also lots of Amy’s products for the vegetarian or organic food eater. The brand has soups, frozen meals, pastas, burgers, kid’s meals, pizzas, breakfast, etc.

Morningstar and Boca: Both of these are mostly just meats. They carry sausages, burgers, hot dogs, sausages, breakfast sausage, and so forth. The thing to be careful about is a lot of this stuff is veggie based, not soy based so they still sneak in dairy and/or eggs. I didn’t assume this the first time I grabbed some breakfast sausage patties and then was pissed when I got home and looked at the back of the box. Tsk, tsk. That’s why now I always make it a habit to look at the ingredients before I purchase. These will probably be your best bet in meat-like burgers and offer the most variety. I did love those nasty sausages. Damn them for not being vegan. But hey, if you are going vegetarian or just looking to eat healthier, they are great!

Annie’s: Mostly organic but they offer some good vegan options. You can also find this stocked plentiful at Cub, Rainbow, Target, etc. because it’s starting to become such a common and popular brand. I feel like they offer everything under the sun: sauces, dips, soups, crackers, cereal, and so forth and so forth. The all natural Goddess dressing is amazing. The natural Caesar dressing is really good too, and much MUCH healthier than restaurant versions without losing any taste; however it isn’t vegan.

Rice Dream, Almond Breeze, Silk, and VitaSoy: All of these will substitute milk. In taste I think Silk tastes the most like cow’s milk. But truly all of them taste good as long as they are ice cold! My husband loves Almond Breeze, and he drinks the Original, Vanilla and Chocolate flavors. He even mixes it with his coffee! So what is the difference and point of rice milk, almond milk or soy milk? Well it’s all preference in my opinion. They all taste very similar, but since I already consume so much soy in my daily diet I try to drink rice or almond milk just to get a different source of protein in my body.

Of course there are normal everyday things too that you can find that will fit into your vegan lifestyle. For example I can still eat most breads/bagels, most cereals, a lot of chips and crackers, obviously all fruits and veggies and even some treats! Did you know Oreo’s are vegan? That yummy white creme center isn’t even made of dairy! It’s soy milk!! Read the ingredients yourself and be amazed! A lot of things in your pantry are probably already vegan so you don’t need to worry that once you go vegan you won’t be able to enjoy some of the foods you currently eat. I’m not saying they are necessarily healthy for you, but they do fit into the vegan diet with moderation, like everything else.

Oh, and don’t forget Veggie Slices and Veggie Shreds. It’s the cheesiest non cheese you’ve ever had.

Hope this was useful! I will be back.

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