Our Vegan Life

Food, Family, and Fun

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Because sometimes you “need” a little chocolate

I don’t know about you, but I (Shannon) come from a long line of chocoholics (especially on my mom’s side), so much so that it has almost become it’s own food group.  In fact, I think there may have been dancing in my parents’ house when my mom read that dark chocolate (in moderate doses…ahem) actually has health benefits. Even among those relatives who might not “need” chocolate as much as some of us, there was definitely still a sweet tooth. I remember my PawPaw (on my dad’s side) having peanut butter and syrup on bread for desert when no other sweets were available. So I guess it should come as no surprise that every now and then (probably more now than then, if I’m honest) I just “need” something sweet…usually in the form of chocolate.

Being vegan, I can’t just run to the nearest convenience store and pick up a candy bar (probably a good thing), so I was thrilled when I discovered this super easy 3-ingredient recipe for making my own vegan (also gluten free, soy free, and nut free) chocolate bars. I combined that idea with one that my mom told me about that involved walnuts and coconut, subbed almonds for the walnuts (because I know my peanut-allergic son is not allergic to almonds, but not sure about walnuts), and came up with something akin to 5-ingredient Almond Joy bite size candy. Yum!

5 ingredient Vegan Almond Joy Bites

  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp coconut oil, melted (unrefined will give an extra coconut flavor, refined will be tasteless – I use refined because it’s cheaper)
  • 1/4 cup raw agave nectar (or sub with sweetener of your choice)
  • coconut flakes
  • whole raw almonds (or pieces)

I admit I do not follow exact measurements when I make this. It is very much by taste and texture, so I have measurements based on the original chocolate bar recipe that I found, and then below are my notes for how I make it, so you can feel free to play with it and make it to your taste preference.

Here’s what I do: Pour cocoa powder in a bowl. Add coconut oil (warmed to liquid form either by heating in the microwave for a few seconds or by holding the jar under warm water in the sink) until forms a pourable (but not too liquid) chocolatey mixture. Add raw agave nectar to taste. Then add as much coconut and almonds as you like (depending on how much chocolate mixture you have, you may need to add a little more oil so it’s not too stiff of a mixture).  Spoon onto wax paper or into freezer safe container, and freeze until solid. Use knife or fork to break into bite size pieces.  Store in freezer and take a piece out whenever you “need” a little chocolate.

As indicated in the link above where I first found the 3-ingredient chocolate bar recipe, you can leave out the coconut and almonds and break the pieces into very small pieces to make chocolate chunks for cookies, pancakes, and other baked goods.  I imagine the unfrozen chocolatey mixture could also be used to dip strawberries in and then refrigerate until the chocolate hardens on the strawberries. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m totally planning on it.  Enjoy!

Love at the Loving Hut Cafe: A Restaurant Review

We recently celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary and it has been a standing tradition that we go out to eat to celebrate.  You might be wondering: Where exactly does a vegan couple go to celebrate their anniversary?  Well, if that couple does not have a restricted budget, have to work during the week of said anniversary, or have small children (including one who is still breastfeeding), then they’d probably go to the Laughing Seed Cafe in Asheville, NC…But that’s not us.  We are saving that trip for year 15.  SO…we stayed local, and ate at the 100% Vegan/Raw restaurant, The Loving Hut Cafe in Cincinnati.

The Loving Hut Cafe is a newly found favorite of ours.  While living in Indianapolis we found that there were really not any true vegan/vegetarian restaurants where that is all that is served.  We frequented The Abbey Coffeehouse (when it was in business), The Broad Ripple Brew Pub, Three Sisters’ Cafe, Shalimar Indian Restaurant, and several other places around town that had options we could eat on the menu.  Truth is, there were only a few possibilities in town of places that specifically served a few vegan dishes on their menus.  But, there was simply no restaurant in town that was completely devoted to being vegan or vegetarian.  Our first experience of such a restaurant was the aforementioned “Laughing Seed Cafe” in Asheville, NC.  When we recently moved to the northern Kentucky/ Cincinnati Metro area we began looking for veg friendly places and were so glad to have found this place.   In fact, the very first time we had a meal there Chad remembers saying as we drove off, “Now, that is what we had been missing in Indy all those years.”

The Loving Hut Cafe has a wide range of options both vegan and raw.  There are several different options for burgers (Sonny, Quinoa, and Black Bean Rice burgers for example), a couple of different wraps, an American Panini sandwich, a couple of salads, and even a raw Reuben sandwich.  Beyond this they have several appetizers from nachos, vegan chikin drumsticks, to vegetable spring rolls.  They also have several fantastic smoothies and wonderful desserts.  While all of this is incredibly impressive, the most stand out thing we noticed was the children’s menu that had 4 or 5 options for kids, including an amazing mac’n’cheeze that tastes so good…kid approved good.  Our only critique of Loving Hut is that a little too much of what is on their menu is synthetic and processed foods and not nearly as much of a focus on a whole foods plant based menu.  We have no problem eating such processed foods occasionally, but not all the time and it would be nice to frequent a restaurant that has more of a focus on whole foods.  Otherwise, we give this place a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Before getting into some of the specifics of our anniversary experience and the essential reasons we like Loving Hut, let us also mention a few items about the staff.  The entire staff, with the exception of the owner and one manager, are all volunteer.  They are people who truly believe in sustainable living, a smaller footprint on the earth, and healthy eating.  The entire staff is incredibly knowledgeable about all the food and veganism in general. The disadvantage of going to any restaurant where you have to veganize many of their menu items is that you will often get servers and even managers who look at you like you are crazy when you say the word vegan or when you ask them to remove the cheese and/or meat and replace it with something else.  The advantage of being at a place like Loving Hut is that the staff are working there because they share a similar desire to care for the earth, animals, and eating a healthy diet.  So, we don’t have to worry about any of their menu items not being vegan, but if we did have a question their staff is well versed and very accommodating to your needs.  When we brought our peanut-allergic son with us, they went out of their way to ensure that the food he would be eating absolutely had no nuts in it as well as no risk of cross-contamination.  After setting all this as background, here is our assessment and some pictures of our experience there.  If you are ever in Cincinnati anytime and can visit this great cafe we recommend that you do.

Some reasons we love this restaurant:

The atmosphere…As soon as you walk in, on one side of the restaurant there are quotes on the wall expressing the ethical and environmental philosophy of the restaurant, photos of famous vegans and vegetarians, along with shelves stacked with vegan and vegetarian resources,

and on the other side, is the kitchen and a menu on the wall, full of delicious food opportunities. Actually, one of the most difficult things about eating at an all vegan restaurant is deciding what to choose, because there are so many options.

For our anniversary, Chad chose the American panini.

Shannon chose the quinoa burger.

We shared an appetizer…the nachos.

and dessert….a raw orange and chocolate cheesecake,

                 and a raw blueberry pie.

And we noticed what was on the plates of some customers sitting at a nearby table…..the raw taco salad (which Chad has eaten since then and confirms that it is delicious),

         and a raw taco supreme.  The customers at the nearby table said it was their first time eating a raw meal. After they had an opportunity to taste their food, we asked them how they liked it, and they said they really enjoyed it.

You might notice in the pictures that the food is offered on paper plates or plastic boxes. At first we wondered about this, too. What is a restaurant with such an emphasis on the environment doing using so much paper and plastic? Well, we asked. As it turns out, almost everything is 100% compostable. The only thing that is not compostable are the little plastic to-go containers for condiments, and that is only because so far they have not been able to find ones that are compostable.

So there you have it….a family-friendly restaurant serving delicious food while both being conscious and bringing consciousness to the ethical issues behind environmental sustainability and conservation. The Loving Hut gets 4 thumbs up from this vegan family.

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