Monthly Archives: June 2013

Oakland’s Cheap Vegan Friendly Eats: Cam Huong


Situated in the ever claustrophobic China Town in Downtown Oakland lies the textbook definition of a hole in the wall.  As a self proclaimed foodie I nerd out on food next to my boyfriend who nerds out on Ebay car parts.  He half listens to me as I tell him of the various eats I want to try, and I half listen to his banter about all of the cup holders we have to buy for our new car.  Eventually I will find a jackpot and insist we leave the house within 10 minutes to drive to a new spot I have been researching.  Brendon begrudgingly gets away from his Ipad and begins to get ready for our excursion.  Though this is not to say he doesn’ love food as much as I do, in fact he is probably the only person that could stand to listen to me talk about food the amount I do!

Today it was Cam Huong, a Vietnamese Sandwich (Banh Mi) place.  When we pulled up we got a parking space right out front, which was soon blocked by the extreme double parking people we doing specifically for Cam Huong sandwiches.  We ordered 2 sandwiches (I got the Curried Tofu), some sort of eggplant dish one way, Brendon got the pork sandwich, fish patty, and egg fried noodles, ALL for:

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We went to the lake in Oakland and ate our lunch with the sun shinning and the wind blowing.  The food was incredible and we will surely be going back for prices from $2.50-$3 per sandwich.  I only wish there would have been more sauce and fresher bread, but for $3 I wasn’t complaining.  A new staple in my diet Cam Huong has a line out the door for a reason and many options to choose from.

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In the News: UN urges us to go dairy and meat free


We all come to veganism in a different ways.  Some of us are trying to get healthier, while others have a moral reason. For years it was only extreme PETA spouting a message of equality for animals, which I admire and though have issues with their method. (perhaps in another post) This week however the silence of international collaboration at the United Nations ended. For the United Nations it came down to the effects that factory farming for meat and dairy are having on our climate.  I have read different reports and articles all stating that our livestock is one of the top three big hitters on our global warming.  In fact it is actually worse than all the transportation emissions in the world COMBINED.  The article was written up in the Guardian and can be found here.

This article coincided with an article I read in the Washington Post reviewing the ever growing frozen vegetarian burgers.  As you can see the reviewers found that each and every single brand of “meat free” burger actually tasted synthesized.  For me, eating is a pleasure that if we are lucky we get to do several times a day (sometimes I must admit I over indulge).  But just as the vegetarian market has already been commodified into the same processed foods as meat eaters, I am worried about the direction the vegan market is moving.  Every week I see new vegan frozen foods on the market processed to a pulp.  As we move into this new era where meat will become more expensive, I mean look at Chipotle’s new Northern California addition to their menu: Sofritas. They are using local Oakland based tofu company Hodo Soy, which is actually quite amazing. They stated that due to their rising meat costs it only made sense to put this on the menu (not to mention the huge vegan market in the bay area).  But as this idea spreads and companies like Starbucks, McDonalds, etc begin to commodify the vegan market it may be time to take a stand.  As someone who has dealt with vegan weight gain I know that not all vegan food is healthy, our butter substitutes are pure oil, and we still need to eat the correct food groups leaving the unhealthy stuff in moderation.

So with that, go eat more kale.


Strawberry Jam without added Pectin


When it comes to spring and the beginning of summer there is nothing like strawberries.  The farmers market is sparse with them at first only coming from Santa Cruz.  As it warms up the markets fill up with people and the strawberries multiply.  Prices drop as competition rises, and I make jam.

My first batch of jam this year turned out OK, but as I continue my apprenticeship under the most incredible pastry chef I am learning techniques and this is one of them.  Strawberries have barely any pectin as compared with citrus so you have to get creative.  I pan fry these in essentially a single layer and sprinkle a handful of sugar on them, tasting until you get your desired sweetness.  Let’s be honest, there are loads of recipes out there that say they use an 1/8th of the sugar that the balls jars recipes use, and while balls jars recipes do use more sugar than I do, those peoples recipes taste awful.  Jam is supposed to be sweet, and yes, that involves some sugar!

I like my jam a bit chunky and it also allows you to make it without any added pectin!

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Strawberry Jam:

3 pints of strawberries

2-3 handfuls of sugar

1. First wash the strawberries in a colander to remove any dirt etc that might be sticking to the strawberries.  If like me you left yours in the fridge then pick through and remove any of the spoiled strawberries.

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2. Hull the strawberries using a pairing knife by removing the leaves and as little of the strawberry itself.

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3. Line up the hulled strawberries into rows of three, and using a chefs knife cut each strawberry into 3rd or 4ths depending on their size.

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4. In a healthy “single” layer place the strawberries in the pan and sprinkle sugar on them over medium heat.

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5. Pan fry the strawberries adding sugar if you need to sweeten it any further cook stirring to make sure the bottom doesn’t begin to burn.  Cook until the liquid starts to gels and becomes thick and the strawberries are soft.

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6.  If you have anymore strawberries continue to pan fry in single layers until all of them have gelled! Place in a cute jar you have just for strawberry jam and enjoy daily.



Peppermint Patties



After my friend Alice from smokin’ tofu posted “How to make vegan cream cheese suck less” I began to think how vegan cream cheese could be applied in other ways.  When we were still living together in Norwich, England I once ate 11 chocolate bars at once…somehow I maintained a figured back then! So when looking to incorporate cream cheese I wanted Chocolate to play a huge role.

I must admit I am someone who opens 3,000 tabs at once all related to vegan baking.  I get lost and come out the other end with a million ideas but I always take one and make it.  I was inspired to use cream cheese as a base after reading a post about peppermint patties.  Being vegan can be hard when it comes to sweets, especially those of us who miss peanut butter cups and peppermint patties.  The original recipe called for vegetable shortening which I am assuming is not available in most places as an organic entity. Besides, I would rather use something a bit more natural and less processed so I substituted it with coconut oil. Add a small amount of coconut flakes on top of the patty and we are in business.

Some notes on what I learned doing this the first time:

1.Using a pyrex measuring cup to pour the chocolate works well.

2. Flattening the peppermint filling allows you to use less chocolate and have the filling actually fill the whole patty.

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Peppermint Patties:

Makes 9

For the Peppermint Filling:

1 1/2 T vegan cream cheese such as Tofutti or Vegan Gourmet

1 1/2 tsp coconut oil

1/4 tsp mint extract

splash of vanilla extract

1/8 cup coconut flakes

1 cup powdered sugar

For the Chocolate:

2-  12 oz of your favorite dark chocolate (avoid chips like I used as they have other additives to help them hold their shape in high temperatures)

9 parchment muffin cups


1. First mix all the ingredients except the powdered sugar and coconut flakes for the filling in a stand mixer or using a hand mixer.  Once the ingredients are homogenized slowly incorporated the powdered sugar until combined, add the coconut flakes and turn off the mixer.

2. Roll tablespoon sized pieces of filling into balls and flatten.  Place all of these in the freezer, you will have some left over peppermint filling depending on your balls and the size of your muffin liners.

3.  Temper/melt the chocolate over a double broiler.  I rig one by using a stainless steel bowl over a pot filled with an inch of water.  Turn the heat on low and using a rubber spatula fold the chocolate pieces continuously.  When about 2/3rds of the chocolate has melted turn off the heat and take the bowl out from on top of the pot.  Continue to fold until all the chocolate has melted, if you keep the chocolate over the heat you will over temper the chocolate.

4.  Once the chocolate is melted pour a small bit to cover the bottom of your liners (see above photo), it will be a messy process but it just allows you to lick your fingers ;).  After that is complete take the flattened pieces of filling out of the freezer and place one in each of the 9 liners.  Fill the liners up with more chocolate until the filling is completely incased.