November 27, 2011

Review - PureFit Nutrition Bars

I was recently asked by the company that produces PureFit Nutrition Bars to sample and honestly review their product.
Free nutrition bars, you say? I'm listening...
The thing that really drew my interest was the fact that the website promotes these bars as "the all-natural, gluten-free and wheat-free, dairy-free, vegan, kosher, high in protein, diabetic-friendly, that tastes great nutrition bar." Wow! That meets all of my ideal criteria in one generously-sized bar! So, I just had to try them.

As I perused the nutritional information for the bars, provided on the PureFit website, I was really elated to find that each individual bar contains 18 grams of protein, but is only between 210-220 calories for the whole thing. You think high protein, you think fatty things like nut butters and the like, which generally means lots of ass-fattening calories. The first ingredient listed in the nutritional information is soy protein isolate, with soy nuts, almonds, and nut butters listed further down the line. They also make the claim, on their website, that all of their soy products are from non-GMO sources. Winning!

So, all of the criteria for a discerning, label-reading vegan are there. The big test remaining, then, was "Does it taste good?"
The answer is an overwhelming, "Yes!" And, trust me, I've tasted enough nutrition bars to know what a good one tastes like. The general consensus on most commercially produced bars is that the chalky texture and the list of creepy chemical ingredients, along with the over-inflated price, are usually enough to keep me and my family away from them. But these bars actually taste good. I have to say, I was honestly surprised by the smooth texture and the flavor. The ingredient list is short, and every item in it is recognizable, which is a wonderful thing in the world of nutrition bars. So, even if they tasted gross, I would have eaten them just for the nutritional value. But they weren't gross at all!

The company sent me one bar in each of the five available flavors: Peanut Butter Crunch, Chocolate Brownie, Almond Crunch, Berry Almond Crunch, and Granola Crunch. I will say that there really isn't much actual "crunch" to the bars with Crunch in the title, but they tasted great so I didn't mind.
I assumed that Almond Crunch and Peanut Butter Crunch would be my favorites, and they were good, but oddly I preferred the Chocolate Brownie and Berry Almond Crunch flavors the most. I say "oddly" because I generally don't like brownie-flavored and berry-flavored bars. If I were shopping for these on my own, I probably would have passed these flavors by, but they were my favorites! So, I'm really happy that I was able to sample them all first, and I didn't miss out on something so yummy.
My least favorite was the Granola Crunch. It wasn't bad, by any means. It was just my personal least favorite of the five flavors. It was more plain-tasting than the others, so if you're looking for something to pair with a sweet coffee, it might be just right!

If you want to try these bars yourself, you can purchase a sample pack at, containing a full size bar in each flavor, for only $9.95. You can also purchase 15-count boxes of each flavor at the PureFit website.

But, between you and me (this is "Bankrupt Vegan," after all), you can get the boxes at a bit of a discount on - here are the links...
PureFit Nutrition Bars - Chocolate Brownie
PureFit Nutrition Bars - Berry Almond Crunch
PureFit Nutrition Bars - Peanut Butter Crunch
PureFit Nutrition Bars - Almond Crunch
(I couldn't find Granola Crunch, so you're on your own with that one. Sorry.)

Give these bars a try. They are really yummy, full of good stuff, and give you a nice little burst of energy, which is really important if - like me - you are chasing a three-year-old around your house all day. I will definitely continue to enjoy these bars and I now rank them among my favorites, which include KIND Barsand, of course, the always fabulous Lara Bars.
And, just so you know, this is an honest review. If the PureFit Bar had sucked, I would have told you so. I'm just Irish like that.

Please CLICK HERE to read my full Disclosure Statement.

November 25, 2011

A Vegan Thanksgiving Feast

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day yesterday! My mom wasn't able to visit, so it was just me, my husband and my daughter this year. It was also the first time I have ever been responsible for the entire meal, all by myself. I was a little bit nervous, but luckily I was able to veganize my mom's fantastic sweet potato casserole recipe, I made our old favorite Mac N Nooch recipe, along with some homemade bread, and I found some great packaged items to fill in the gaps. I completely forgot to roast the fresh organic corn I had bought, but oh well...

My pictures aren't too great, but you can get the idea. I took them in haste while my hungry family looked on with desperation in their eyes. They were all, "C'mon! Let's eat!" while I snapped away. I'm so mean.

This stuff will change your life, I kid you not!

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, boiled, mashed and slightly cooled
1/4 cup vegan butter*
1/2 cup agave nectar (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup vegan creamer (I used Silk Hazelnut)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup date sugar (or brown sugar)
1/3 cup vegan butter, melted
2 cups walnuts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Put all casserole ingredients together in a large bowl and stir until mixture is creamy. *If your potatoes have cooled completely, you may need to pre-melt or soften your butter. But if your potatoes are still warm the butter will melt nicely as you stir.
  • Stir topping ingredients together in a separate bowl until all walnuts are coated.
  • Place the casserole mixture into a deep 8 or 10-inch circular casserole dish. 
  • Spread topping evenly across casserole.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Makes about 8 big servings.
  • Enjoy!
NUTRITION INFO (per serving):
Calories: 316.1 / Total Fat: 22.3g (Saturated Fat: 4.2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 12.4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4.7g) / Cholesterol: 0mg / Sodium: 102.3mg / Potassium: 179.4mg / Total Carbohydrates: 28.2g (Dietary Fiber: 2.8g, Sugar: 15.3g) / Protein: 3.8g

This is my go-to bread recipe. I've been making it for years. It's so fluffy and delicious, and requires very little (if any) kneading. And if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook, it's even easier!
Go HERE for the recipe.

Fantastic, creamy mac and "cheese" with a crunchy topping you can't resist.
Go HERE for the recipe.

I used Arrowhead Mills Organic Savory Herb Stuffing. I prepared it as directed on the bag, but it came out a bit dry, so I added a quarter cup of melted butter. Once I poured some gravy on top, it was perfect!
I also lightly browned some of Tofurkey's fantastic Italian sausages and tossed them into the stuffing. It made a great "meat" entree for our table.

These mashed potatoes were so easy and really tasty! I purchased them at a health food store for only two dollars a box. Nice!

I purchased three delicious pre-made pies from Sprouts Farmer's Market. We didn't go with the traditional pumpkin and sweet potato pies because I was doing this whole shindig all by myself (next year I'm going to look into pre-making and freezing homemade pies), but the cherry, strawberry with rhubarb, and dutch apple pies I snagged at just $3.99 each were totally vegan and absolutely delicious.

Well, I hope this gives you some inspiration for your next big holiday feast. See you at Christmas!

November 23, 2011

Banana Bread Bundt Cake

If you need a quick and easy cake for a holiday party, this is the one to make! I've slightly "healthified" this version by replacing the butter with applesauce and lowering the amount of sugar, but you can substitute vegan butter for the applesauce and add an extra half a cup of sugar to the recipe to make it more decadent. You can also top it with lemon zest, sugared walnuts, or grated cinnamon for some extra zing.
Oh, and if you don't have a bundt cake pan, don't worry - you can just use two standard loaf pans.

1 1/2 cups organic white sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 tablespoons flaxmeal
1/4 cup water
6 overripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking soda
3 cups organic all-purpose flour (you can sub whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil or spray a standard bundt cake pan, or two loaf pans, with baking spray.
  • Mix the flaxmeal and water together in a small bowl. Stir with a fork or small whisk until well mixed. Set aside.
  • Beat bananas, applesauce, sugar, and vanilla together in a large bowl until very well mixed. Add the flaxmeal mixture (this is your egg replacer) and mix until incorporated.
  • Sift the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger together directly into your batter bowl. Just let it sit on top of the wet mixture until you're ready to mix.
  • Gently stir or beat all ingredients until just-mixed. Do not overmix. 
  • Pour into prepared pan(s) and bake for about an hour. Test with a toothpick at 50 minutes and watch closely from there. 
  • Allow the cake to cool for a half hour before turning out onto a plate. Then allow it to cool completely before applying the glaze.
1 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vegan butter, melted and lightly cooled
2 tablespoons soy creamer
  • Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until a smooth glaze is formed. For thinner glaze, use more milk (added one teaspoon at a time). For thicker glaze, use less.
  • Pour slowly around the top of cooled cake, or drizzle onto cake using a wooden spoon.
  • Makes 16 servings.
  • Enjoy!
NUTRITION INFO (per serving):
Calories: 252.1 / Total Fat: 1g (Saturated Fat: 0.3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.2g) / Cholesterol: 0mg / Sodium: 238.5mg / Potassium: 220.3mg / Total Carbohydrates: 59.2g (Dietary Fiber: 2.1g, Sugar: 37.2g) / Protein: 2.7g

November 21, 2011

Wacky Chocolate Cake

You guys know I struggle with weight issues. In fact, I almost named this blog, "The Chunky Vegan," but then I chose not to because I thought I might someday not be chunky anymore. *fingers crossed* Hopefully someday the "bankrupt" moniker will also not apply. *fingers double crossed*
Anyway, I recently snagged a copy of Neal Barnard's new book 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart. It's chock full of great information for losing weight, and all of the recipes are 100% vegan! Since I am forever craving chocolate and sugar, the first recipe I turned to was this easy chocolate cake. It's honestly not the greatest cake I have ever baked, but the advantage was that it was really easy to throw together, it's low in fat and calories, and it tastes great with fresh coffee or a tall, cold glass of vanilla soymilk.
The recipe is specifically just for the cake. The topping is all mine. I threw together a simple glaze with about a cup of sifted powdered sugar, a couple of tablespoons of sifted powdered cocoa, and enough soymilk to make it juicy (just a few teaspoons will do - add the milk one teaspoon at a time until you get the consistency you want) and topped that with some slivered almonds, which I had to painstakingly pick off one by one because my three-year-old daughter did NOT want them on the cake.

Recipe from Alka Chandna
Makes 9 3x3" pieces.

"Here is a delightful version of legendary Wacky Cake, which is said to have its origins in World War II rationing, when milk and eggs were hard to come by. At the time, the cake was lower in fat and cholesterol, not by choice but by necessity. Today, those characteristics are virtues.

1 1/2 cups unbleached pastry flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 teaspoons unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup cold water

Instructions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder in a bowl; stir with a fork until mixed. In a separate bowl, whisk the vanilla, applesauce, vinegar, and water. Pour the mixed wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until well mixed. Pour into a 9x9" baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean."

NUTRITION INFO (per serving):
Calories: 171 / Total Fat: 2g / Total Carbohydrates: 36g (Dietary Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 18g) / Sodium: 343mg / Protein: 2g

November 16, 2011

Coconut Curry "Resurrection Bowl"

As you may have noticed, I've been busy resurrecting the Bankrupt Vegan site, and updating all of the previous posts with new photos (I have no clue why the old photos disappeared) and nutritional information. So, here's the almost-quick version of what's been going on with me...
Regular readers will remember that I gave up veganism a few months back with the hope of curing my chronic fatigue and my inability to lose weight. And, for a while, it seemed to work. For a short time I felt like I was thriving. But the weight came creeping back on (with a vengeance), the energy flagged once again, and old chronic health problems that I had all but forgotten about reared their ugly heads.
One was arthritis - I'm only in my 30s, but I have it bad, partly because of genetics, and partly because of knee surgery in '88. But a vegan diet is also an anti-inflammatory diet and when I ate vegan, my only reminder of the arthritis was an occasional ache when the weather changed. Problem number two is several uterine fibroid tumors, which I have kept in check over the past few years by eating a vegan diet. [Those who know my story may recall that it was a trip to a free Cancer Project workshop that started me on this vegan journey to begin with.] But, after a few months of feeding the tumors with hormones from animal protein, I was quickly reminded of their existence by extreme pain and a host of... um... how shall I say.... "lady problems." Several days of each month is now spent in bed and in terrible pain. The tumors have gotten so big that my abdomen is tender to the touch and I can't even let my daughter sit in my lap without yelping in pain.

Desperate for answers, I recently wrote a letter to my trusted friend Katherine from Plant-Based Health and The Cancer Project, asking her advice about my struggles and what nutritional road I should take. I told her about the problems I experienced the last time I was a strict vegan - low energy and the inability to lose weight - and I told her about the problems I was experiencing as an omnivore - painful arthritis, initial weight loss followed by more gain, and the rapid growth of fibroid tumors that were causing extreme pain.
Her answer? Cutting out animal products to stop the influx of excess hormones, which are feeding the tumors, is the key. And then... get this... Fiber! Lots and lots of fiber. Which makes sense because toxins and excess hormones attach to fiber and are carried out of the body on it. In the poop, you see. It's also her recommendation that getting enough fiber may work to cure my energy crisis too.

So, I'm back. I'm back and I'm going to make veganism work for me, and I'm going to experiment with recipes until I find what keeps me going. I'm going to thrive. I'm definitely happier cooking as a vegan. I love vegan baking. And, even though compassion for animals was not my initial motivation for becoming vegan, I do love that no animals are harmed in the making of a vegan dinner. It's just a really nice feeling.

So, in honor of my return to veganism, my return to health, and my return to the wonderful world of vegan cooking and baking, I present to you, "The Resurrection Bowl."
Yeah, I know my last post (way back in June) is also a coconut-curry concoction, but I don't care. I love that flavor combination so hard!
This recipe makes a LOT of food, so it would be great for a potluck or to store in separate containers for quick lunches. Here's how you do it...

2 cups uncooked long-grain brown rice
4 cups water
1 head of fresh broccoli florets
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 purple onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup flaxmeal
1 small can of sliced black olives, drained
1 15-ounce can of coconut milk (don't use 'light', trust me)
1/2 cup of no-chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon red curry paste, or more to taste
1 avocado, diced (for garnish)
A sprinkling of seaweed Gomasio* (for garnish)
  • First, you want to cook up your rice. Boil the water, throw in the rice. Reduce the heat and cover until rice can be easily fluffed with a fork and no water remains. Takes about a half an hour.
  • When rice is close to being done, throw all of your veggies, your beans and olives too, into a steaming basket (or a colander perched on top of a pot, which is what I use) and very lightly steam until veggies are just beginning to get tender. Broccoli will be bright green and still a bit crunchy.
  • In a large pot gently stir together cooked rice, coconut milk, broth, flaxmeal, and curry paste. 
  • Gently fold your cooked veggies into the rice mixture. 
  • Cover and allow to sit for a few minutes on lowest heat setting, gently stirring occasionally, so that all of the flavors can mingle.
  • When you serve, top with some diced avocado and seaweed Gomasio.
  • Makes 8 servings.
  • Enjoy!
*Ever heard of seaweed Gomasio? It is my latest obsession! There are several different varieties, but the seaweed version is my favorite. It's made up of sesame seeds, seaweed, and sea salt. It adds a lot of crunch and salty flavor, but has nowhere near the sodium of table salt. One teaspoon of the stuff has only 80mg of sodium. That's awesome! I sprinkle it on salads, soups, and even top my macaroni with it. I buy it at my local health food store, and it's only a couple of bucks for the jar you see in the photo. Seriously, try it. It's great!
P.S. Eden Organic did not put me up to this. I just honestly love this stuff.

NUTRITION INFO (per serving, calculated without garnishes):
Calories: 208.8 / Total Fat: 8.9g (Saturated Fat: 5.7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.5g) / Cholesterol: 0mg / Sodium: 338.4mg / Potassium: 419.1mg / Total Carbohydrates: 25.7g (Dietary Fiber: 4.9g, Sugar: 0.1g) / Protein: 5.9g)