Chef Fran Costigan

Laura Theodore’s Vegan-Ease Recipe and Giveaway

Laura Theodore's Vegan-Ease

After leaving the food mecca that is New York City for rural New Jersey, Laura Theodore, the TASTE award-winning host of public television’s Jazzy Vegetarian created the concept of “vegan-ease.” Laura believes that anyone, no matter where they live, can easily – and economically – create delicious plant-based meals that will be embraced by any foodie, whether omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan.

In Laura Theodore’s Vegan-Ease: An Easy Guide to Enjoying a Plant-Based DietA New Approach To Living Vegan, you will find nutritional analysis for each recipes as well as an Ease-Factor so you can choose recipes based on the time you have and what’s in your pantry. Vegan-Ease is cookbook as well as a guide to a cost-saving, healthier lifestyle. Each recipe is accompanied by a full color photograph and many of the recipes have five ingredients or less! Laura has included twelve full menu plans for any occasion, and basic shopping lists to help cut costs at the grocery store.


Four-Ingredient Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies from Laura Theodore's Vegan-Ease

Four-Ingredient Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 16 to 18 Cookies / Ease Factor 1   

Oh yeah! These delectable little cuties are so simple to make, you just may want to make a double batch. With only four ingredients, you can’t go wrong with this easy twist on a classic cookie.


  • 2 large, ripe bananas
  • 1¼ cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup vegan dark chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. Put the bananas in a medium-sized bowl and mash with a potato masher or large fork until smooth. Add the oats, raisins and chocolate chips; stir to combine.
  3. Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, drop a heaping tablespoonful of the cookie batter onto the lined baking sheet, gently flattening it with a rubber spatula or clean fingertips. Continue in this manner with the remaining cookie dough.
  4. Bake for 13 to 17 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and cookies are almost set. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, cookies will keep for about 3 days.


Amount per serving, based on 1 cookie: 59 Calories; 2g Fat; 1g Saturated fat; 1g Protein; 1mg Sodium; 11g Total Carbohydrate; 4g Sugars; 2g Fiber

Recipe from Laura Theodore’s Vegan-Ease: An Easy Guide to Enjoying a Plant-Based Diet © Laura Theodore (Jazzy Vegetarian, LLC 2015), reprinted by permission. Photo by David Kaplan.


I have a copy of Laura Theodore’s Vegan-Ease along with a bar of Pascha Chocolate for one lucky reader this week. U.S. residents only, please. Follow the instructions below to enter. Contest ends at midnight eastern time on October 6, 2015. Good luck!


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Eat Like You Give a Damn Recipe and Giveaway

Eat Like You Give a Damn by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten

If you’re vegan it’s very likely that you’ve got some cool messages tees and hoodie or two, at least, from the iconic Herbivore Clothing in Portland, Oregon. Using clever sayings and winning designs, I was not surprised to learn that that the very people who brought us “Eat Like You Give A Damn” shirts, as well as “Praise Seitan” and “Wings are For Flying, Not Frying”, have brought an equally approachable aesthetic to their new cookbook Eat Like You Give A Damn Book.

I’ve had the pleasure, well, let’s say the honor, to have visited Michelle and Josh in their shop. Michelle tells it like it is – ie: Girlfriend, you are not a large, you need a small tee! We’ve been at VegFests together and I even got to film a morning TV show at Herbivore. Best part, aside from seeing the heartful funsters, is getting to choose clothing, books, jewelry, accessories, and buttons in the one of a kind one-stop shop that is Herbivore. The fact is, the merchandise is ethical, it is appealing, and it helps the ethical vegan make a difference and the newbie understand why. Their new cookbook is the same.

Eat Like You Give a Damn by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten offers recipes for the new ethical vegan. Michelle and Josh give an unapologetically ethical perspective. As they write the introductory chapter, “This is not a book pushing a diet; this is a book pushing an ethic.”

This is a cookbook, for sure, with appealing recipes, but the must-read within the book is the real-life account from a former undercover investigator who gained employment at one of Iowa’s largest factory farms for pigs and documented the cruelty and neglect that was witnessed is outstanding. In the foreword, Ginny Messina, Registered Dietician and vegan, enumerates the health aspects of a vegan diet with some simple guidelines.

I really enjoyed reading about Michelle and Josh’s own journey to veganism. After explaining how and why she went vegan, Michelle writes, “It feels great that my actions align 100 percent with my beliefs. Once I decided to change my behavior, it was easy to see that all I had to do was change my habits.”

New vegans can feel overwhelmed about how to proceed with their new diet, but Eat Like You Give a Damn offers practical advice, the right amount of inspiration, and dozens of recipes for completely satisfying, delicious, and healthy vegan fare that validates their choice.

Michelle and Josh share a collection of their favorite everyday vegan dishes. Ranging from comfort foods to more epicurean dishes, sumptuous photos will kick any cook into high gear. Elvis Quesadilla with Maple-Yogurt Drizzle, Praise Seitan Vegan Roast, Only-Kale-Can-Save-Us-Now Salad, and Roasted Beet Burgers are a few of the 100+ recipes.

With ample helpings of sass and heart, Michelle and Josh intersperse their recipes with treatises on the why and how of being vegan. Parents wishing to raise their kids on a plant-based diet will find family-friendly recipes that kids will love to eat. New and old time vegans as well as anyone who appreciates good food will delight in these innovative recipes and know that every bite makes a difference.


Only Kale Can Save Us Now Salad from Eat Like You Give a Damn by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten


I don’t like to waste superlatives. When people say that something changed their lives, I roll my eyes along with everyone else and chalk it up to a familial tendency toward exaggeration. But I’m not kidding or overstating the truth when I say just how much this simple salad has had an impact on my life. It gets my family eating lots of raw leafy greens. It gets my grade-schooler ex- claiming loudly and excitedly, “Kale salad, kale salad, kale salad, kale salad!” Mother of the year? That’s me.


  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
  • 2 teaspoons onion granules
  • 1 teaspoon garlic granules
  • 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
  • 9 cups torn curly kale leaves (about 1 bunch), in bite-sized pieces (see tip)
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds or chopped
  • raw sunflower seeds (optional)


  1. To make the dressing, put the tahini, lemon juice, tamari, nutritional yeast, flax meal, onion granules, and garlic granules in a large bowl (large enough to accommodate the kale leaves). Add the water and whisk to combine, adding more water if the dressing seems too thick. (Tahini varies in consistency.)
  2. Add the kale leaves to the dressing and mix using your hands. Don’t be shy now! Rub the dressing into the kale and make sure to distribute it evenly. Sprinkle the optional hemp seeds over the top if desired. Serve immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Before you get started, you’ll need to clean and prepare the kale. Hold the stem of a kale leaf in one hand, and with your other hand pull the leaf up the stem. When you’ve removed all the leaves from the stems, tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces (you can com- post the stems). Give the leaves a good bath in cold water, and spin them dry in a salad spinner.

Makes 4 Servings


Recipe and photos from Eat Like You Give a Damn by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten. ©2015 Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten. Used by permission from Book Publishing Company.


I have a copy of Eat Like You Give a Damn for one lucky reader! Follow the instructions below to enter. Contest ends at midnight eastern time on September 29. U.S residents only, please Good luck!
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Vegan Travel in Rome + a GUNAS Bag Giveaway

A full plate at Ops! in Rome

I wondered. Would “vegan” be as widely understood, available and pleasurable in Rome as it as it was in Florence as noted in my previous blog post? Oh yes, it was!! The number of postings: senza glutton (gluten-free, even on pasta heavy menus was striking.


Vegano means vegan. Senza means without. “Which gelato is senza latte?” 

  • Senza Latte: Without Milk
  • Senza Burro: Without Butter
  • Senza Fromagio: Without Cheese
  • Senaza Uova: Without Eggs
  • Senaza Glutine: Without Gluten


Arriving in the bustling city of Rome was a bit of a shock after two plus weeks in the countryside and the smaller city of Florence, but our B &B, although well situated for sightseeing, was on a quiet street.

Following are of my top picks for Rome, the eternal city. Again, this is not an exhaustive list. If you’d list some of your favorites (and those you haven’t liked) in comments, we can grow this list.


Bed and Breakfast

BB Calamatta
Via Luigi Calamatta, 16 Rome
+39 346 7289930

Our host Valerio loves giving detailed information about his city to guests. He even suggested apps. Reserve directly with Valerio to for the best price. The rooms vary depending on where in the house they are but all are clean and comfortable with free wifi. You’ll find an espresso machine and refrigerator for the guests. This is a B without the B, but Valerio offers coupons for breakfast in a café across the street. I declined and he adjusted the cost. I was happier to find a more authentic cafe for breakfast, after I’d had my first morning espresso in my room.


Vegan Dining in Rome

Grezzo Raw Chocolate
Via Urbana, 130 Rome
+39 06 483443

Grezzo Doorway 1

You’ll find fair-trade, vegan, raw chocolates, desserts, gelato, smoothies and more at Greezo. My first stop in Rome, on the way to dinner no less, was the to the highly touted Greezo Raw Chocolate shop. I was hungry after traveling and excited to find smoothies with nutri-bombs like maca, lacuma, goji berries on the menu. My first smoothie since leaving the States more than two weeks earlier did the trick and refreshed. I tasted small bites of vegan raw chocolates from 65 to 85% and one that was 99%. All were much smoother than most of the raw chocolates I’d tasted previously. Since I was looking forward to dinner at Ops!, I stopped at those little bites. We’d hoped to meet Patrizia, who is lead pastry chef and instructor at the Grezzo culinary school but she wasn’t there. This is where small world in Italy came into play. Who walked in but the co-owner and executive chef, Vito Cortese with his partner. They were on their way to vacation and wanted to get provisions for their journey. He looked at Benay and me and asked, “Are you the pastry chef from U.S.?” In no time, Vito made the rest of our dinner reservations in Rome. He said Magarite is a must, but it was closed for vacation. August is tricky in Rome. Vito’s partner (how have I forgotten her name?) asked if we’d liked our dessert at Brac in Florence. Surprised by the question, I replied, yes, it was a chocolate mousse cake that was not on the menu. Laughing, she revealed that she is the pastry chef at Brac and had made our dessert. Clearly, wherever you are in the world, you connect with everyone you are meant to meet. We went back later in the week to Grezzo for gelato. The hazelnut and pistachio were my favorites. I went back again after Benay left, to purchase a big box of desserts and confections for sampling. Each of the chocolate confections was a jewel and a treat and my tart was as luscious as it was exquisite.

GREZZO pastry case

Raw Pastries at Grezzo in Rome

Grezzo Brownie_Raw

Raw brownies at Grezzo in Rome

Grezzo Gelato

Hazelnut and Pistachio Vegan Gelato

With Chef Vito of Grezzo Rome


Ops! Cucina Mediterranea
Via Bergamo 56 Roma, Rome
+39 06 8411769

OPS Interior

Ops Restaurant

We ate at Ops! twice, and I almost went back a third time on my last night. I love this concept. First you are seated and and the menu is explained. You look over the two tiers of platters of food on the buffet, pick up a large dinner plate and fill it with as much or as little as you’d like. All the dishes are vegan, and gluten free choices are clearly marked. It is impossible to choose just a little. Your plate is weighed and you choose your beverage. How a glass of excellent bio wine was only 3 Euros, I have no idea, but I’d have ordered a second glass anyway if the price had been higher. The overflowing plate pictured – well, I couldn’t help myself. How I ate it all is testament to how good everything tasted. I rarely eat risotto, but this one was so perfectly cooked that I ate it on both of my visits. I was glad that my iPhone showed 10 miles of walking that day! Make sure you make reservations before you go.


Ops platter

Section of Buffet at Ops! Rome


Another full plate of food at Ops!

Ops Rome Chefs

At Ops! Rome with the chef


Romeow Cat Bistro
Via Francesco Negri 15, Rome
+39 06 57289203

Romeow Cat Bistro Interior

Romeow Cat Bistro Rome

Really? A cat cafe? Since both Benay and I are allergic to cats, we had reservations about our reservation here. There was no need to worry and we’d have missed a very special experience if we had passed. The unusual modern space is charming. You’ll find cooked, raw, and gluten-free dishes on the menu, as well as smoothies, green drinks, wine and spirits, and desserts. Everything is vegan, organic and seasonal. Benay and I shared the raw tasting plate (winner!) and I scarfed the eggplant burger (amazing). We had many side vegetables dishes; nice bitter greens and roasted potatoes among them. We ordered just one dessert, the raw tiramisu, as we had eaten so much, but owner Valentina insisted the mango tart was a must taste. She was right. The cats climb the walls to perch on books and drawers that float from the walls. Not only were we not affected, we found the entire scene adorable. The upstairs loft is cozy with lots of banquettes. Go! Reserve!


Romeow is decorated with artful cats

Romeow is decorated with cat art and real cats

The eggplant burger

Vegan Eggplant Burger

Raw Rolls

Raw Vegan Rolls


The raw tasting plate

Raw Vegan Tasting Plae

With Romeow's owner Valeria

With Romeow Cat Bistro owner Valeria

Gelato in Rome

There are many gelato shops in Rome. Expect long lines of people waiting to order at the artisan shops. Most of them have vegan gelato in flavors other than fruit sorbet. Avoid the commercially made soy gelato. I didn’t like any of the ones I tasted.


Via Tomacelli, 26
+39 06 6871037

Vicere Gelato

Vicere for Gelato in Rome

My absolute favorite shop for gelato in Rome was Vicere. The blood orange gelato made me weep. My first cup was a combination of the blood orange and deep chocolate, and it was a transporting experience. The staff was lovely, especially Giacometti Chiara. Tastes are encouraged.


Other Choices

The Food Hall at La Rinascente Department Store
Via Roma 143

EAt at Rinascente_vegetables

EAT is a food market and restaurant/café with plenty of vegan options.

EAT is a food market and café. I found plenty of vegan and gluten-free options for a sit down lunch, groceries and take out. They offer free wifi.


Vegan Cookies in Rome

EAT Vegan Pastries Packaged

Packaged Vegan Sweets in Rome

Random places we saw on the way to here and there speak to the ease of plant based eating in Roma! From pizzarias, to sandwich shops and juice bars, plant-based eaters will be happy.



There are many and it’s easy to find lists. Wander enough and you’ll bump into one.

Campo dei Fiori
Piazza Campo de’ Fiori
+39 06 0608’-fiori?lang=en

Campo dei Fiori2

Campo dei Fiori is held every morning except Sunday.

Held every morning except Sunday, Campo dei Fiori is definitely packed with tourists, but you’ll still find plenty of locals who frequent the market daily. Located in the the centro storico, this is one of the oldest markets in Rome – open since 1869. Wander through the stalls, and you will definitely learn what fruits and vegetables are in season. Pasta, oils, products of the regions, hats, clothing, jewelry are found too. Stop and have an espresso, cold drink or snack at any one of the cafes in the square. It’s near the Ponte Sisto towards Travestere.


Campo dei Fiori

Campo dei Fiori is one of the oldest markets in Rome.



Gunas Melrose

I carried my Naomi GUNAS bag everywhere I went in Italy, day and night. It’s stylist and practical — it holds so much! To celebrate my trip to Italy, I have a GUNAS Melrose bag (worth $250!) for one lucky winner this week. Follow the instructions below to enter. U.S. residents only, please. GUNAS asks that the winner post a selfie of you with your bag on your Facebook page and write a review of your new bag on GUNAS’s Facebook page. The winner will be able to pick the bag’s color. Contest ends at midnight eastern time on September 24th.


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