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Edible Essentials: How to Start Stocking Your Vegan Pantry



This post started as a guide for new veg*ns to use as a starting point when learning to shop for this lifestyle.  When I really thought about it though, I realized that it can be used by anyone hoping to improve their health and vitality by eating real, whole foods.  So, whether you’re changing your dietary lifestyle, or just trying to get your sexy back, the basics included on this list can help you achieve your goals. 


Everything on this list makes a frequent appearance in my kitchen.  I practice what I preach.  Feel free to take what you find here and build on it as you learn about your own body & what makes you feel most vibrant (but let’s be real now…white sugar & Crisco will not make anybody in this world feel vibrant.  Don’t cheat yourself.).


This list is pretty extensive.  For my top 25 kitchen essentials for a new vegan, look out for The Hit List (coming next week).


All that being said, here goes:


In the Cabinets:

Beans – both canned & dry
I use mostly dried beans (soaked overnight).  Always keep a few cans around for days when you’re tired, or didn’t have time to plan ahead.

I use these (most frequently) – black, kidney, white, lentils & chickpeas.  Find some you like & always have them in your cabinet.

Pasta – PLEASE try to use whole wheat/grain pastas. Most of the time, they only costs a few cents more.  Buy a lot when it’s on sale, it keeps for a while.

Brown rice, organic jasmine rice (if you can budget it in)


Canned, diced tomatoes (when tomatoes are out of season, these REALLY come in handy)

Whole grains (as many as I can. I use millet, amaranth, quinoa, and kamut.  They’re all ancient grains you can easily find at a Whole Foods type store.  Start with quinoa.)

Almost whole grains – Like pearled barley, bulgur, & rolled oats.  All cheap, versatile, and nutritious.

Whole grain flour – I use whole wheat & spelt the most. 

Vital wheat gluten – to make homemade seitan (we’re not there yet).

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) – a meat substitute for tacos, manwich, etc.

Garlic, Potatoes – Seriously, what CAN’T you do with these?


For Cooking:

Seriously, if I left oils, sauces & spices off this list, what would be the point?  Spices bring all food (vegan or not) to life.  Here’s a glimpse of what I use most:

Extra Virgin Olive & Coconut oil – For real, buy the good stuff.

Balsamic & Apple Cider vinegar – I use ACV almost every day.

Soy Sauce & Sesame oil – Don’t do Asian without them (actually, don’t even try).

Spices -  My absolute must-haves are: Sea salt, black pepper (whole – buy a grinder), red chili flakes, vegetable bouillon (cubes & paste), cumin, coriander, & fennel seed, nutritional yeast, turmeric, ground cinnamon, ginger, & nutmeg, onion & garlic powder, paprika, thyme, basil, sage, rosemary, cayenne, and bay leaf.  Oh, and need I even say pure vanilla extract?

Sweeteners – I’m still learning in this department.  For now, I use medjool dates, agave nectar, & maple syrup.

In the Fridge:

Fresh/frozen vegetables – Go for what’s in season…it’ll taste the best. 

Here are a few suggestions that I buy nearly every week:

Spinach, broccoli (fresh/frozen), cabbage, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, onions, okra (usually frozen unless it’s summer), lettuce, kale, squash, greens, cucumbers, etc.

Fresh/frozen fruit – for snacks, smoothies, juices, dessert, whatever.

Stuff like blue/strawberries, cherries, grapes, apples, oranges, bananas, pineapple, lemons, limes, etc.

PeppersJalapenos, serranos, bell, etc.

Proteinstofu, tempeh, seitan.  I usually buy only tofu.  Tempeh occasionally.  I make seitan at home.

Herbs – Essential to vegan cooking (IMHO).  Keep parsley, basil, & cilantro on hand.  Pick up others as needed.

Non-dairy milk – I prefer almond.  Try rice, hemp, soy, oat…there are all kinds!

Fruit juice – try to find all natural fruit juices with little to no added sugar.  I rarely drink pre-made juice.

Raw nuts & seeds – I keep these in the fridge because they can go bad quickly in heat/light.  I almost always have these in my kitchen: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin, sunflower, & flax seeds.  I buy them raw because they’re more versatile & I can snack or add them into my dishes.  

Vegenaise – I used to like mayonnaise…a lot.

Earth Balance – Because we vegans don’t use butter, you see…

Vegan sauces & salad dressings – I’m putting this here for those newbies not comfortable making dressings yet.  I prefer to make my own.  It’s easy, fast & economical (cheap).

BreadWhole grain or sprouted. I like Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain, but if you’re on a budget, go for a good whole grain.  Or, make your own (I’m getting there).

Convenience foods – Sometimes you just don’t have the time to make anything from scratch. Or, you’re too tired, sick, or just don’t want to be bothered.  When that time hits, it’s good to have a few deli slices, some Daiya cheese, or a chick’n patty on hand so you don’t starve to death or order crap.

Ice cream – Surprisingly, I almost NEVER buy or eat (vegan) ice cream anymore.  But, if you’re still into it for a snack, find a good brand you like and have some…occasionally.



The deeper into veganism I go, the less I buy pre-packaged snacks.  Here are few things to try:

Cookies & crackers -  These are so crucial for new vegans.  Find something as healthful as possible & keep it around for when you need a little nibble.

Dried fruitsCranberries, Raisins/Sultanas (golden raisins), Apricots, whatever else you like.  They’re delicious & definitely pack a power punch.  Be careful, though.  Look for dried fruits without added sugars & oils.

Popcorn – Not the kind you’re used to, though.  Buy the loose, dry kernels, put a 1/4c in a paper sandwich bag & pop it in the microwave.  A quick, healthy & completely customizable snack.  Add nutritional yeast & a little coconut oil for a cheesy treat.  Can you dig it?


Hopefully this list helps you find more heathful essential that suit your vegan lifestyle.  I’ll continue to update it, and please leave me a little note if I’ve missed something (as I’m sure I have).  Bon appetit!

Tastes of the City, ATL Edition: Healthful Essence


Tastes of The City is VegNSoul’s restaurant review series.  Each venue is rated on merit in the categories of ambiance, service, food, value & overall experience.  These add up to a rating between one and five stars.  If you have specific questions about a reviewed venue, please leave a comment.


Healthful HealthfulEssence


It pains me to do this…

For those who don’t know much about me yet, I’m part Bahamian (and Native American), so I take my Caribbean eats very seriously.  That’s why I was so excited when I found Healthful Eats after a Google search for Atlanta vegan restaurants. [Since I no longer live in Atlanta full-time, I check regularly to see if anything new has opened up since my last visit.]

After much excitement, I did a quick once over of the Yelp reviews (high marks!) and headed to my old college stomping grounds to grab a plate.  Here’s how it all turned out:


Ambiance: Upon walking in, my friend & I were greeted by the cashier.  There were no occupied tables [at lunchtime…red flag], but I noted immediately that the restaurant was very clean. No stray crumbs, clutter or un-cleared tops.  Score one for the Essence team.  The menu board is behind you when you reach the counter.  They have no printed copies, so I found that a little counterintuitive.  Who wants to turn around to check out what’s available?

Service: Since my lunch companion felt a bit uncomfortable (long story) & decided to eat elsewhere, I ordered takeout.  As a first timer, I had a few questions about the available options, and the cashier didn’t seem too inclined to go into much detail. She did offer a sample of their fare, and I opted to taste the sauce for the un-fish.

Healthful Essence offers 1-4 item combo plates ranging between $2 and $10.  I ordered the 3 item plate ($8), with brown stew un-fish, collard greens, and mac & un-cheese.  [I’m not certain why, but there’s a $1.99 upcharge for un-fish or un-chicken.]  Let’s breakdown the individual components:

Mac & Un-cheese – There’s one word to describe this pasta: bland.  The noodles were significantly overcooked (as in, we passed Al Dente a long time ago), and obviously boiled in under-salted water.  The “cheese sauce” was bright yellow, but lacked flavor – no nutritional yeast twang, cashew creaminess, nothing. Surprisingly, it left me craving those boxed macaroni dinners from childhood, despite the fact they usually taste like the box they’re packaged in.

Collard Greens – Can you tell from my posts that I’m a big collards fan?  I’ve ordered (and cooked) them dozens of different ways.  Unfortunately, these left much to be desired.  Greatly under-seasoned, I doused them in sea salt, pepper & Tabasco to make them palatable.  Strike two.

Brown Stew Un-Fish – The protein was this meal’s one redeeming quality.  The sauce was just salty enough, with a properly sour note & just a bit of spice.  Red bell peppers and vidalia onions were slow simmered in the gravy, rounding out its body.

NOTE:  The “un-fish” itself appears to be May Wah issue (which caused me some concern as I typed this, so I went to check out the ingredients here).  If so, they contain WHEY PROTEIN, making them vegetarian, not vegan!

I was not asked about my dietary status or informed of any ingredients upon ordering this dish.  I’ll be checking with the restaurant, and will update this review accordingly.

Value –  Healthful Essence offers sizable portions; however, they seem to miss the essence of this type of Caribbean restaurant. In most similar establishments, rice and peas come standard.  This vital part of the Caribbean diet counts as a side at Essence, however.  I’m still uncertain as to why there’s an upcharge for certain proteins as well.

Overall ExperienceGiven the cumulative value in all categories, I’d have to say I’m sorely underwhelmed. Perhaps it’s my Caribbean heritage, or the high bar set for this type of vegan spot back in Brooklyn, but I can’t recommend Healthful Essence.  Given the possibility of being served vegetarian fish (as opposed to vegan) without being informed, I will not return.


My rating: 2 Stars, based solely on cleanliness & the un-fish sauce

My suggestion: Save the 12-15 bucks, and another five spot to it, & go grab lunch at Cafe Sunflower.

Pain, & a TINY Bit of Frustration


Hey folks!
It’s rainy & bland today. Yay. *insert generic thumbs down photo here*

I was planning to post about my breakfast muffin experiment failure, but managed to tear a quad muscle during this morning’s workout.

So, I can’t stand up in the kitchen to take pics with my crap camera phone. Right this second, I’m laid out, leg elevated & typing with one hand. :sigh:

I’ve got a couple back-up posts in the wings, though…just waiting for graphics. I think I’ll do that today.

What the heck? I’m stuck in one spot; plenty of time. 😦


Back in a flash…

A Clear Look at My Veg*n Soul


Rooftop Funk Shoot '09

So, yeah.


I’ve been spending some time thinking about the direction I want this blog to go in, and I’ve come to a conclusion.  I LOVE food…a lot – and I love being vegan and sharing that.


But food is still only one part of my life.  I’m all about living an amazing, exciting, healthy lifestyle – and that is what I most want to share with you guys.  Of course I could write another blog full of vegan recipes and food porn, and people might read it (which is great; thanks so much for reading!).  One thing would be missing, though – the SOUL.  Which would be totally uncool, of course, given the name of this blog…


That being said, here’s a look at what Veg*n Soul is about:


I’m going to share with you:

My passion for food: the whole idea for this blog came from my desire to combat the misguided notions that:

1.  Black vegans don’t exist, and if they do, they’re scrawny, underfed hippies that don’t identify with their culture.

2.  Vegan food is bland, boring, unappealing rabbit food that would never meet the nutritional needs of a “normal,” healthy human being.

A love of holistic health & fitness: I believe that wholesome, real food is only one component of overall mental, physical, and emotional health. I’ll be sharing my personal experiences along the road to optimal health in all areas.  I hope they inspire & delight you, and that you’ll share your experiences with me.

Not scrawny or deprived...

Chronicles in pursuit of a fun-filled, soulful life: I have big goals & huge dreams.  I’d like to tell you all about the things I’m doing to accomplish them, including the travel & life experience I’m racking up along the way.  If I come across any interesting stuff that might help you out, I’ll make it a point to inform you.  Cool?


Now that we’ve cleared that up, I’m hoping that you’ll stick around to see it all unfold.  If there’s anything I can help you out with, don’t hesitate to post a comment or drop me a line.


I’m looking forward to being a part of the community & learning from ya!

Vegan MoFo #?: Blueberry Burst Muffins


I’m not much of a breakfast person, not up until now at least.  I stopped eating the stuff in 6th grade, right at the beginning of my anorexia battle. (Fun, right?)  Anyway, since I’ve become a consistent 5-6am worker-outer, I really can’t afford to go without a morning meal anymore.


These muffins are the result of that need (you know, necessity being the mother of invention & all that), and I’m pretty pleased with the result on the first try.  They’re light & moist, and I’ll keep looking for a way to sneak more protein in there.  Check ‘em out & tell me if you dig ‘em.


Blueberry Burst Breakfast (or Whenever) Muffins

What To Use:

1c Spelt Flour

1c All Purpose Flour (use another whole grain flour if you can, I just didn’t have any)

1.5tsp Baking Soda

1/4c ground Flax Seeds (grind your own if you can)

1/2 tsp Sea Salt

1/2c Sugar (scant)

2Tbsp Agave Nectar

1c Almond Milk (use what you like; I used 2/3c & mixed with water to make the full cup. I’m cutting down on as many calories as possible.)

1/3c Canola Oil

1Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

1tsp pure vanilla extract

1.5c Blueberries, fresh or frozen (I used frozen-there’s no need to thaw them.)


What To Do:

1. Preheat your oven to 375F. Lightly grease (or paper line) a muffin tin.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl (flour, baking soda, salt, & ground flax).In a 2nd, larger bowl, combine the wet ingredients (sugar, agave nectar, almond milk, veg.oil, vanilla extract, and vinegar). Use a whisk & be sure to mix well.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stir gently until just combined. Seriously. Don’t "beat" or over-stir this mixture.

4. Gently fold in the blueberries using a rubber spatula.

5. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3rds full.

6.Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, probably somewhere between 18 and 22 minutes.

7. Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then, pop the muffins from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

Serves 12.


I wanted my muffins just a tiny bit sweet (breakfast fare)- not dessert sweet. If you’d like them sweeter, add another 1/4c of sugar & omit the agave.

The muffins are LIGHT – not at all dense like some of the commercial versions. Try using all AP flour if you’d like a more "substantial" muffin.


What’s your favorite type of muffin?  Do you bake your own or buy them?

An Old Meme: The Vegan 100


Hi Loves!  I’ve been busy baking away this week & planning the blog’s direction (among other things), so I’ve got a few recipes to come next week.  I hope you dig muffins!  Until then, here’s something to keep you busy.  I was hopping around the internets the other day & came across this list – from 2 years ago – called the Vegan 100.  It looked pretty fun, & I figured “How could I have missed this?” so I decided to share it with you today.  Take it, post the list & the directions on your blog, and share it with some other folks. Have fun!


The Vegan 100

Here’s how you do it:

1) Copy this list into your own blog, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Post a comment here once you’ve finished and link your post back to this one.
5) Pass it on!

1. Natto
2. Green Smoothie (I even posted about these!)
3. Tofu Scramble (Screw the “soy haters” out there. I LOVE this stuff!)
4. Haggis (On name alone…um,no.)
5. Mangosteen
6. Creme brulee (yes, Lord!)
7. Fondue (way back in the day)
8. Marmite/Vegemite
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush (one of my fave Mediterranean dips)
11. Nachos (made some with homemade cheese sauce for my 1st vegan potluck…tell you ALL about that soon  :eyeroll:)
12. Authentic soba noodles
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Taco from a street cart
16. Boba Tea
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (Japanese plum wine 🙂
19. Gyoza
20. Vanilla ice cream (Come on, now.  I’m a Taurus!)
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Ceviche
24. Rice and beans
25. Knish
26. Raw scotch bonnet pepper (I’m part Caribbean; be for real!)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Caviar  (Yeah, I did that.)
29. Baklava
30. Pate
31. Wasabi peas
32. Chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Mango lassi (someday soon; I love Indian food)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Mulled cider
37. Scones with buttery spread and jam
38. Vodka jelly (Where have YOU been all my life?)
39. Gumbo
40. Fast food french fries (Who lied & said they haven’t?)
41. Raw Brownies
42. Fresh Garbanzo Beans (Word?)
43. Dahl
44. Homemade Soymilk (Yeah, I did that too.)
45. Wine from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Stroopwafle
47. Samosas
48. Vegetable Sushi
49. Glazed doughnut
50. Seaweed
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Tofurkey
54. Sheese
55. Cotton candy
56. Gnocchi
57. Piña colada
58. Birch beer
59. Scrapple
60. Carob chips (I.Hate. Carob.  Love chocolate, hate carob.  Go figure.)
61. S’mores
62. Soy curls
63. Chickpea cutlets
64. Curry
65. Durian
66. Homemade Sausages (Just made a batch with a new recipe 2 days ago.)
67. Churros, elephant ears, or funnel cake (MEMORIES!)
68. Smoked tofu
69. Fried plantain
70. Mochi
71. Gazpacho
72. Warm chocolate chip cookies (Hallelujah!)
73. Absinthe
74. Corn on the cob
75. Whipped cream, straight from the can
76. Pomegranate
77. Fauxstess Cupcake
78. Mashed potatoes with gravy
79. Jerky (and I don’t like the meaty/vegan kind.  UGH!)
80. Croissants
81. French onion soup
82. Savory crepes
83. Tings (What?)
84. A meal at Candle 79 (but, I didn’t pay for it. 😉 Best seitan I’ve ever had in LIFE!)
85. Moussaka
86. Sprouted grains or seeds (Can we say Ezekiel bread?)
87. Macaroni and “cheese” (making some this weekend!)
88. Flowers
89. Matzoh ball soup
90. White chocolate
91. Seitan (Our relationship has been an emotional rollercoaster…)
92. Kimchi
93. Butterscotch chips
94. Yellow watermelon
95. Chili with chocolate
96. Bagel and Tofutti
97. Potato milk (WORD?!)
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Raw cookie dough (better than baked, in my opinion!)


Of the things you’ve had from the list,  what was your favorite?  Your least favorite?

Old-School Comfort Remixed: Potato Collard Soup


The dilemma: 
A bunch of collards & some red potatoes in the fridge, both headed south because I was too sick to cook them the weekend before.  On top of that, I’m hungry & don’t have time to spend half a weekday afternoon cooking a pot of traditional collard greens.


The solution:
A post I’d seen online a few months ago about Potato Kale Soup.  I figured, kale & collards are close enough to sub in for each other.  Why not pull together a quick, nutritious soup with all the warmth and comfort of the original collard greens and smashed potatoes?

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.


Enter the following ingredients:


  • A couple pounds of red potatoes, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2T olive oil
  • 6c of vegan broth
  • 1 medium bunch of collard greens, washed & chiffonade (just cut them up small)
  • 1/2c almond milk (use whatever you like) OR cashew cream
  • Coarse sea salt, to taste (I used 1.5 tsp, then tasted as I went)
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste (I used 1 tsp to start)


Make it happen:

1. Heat a LARGE soup pot on med-high heat.  Add your olive oil.

2.  Sauté your onion for about 5-7 minutes, until they just begin to brown.

3.  Add the diced potatoes, sauté for about 10 minutes.  Make sure to stir constantly to keep from sticking.  Once it’s hard to stop the sticking, add your veggie broth, salt & pepper. 

4.  Let the soup simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes.  Add your milk/cream & the collards.  Simmer another 10 minutes. 

5.  Take about 1/3 of your soup & give it a whiz in the blender. Add it back into the pot & stir up the creaminess.

That’s it; you’re done! Ladle it up & enjoy.


A couple of options:

– Add a portion of rice & top it with your soup.

My personal choice of add-ins/toppings are:

A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Some red chili flakes & more fresh ground black pepper

A few dashes of Tabasco sauce

A spoonful of grated onion & some peppered vinegar


  • This recipe makes A LOT (more than I expected, in fact).  Unless you want leftovers for a few days, half it.
  • The almond milk works fine, but cashew cream will make it richer.

Do you ever remix old classics to make new dishes?  What was your most recent conquest?