Vegan vs. Non-Vegan Food

Some of Susan's ribbons for cooking and baking, all for vegan food vs. non-vegan food!

Some of Susan's ribbons for cooking and baking, all for vegan food vs. non-vegan food!

Long-time readers of Big Tent Vegan may know this, but some of our newer friends may love Susan, who writes many of the posts here, is a very successful amateur vegan cook and baker. She has over 65 ribbons and awards (some pictured above), all for vegan food vs. non-vegan food. These include ribbons from three of the largest fairs in the country (Orange County, San Diego, and Los Angeles), including three Best of Shows, plus ribbons from the National Pie Championships and numerous other competitions. And again, none of these were in special "vegan-only" or "health-food" categories; these were all just head-to-head against "normal" food!

She doesn’t do this because she’s super-competitive or anything.  The absolute only reason she does this is to help show that vegan food can taste just as good as non-vegan (or better!).  Whenever anyone we meet says something like, “Oh, I can’t be vegan because the food is just too bland”, or “Oh, I can’t be vegan because I love food too much”, I just show them the picture above, plus a bunch of other photos we have of Susan’s competition food.

Living with a Competitive Cook/Baker can be interesting…  I do a lot of tasting of prototype food (and lots of washing of pots and pans that had prototype food in them).

Luckily for me, Susan has gotten to the point where version 1.0 or 1.1 of a new dish is already pretty close.  In the early days of her competitive career, she needed a few more tries to get in the ballpark.  For instance, the Vegan Coconut Lime Cake you see here, is a wonderful creation that eventually won Best of Show at the Orange County Fair a few years back, beating out several hundred other (non-vegan) dishes.  But the very first version of this cake she made (which only I was privileged to taste), had the consistency of haupia -- a traditional Hawaiian dessert kind of like coconut jello.  Tasty enough, but not exactly the texture she was going for…! 

This is also a common sight in our kitchen, around competition season:

A common sight in our kitchen, around competition season.

A common sight in our kitchen, around competition season.

This is not because Susan doesn’t want me to eat delicious fruits and vegetables (we ARE vegans, after all).  It’s just that she often buys ingredients for specific recipes she’s working on, and doesn’t want me gnoshing on them on the night before the entries are due.  Before she started employing the much-welcome signage, this used to happen:

     Susan, rummaging around in our kitchen:  “Hey, love, did you see the bag of kumquats I was going to use for my kumquat-lime frosting?”

     Ryan, in the living room, with a mouth full of kumquats:  "Hmmfgh..?"

And then there was the “near-pie-weight-chili incident” of 2013, which led to this sign:

All in all its been a lot of fun helping Susan with her competitions over the years. And we genuinely think that it’s helped animals… But only if people know about it!!  As I said earlier, self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to Susan… that’s my job!  Believe me, she wouldn’t even let me talk about it if she didn’t think it was helping animals.

So the next time someone says to you, “Oh, I can’t be vegan because the food is too bland” or “Oh, I can’t be vegan because I love food too much”, just point them here.

Thanks for reading, and peace to all who live.


Here are links to three of her award-winning recipes: 


Vegan Tri-Color Potato Salad

1st Place & Best of Show

2015 Orange County Fair Salad Daze


Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans

1st Place

2014 San Diego County Fair


Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato Cornbread Muffins

1st Place & Division Winner,

2009 Orange County Fair

VG Beyond Burger: The Hype is Justified

For weeks now, we've been seeing gorgeous pics and rave reviews from LA bloggers of the new VG Beyond Burger by Beyond Meat from Veggie Grill. Okay, okay, Los Angeles...we concede that you were the first to get it. But finally, the VG Beyond Burger is now available at ALL Veggie Grill locations! We were fortunate to be invited to a special tasting of this new creation in the heart of Orange County at the Marketplace in Irvine, CA, USA just off the 5 Freeway at Jamboree. And yes, we concur that the hype is justified.


One thing that really stands out about this burger is that it is unapologetic in its attempt to mimic a beef burger. And it has certainly succeeded. In fact, for some vegans, it's almost a little too real. If we were served this veggie burger at a non-vegan restaurant, we would politely double-check with the server to make sure that they didn't give us one made out of cow flesh by mistake. Luckily, we were at Veggie Grill, so we knew we were good...!

Another facet of this burger that deserves special mention is the vegan American Cheese by Follow Your Heart. As many vegans are already aware, there has been quite a massive expansion of high-quality, melt-able, delicious vegan cheeses over just the past few years. Follow Your Heart is a leader in this vegan cheese revolution, and an excellent choice for this burger.

For many who are vegan for animal compassion (like us), it can be quite unnerving to eat a burger that is so close to beef. This Beyond Burger in particular, is also known in some circles as "the burger that bleeds" because one of the ingredients is beet juice. It can therefore be served with a pink-ish tinge in the center, reminiscent of a beef burger cooked to medium or even medium-rare. But we also understand that animal compassion is only one of many reasons why people seek out vegan food. Those who are looking for a healthier alternative to red meat, or who simply want to lessen their impact on the environment may not be bothered at all by a burger that "bleeds". Bottom line is, this burger is juicy, flavorful, and delicious. For new and transitioning vegans, it's easy to make better food choices when the food looks familiar and tastes this good. And a burger like this can help properly introduce vegan food to vegan-curious folks who have never stepped into a vegan restaurant before. We would not hesitate to recommend this burger to even our most vegan-skeptical family and friends (actually, we already have!).

Thank you to Veggie Grill, Beyond Meat and Follow Your Heart for helping to take vegan burgers to the next level, and for helping to make our world a more compassionate place. Cows and cow huggers everywhere are truly grateful.

Thanks for reading. Peace and love to all who live.

Susan and Ryan

Safran from Farm Sanctuary (Acton, CA, USA) is grateful whenever anyone chooses to eat a vegan burger instead of one made from a cow. <3 #lovecowsdonteatthem

Safran from Farm Sanctuary (Acton, CA, USA) is grateful whenever anyone chooses to eat a vegan burger instead of one made from a cow. <3 #lovecowsdonteatthem