Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Cheeses

IMG_2814    We ate a lot of good food on Thanksgiving, but the highlight for me were these vegan cheeses by Miyoko’s Creamery.  These are gorgeous, cultured nut cheeses that taste like good European cheeses.   It’s possible that my favorite is the Classic Double Cream Chive (above photo), which is like a rich Boursin with a lovely herbal flavor from organic chives.    I admit to eating too much of it on Thanksgiving.  Like, I could hardly wait for lunch the next day to break out the crackers, not kidding.  A few days later, that wheel was polished off, and we broke open the Fresh Loire Valley cheese which is wrapped in a fresh green fig leaf (see photo below).  Talk about presentation!  The Fresh Loire Valley cheese is a bit similar to the Classic Double Cream Chive except perhaps a bit milder, with a nice subtle tang–addictive in its own way, let me assure you.  I thought I tasted a hint of lemon in it, but it’s probably the organic wine that it’s made with.  The last one we tried was the Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic, which, despite its name, tasted like a delicious very-mild smoked-cheddar cheese ball.  These are KILLER, the bees knees, the awesome sauce, the cat’s pajamas, and the bomb.  Thank you, Miyoko!  In case anyone doesn’t know, Miyoko has also written a cookbook called Artisan Vegan Cheese.  I’ve made a couple of the cultured cheeses in the book, with good results.   To make simpler vegan cheeses at home, please check out the Vegan Cheese category on this site.  To order Miyoko’s incredible cheeses, go to Miyoko’s Kitchen.  If we are eating dairy, we are killing veal calves, and subjecting female cows to lifetimes of extreme suffering, while simultaneously ruining our planet, giving ourselves cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks, and starving children across the globe.  As we awaken, we can choose a different path.

IMG_2804  My favorite so far.
IMG_2807   Classic Double Cream Chive
IMG_0026  Fresh Loire Valley cheese in fig leaf.
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IMG_0019  Fresh Loire Valley cheese.

100% Pure Vegan Cosmetics in Annapolis, MD

20141115_141926    I stumbled upon this  100% Pure  shop in the Annapolis Mall, in Maryland.  They sell vegan cosmetics and lines for skin care, hair and nails, and makeup brushes, and also baby and children’s products.  This shop has only been open a month or two, but I was told they have plans to open 20 more stores around the country.  I bought the Vanilla Bean Nourishing Body Cream for $17 and I do like it a lot.  They’ll give you a product sample if you ask, so that’s something to take advantage of.  They have lots of products and I’ll be trying more.  Be warned that various items do contain honey, but many of their other products are indeed vegan.  Please note there is also a very nice Lush store in this same mall, and that some vegan lines like Too Faced can be found at the Sephora store.  And all products can be had by mail order online.  You can listen to my podcasts on vegan makeup  and  vegan personal products on this site, or on ITunes, Stitcher, and other podcatchers.
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Vegetarian Plus Vegan Tuna Rolls

IMG_1458    This vegan tuna tastes so much like tuna fish that it’s freaky.   It even smells like tuna fish.  I ordered these Vegan Tuna Rolls from Healthy Eating, a good resource for all kinds of things.   Here in the U.S., the word roll can refer to a type of sandwich–the exact type of sandwich pictured on the box (see photo below).   However, the world “roll” as used on this box of tuna rolls means you literally get two frozen, sausage-shaped rolls of vegan tuna filling (see last photo below).  So, the tuna filling comes all by itself, with no bread or anything.  You simply thaw and then cut open these tuna logs and use the filling as you would a can of tuna fish.   About price: I had no choice but to order six boxes of tuna rolls for a total of $59.99.  Shipping and handling was another $14.95, for a total of $74.94, let’s call it $75.   However, we got three sandwiches out of each tuna roll, and that means enough vegan tuna to make six sandwiches per box.  $75 divided by 36 = $2.08 per serving, and that includes frozen shipping with cold packs.  Now, the box says there are “about 4” servings per box, and that would make some big sandwiches.  The sandwiches I made were a generous-average size, in my opinion.  So, price would vary depending upon use.

As far as “dressing up” this tuna, the sky’s the limit.  My favorite ingredients include Vegenaise, chopped pickled red onions, sweet relish, salt and pepper.  I had a friend who always put Celery Salt in her tuna salad, and finely-chopped celery.  You could put capers or grated carrots, etc.  If these Vegan Tuna Rolls are not your thing, please check out the other vegan tuna salad also on this site–it’s delicious and easy.   p.s.  Lars never liked tuna fish salad, so I was surprised that he really likes this vegan tuna!
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IMG_1454  Two rolls of vegan tuna filling per box.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Ham Roll

IMG_1369    After having such good success with the Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey, I decided to give the Vegetarian Plus Vegan Ham Roll a try.  And I’m glad I did.  I got this specifically for Christmas day, but I could also see having it at Easter.  I was amazed at how much it smelled like ham as it was baking, and the flavor is very hammy as well.  Everyone knows that Ham Biscuits are a Southern Tradition.  For many, Ham Biscuits are served on New Year’s, but I have a girlfriend from South Carolina who always serves them on Christmas Eve.  I ordered this from Vegan Essentials and it was shipped with cold packs around it.  When it arrived, I called Vege USA on their 888 number and was told I could put it immediately into the freezer, which I did.  I paid about $40 for it, including $4 for the cold-pack shipping.   The box says this 2 lb. vegan ham roll serves 14 and I believe it.  When it was partially thawed, I cut it in half and put half of it right back in the freezer, and we had ham every which way for the next 4 or 5 days.  On Christmas Eve I made a bunch of vegan Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits and put them in the freezer (un-baked).  On Christmas Day, I made the ham roll and some of the biscuits and we had them with slices of Daiya cheese and my homemade mustard (photo below).  I did prepare the Apricot Plum Glaze that came in the box and it’s surprisingly good (Lars has been having it on his ham biscuits).  I also made a delicious ham salad, with some Vegenaise vegan mayonnaise, organic sweet relish, and a bit of salt and pepper.  This minced ham salad would be good for a rustic ham roll, or tiny finger sandwiches for afternoon tea, or on the aforementioned biscuits.  With the half that’s still in the freezer, I’m thinking Portuguese Bean Soup, and Lars suggested Ham and Pineapple Pizza.  This is a convenient, delicious solution for those transitioning or entertaining omnivores, and for vegans who want traditional flavors on holidays.  I also like that it allowed me to focus on the baking and side dishes and holiday preparations, and not worry so much about the main dish.  If you want to make this at home for pennies, try this vegan Candied Ham.   We’re talking about vegan ham, of course.  Bless all the pigs and may we never torture and eat them again.  Happy New Year.
IMG_1383  Real Southern Style Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits (vegan) for the traditional holiday Ham Biscuits.

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Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burger

We had these little Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burgers as a main dish for lunch a couple of times, and liked them.  It’s not that they’re stellar, it’s that they’re pretty good if you dress them up, and they are convenient.  Lars had his on a bun with lettuce and stuff.  I had mine without the bun, and used some red-pepper mayo I made by blending a jar of roasted red bell peppers with 1/3 Cup of Vegenaise and a clove of garlic.  I topped it with some of my Pickled Red Onions and some Patak’s Lime Relish.  This could accompany any of the other items in the Indian category on this site.  Yes, I love Indian food, and Indian restaurants are sometimes vegan friendly, but certainly not always, so I hope to expand this category this year.


GT’s Synergy Organic Raw Kombucha

I first heard about GT’s Synergy Organic Raw Kombucha from Erin Red on Red Radio.  Her enthusiasm is catching and so I was thrilled to see this at my local health food store (Earth Origins).  So far, I’ve tried Cherry Chia, which has little chia seeds that are pleasant to pop between your teeth,  and I thought the flavor was OK.  However, Guava Goddess is delicious.  I used to have two different kinds of guava trees and the taste of this brings me right back.  Although my Dad used to make kombucha tea back in the early 1990’s, I was too grossed out by it back then to do more than have a few polite sips.  I’m just learning more about kombucha now, and will post more about it in future.  There’s some good information about brewing your own kombucha tea in The Art of Fermentation,  and the January 2013 issue of National Geographic has a good article entitled Small Small World, about microbes and humans.  You see, kombucha culture is used by millions to replenish good flora in the gut.  The NG article says microbes help us digest our food, absorb nutrients, manufacture vital vitamins and anti-inflammatory proteins that our own genes cannot produce, and they train our immune systems to combat infectious intruders.  It goes on to say that antibiotics wipe out helpful microbes and that widespread use of antibiotics early in life may have more profound effects over time.  Scientists are still figuring all this out, but they realize that our bodies are an ecosystem, and that we should take greater care with antibiotics, and increasingly, use targeted probiotic treatments to improve health.  Some kombucha enthusiasts believe that in this toxic world, our bodies are constantly assaulted and we must help our immune systems.  Others drink it to recover from workouts, and to help move things along in the digestive system.  As someone who was on a lot of antibiotics in childhood, I want to learn more.  I just ordered a kombucha starter kit from Oregon Kombucha through Vegan Cuts, and will post on that when I get it going.  In the meantime, I plan to try more of the many flavors offered by GT’s Raw Organic Kombucha.  I think I paid about $3.75 per bottle for the GT’s, but I’m drinking only about 4 ounces of it per day or every other day, so it can last me a week if I want it to.  There are many articles online, pro and con, on kombucha, and here’s a good one I found.  Others say home brewing is too dangerous.  You can be the judge.

As an aside, I emailed GT’s and asked about caffeine content, and here was their prompt and satisfying reply:
 

Many thanks for reaching out and for your interest in our products! GT’s Kombucha is considered naturally decaffeinated and contains anywhere from 8 mg to 14 mg per 8 oz. serving. (By comparison, coffee has 100 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. and decaf has 5 mg per 8 oz.).  The reason it has any caffeine at all is because we cultivate Kombucha in a medium of black and green tea combined. The live Kombucha organism breaks down most of the nutrients in the tea, including the caffeine, and cultures an elixir naturally rich in probiotics, essential enzymes and organic acids. Hope that helps!

Peace & blessings,  Karla

Vegan Whipping Cream – Healthy Top by Mimic Creme

May 12, 2016.  Please note it seems this product is not currently in production, but they are looking for a processor to get the product available again.  Who knows when this will happen.  The content below is from 2012.  Thank you.

I found this Mimic Crème Healthy Top whipping cream at Whole Foods in Annapolis yesterday for $4.99 per 16-ounce box.  It’s vegan whipping cream made from almonds, cashews, water, coconut oil, etc.  It’s high in fat, so it’s really for special occasions.   You put it in the fridge for 30 minutes and you also chill the mixing bowl and beaters.   To my surprise, within a minute it had whipped up beautifully and had a nice, light taste, not too sweet.  This is the perfect vegan whipped cream to go on top of pumpkin pie and a myriad of other desserts.  Once you whip it up, it’s good for two weeks, another shocker.  It’s dairy free, soy free (for those who care), gluten free, cholesterol free, Non-GMO, vegan and kosher, sheesh.  See more photos below.

Butler Soy Curls

This is my new favorite meat substitute.  Butler Soy Curls are so easy to prepare and can go in any dish.  They are non GMO, have a decent shelf life, and don’t need to be refrigerated.  They are simply textured whole soy beans that plump up like shreds and strips of chicken when you hydrate them.  Then they soak up any flavors you throw at them.  So far, I’ve made the Hawaiian Luau Soy Curls, which is really delicious, and tastes just like sweet-and-sour chicken.  I also hydrated some and then put them in a skillet with chopped onions, a little hot water and bottled barbecue sauce, and made BBQ sandwiches on buns.  Then I used them in my pot pie recipe.  I don’t know that anyone would really know it wasn’t chicken if you didn’t tell them.  Recipes seem to call for a whole bag of this stuff, which I cannot buy locally yet.  So I figured out that 1 to 1.5 oz. per person works great.  I hydrate them in 2 cups of hot water that’s been made into a broth with 1 teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon.  After they hydrate for 10 minutes, you drain them in a colander and they’re ready to go.  If you want to be decadent, you can then pan fry them in a tablespoon or two of unrefined coconut oil to give them a crispy outer texture, before adding to your dish.  I order Butler Soy Curls through Vegan Essentials and also Pangea Vegan Store.  More photos below.  These don’t weigh a thing, so a bag of soy curls could be thrown in a suitcase or carry-on when you travel to friends or family.

Is Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch cereal vegan?

One of the debates among young vegans online is whether or not Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal is vegan or not.  I noticed this because I’ve been wanting to veganize the famous Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies, and I thought Cap’n Crunch cereal would be good in them.  So, I emailed the Quaker Oats company and here’s their response below.  I found it fascinating that there’s a Kosher symbol code that indicates whether a product has meat or dairy in it.  Since I’m not Jewish, I was unaware of this.  I checked the box of Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal, and sure enough, there’s a “U” enclosed in a circle, indicating there’s no meat or dairy in this product.  I’m not debating the nutrition (or lack thereof) of this cereal, because we all know it’s junk food, but I am interested in food labeling.   It’s pretty crazy that many things like Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies and Bisquick are NOT vegan.  And why do they have to put animal products in Gummy Bears and Marshmallows and Candy Corn, all of which have hair and skin and bones in them?  I’d like to see food commercials show intermittent flashes of the horrific, needless suffering that other living beings go through, sometimes for years on end, to create these products.  I have never seen it, but a friend once told me about an old PETA commercial that shows a model wearing a luxurious fur on a runway, and as she gets to the end, and pivots for the audience, the folds of the fur coat flare out and spatter the audience with the blood of the animals that died for this vanity.  I appreciate the “V” symbol that Trader Joe’s uses to indicate vegan foods, and have noted the use of more “Dairy Free” and “Vegan” phrasing on labels in the last year.  In short, Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal is supposedly vegan.  
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Ms. Erickson:

Thanks for your interest in our Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch cereal, as well as our other Quaker brand cereals. I’ll be happy to help.

While we don’t currently label any of our products specifically for vegan concerns, I’d like to let you know that we do Kosher-certify all applicable Quaker products, which we know is helpful for many consumers who are concerned with animal-derived ingredients. Kosher Law precludes the use of meat and dairy products in the same meal, therefore, you can trust that they will be labeled appropriately if they contain any animal-derived products so that you may avoid them.

Below is a guide to the symbols you can watch for on Quaker brand products to find vegan-friendly products which do not contain any animal or animal by-products:

* The letter “U” enclosed in a circle on the front of a product (the symbol of the Orthodox Union of
Jewish Congregations) indicates that the product is Kosher. If it appears by itself, the product
contains neither meat nor dairy.

* If a letter “D” is beside or underneath the circled U, it means that some part of the product
contains dairy, but not meat.

* If a letter “M” is beside or underneath the circled U, it means that some part of the product
contains meat (not currently used for any cereal products).

Note: Fish and Eggs are not considered meat under Kosher law; however, we do label for their presence below the ingredient listing since they are common allergens. If either of these products were present in the formulation, or exposed to the product during manufacturing, we will label “Contains” or “May Contain” in bold print right beneath the list of ingredients.

With that said, I’m happy to let you know that our Peanut Butter Crunch flavor is free of any meat or dairy ingredients. Our other flavors (including original Cap’n Crunch, Crunchberries, and Oops! All Berries) are Kosher-Dairy, indicating that they include or may have been exposed to dairy ingredients at some point during manufacturing.

I hope that this information is helpful for you, Ms. Erickson, in choosing products. We appreciate your interest in Quaker.

Jessica
Quaker Consumer Relations
A Division of PepsiCo
Ref# 027574729A

Candle Cafe Tofu Spinach Ravioli (frozen dinner)

I found this at Whole Foods very recently, and took a chance on it.  I was home alone at lunch today and decided to try it.  And . . . it’s delicious.  I used to eat those little frozen ravioli meals sometimes, before i went vegan.  I’d dress them up with chopped olives or whatever, for a quick lunch that wasn’t too fattening.  This Candle Cafe Vegan Tofu Spinach Ravioli in Classic Tomato Sauce tastes so much better than those big brand frozen meals ever did.  What surprised me most was the creamy cheesy-ness of it.  I want to go to the famous Candle Cafe and Candle 79 restaurants in NYC someday, and I’ve tried some of their recipes with success, but I was still surprised at how good this was, being that it is a frozen entree.  Next time I go to Whole foods, I’ll get this one again, and maybe also the Seitan Piccata with Lemon Caper Sauce, or the Ginger Miso Stir Fry.  I’ve got the Macaroni & Vegan Cheese in the freezer, and can’t wait to try that one of these days.  This ravioli dish has 11 grams of protein, and lots of organic ingredients.  I’m sold.  Now if we could just our Whole Foods in Annapolis to carry the Candle Cafe dessert products too.

Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

I made a hot fudge sauce with this Baker Josef’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate which comes in an 8 oz. bag.  The only ingredients is “cocoa mass” so it’s totally vegan.  My bag has an expiration date of more than one year, and the chocolate comes in small, flat discs so it does indeed melt very easily.  Furthermore, 6 discs equal approximately one ounce, so you can count out the amount you want.  I did weigh 12 discs and it did come to just a hair over 2 ounces, so pretty accurate.  Of course, this would be great for any recipe calling for baking chocolate; cakes, brownies, sauces, etc.

Tasty Bite Channa Masala

I’ll keep this short and sweet; I like the taste and the convenience of this Tasty Bite Channa Masala.  Trader Joe’s has a frozen Biryani rice that this is good on top of, along with some Patak’s Hot Mango Chutney.  I prefer to heat this up (it’s already cooked) in a very small saucepan on stove top.  If I can help it, I try never to cook anything in plastic, which is what the directions on the package would have you do.  A quick, convenient vegan meal when you need one!

Trader Joe’s Steelcut Oatmeal

Steel Cut Oats are somewhat time consuming to make, and yet many swear by them because they’re less processed.  I found this simple explanation online:  There are three basic types of oats. There are old-fashioned rolled oats, which are whole oats rolled flat. Then there are quick oats, which are rolled oats that have been ground up a little bit more to make them cook faster. Finally, there are the steel cut oats, where the whole raw oat was cut into smaller chunks.
The taste of the steel-cut oats (to me), is better too, sort of nutty with tiny little chewy bits.  I looked on the McCann’s Irish Oatmeal web site and the various preparations are impressive.  You can prepare it the night before and then finish cooking it in the morning.  You can cook it and stir it for 30 minutes to make porridge, and you can even make it in your rice cooker.  However, if you want quick Steel Cut Oatmeal, this Trader Joe’s product is one solution.  I really like to juice in the morning and then eat whole fruits, but once in a while, a bowl of hot oatmeal with trimmings is a real treat;  wholly satisfying, almost dessert-like.  I add some raw nuts and a tablespoon of agave nectar or Suzanne’s Just Like Honey , or my favorite maple syrup.  You can drizzle on some soy milk or soy creamer too.  Man, it’s good!  This is too pricey for everyday consumption, but again, a treat once in a while, and certainly nice for company.   The only tip I have is that you can pull one of the blocks of frozen oatmeal out of the freezer the night before and put it in the fridge, and it just cooks even quicker.  It’s worth noting that even though the box says it’s already sweetened, the sweetening is almost undetectable. Make sure to remove the plastic wrap before microwaving!   Nutrition Facts:  2 servings per box.  Per serving 150 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0 cholesterol (of course), 40 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 5 g protein.

Sweet & Sara Vegan Marshmallows

With Easter coming up, we naturally begin to think of sweets.  Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that these would make a gorgeous addition to any Easter basket!  Vegans don’t eat gelatin because it’s made out of the hair, bones, skin and organs of animals that suffered greatly, and so I sat up straight when I read about Sweet and Sara Vegan Marshmallows.  You can use these marshmallows like any other; in hot cocoa, flaming on a stick around the campfire, and even on your Thanksgiving yams.  Sweet and Sara has lots of other products, and now they’re even kosher.  I made some Rice Crispy Treats using puffed brown rice (blog post to follow).  But before I mixed up the Treats, I had to eat a Sweet and Sara vanilla marshmallow plain to see how it tasted.  And, it was absolutely delicious, despite having been in my refrigerator for two months.  Yes, I’m happy to report these vegan marshmallows actually taste better than the marshmallows made from slaughtered animals.  And there’s lots of press that agree with this opinion.  These are hand-cut and so they have square edges and are slightly irregular, a little bit elegant and artisanal.  And going from memory, they seemed a bit denser than  common marshmallows.  These are charming, like something you’d see at Dean and Deluca, or Harrods.  I had to buy these through mail order, could not find them within an hour of my house, although they are sold in online stores, including Vegan Essentials, Pangea, etc.  Then I found out that Pangea Store is actually in Rockville, Maryland, and I do pass by there once or twice a year.  Here’s an article about Sara, the mastermind behind these uber-delicious and violence-free marshmallows.  I think I got about 16 nice fat marshmallows in my little box, and the price was just under $6.  So, not cheap.  But, in this case, you really do get what you pay for; non-bone-char sugar, and natural, peaceful ingredients like carrageenan (seaweed extract) and locust bean gum.  Next time, I will try the toasted coconut ones!

Trader’s Joe’s Frozen Brown Rice

This is a very convenient product that you keep frozen until preparation.  It’s great for that last-minute meal you need to make on the fly.  I have used it twice to serve with stir-fry and for fried rice, both with good results.  For fried rice, add one tablespoon of sesame oil to the skillet or wok and start browning your onions and whatever other vegetables on medium-high heat and then when you’re ready, add the frozen rice and your other vegetables, such as broccoli florets, chopped greens or thinly sliced celery, whatever.  Add a tablespoon of Tamari sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos, a pinch of sea salt and pepper, some tofu or steamed edamame, you name it.  Let the rice sit a little so there are some well-cooked rice spots on the bottom of the pan, but keep stirring occasionally.  It’s done in 15 minutes and you’re at the table.  Honestly, you could let this thaw and make a quick sushi rice, red beans and rice, or hot cereal or whatever.  I’m not too big on microwave cooking, but I do think this is great for when you’re pressed for time, or you didn’t prepare the rice cooker that morning.

Moo-Cluck Peanut Butter Creme Filled Choc. Cupcake

We were at Whole Foods in Annapolis yesterday and look what Lars found for me.  I love, love, LOVE, the label that proudly proclaims No Dairy  and No Eggs!  I’m not saying this is health food, because it isn’t.  But, if there are hundreds of sugary, dairy-laden, egg-filled murderous desserts on the shelves of Whole Foods, it sure is nice to see a few of these vegan treats there too.  So, after lunch today, I tried it, and it’s really good in an adolescent, decadent way.  It brought me back to high school, when we would buy Hostess cupcakes in the lunch-room.  The icing is not overly cloying and the cupcake is pretty good, but the peanut butter frosting inside it is stellar.  In short, I’ll be buying another one of these on my trip to Annapolis next month.  Thank you, Moo-Cluck, and you get the award for the most adorable label, too!

Vegan Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing

Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing sounds like the antithesis of vegan, right?  Not anymore, now that we’ve discovered Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Base from Penzeys Spices.  Despite its name, it’s totally vegan and made from all natural herbs and spices–it’s freaking genius.  And even though I veganized this  favorite American recipe, it still tastes like the old classic.  I can just imagine this on heirloom tomatoes next summer,  as a dip for crudites, or on crisp cold wedges of iceberg lettuce with some vegan bacon crumbles.
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Vegan Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing

Makes enough for at least six salads.

INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon Penzeys Spices Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Base
1 Tablespoon water
3 Tablespoons full-fat plant milk (such as soy, almond, oat, hemp, rice, etc.)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (this gives a good tang too)
1/2 C Vegenaise (I like the one with the green lid)
If you decide you want this dressing thicker, add 2 or 3 tablespoons more of the Vegenaise vegan mayo.

DIRECTIONS
-Mix the Penzeys Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Base with the water, and let stand 5 minutes.
-In a separate bowl mix the plant milk with the vinegar, and let stand 5 minutes to curdle (this is your buttermilk).
-Mix the Buttermilk Ranch Dressing and water mixture into the plant milk and vinegar mixture.
-Mix in the Vegenaise.  Stir well, or froth with a cafe latte frother.
-Cover and chill well in the refrigerator.
-Shake or stir before using.
-Keeps one week.

(I really do use the latte frother for anything like salad dressings or egg replacers it’s amazing how much volume you get, and how much more incorporated things can be)

General Tso’s Vegan Chicken by Whole foods

Lars spotted this General Tso’s Vegan Chicken at the Whole Foods Market deli a few months back.  Since then we’ve bought it every time we go there, and I have also successfully frozen it and thawed it out at a later date, since we don’t live close to a Whole Foods Market.  It’s pretty much soy protein with a bunch of other ingredients.  It does say non GMO, for those (like me) who care.  And guess what?  It taste’s like General Tso’s chicken!  We are back from eight days gone, six of which we spent on the road.  As you can imagine, we are tired.  So Lars picked up some vegetable fried rice from our local Chinese restaurant in Easton, and I heated up the General Tso’s Vegan Chicken to go on top of it.  The best part is that Lars really likes it and it’s a good jolt of protein.  One thing I’ve learned as a new vegan is that one should always remember to specify “no egg” when you order fried rice from a restaurant.  Also, it’s best to confirm that your local Chinese restaurant uses vegetable oil and not animal fat.  I also confirmed that the Mexican place next door does not use lard.  We learn as we go.

Tandoor Chef – Dal Rajasthani

We tried this last night, and we liked it.  You can do a quick zap in the microwave, or use a conventional oven.  There are not a lot of ingredients, and they include water, split lentils, onions, diced tomatoes, spices, etc.  You get two servings per box.  I made a vegan curry last night, and some rice, and I ladled this Dal over the rice, and Lars volunteered that he liked “the brown stuff on the rice.”  The packaging ingeniously looks like a Stouffer’s box, ha ha, and so that possibly appealed to him since he used to eat of lot of Stouffer’s lasagna at lunchtime.  This Dal is pretty soupy, almost a thick gravy, but not gloppy, and would be good scooped up with a bit of Roti bread too.   You could easily doctor this up with chopped sauteed vegetables, and with some rice, you’d have a nice meal.  You could also serve it with vegan raita and Naan bread, etc.  Dal is a staple food all over India, and in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.  Different regions prepare it in different ways because it’s so versatile, and you could explore these.  I plan to make my own Dal soon, but in a pinch, this is a great convenience to round out a meal!  p.s.  Their web site has a list of their vegan products, and some recipes.  And I found it at my regular grocery store, not the health food store.

Trader Joe’s Dark Morello Cherries in Light Syrup

I bought these Trader Joe’s Morello Cherries on a whim and then when I looked around online, I noticed people were confused as to what to do with them.  As you can see, I made a lattice-crust pie, but what I learned is that this 24.7 ounce jar holds a somewhat scant amount for a pie.  In other words, to do a generously filled pie, you’d probably want a few more cherries than this jar holds.  However, it’s kind of the perfect amount of cherries for an open faced tart.  And so, that’s my suggestion, and that is what I’ll do with a jar of these in future.  An open-face tart would also allow a single crust and you could freeze that second crust for future.  I love to cook once and use twice, it’s a lifesaver.  But as I was bumbling along here, I pored over several cookbooks and came up with a filling that is delicious.  One thing you should know is that the Morello cherry is classified as a sour cherry;  perfect for pies, tarts and cakes, where the sugar in those recipes will balance the acidity of this particular cherry.  I consulted several different cookbooks (like five) and put together a filling.  Alice Waters had a “tart and pie dough” crust that I veganized, and it came out lovely, and I have now posted that separately under Pastry.   Alice also suggests adding kirsch (a clear cherry flavored brandy) to the filling, so I did.  My vintage Amy Vanderbilt cookbook suggested adding almond flavoring, so I did that too.  I read up on techniques, such as adding a tiny dot of butter between the lattices of a crust, to stop the cherries from burning on top, that kind of thing.  So here below is my filling, but I’ll be doing a tart next time, if using this product.  However, this pie was delicious.  p.s.  Both Lars and I bit into cherry pits, so be careful!!!  It might be worth it to run a thin skewer through each cherry and make sure there are no pits.  The jar label does warn of pits, but I didn’t see it until it was too late.  Luckily, no teeth were broken.
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Trader Joe’s Morello Cherry Tart Filling

Makes approximate 8 pieces.

INGREDIENTS
one jar of Trader Joe’s Dark Morello Cherries (24.7 oz.)
1 Cup sugar (this is less than called for in other recipes)
2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup of the cherry juice from the jar
1 teaspoon of kirsch (clear cherry brandy also called Kirschwasser) (optional)
1/4 teaspoon of almond flavoring
1 Tablespoon of Earth Balance vegan butter

DIRECTIONS
-Have your tart dough in your pie pan and chilling in the fridge.
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Mix sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
-Drain one third cup of cherry juice from the jar and add to the flour mixture, and stir to combine.
-Add almond flavoring to flour mixture and stir.
-Also add kirsch to the flour mixture (optional) and stir.
-Drain cherries fully and set aside.  Discard the rest of the cherry juice or use it for something else.
Run a thin, metal skewer through each cherry to remove any pits (there will be a few and it’s better than breaking a tooth).
-Pour sugar/flour/juice mixture over cherries and mix gently.
-Fill your chilled tart dough shell with the cherry mixture, and dot cherries with little pieces of the tablespoon of butter before baking.
-Bake tart according to your tart-dough recipe instructions, or see my posting for tart dough under Pastry.

Waxed Paper bags

I found these Natural Value Unbleached Natural Waxed Paper Bags at my local health food store.  I think the price was approximately $2.50 for 60 bags.  The box says they’re great for microwaving, too.  I can tell you that these bags are a generous size; large enough for a big sandwich, etc.  I used them last week to hand out homemade shortbread to anyone who came by the house.  What I really love about them is the lack of guilt that I usually feel when I use a plastic baggie or plastic wrap.  Just imagine all the baggies floating in our oceans and cramming our land fills, and then imagine them to be these non-toxic, unbleached, biodegradable waxed paper bags.  OK, I feel a little like John Lennon here, but it all has to start somewhere.

Pates de Fruits from Whole Foods

I bought two boxes of these Pates de Fruits (pronounced pat de fweets) from Whole Foods, and now I wish I’d bought more.  I put one box out for a party and they really remind me of the ones I’ve bought on Ile St. Louis in Paris.  The best part, NO gelatin!  Just fruit juice, fruit pectin, etc.  And the flavors are slightly sophisticated ones like quince, mandarin, black currant, raspberry and apple.  Each piece comes in its own little ruffled paper cup, so they don’t stick together and they are ever so pretty in their jewel tones, stacked on a sterling candy dish or on a plain white plate.  I hope Whole Foods will keep these little babies, so I can give them out as gifts next year.  I really can’t remember exactly, but I think I paid about $8 per box and although the box is small, they are really packed in there and you get quite a lot.  One of our boxes went to our wonderful postmaster who lets me bring my dog in every day to get our mail (and the occasional dog treat).  Perfect to put out after a dinner party too!

Suzanne’s Just Like Honey – Rice Nectar

I ordered this online from Pangea store.  I was skeptical, but upon trying it, was kind of blown away by how much it tastes like honey.  I tasted it right next to some Tupelo honey I’ve had in the cupboard for a year or two, bought prior to going vegan.  If I hadn’t tasted it side by side, I’m not sure I could have guessed that it wasn’t honey.  It also really has that exact viscous texture and amber color of honey.  It’s actually a blend of brown rice syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, and natural flavors.  It says you can use this in any recipe that calls for honey.  It would be good on hot cornbread, on oatmeal, in hot tea, etc.  And nothing is better than half of a big pink or yellow grapefruit, drizzled lightly with something sweet.  It used to be honey, and now it’ll be this Just Like Honey Rice Nectar.  Some adjustments are easy, thanks to ingenious products like this.   p.s.  An added note is that I emailed the company and they may not be currently showing this product in their own online catalog, but if anyone has difficulty in finding this, they can call the company’s toll-free phone number and order it there.  Again, though, I’ve seen it on other retail sites.

Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks

I usually take candy to my sister Nancy, so I was looking for something vegan.  I found Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks at my local health food store, and then I saw them at one of the grocery stores in town.  I bought the Summer Strawberry flavor, but there are three other flavors (berry patch, citrus and tropical).  When I tried them, I liked the flavor a lot, even though they are just ever so slightly softer than gummy candies of the ursine variety.  Yes, these are a GREAT alternative to Gummy Bears.  Gummy Bears taste good, but they’re also made of skin and hair and bones, and suffering and enslavement (gelatin).  Sooooo, anyhoo.  These are great for kids, of all ages, with ingredients like tapioca syrup, organic cane sugar, organic white grape juice concentrate, pectin (instead of gelatin), and black carrot juice, etc.  Thumbs up.  

Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening

Vegan Shortening.  Whether you’re making pie crusts or biscuits or donuts or French fries or fine pastry, shortening is often called for.  In the past, shortening was made of animal fats, and sometimes, it still is.   Products like Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening  and  Earth Balance Natural Shortening Sticks have made it possible to have flaky, delectable food without shedding blood.  After hunting around, I found the Spectrum shortening at my local health food store, although it was not with the butter.  The grocery stores around here only had the bad stuff (Crisco).  I wish I had bought the Earth Balance sticks, however, just for ease of measuring.  Maybe next year.

Keep’ N’ Box – glass food containers from Kitchen Concepts

I first saw these glass food containers at Essene Market in Philadelphia, last June.  I bought three of them and once I started using them, wished I had bought more.  I had previously been using ten-year-old Rubbermaid containers, ancient Tupperware, and even those horrid thin plastic disposable containers.  Wanting to buy more Keep’N’Boxes, I looked online several times but they seemed only available in Europe.  Until now.  Amazon.com now has them at ridiculously cheap prices.  I just bought 7 different pieces for approximately $21.50 (before tax).  And they should last for decades.  One of the best things about them is that their square and rectangular stackable shapes are space-efficient, and make sense out of our refrigerator.  I’m going to fill up our fridge with these as soon as I get the new ones washed.  Just a truly great deal.  And the pretty lids are BPA-free.  These are heavy tempered glass, with heavy plastic snap-on lids.  The glass parts are microwaveable, and dishwasher safe.  I’m not sure about freezer or oven; the label says they are thermal-shock proof with symbols showing going from a snowflake to heat waves, so I guess that means at the very least that you can go directly from fridge to microwave.  The tempered glass is also break resistant.  There’s a nice lip on the top of the glass containers so you can grip them more easily. The lids are see-through also, which is handy.  And I just love the pretty green color of the lids, very fresh and modern.  I bought the larger sizes also, to store small bags of nuts and other things that are now rolling willy nilly around in the icebox.  Got to rein in the rogue nuts.

Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

I was kind of stuck without much prepared for dinner last night, so I headed for the freezer.  We found these the last time we were at Whole Foods, and so I decided to go for it.  I just baked them per package directions and served them with sweet-and-sour sauce (not included).  And . . . they were great!  I think kids would absolutely love these.   They coating is crispy and slightly sizzling when they come out of the oven and they’re a great size for finger food.  I haven’t had a McD’s chicken nugget in 10 years, but these taste like what I remember.   These take only a short time to bake, and there are 10 crispy tenders per bag.  The nutritional information is pretty great too, with 2 tenders having 9 grams of protein and only 1.5 grams of fat.  Makes you feel like a kid again.

Ball Freezer Jars

I found these Ball Freezer Jars last year at the grocery store.  This year, I had to hunt for them, as they were on an obscure shelf, but I found them once again at the grocery store.  The thing I like about them is that they’re BPA-free and they’re great for freezer jam.  We have two fig trees and blueberry bushes.  This spring, if I can find good organic strawberries, I’ll make freezer jam from them too.  I used these freezer jars for batches of cranberry sauce this month also.  The 16 ounce ones are good for freezing leftover soup or gravy, and so I’ll use them to freeze  homemade gazpacho next summer, which is great to pull out in winter and heat up.  I’ve been able to find the 8 oz. and 16 oz. freezer jars, but I see online they also have one-quart and two-quart sizes, called Ball Freezer Containers.  I don’t know where I’d put those, but it’s nice to know.  These are re-usable and way better than putting things in disposable plastic baggies that just go into the landfills, and then into our oceans and kill wildlife.  There’s a handy little “fill line” to allow for expansion during freezing, the twist-off lids are easy to use, and they’re dishwasher safe on the top rack.  I even keep one in the car with dog treats in it, again to get away from the plastic baggies which just get thrown out.  I don’t use these freezer jars for pantry items, because I use recycled jars with plastic lids (such as Vegenaise jars) for flours and grains and dog treats, etc.  In a perfect world, we would live  without plastic but I’m not there yet.  I found this super cool web site about reducing plastic use and I’m guessing I shouldn’t even be pushing plastic, but I’m starting here with reducing the baggies, and then in 2011, I’ll reduce more.  We are both pretty good now about not accepting plastic bags at stores, and it’s time to go further.  I used to always forget the re-usable bags in the car trunk, until I employed the following method.  Once in the store, even if I was already at the register, I would leave my things there and force myself to walk back out to my car and retrieve my bag(s).  You do this a few times and you start to remember to bring those bags into the store!  Plastic grocery and store bags do as much or more damage than baggies, even.  The world’s largest garbage dump is now the Pacific Ocean, see this short video link from Oprah and The Huffington Post.    Every ocean has these giant garbage patches, some the size Texas and 90′ deep.  Say NO to bottled water, and get a BPA-free washable water bottle, and of course, take a re-usable coffee mug or drink holder in the car.  At least with these sturdy BPA-free items, we can reduce our plastic bag usage, and the idea is never to throw them out.  Just re-use the freezer jars over and over.  I’ve recently started using wax paper to wrap sandwiches and things, and it works just fine.  I have used those Ziploc plastic containers but I notice they break down and the lids eventually crack too.  Just think what’s leaching into the food!  I’ll do a post on my favorite glass refrigerator dishes soon.  Ok, enough rambling.

Vegan Hot Dogs

OK, so I was at a charity dog walk, and they were grilling  hot dogs in the park.  What’s wrong with this picture?  But yes, they smelled good.  Just because I’m now vegan, doesn’t mean I don’t miss my old favorites sometimes.  But, I’m learning that your taste buds do catch up with your ethics and you can still have your old favorites!  Hot dogs are such an iconic food for Americans, showing up at BBQs on holidays such as 4th of July, and always in summer, and kids love them.  So I thought, why can’t we have hot dogs at home once in a blue moon?  And after trying a couple of brands, I found one that really is tasty when you do it right.  Now, I have always been of the Chicago Dog persuasion; liking a good strong mustard in contrast with sweet relish, and the tang of onions.  So, here it is, ta da,  the Smart Dog indulgence we had for lunch.  And damn, you get 8 grams of protein, and even a little potassium and iron, and no fat, and no cholesterol.  OK, OK, I did fry them in a cast-iron skillet and I put my Dad’s own Hawaiian salt on them, but still, zero cholesterol.  A lot of people do not realize that cholesterol only exists in animal products.  And I did brush the buns with a tiny bit of olive oil and fried them, and drizzled one teaspoon of olive oil in the pan for the hot dogs.  So, all in all, not a bad indulgence.  I’ll sleep OK, especially since nobody got hurt.  I have to tell you that the instructions on the Smart Dogs package call for boiling or microwaving the hot dogs, and do not mention pan frying.  But we’ve always liked our dogs fried, so that’s what I did, on medium heat. Now that I’ve read the Wikipedia description, I think I’ll add a dash of celery salt next time.  Also, I used my very own pickled red onions, and they make a difference.  But any chopped onion would do.

Yves Meatless Deli Bologna

If you were a kid in the 1970’s or prior to that, chances are you ate your share of bologna sandwiches back in the day.  And everyone had their own favorite way of eating them, such as with mayonnaise on Wonder Bread, ha ha.  No joke, unfortunately, since Wonder Bread has all the nutritional value and taste of Kleenex.  I can remember frying bologna around the age of 8, on a gas stove, while my Mom was at work.  You had to cut slits in the round edges so the bologna would fry flat and not turn into a cup shape.  Lest you think I’m still a baloney-eating person, I’ll protest that prior to going vegan this summer, I hadn’t had a baloney sandwich in probably 20 years or more.  Once I did go vegan, however, I was curious to try some of the mock meats on the market, and to simulate old favorite meals.  Enter Yves Meatless Deli Bologna.  I tried one of the other brands and did not like it at all; it was just off somehow.  Now, I haven’t tried frying this up, but wanted instead to do a grown-up version of a childhood favorite.  Got some really good kalamata olive bread from the French baker who comes to my nearby farmers market, and yes, I checked to make sure the bread is vegan (many of the better, artisanal breads are).  Used my favorite Vegenaise mayonnaise with the green lid, some good French Dijon mustard, heirloom tomatoes, and crunchy romaine lettuce.  Let me just say, this was good, like the best baloney sandwich you ever had.  Now, it doesn’t taste 100 percent like old Oscar Mayer, but maybe it tastes 80% like it.  It has that cured baloney taste and scent, and once you get it in with all the other good fixings, you’d swear you were eating Oscar Mayer.  A serving of Yves is four slices, way too much.  I only used two slices and that way, you just get a hint of baloney taste in among all the other stellar ingredients.  And two slices gets you 7 grams of protein, not counting all the other protein in your sandwich bread, etc.  Low fat, zero cholesterol, and would also make a great hoagie.  Here is the nutritional info., but keep in mind that this info. is for a whopping four slices!  So, in closing, I guess you can go back and revisit some of those nostalgic meals, but not pay the horrid price with your arteries, or hurt the planet or any other sentient beings.

Trader Joe’s Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burritos

Back from a trip to NH, and weary from traveling.  So, a quick dinner was necessary for tonight.  These burritos looked a little plain, so I dressed them up with some La Victoria Enchilada Sauce (canned), and an onion.  You can find this enchilada sauce in many grocery stores.  Just put the burritos in a baking pan, sprinkle on half a chopped onion,  pour the can of enchilada sauce over all and bake uncovered for about 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  You could sprinkle on some Daiya cheese before baking,  or serve withTofutti Sour Cream, but I forgot to.  I served these with sliced avocado and some red beans and rice.  Really fast to put together, and inexpensive, and good to boot!  Plenty of protein too.  Trader Joe’s has an online list of their vegan products, but their web site does not seem to showcase hardly any of their individual items.  See photo of hot dish below.

Gardein Chick’n Scallopini

As I transition into a healthier, more peaceful diet, I still crave many of the dishes I once ate, and that’s where a product like this comes in.  Gardein Chick’n Scallopini is lightly seasoned already, but will absolutely take a teensy bit more salt and pepper, and whatever else you throw at it.  These high-protein cutlets are delicious, and already nice and flat, in the traditional scallopine shape; so there’s no pounding raw poultry and no disinfecting the counters and sinks!  The nutritional information is here.  I’ve used this product twice so far; the first time to make a recipe from the cookbook The Conscious Cook by Tal RonnenThat recipe had a shiitake sake sauce, braised pea shoots and crispy udon noodle cakes.  I had to improvise on the udon noodle cakes that night, so I used Nasoya brand Japanese-style noodles, cooked them and then put them in the fridge in a bowl and then later cut the round noodle cakes out of the cold stuck-together noodles, before frying them.  This recipe was good, and didn’t take as long as I thought it would.  However, there are quicker, simpler, more-classic scallopine recipes that we’ve all seen and had in restaurants.  So last night, I dug out an old Jacques Pepin recipe and also printed a different one from epicurious, and put together a delicious chick’n scallopine with this Gardein product.  I will post that recipe soon, but first I want to prepare it one more time and make sure it’s just right.  In the meantime, I’m realizing I could do a lot more with these healthy cutlets, and will try dishes like this chick’n marsala, chickn’ parmesan (with vegan Daiya cheese, of course), and my favorite tomato sauce, which I’ll also post soon.  p.s.  If you click here, and here, you can see other recipes by Chef Tal Ronnen.   There are also some videos and recipes here on Oprah.

Trader Joe’s Chicken-Less Strips

I have used this product in two dishes:  a chicken cheese steak sub made with Daiya cheese, and also a chicken salad (see post under sandwiches).  20 grams of protein per serving.  I do find there is an aftertaste with this product.  However, I can see using this in hot dishes such as chicken curry, fajitas, etc.   I prefer Butler Soy Curls, but this is ok in a pinch if there are lots of other flavors going on.

Morning Star Grillers

Ok, here’s the first official product review.  MorningStar Farms Grillers Vegan Veggie Burgers.  We have tried Boca burgers and thought they tasted like cardboard.  Then I bought some other veggie burger only to get it home and find egg whites or whey in it.   So then I began making my own veggie burgers which are very good, but aren’t sturdy enough for the grill.  Then I stumbled upon these in the market, read the label carefully and thought it would be worth getting them to throw on the grill when everyone else was eating the flesh of some poor, tortured cow.  So tonight I was pressed for time and it is insufferably hot and humid outside, too hot to grill.   After reading the label, I just sprayed a bit of olive oil in a non-stick pan and cooked over medium heat for 15 minutes, turning often.  We had these on ultra-thin hamburger buns, and doctored them up with mayo, heirloom tomatoes, pickles, etc.   Lo and behold, they really taste very much like a beef burger.  It’s pretty amazing.  At 100 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, zero cholesterol and 12 grams of protein, I’d say these are a winner.  Next time, I’ll throw on some sweet onion and some Daiya cheese.   We had these with some local corn on the cob and homemade iced tea (oolong).  Here is an updated link (June 2011) for the rest of MorningStar vegan products.