Green Buffalo Food Company

GBF

So how green is your garden? Right now, ours is pretty white . . . and brown. It was certainly a nice surprise when Green Buffalo Food Company asked me to review one of their fresh produce boxes, delivered right to my door, no less. I’ve mention GBF before and how their box of organic fruit and veggie goodness had saved me (more than once) when it came to making dinner. GBF, based in Fort Collins provides locally-grown, certified organic fruits and vegetables to homes in Northern Colorado. (To see if your zip code is within their delivery routes, click HERE). You can opt for weekly or every-other-week delivery, choose from several different sizes of orders, AND customize your order, which takes the mystery out of that “mystery vegetable” that many CSAs include in their orders.

Recently, Grant Farms, one of the country’s largest CSAs, located north of Fort Collins, filed for bankruptcy and left thousands of its customers without their produce. A few years ago, myself and two other neighbors shared an order from Grant Farms and after one season, we decided that not only was it too expensive, but we always ended up with an unbalanced box of produce. I love kale, but even I can’t go through 5 bunches of it in a week! I love the idea of customizing my fruit and veggie order so that I know exactly what I’m getting—and we support a local farmer in the process. Not only that, it’s delivered right to my door.

I was given the option, via email, to customize my box, but I was pleased with what was already on the list. I received GBF’s Fresh Front Range box:

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Gorgeous, huh? This box, a mix of both fruits and vegetables, is $33.99. I received: (all organic)

2 Cameo apples

2 Red Delicious apples

2 large avocados

1 lb bag baby carrots

1 bunch cilantro

3 kiwi

1 bunch leaf lettuce

2 red onion

3 Navel oranges

2 green bell pepper

2 lemons

2 (delicious!) heirloom tomatoes

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As always, I was impressed with the quality and size of the produce. It can be difficult to find organic produce in stores that are not half the size of conventionally-grown produce, and frankly, ugly as hell. No homely runts here.

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Everything is packaged carefully and in the summer, you can even expect ice packs tucked inside to keep the produce fresh. Green Buffalo also strives to live up to their name by committing themselves to being eco-friendly by recycling their shipping cartons, having efficient driving routes, and composting any unusable produce to The Growing Project. They are also committed to making the community a better place by donating leftovers to the Larimer County Food Bank.

Green Buffalo Food boxes start at $24.99 for The MiniA typical box includes 2 apples, 2 avocado, 1 head of broccoli, 3 bananas, 1 carrot, 1 grapefruit, 2 pears, 1 leaf lettuce bunch, and 3 baby bok choy. And don’t forget, you have the option to change anything in this box, as well as add anything, ala carte style! GBF has eight different box options to choose from, so you’re bound to find one that fits your needs.

I also received a one-page newsletter with recipes, specials of the week, and other veggie news. There are no upfront costs, no membership fees, no cancellation fees, or contracts to sign. You are only charged on the day of delivery and you can cancel or make changes to your order anytime up to 2 days before your delivery date. You can Get Started and easily maintain your account online—it’s that easy!

Green Buffalo Foods have been such a pleasure to work with and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. I think we all know how important fruits and vegetables are to our diet—especially organically-grown ones, and GBF really takes out the guesswork. Check out their great blog for recipes and much more. Also, be sure to visit their Facebook page for updates and contests!

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Product Review: EcoTools Cosmetic Brushes

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I haven’t been cooking or baking anything exciting lately, so sorry for my lack of recipes since Thanksgiving. So I thought I’d throw in a product review. I found these earth-friendly and sustainable cosmetic brushes at Walgreens (of all places) and thought I give them a try. They’re by EcoTools and they have a pretty large line of cosmetic accessories. Unfortunately, I couldn’t peruse their site because they seem to be having problems with pages loading. As soon as they’re back up and running, I’ll update the link. Not only was I drawn to the fact that are made from the ever so sustainable bamboo plant, natural and recycled materials and 100% cruelty-free, but because they were very reasonably priced. The 6-piece brush set was $11.99 and the single brush was $7.99. The five brushes also come with a cotton and hemp bag that has a zippered pocket and folds over.

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The brushes are incredibly soft (which of course, is true for any new cosmetic brush) and I thought they all worked beautifully. In case you’re not sure how certain brushes work, the back of the package will enlighten you . . . which never hurts.

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Like with all cosmetics brushes, I recommend washing them at least once a week with a mild liquid soap and lay them flat to dry, never standing up, as the water will rot the handle. Walgreens also carries a few of the products from EcoTools’ Alicia Silverstone line. (Again, the link is down, so I’ll update when it’s up and running). In the meantime, you can at least check out their homepage. :-)

Product Review: Edward & Sons Brown Rice Snaps

I discovered these crackers a few months ago, and I’ve been buying them ever since. They’re made by Edward & Sons and come in a variety of flavors including vegetable, toasted onion, and black sesame. I’ve only been able to find the vegetable and toasted onion ones at the store, but you can order the other varieties HERE. Of the two, the vegetable flavored one is my favorite. These are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and 96% organic. Ingredients: Organic Brown Rice Flour, Organic White Rice Flour, Organic Expeller-Pressed Sunflower Oil, Carrots, Garlic, Onions, Red Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Green Bell Peppers. Dehydrated vegetable powders. It ain’t easy finding a tasty vegan and gluten-free cracker, but it looks like Ed and his sons have done an excellent job!

They’re ideal with Daiya cheese!

Quick and Easy Lunch: Chunky Chickpeas and Rice

Not eating wheat, it can be tough not being able to make a quick sandwich. Scouring the pantry, I found Chunky Chickpeas from Tasty Bite.

We’ve taken these camping because they’re so easy—just pour into a pan and heat. At home, you can heat the packet in the microwave for 90 seconds. In this case, I decided to combine the chickpeas with some cooked rice and diced mushrooms. So easy! During the last few minutes of cooking the rice, throw in some mushrooms. Then heat the chickpeas in the microwave (according to the package instructions) and stir into the rice. Voila. Lunch is served.

The ingredients in the packet are simple: water, chickpeas, onions, sunflower oil, garlic, ginger, coriander, salt, cumin, and spices. There’s even 9 grams of protein per 1/2 a packet. I don’t remember how much the packets are, but I know they’re just over $3. (The Bombay Potatoes variety is awesome)!

Product Review: Red Chile Beer Bread Mix

The Husband and I picked up this $6 bread mix, made by Mannons Foods, a while back and I finally got around to making it. Seeing as the Broncos played (and WON) today, and we were headed over to our friend’s house to watch, it seemed like the ideal thing to bring. And on top of that, I made it with our favorite local brew, Fat Tire from New Belgium. Oh yeah, and the bread mix is made in Colorado, too!

All I had to do was combine the mix with 12 ounces of beer, pour it into a greased loaf pan and bake it for 50 minutes. That’s it.

It smelled incredible as it baked, too. So what’s in the magic bag? Check out the ingredients:

Bleached Enriched Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Chile Peppers, Onions, Salt, Garlic & Jalapeno Peppers. 

The mix can be used as a batter on veggies, too. 1/8 cup of the dry mix contains 100 calories, no fat, and 2 grams of protein.

I let it cool for about 5-10 minutes before removing (quite easily) from the pan.

I wrapped it foil and about an hour later, it was still warm. It sliced very easily.

We were all very impressed! The bread was moist and had so much flavor. The Red Chile was not overpowering, nor was the beer taste. It would be great paired with soup, or even drizzled with some agave. You can find all kinds of products from Mannons Foods and have them shipped directly to you.

Product Reviews: Nate’s Savory Mushroom Meatless Meatballs & Gardein Chipotle-Lime Crispy Fingers

The other night just seemed like an appetizer night. Every once in a while we’ll peruse Whole Foods, or Sunflower Market for some vegan appetizers for dinner. We had never tried Nate’s Savory Mushroom Meatless Meatballs before and anything that says “savory mushrooms,” we’re all over it. I’ve had Nate’s Zesty Meatless Meatballs, and we weren’t that impressed. They had no flavor—even with marinara sauce and cheese on them. I was willing to give these a try, however.

There are three methods of cooking them listed on the back: stove top, oven or microwave. We went with the oven: 375 for 10 minutes. They come with zero saturated fat, no trans fat, no cholesterol, 8 grams of protein, and only 4.5 grams of total fat. So onto the taste . . . they weren’t good. Not only did they have NO FLAVOR, the little taste that they did have, was not good at all. They tasted very fake. All three of us tried one and none of us liked them. Bummer. We were hoping for more. You’re better off making your own.

Now, on to better news . . .

These were outstanding! I usually have a problem with fake chicken products that taste too much like the real thing—it really grosses me out, but for some reason, these don’t do that to me—and the consistency and taste are pretty close to real chicken. We all loved these, especially with the vegan ranch dip. Gardein makes many varieties, and the Chipotle Lime flavoring is just right—not overpowering. We baked them at 450 for 20-25 minutes. They have 6 grams of fat (0.5 grams of saturated fat), no cholesterol and 16 grams of protein. These would be ideal cut up for a “chicken” salad.

The guys wanted onion rings and vegetarian tamales as well. I made some hummus to go on pitas and crackers and it was a fun and delicious (minus the “meat” balls) appetizer night.

Product Review: Smart Bacon and a BLTA Comparison

Bacon. People love bacon. I have a friend who said that her husband would give her up before he gave up bacon. I swear it ranks up there with the right to bear arms; don’t take away my guns or my bacon.

Believe me, I’ve eaten my share of bacon before I went vegan, so I understand. But I can honestly say that I don’t miss it. Lately, I’ve been making sandwiches with Lightlife’s Smart Bacon and we really love it. The 5-ounce package is about 14 slices and come sealed.

The slices peel very easily. Lightly spray a skillet with cooking spray and cook the slices for 3 to 3-1/2 minutes on each side. Look at that! They’re not swimming in grease! They do, however, smell very similar to real bacon as they cook. They’ll start to get slightly brown on the edges and cook up rather crispy. Obviously, without all the fat and grease, Smart Bacon is dryer and crispier. We all really like the taste of it and agree that on a sandwich, it tastes amazing and incredibly like the real deal. By itself, you’ll notice it’s different, but it’s still extremely tasty in its own right. The other thing is that it’s thick; closer to the thick-cut bacon kind.

Here’s a list of ingredients:

Water, soy protein isolate, wheat gluten, soybean oil, texured soy protein concentrate, textured wheat gluten, less than 2% of: natural smoke flavor, natural flavor (from vegetable sources), grill flavor (from sunflower oil), carrageenan, evaporated cane juice, paprika oleoresin (for flavor and color), potassium chloride, sesame oil, fermented rice flour, tapioca dextrin, citric acid, salt. Contains: soy, wheat, sesame.

Now, let’s look at the nutritional facts: (I compared it with Farmland Thick Cut Bacon)

1 slice of Smart Bacon contains 20 calories, 10 calories from fat, real bacon has about 100 calories and 80 calories from fat. Smart Bacon has 1 gram of fat, no saturated fat, no trans fat, no polyunsaturated fat, and no monounsaturated fat. Real bacon contains 9 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat and doesn’t list totals for the other fats. Smart Bacon has no cholesterol, where real bacon has 15 mg of cholesterol. Smart Bacon has 140 mg of sodium per slice where real bacon contains 320 mg of sodium. Even though there are 2 grams of protein in Smart Bacon and 5 grams in real bacon, I’m willing to grab some extra protein somewhere else—it’s not worth the added fat, sodium, and cholesterol those extra grams of protein come with.

*Keep in mind, there are a number of companies that provide several varieties of bacon. Even the thin-sliced, “all-natural,” uncured bacon still has over twice the calories and 4x the fat of Smart Bacon. By the way, turkey bacon isn’t that much better than real bacon. It still ranks up there with calories, fat, and sodium.

So let’s get to the BLTA (bacon-lettuce-tomato-avocado) sandwich! Put it all together, let’s compare the caloric intake.

I used Rudi’s Sourdough, reduced-fat Vegenaise, 2 slices of Smart Bacon, 1 medium sliced tomato, 3 slices of avocado, and a large iceberg lettuce leaf. It’s important to remember that regular mayo (including Vegenaise) contains 90 calories per tablespoon. The reduced fat is 45—the same for both regular and soy-based ones. Bread makes a big difference, too. That’s actually where the bulk of the calories come from. 1 slice of Rudi’s Sourdough has a whopping 100 calories! (Yes, I will be finding a healthier version).

A regular BLTA:

2 slices of bread: 200 calories, 2 slices of bacon: 200 calories, 1 Tbs reduced-fat mayo: 45 calories, 1 medium tomato slice (1/4″ thick): 4 calories, 1 large leaf of iceberg lettuce: 2 calories, 1/8 of an avocado (3 slices): 70 calories. For a grand total of: 521 calories

Don’t eat me!

A vegan BLTA:

2 slices of Rudi’s Sourdough vegan bread: 200 calories, 2 slices of Smart Bacon: 40 calories, 1 Tbs reduced-fat Vegenaise: 45 calories, 1 medium tomato slice (1/4″ thick): 4 calories, 1 large iceberg lettuce leaf: 2 calories, 1/8 of an avocado (3 slices): 70 calories. For a grand total of: 361 calories.

I definitely recommend trying Lightlife Smart Bacon! Have it on sandwiches or crumble it up in salads. It’s a great tasty, healthy alternative to real bacon. Your colon will thank you! By the way, if anyone knows of a delicious vegan, low-calorie bread, let me know!

Product Review: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust

I’ve been wanting to try gluten-free pizza crust for quite some time now. I’d like to reduce to the amount of gluten I eat, so I was anxious to try this mix from Bob’s Red Mill. The mix requires water, oil and eggs. However, it suggests using 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal and water as an egg replacement. I used Ener-G Egg Replacer. The package also comes with a yeast packet. The crust makes 2 12″ pizzas, or one 26″ pizza. Since The Husband is in San Francisco for work, the Sixth Grader and me decided to make a couple of pizzas tonight.

This is a simple process: combine the egg-replacer with water; set aside. In a large bowl whisk together 1-1/2 cups warm water with the yeast and let it sit a few minutes. Add the egg-replacer mixture and 2 Tbs olive oil to the yeast mixture. Stir in the pizza crust mix. I don’t recommend a whisk, as the dough will collect inside of it; use a wooden spoon. Divide the dough into two, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.

The dough didn’t rise all that much after 20 minutes, but it could be that the dough wasn’t placed in a warm enough area. Preheat oven to 425. Grease a baking sheet/pizza pan and wet your hands with some water. Spread the dough onto the pan. The dough will have a spongy-mashed potato texture and having wet hands is critical when trying to spread it out. Bake for 7-9 minutes.

Top with your favorite sauce and toppings. The kid went with Tofurky Italian Sausage and FYH Mozzarella:

I also like to use Contadina sauce:

The directions said to bake for 16-18 minutes. About 14-15 minutes worked for us, but ovens run differently, so keep an eye on it.

I debated on what kind of pizza to make, but in the end, I went with spinach and mushrooms with truffle oil (big surprise, huh?)

So the verdict is . . . great. We really liked this crust a lot. The edges are crispy, like a crusty bread and the rest if softer and chewier.  The crunchy edge is really the only difference from regular pizza crust. I would regularly use this mix as an alternative to regular pizza dough. I think using this mix is much easier than making your own gluten-free pizza crust and highly recommend this one.

Cheeze Swag is Awesome: Galaxy Nutritional Foods

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to taste and review rice and soy cheezes from Galaxy Nutritional Foods thanks to Sharon at Sharon Kitchens (and of course, to GNF)! I received full sizes of the following: Rice American Flavor slices, Rice Pepper Jack Flavor slices, Soy Mozzarella Flavor block, Rice Cheddar Flavor block, and Vegan Grated Topping. I’ve used the Grated Topping many times before on pastas and when making pesto. Galaxy Nutritional Foods has been around since 1980 and feels very strongly about providing tasty products made with natural ingredients. Their mission is also to help the environment and developed their Eat Green for Body & Earth Program where they take seriously, three things: Keeping Ingredients Organic, Reducing Their Carbon Footprint and Doing Their Part at the Office. Check out their Green Initiatives.

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PEPPER JACK FLAVOR VEGAN RICE SLICES

Pepper Jack flavored slices were a first for me. These dairy, gluten and soy-free slices contain 2 grams of fat per slice, no saturated fat, 5 grams of carbs, and 120 mg of sodium. I made a panini using a slice . . .

And even though it didn’t really melt too much, the flavor was quite delicious and had the perfect amount of seasoning; ideal for a panini. I was impressed.

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AMERICAN FLAVOR VEGAN RICE SLICES

I use these types of cheezes a lot, but this particular brand is new for me. I have always used Tofutti brand and I like the taste just a smidge more than these, however, with that said, I will be converting to Galaxy Nutritional Foods and here’s why: 1.) These slices are soy-free. I still enjoy some soy, but I think it ought to be in moderation—especially for  women. 2.) GNF slices have 2 grams of fat, whereas Tofutti American flavor slices have 6 grams. 3.) GNF has 0 grams of saturated fat where the others have 3 grams. 4.) Tofutti has 290 mg of sodium, compared to GNF’s 120! That’s a big deal, too! GNF does have 5 grams of carbs, where Tofutti has 2, but for me, the other nutritional facts outweigh a couple extra grams of carbs. These slices are perfect for sandwiches, and for my favorite Boca chick patty sandwich.

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MOZZARELLA FLAVOR SOY VEGAN BLOCK

I decided to make pizzas using this cheese. I often use Daiya or Vegan Rella cheezes because they’re soy-free and I like the tastes. Vegan Rella, however, can be sticky and hard to use when it’s shredded. All of these cheezes, including this one from Galaxy Nutritional Foods, melts quite nicely. And the GNF shreds great.

I just wasn’t nuts above the flavor. In fact, it lacked a lot of flavor. Perhaps it’s the soy—it seems I prefer their rice-based options more. The texture is great though–I have no problem with that; very much like real cheese.

But here’s what can be a game-changer for you: Again, GNF comes out on top when we’re talking about nutritional facts. 1.) GNF has 3 grams of fat, half that of Daiya. 2.) 60 calories (30 fat calories) and Daiya has 90 calories (60 from fat) 3.) Daiya has 2 grams of saturated fat, while GNF has .5! 4.) Again, GNF rocks with their lower sodium content at 150 mg whereas Daiya as 280 mg per serving. 5.) GNF has 6 grams of carbs and Daiya has 7. So overall, it may come down to the soy and whether or not you prefer to avoid it.

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CHEDDAR FLAVOR RICE VEGAN BLOCK

Today, I made nachos with the Cheddar Flavor Rice Vegan Block. This would also work with quesadillas, or a grilled cheeze sandwich, too. Like the Mozzarella flavor, this one shreds well and I like the texture.

I nuked the nachos for about 45 seconds and it melted well. However, like the Mozzarella block, it lacked flavor. I know it’s not easy making fake cheese taste like the real deal, but I prefer the taste of other vegan cheddars. BUT . . .we have to look at nutritional facts. Again, GNF scored mega points with that. Total fat is again 3 grams with .5 grams of saturated fat. The sodium content is higher in this one (compared to the Mozzarella) at 240mg—but still under other vegan cheddar brands.

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VEGAN GRATED TOPPING

I’ve been using GNF’s Vegan Grated Topping for a while now. The texture is great and I enjoy the flavor. It’s ideal for pesto, on pasta, and anything else you’d need Parmesan for.

Overall, I was greatly pleased with these Galaxy Nutritional Foods products and I am glad I had the opportunity to try them out. I’m definitely going to be buying the rice slices–I think they’re tasty and much better for you than other brands.

Product Review: Vegan Dream Vegetarian Jerky

When I visited Never Felt Better Vegan Shop in Sacramento, I couldn’t resist buying some vegan jerky. This one is from Vegan Dream and set me back about $2.50. Vegan Dream has been around since 1997 and uses ingredients that are non-GMO. Their jerky products are also high in protein and preservative and fat free. According to their website, Vegan Dream’s jerky just took home the first place prize in The World’s Best Jerky Exhibition. They don’t specify which of their 4 flavors won, but I doubt it was the one I tried:  “Cowgirl.” I just wasn’t impressed. It was dried-out, not very chewy, and I just didn’t like the taste.  Just like with other vegan jerky I’ve tried, this one had a chocolate-like taste that doesn’t do it for me. It tastes weird. Perhaps their Original Hickory Pepper, Hot Chili Pepper, or Teriyaki flavors would fare better, but for now, I’m still on the hunt for delicious vegan jerky.

Product Review: Solterra Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pizza

First I saw “Vegan Cheese Pizza”, then I saw it’s made with daiya cheese and I knew, this pizza had to be mine. Well, mine and the kid’s. We are always on the lookout for vegan pizzas, but I think we’ve had pretty good luck so far with the Tofurky one. From Solterra, this gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free 8″ pizza will run you $4.99 at Whole Foods (and probably at least a buck cheaper in other places) and offers a unique way of cooking it. You leave the pizza in the packaging, just peel back the front/top paper to reveal a plastic window over the pizza.

At 450 degrees, place the pizza directly on the oven rack and bake for only about 5-7 minutes. After about 6 minutes, it didn’t look done, but I think it was–just was hard to tell through the plastic.

I ended up burning the edges quite a bit, so I just cut those off–the rest of perfect. In fact, it was pretty darn good! We liked the thin crust and of course, the daiya cheese.

I would certainly buy this pizza again and next time, I won’t over cook it! Solterra’s products are all gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free, with several products that are dairy-free as well. Click HERE for nutritional information.

Vegan Vacation: Northern California & Sac-A-Tomato

Wow, been a while–hope I still know how to blog. I have quite a bit to share with all of you, so bear with me as I try to throw together nearly two weeks of dining (vegan-style) in California. The first few days, we spent with my sister and her family in Windsor, CA. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my new niece:

One day, we went on a picnic and of course, Trader Joe’s makes that pretty easy. I got some tofu spring rolls that were delicious.

Especially paired with the Chardonnay we picked up at Francis Ford Coppola Winery the day before.

One beautiful, sunny afternoon (a far cry from the frigid temps in Colorado), we sat in the patio of Healdsburg Bar and Grill where I had the most amazing garden burger with avocado and mushrooms. I scarfed it before I realized I didn’t take a picture of it! They have amazing fries and sweet potato fries as well. But I’ll share a picture of the boys as we waited for our food:

We only had a few days with the fam, so one night my sister made some outstanding garbanzo bean and zucchini curry burritos, using a mix from Trader Joe’s.

We also picked up some Thai food one night. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long and had to head to Sacramento. The Husband and Sixth Grader would be spending just one night in Sac with me before heading back home. We were determined to find Sugar Plum Vegan for lunch and after walking the several blocks to get there, they were closed. Didn’t know they were closed on Mondays. (Our local vegan joint is also closed on Mondays—what is that? Do Mondays have a special vegan significance)? We had trouble locating an alternative so we settled for The Old Spaghetti Factory. Should be easy enough to find several things we can there, right? Wrong.

The only entree on the menu a vegan can eat: pasta with mushroom sauce.

We all got the same thing. The salad came out with the wrong dressing—drenched in balsamic vinegar instead of Italian. We never even saw our waiter between getting our meals and the bill. We were famished, so it hit the spot, but it was nothing to write home about. I hate having to settle for the one vegan item on the menu. There are several vegetarian items on the menu though. Needless to say, I wouldn’t go back.

We wanted to hit up P.F. Chang’s China Bistro for dinner and it was in walking distance to the hotel. We love this place. In fact, I think I ate there two more times during my visit. My favorites: Curry Vegetables, Ma Po Tofu and the Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps:

The next day, just before the boys took off, we stopped at Pronto, “Real Italian, Real Fast.” And it was. Tasty, too. The Husband and I got the Portobello Panini sans the blue cheese and aioli sauce.

The Sixth Grader had the spaghetti, just having to forgo the garlic bread that was clearly slathered in butter.

I was then on my own. I was there, after all, to finish up research at the California State Archives for my book, Folsom’s 93. You can read about my bra-less adventure at Folsom prison. Without a car, it was fabulous to be in walking distance to everything I needed. I spent 6 1/2 hours a day (excluding the weekend) at the archives and had to make lunch a quick trip so that I would make the most of my time. Here’s the low-down on my vegan finds in Sacramento:

 

California Pizza Kitchen

I was highly impressed with CPK. They even list vegetarian/vegan information on their website so that you know exactly what you can eat and what items can be veganized. It made it so easy.

I wasn’t starving one night, so I had the Tuscan Hummus. If you order it with the thin crust pizza instead of the pita chips, you’re in the clear. The service was excellent, too.

Other items I tried:

Asparagus Soup–never had before and I LOVED it.

Asian Lettuce Wraps–just ask for them without chicken.

Bagel Time

For a quick lunch and right around the corner from the archives, I went to Bagel Time, a tiny little place advertising in their window that they have veggie burgers.

With lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard, it was delicious.

Dragon House To Go

This seems to be a local favorite, so I thought I’d give it a try. I got the chow mein with tofu and vegetables. It was to die for. Full of flavor, it didn’t take me long to devour it.

Capitol Garage

I stopped in here for breakfast and was blown away. I had looked up their menu online beforehand and they had me at “tofu scramble.”

How gorgeous is this? I was a little surprised that I had to scramble the tofu myself, but it wasn’t a problem. It was a lot of food, but I’ll tell you what, it kept me going all day. The potatoes are amazing—not sure what they’re seasoned with, but they’re delish.

Paesano’s (they also own Pronto)

I had their Penne Roma (without Parmesan)–yummy, and on another night, their Polenta Fries and Risotto (again, without Parmesan). Both were outstanding!

I never had polenta fries before. Now I’m hooked. When I got back, I picked up some polenta to try making my own.

Ambrosia

This is just my favorite coffee shop—I used to stop here each morning during my first trip to the archives in January of 2009. I stayed in a different hotel this time, so it was a little out the way for me. I did make sure I stopped once.

Sugar Plum Vegan

I couldn’t wait until the weekend when I would have time to walk to Sugar Plum Vegan. They start serving lunch at 11am, but you can still purchase bakery goods before then. The BLT and Artichoke and Spinach Dip were recommended, so that’s exactly what I ordered.

Made with Daiya cheese, this dip was pure heaven. The flavors were unlike anything else–so rich and creamy. This alone would make a meal. I’m still dreaming about it. I am definitely going to try to recreate it!

The sandwich was good, but I still had the dip on my mind. I ended up taking the rest of the dip and half the sandwich back to the hotel which thankfully had a fridge and microwave. I had the rest for dinner that night. This is a CASH ONLY eatery, so stop at the ATM beforehand.

Above the restaurant is Never Felt Better Vegan Shop where I was like a kid in a candy store. What a cute little shop!

I ended up buying 2 scarves, some vegan jerky (review coming soon), a herbivore sticker and a cute vegan pin.

Amy Chun’s Noodle Bowls

I didn’t want to eat out every night, so I picked up a couple of noodle bowls. I actually had time for a product review!

So, it’s pretty easy to make–that is, if you have a kitchen with proper utensils. I was assuming there’d be a fork included in the packaging, but there wasn’t. No problem. I just had to go to the hotel’s breakfast area for a fork. Once the fork issue was resolved, I needed to add hot water to the provided bowl along with the dry spices and noodles. Ok, hot water in a hotel room. . .hmmm. There was a hot water thing in the room—like a coffee pot. So I fulled ‘er up, and held one of the hotel plastic cups under it and filled it with about 8oz of hot water. As I did this, I realized the cup at a slit on the side—not good. Luckily, I could tilt the cup away from that side. Then you add the water to the noodles and dry spices and microwave for about 90 seconds. It really needed about a 2 minutes. Drain any water and mix up. Add the package of peanuts. It wasn’t too painful of a process, but trying to prepare it in a hotel room isn’t that easy.
Aside from that though, it was quite delicious. The flavors were great and it even had a bit of a kick. The noodles came out perfect and I was pleased with the results. In a pinch, this was a good option for meal-while-traveling–but just make sure you have access to hot water, microwave, and a fork! I like that the front of the package clearly marks (bottom right) ingredient information such as, dairy-free, vegan, etc. Takes the guess work out. For nutritional information, click HERE. (100% natural, no preservatives and no MSG). I liked this one better than the Kung Po variety.

I guess that sort of concludes my dining experiences while in California. I loved that I could walk every where I went and that being in the downtown area, there are a ton of restaurants to choose from. In fact, there were some I wanted to try, but I just didn’t get a chance to check out. I’m thrilled that The Sixth Grader was able to see the Capitol and take a tour before they left, too.

Now, it’s time to buckle down and finish my book! You can read about my research and trip to Folsom prison at Folsom’s 93.

Product Review: Nate’s Meatless Meatballs (Meatball Sandwiches)

I was never a meatball sandwich kind of gal—something about eating balls of meat that didn’t quite appeal to me. The men of my household, on the other hand, seem to gravitate toward these kinds of cancer-licious subs (or at least, they used to). Here we are coming up on a year of veganism and this is the first time I’ve made “meatball” sandwiches. I’ve made seitan meatballs before, which are pretty damn good, but this time, I needed something quick, so I went with Nate’s Zesty Italian Meatless Meatballs. Of course, I forgot how much I paid for them since I bought them (frozen) last week, but I’m pretty sure they were under $4 for 12 oz.

So here’s what I did:

Opened a jar of marinara sauce, poured it in a pan and then dumped the meat-free balls in.

Let simmer about 10-15 minutes. Toast some French rolls for a couple of minutes under the broiler and bada-bing, you’re done.I recommend using your absolute favorite marinara and/or adding some spices because the “zesty Italian” I was expecting wasn’t all that zesty. They needed some kick–not that flavorful. With that said . . . they were very “meat-like”, but without the grossness of real meat. :) The consistency was much like beef and they certainly didn’t have a weird “fake” taste. Quite satisfying.

I sliced them in half using tongs and a serrated knife–you can try doing this while they are frozen. They stack better in the bread if sliced.

Layer on some vegan mozzarella on the rolls, then some sliced “meat” balls and then some more cheeze—that easy.

Product Review: Tofurky Vegan Cheese Pizza

For the Sixth Grader, finding a tasty vegan pizza is a must. Pizza parties are a thing of the past for him, so I think it’s important for him to have this treat every now and again.

Tofurky claims that this is the “1st Non-Dairy Cheese That Really Melts”. Well, they use Daiya cheese, just like Amy’s Mac and Cheeze so that is promising!  The 12-oz frozen pizza will cost you $6.79 at Vitamin Cottage Grocers, but $8.99 at Whole Foods (gee . . .big surprise). I certainly don’t think that’s right to pay that much for a frozen pizza. Unfortunately, I think that’s one of the reasons why vegan food gets a bad rap as being more expensive. But I think the more people eat vegan, the cheaper the products will become.  (The Sixth Grader, of course has no problem with the price . . . ;) )

You bake it at 420 for 11-12 minutes (10 was perfect). It was quite good! They don’t skimp on the cheese and like they claim, it melts beautifully. Very impressive.

A third of the pizza contains 240 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat, NO CHOLESTEROL, and less sodium than regular cheese pizza.

Overall, this is a great choice for a vegan pizza, if you don’t mind the price tag.

My First Vegan Thanksgiving

Vegan Mofo, Day 14

That’s right, Thanksgiving. No, you didn’t just skip a week and a half, we celebrated Thanksgiving early with The Husband’s side of the fam because they were going to be gone over T-Day. So for our first vegan Thanksgiving, I brought a Field Roast for the veg side of the table. I think I picked it up for sale for $17.99. It comes frozen, so all you have to do is thaw it in the fridge overnight and then bake it at 475 for 45 minutes.

It’s stuffed with hazelnuts and cranberries, wrapped in a flaky pastry dough. It tastes much like their Celebration roast, but I will say that it did need some kind of sauce or gravy. Otherwise, it was fantastic!! Loved it!

We had all the other trimmings, too (only veganized). My mother-in-law made some mashed potatoes without milk and butter for us, as well as some separate stuffing. The sweet potatoes were cooked to perfection with some brown sugar and I brought Israeli Couscous. We came, we drank, we ate, we napped.

INGREDIENTS: HAZELNUT CRANBERRY
ROAST: Filtered water, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed safflower oil, cranberries, crystallized ginger (ginger, cane sugar), toasted hazelnuts, naturally flavored yeast extract, barley malt, organic wheat flour, dried apples (non-sulphured), granulated garlic, onion powder, ginger juice (ginger, citric acid), yellow pea flour, toasted sesame oil, lemon juice, sea salt, spices, irish moss (sea vegetable) extract, red wine, tomato paste, black pepper, garlic,
natural hickory smoke flavor with tortula yeast , rubbed sage, rosemary, natural liquid smoke and paprika.

PUFF PASTRY: Enriched wheat flour, water, expeller pressed palm oil and sea salt. Contains: Hazelnuts.

Product Review: Tofurky Beer Brats

Vegan MoFo, Day 13

This doesn’t seem like the time of year to be eating brats, but that’s ok, because I think they actually taste better when prepared on the stove; they tend to get dried out on the grill–even though the package says grilling them is the recommended cooking method. I opted to brown them in some olive oil (briefly) then added a bit of water to the pan and covered them for about 5 minutes. They turned out great and it took less than 10 minutes.

We then layered on some sauerkraut that I heated in a sauce pan, Dijon and ketchup, onto a bun and enjoyed! So these are quite healthy compared to a real brat. When people give you a hard time about not getting protein from a vegan diet, show them labels: Johnsonville Beer Brat has 11 grams of protein, whereas Tofurky’s has 27 grams! The cancer-licious brat has 23 grams of fat and our (non GMO) brat has 13 grams. That alone is a huge difference. When it comes to saturated fat, the real thing loses again (no surprise) with 8 grams, while Tofurky has 1 gram. Wow. Should I go on? YES! Let’s talk cholesterol. The veggie brat has NO CHOLESTEROL and the Johnsonville one has 50 mg. There’s even more iron in the Tofurky brat. You also get 5 grams of fiber with Tofurky and no fiber with the animal-based one.

Why would anyone want to eat a real brat? The taste is virtually the same and even if it is a little different, the health risks are just too high–it makes no sense to me. Overall, we were quite impressed. I also picked up Tofurky’s Kielbasa sausages, so I’m looking forward to trying those.

Product Review: Lillabee Classic Yellow Cake Mix

Vegan MoFo, Day 8

I picked up this dairy-free, gluten-free cake mix in Boulder a while back. In fact, Lillabee is a Boulder-based company. In addition to having no dairy or gluten, this cake mix is soy-free and all natural, meaning non-GMO. When I picked up a bag, I didn’t realize that the recipe requires 2 eggs, but thankfully, Ener-G Egg Replacer came to the rescue!

Lillabee’s aim is to provide delicious baked goods you make at home that are allergy-friendly. Other products include: Fudgy Brownies, Anytime Muffins, and Perfect Pancakes/Waffles.

So included in the bag is a sugar mixture (about a cup’s worth), the baking mix and directions:

Required ingredients: 2 eggs (3 tsp egg replacer + 4 Tbs water), 6 Tbs Earth Balance margarine, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 3/4 C non dairy milk, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and an 8″ cake pan or muffin pan. It was a breeze to throw together–about 5 minutes using the mixer, then 45 minutes in the oven.

It smelled quite delish as it baked! I let it cool for about an hour and then sliced it up. It was wonderful! Very sponge-y and sugary and quite delightful. You can also add things to the batter before baking it, like blueberries, or other fruit.

So where can you find this decadent vegan dessert? If you live in Boulder (or close by) you can purchase it at Dish Gourmet and Caffe Victoria. But you can also order directly from Lillabee.  I was very impressed and next time we’re in Boulder, I will definitely pick some more up.

Product Review: Amy’s Non-Dairy Pizza with Rice Crust

I cruised the frozen section of my favorite health food store for something new to try that promised to be vegan deliciousness. I came across Amy’s Gluten-Free and Non-Dairy Cheeze Pizza with Rice Crust. Sounded promising, especially since Amy scored with the non-dairy mac and cheeze. I decided to overlook the $6.99 price tag and give it a try.

I preheated the oven to 425, as instructed and inspected the 7″ pizza. It looked enticing with more cheese than I was expecting—most frozen pizzas can be sparse on the toppings, as was the case with Amy’s No Cheese Pizza.

The instructions suggest baking the pizza for 8-10 minutes, then “carefully remove pizza directly under the broiler. Broil for 45-60 seconds, just enough to melt cheese.” Well, this isn’t easy to do. I don’t recommend holding it up to the broiler–too hot. So I left the pizza on the rack, closed the oven door and let the broiler work its toasting/melting magic. The results were less than stellar. It’s pretty hard to melt the cheese without burning the crust in the process.

(Yes, the above pic is the baked pizza–I know, kind of hard to tell . . . see burnt edge of crust).

Anyway, I never let a little charred bread get the best of me, so I sliced it up and dug in. Drumroll, please. . .

It didn’t  move me. I did not do my happy vegan food dance that I am known to do when yummy vegan food leaves me speechless. This left me wanting some flavor. I was tempted to sprinkle on some Daiya cheese and throw it back in the oven, but after spending $7, I wasn’t going to add more to it by using up some of my coveted vegan shreds. (The back of the box even says, “And of course you can add your own favorite toppings!”) Not for that price. The crust was ok–a little too soggy in the middle. There just wasn’t any flavor—nothing. Pretty disappointing, especially for the cost. Oh well. So far it seems Amy can’t quite master the vegan pizza—but I will say, that’s not an easy task. However, I wonder since they use Daiya in the mac and cheeze, why can’t they use it for the pizza?

Click HERE for a list of the ingredients.

Product Review: Amy’s Organic Tuscan Bean & Rice Soup

Today was just a soup day. Good thing I picked up a couple of cans of Amy’s Organic Soups the other day—2 for $4. I had never tried their canned soup before, so I was interested in giving them a whirl since I’ve had good luck with other Amy’s products in the past.

Just heat and serve–that’s it.

I wasn’t planning on eating the whole can (really, just 2 cups) but before I knew it, I had. The brown rice and borlotti beans weren’t mushy at all and the flavor was outstanding. It also didn’t have a grainy texture that some soups can have. I was mighty impressed and my soup craving was fulfilled.

So here’s what I also like about this soup: No trans fat, No MSG added, No preservatives, Gluten free, No GMOs, Organic and Vegan.  There are 160 calories per serving, only 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein. But, like everything, here’s the Debbie Downer: 680 mg of sodium. It’s still less than other brands of canned soup and you’re getting the benefit of no animal products, organic ingredients, and gluten free.

Ingredients: FILTERED WATER, ORGANIC BROWN RICE, ORGANIC ONIONS, ORGANIC BORLOTTI BEANS, ORGANIC CELERY, ORGANIC SPINACH, ORGANIC CARROTS, ORGANIC TOMATO PUREE, ORGANIC EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, ORGANIC GARLIC, ORGANIC SPICES*, SEA SALT, ORGANIC HIGH OLEIC SAFFLOWER AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL, ORGANIC BLACK PEPPER. *100% PURE HERBS & SPICES (NO HIDDEN INGREDIENTS)

Product Review: Amy’s Rice Macaroni with Dairy Free Cheeze

When I saw that this product made it as a readers’ fave in the latest issue of Vegetarian Times, I did a tentative happy-vegan-food dance. It sounded promising, especially since it’s made with Daiya cheese. Plus, it’s gluten-free. So I picked one up for $3.69. It was practically burning a hole through my reusable grocery bag on the way home. I couldn’t get it in the microwave fast enough. Then the moment of truth . . .

I did a full-fledged, unadulterated, happy-vegan-food dance like no other. Never in my life would I have thought there’d be a delicious vegan mac and cheese that rivals that of the real deal. Unbelievable. Even The Husband was hovering, hoping that I would share more than just the one tiny bite I had given him. No way.

Oh, man. Good stuff. It took me a few minutes to recover and wipe the cheeze from my face–I was not above licking the cardboard dish clean, nor am I embarrassed to admit that. It was creamy and tasted just like the real thing. You can cook it in the oven for 25-30 minutes (I had no patience for that) or in the microwave for about 4 minutes.

Alas, like everything delicious, it comes with a price. One 8-ounce container brings with it 520 calories (I better go for another run today), but it’s actually comparable to regular mac n’ cheese. Total fat: 22g, 5g of saturated fat and no trans fat Sodium: 740mg, Carbs: 72g, Protein: 8g, but hey, NO cholesterol! :) Overall, with no dairy, no soy and no gluten, it’s an indulgence I can handle every once in a while. (Glad I bought two)!

Product Review: Tofutti Yours Truly Cones

I have come to learn that thankfully, going vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up ice cream. I may not be able to grab a cone at the downtown ice cream shop, but thanks to Tofutti, I can enjoy it at home. I was actually going to pick up some Tofutti Cuties but my heart went aflutter when I spotted these. I can’t remember the cost (under $4.50 for 4) but who cares. They were worth it.

The scoop of ice cream is coated in a thick dark dark chocolate that is then sprinkled with chunks of cookie crunchies–delicious!! Then the ice cream. It’s smooth and cream vanilla (the outside of the box tells you all this) and the inside of the cone is lined with a thin layer of chocolate.

Now the cone is a little on the chewy/soft side and I don’t know if that’s how most frozen ice cream cones are because it’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve had one, so it could be the norm for such desserts. So don’t expect a real crunchy cone. I wasn’t complaining too much though–the thin layer of chocolate in the cone made up for that.

Each cone comes with 220 calories and 13 grams of fat, 3 of which are saturated. We’re also looking at 24 grams of carbs and 21 grams of sugar, but it’s still less than the real deal. So indulge every once in a while and enjoy!

Product Review: Stonewall’s Vegan Jerquee

I was very intrigued when I saw these at my local Vitamin Cottage yesterday. For $1.65 for a 1.5 ounce package, I decided to try 3 of their 8 different varieties. The Husband and I tried the Original Mild, Teriyaki “Beef” and the Peppy “Pepperoni”.

On the outside, they look very much like real jerky nuggets and the outside coating tastes kind of meaty and salty. For nutritional information and ingredients, click here.

All of them taste like they’re made of seitan and I’ve got to give them kudos for trying, but these just don’t taste quite right. They’re not terrible, but there were some flavors in them that I just couldn’t put my finger on. The Peppy “Pepperoni” has a black licorice taste, while the other two have a chocolate-like flavor to them. I’m sure you could get used to them, but I think I’ll pass on buying these particular flavors again. Other varieties are: BBQ “Beef”, Tandoori “Chicken”, Original Wild, Spicy “Chicken”, Hot “Pastrami”, and Cajun “Bacon”. I’ll definitely give the others a try sometime, but for now, I’ll pass.

Product Review: Backpacker’s Pantry Freeze-Dried Meals

Camping . . . Vegan Style

We decided to head out to the great wide open and finally get a camping trip in this summer. We escaped the brutal city heat, much to the delight of millions of vicious mosquitoes. Nothing two full cans of bug spray couldn’t handle. Aside from just good old-fashioned family fun, it gave us a chance to test out some vegan freeze-dried meals for our upcoming backpacking trip in August, where there will be about 4 miles between us and the car—not 500 yards or so like this trip.

You can car camp and still get away from other campers, as well as be close to a lake or river—in this case, the Laramie River, just below the Continental Divide. The first night, we fired up some veggie burgers, topped them with avocado slices, and sandwiched them between two toasted buns. (Obviously we were too hungry to stop and snap a pic)! They were perfect camp food.

We of course made s’mores—the Sixth Grader putting away two of them and me, quite possibly having my first one ever. That’s right. . .I can’t remember ever making them before. It was a monumental occasion, not to mention delicious.

The next morning, we enjoyed some Starbucks coffee. Tucked in the remote wilderness was a Starbucks, run by none other than. . . bigfoot. Ok, so no, but we enjoyed their VIA Ready Brew Italian Roast packets:

For breakfast, we fried up some diced onion, potatoes, and green and red bell peppers for the best damn breakfast burritos ever.

Topped with vegan cheddar and salsa, they tasted phenomenal. Maybe everything tastes great while camping—either way, we weren’t complaining.

It was a relaxing morning with some sun, coffee, breakfast, and Neil Young, via the iphone. (We decided that a solar-powered iphone charger would be a wise investment).

While the boys fished, I took advantage of the quietness to write, work on my current project, Folsom’s 93, and finish reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, an enjoyable, quick read by Dai Sijie.

So on to the review. . .

We were pretty excited to see that we could find vegan freeze-dried meals since we try to do a couple backpacking trips each summer. Backpacker’s Pantry, out of Boulder, has a few varieties and we chose two of them: Pad Thai and Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce with Veggies, each for $5.95. All freeze-dried meals require boiling water and a utensil to eat with. And since they’re so light, they are ideal for backpacking. Before going vegan, we used to buy freeze-dried meals from Mountain House and have always been very happy with those, but they don’t seem to have vegan ones. Plus, they are a couple of dollars more than Backpacker’s Pantry. Each package is 2 servings and they really would easily feed two people–there’s a lot there.

The Pad Thai comes with a packet of chopped peanuts and a peanutbutter packet. Take those out, add 2-1/4 cups of boiling water, stir it up, and let it sit about 15-20 minutes (which is pretty standard for freeze-dried meals).

The Spicy Peanut Sauce and Veggies came with a spice packet and 2 packets of peanutbutter that you have to mix in a separate bowl with a 1/4 cup of boiling water. I wasn’t crazy about the inconvenience of dirtying a bowl, but I later found that it was worth it.

Then you add 1-1/2 cups to the bag, stir it up, let it sit for 13 minutes, then stir in the sauce.

The Spicy Peanut Sauce and Veggies was outstanding. It was a little soupy and I would have liked larger veggies, but overall, it was so delicious. The consensus was that the Pad Thai was not quite as good. It too, is on the soupy side with rice noodles and it certainly wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t as tasty as the other one.

They come with a high calorie count. But when you’re backpacking, you’re needing to replace your calories and it’s pretty easy to burn them off. Each serving of the Pad Thai is 460 calories, and 490 for the Spicy Peanut Sauce.

The Husband wanted to try the Garlic Herb Mashed Potatoes for just a $1.90 which had 2-9 ounce servings. There was quite a bit. I didn’t try them since they contained milk (he says he’s 99% vegan since he’ll still eat a little cheese–I’m working on nixing that ;)  However, I can’t complain since he’s made it this far)! Anyway, we didn’t bring up any salt, so he said they were pretty bland.

So there’s the low down on the freeze-dried meals. We will certainly be buying those for our backpacking trip coming up.

Laramie River, a few yards from the campsite

All and all, it was a fantastic trip. The second (and last) morning, we woke up to having a deer staring at us from a safe distance and once he took off, we toasted some blueberry bagels and drizzled them with agave. They were great with our Starbucks. :)

I’ve been known to have a grumpy side when I have been roughing it too long, especially if coldness and/or rain are involved. Somehow, I managed to keep things civil between me and the elements, even with the carnivorous mosquitoes. The kid was happy to constantly poke at the fire, whittle, and partake in some pine cone sling-shotting. The Husband caught quite a bit of fish and the three of us had a wonderful time laying by the fire, solving all the world’s problems.

The Cache La Poudre River

Product Review: Field Roast’s Smoked Apple Sage Grain Sausage

As you probably all know. . .I love Field Roast. I’m always so impressed with how those folks can make such a tasty, satisfying meat alternative that is also good for you. These sausages taste very similar to their Celebration Roast and regular Field Roast, but in a bratwurst form.

After removing the plastic casing with kitchen scissors, we grilled these guys for about 15 minutes on low. They do get a little dry on the outside, but stay moist and very sausage-like inside. Made mostly of Yukon Gold potatoes, apples and rubbed sage, these don’t need a lot of fixings, but I opted for the old standbys (ketchup and spicy mustard). Use your own favorite toppings (but I think sauerkraut would overpower the flavor of them). Go unconventional with maybe some sliced avocados and vegan jack cheese. . .get creative.

They also recommend browning in a saute pan with some oil over medium heat, or break it up and use in sauces, stir-frys, and scrambles. (Just don’t over cook)!

So here’s the other great news: They have 10 grams of fat, and only 1 gram of that is saturated fat. Impressive! A Johnsonville Brat has 22 grams of fat and 8 grams of saturated fat! Blech. And get this—these sausages have no cholesterol! Where the real deal brat has 60 mg and also more sodium.  Here’s the kicker. . . (I love telling non vegans who give me hard time about protein) . . .these Field Roast sausages have 26 grams of protein per link where a cancer-licious brat has only 15! For 240 calories, you too,  can get as excited about these as I am. :)

Ingredients: Filtered water, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed safflower oil, nonsulphered dried apples, yukon gold potatoes, naturally flavored yeast extract, onion powder, barley malt,garlic, natural hickory smoke flavor with torula yeast, sea salt, spices and rubbed sage

Product Review: Dr. Cow Vegan Cheese

So I found some vegan cheese that is pretty darn good! It’s called Dr. Cow’s Tree Nut Cheese and here is what the company has to say about their product:

“Our cheese is made from 100% raw, organic nuts. First we carefully select the nuts and seeds, then we mix the raw nuts with our own home-made acidophilus and a little royal pink himalayan salt (one of the best salts available in the market!).Thus we have made nut curd by applying the same procedures for making traditional dairy-based cheese! Our cheeses are made with absolutely no preservatives, stabilizers, artificial ingredients or additives of any kind. 100% dairy free, no gluten, no casein, no soy and lactose free, 100% organic and vegan!”

Unfortunately, it’s tough to get a hold of since it is only available in a few stores and can get pricey from online stores. Dr. Cow offers a 5-cheese sampler for a whopping $75, or you can buy just one or two from other places such as www.veganessentials.com. Here’s a link to where you can buy it.

I bought 2 from Vegan Essentials: the Aged Cashew and Hemp seed and the Aged Cashew and Dulse. $38 and 2 days later, I receieved my box of (2) 4oz cheeses. Yep. I paid $38 for two tiny things of “cheese” that were a lot smaller than I was expecting…but they were damn good! They do have a bit of a mayonaise taste, but otherwise, they’re very cheese-like. I only tried these two and I haven’t attempted to buy others–saving my pennies Eye-wink But you may find that you just can’t live without it and you may also be lucky enough to live near a store that sells it. The cheese I bought was $9.49 and $8.95 and I also had to buy a cold pack for $2.95 AND pay for 2-day shipping to ensure freshness. (My husband about killed me)!

Ingredients for the Aged Cashew and Hemp Seed variety: Cashew nuts, acidophilus, hemp seeds & himalayan pink salt

Ingredients for the Aged Cashew and Dulse: (not listed on their website)

For a great review of ALL of the varieties, check out this site.

Have you tried this “cheese”? What’s your opinion?

Product Review: Barry’s Bakery French Twists

I picked up a box of Barry’s Bakery French Twists on a whim–was looking for a quick little dessert for a get together. For about $3.89 you get roughly 10 twists and can choose from 5 different flavors (I chose Wild Raspberry). They were delicious! They’re made with layers of crispy, cinnamony puff pastry and with about 30 calories per twist (snack-size) they’re Watch Watcher’s approved. Approved or not, I’ll eat ‘em!

They have no eggs, cholesterol, butter, yeast or dairy! However, they do have high gluten flour, so they’re not for everyone. Ingredients: High gluten wheat flour, soy oil, palm oil, beet sugar, cinnamon, salt, and natural raspberry flavor.

If you’re looking for a nice cookie to serve with tea, these are perfect—I’m looking forward to trying their other other varieties. Check out their site for more information.

Product Review: We Can’t Say It’s Cheese Spreads/Dips

Perhaps what the Nicotine Patch does for smokers, this product does for recovering cheese addicts such as myself. Even though it’s been three years since I kicked the dairy habit, Wayfare is helping me with those every-so-often cheese cravings with their cheese spreads and dips called, We Can’t Say it’s Cheese.

For around $3.60 for an 8oz container, you too, can satisfy any cheese cravings. I picked up 3 of their four varieties:

Cheddar-Style Spread (They also make this in a dip)

Hickory-Smoked Cheddar-Style Spread

and

Mexi Cheddar-Style Dip

The look and texture resembles peanut butter, but smells like actual cheese. For the taste test, I served these for a get together with my non-vegan friends and they were quite impressed! We liked them on crackers and a slice of apple.

As for the different flavors, I didn’t particularly like the Mexi flavor–all I could really taste was taco seasonings. However, the Husband liked that one. I have to say, that the Hickory-Smoked one was my favorite–but the Husband and another guest didn’t care for that one, yet admitting, they don’t like smoked products anyway. The Cheddar-Style ranks way up there, too. None of the flavors I tried had that fake taste like a lot of vegan cheeses can have–it tasted much like real cheese, minus the hormones and nastiness.

WayFare itself is an impressive company…all their products are Non-Dairy, All Natural, Wheat-Free, No Trans Fats, Soy-Free, No Casein, Vegan, No GMOs, No Canola, No Cholesterol, Kosher Pareve: Healthy Ingredients

In fact, here’s a list of ingredients from the Hickory-Smoked variety: (I can even pronounce them all)! Prepared non GMO whole grain oatmeal (water and oats), vegetable oil blend, sesame, pimentos, nutritional yeast, sea salt, natural hickory smoke flavor, calcium carbonate, onion powder, evaporated cane juice.

A serving size is 2 tablespoons–carrying 60 calories and 5 grams of fat, 3 of which is saturated. So not perfect. But better than the real deal. I’m hoping they’ll come up with a goat cheese style…

WayFare has a great website with more information on their products and recipes. (You can even make mac ‘n cheese with this stuff)! Give it a try and tell me what you think!

(Don’t worry…I had lots of help–wasn’t just me)!

Product Review: Tofutti Cuties–Cookies ‘N Cream

Delicious. That’s about it.

Ok, so here’s the low-down: 1 cutie is 130 calories with 6 grams of fat. So not the healthiest, but c’mon, it’s fake ice cream! And when you’re a vegan, tasty fake ice cream is like striking gold.

Completely dairy-free, these ice cream sandwiches come in several flavors: Cookies ‘N Cream, Vanilla, Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Key Lime, Wild Berry, Coffee Break, Strawberry Wave, and Very Vanilla (I guess the other vanilla is just sort of vanilla).

Here’s a list of ingredients: water, sugar, corn syrup solids, contains one or more of the following oils: (Corn, soy, coconut, and palm), soy protein, tofu, cocoa butter, vanilla, crunch (unbleached wheat flour, cocoa sugar), soy lecithin, guar seed gum, carrageenan, carob bean gum, salt.

Wafer ingredients: unbleached wheat flour, sugar, caramel color, soybean oil, yellow corn flour, cocoa processed with alkali, modified corn starch, salt, baking soda, vegetable mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin.

They are the perfect sized dessert–at least for me (and kids)–and taste sweet, but not overly sweet. Compared to the ice cream sandwiches I had as a kid, these taste identical, if not better!

Check out Tofutti’s site for more info.

Product Review: Smart Deli Baked Ham Style

I love it when I can find a tasty meat alternative that when you compare the nutritional facts to regular meat, the veggie comes out on top! I had always been a bit skittish around fake deli meats, thinking they were going to smell and taste like my dog’s rubber chew toys. I finally took the big step a while back and tried Lightlife’s Smart Deli Baked Ham and it’s quickly landed a spot on my weekly grocery list.

One 5.5 oz box will run you about $3.40 and give you 12 slices. They taste much like deli ham, but less salty. Sandwiched between two pieces of whole wheat bread, I layered on some Veganaise, 3 slices of these “veggie protein slices”, spinach, a couple of avocado slices, and a tomato slice or two.  Delicious!

Here’s a list of ingredients:

Water, wheat gluten, soy protein isolate, evaporated cane juice, less than 2% of: tapioca starch, natural flavor (from vegetable sources), autolyzed yeast extract, natural smoke flavor, sea salt, carrageenan, potassium chloride, tomato pulp, soy sauce (wheat, soybeans, salt), citric acid, fermented rice flour, salt, xanthan gum, paprika oleoresin (for flavor & color).

Now for the good stuff: (this is for my non-vegan friends who visit my blog to prove that I don’t sit around eating blocks of tofu wrapped in lettuce).

I serving size is 4 slices and you’re looking at 70 calories, compared to 91 calories for just 2 slices of regular ham. Smart Deli Ham has…drumroll please…just 1 gram of fat per 4 slices! while our beloved Miss Piggy has 4.82 grams–1.6 of those grams are saturated fat. While SM has 390 mg of sodium for those 4 slices, regular ham passes on a whopping 730mg of sodium–and that’s just for 2 slices! And for all those worried us vegans do not get enough protein, let me assure you that one serving gives you 12 grams of protein compared to only 9.3 grams for only 2 slices of Babe. And one last thing…Smart Deli ham is naturally cholesterol free, while the other has 32mg of the nasty stuff.

(It’s the little things in life that get me excited…) :)

Check out more products by Lightlife who uses organic ingredients and does not use soybeans that were produced using biotechnology. Gotta love it.

Product Review: Amy’s Roasted Vegetable, No Cheese Pizza

I was excited to try this pizza since I’ve had good luck with other products from Amy’s Kitchen. A no-cheese pizza is a hard thing to make–and to make it tasty is a whole other ball game. This certainly isn’t a home run–more like a ground double. It wasn’t bad.

First of all, let’s check out the ingredients: (VEGAN) ORGANIC WHEAT FLOUR WITH ORGANIC OAT BRAN AND WHEAT GERM, ORGANIC ONIONS, FILTERED WATER, ARTICHOKES, EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, ORGANIC ROASTED RED PEPPERS, ORGANIC TOMATOES, ORGANIC SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS, ORGANIC AGAVE NECTAR, BALSAMIC VINEGAR, SEA SALT, EXPELLER PRESSED HIGH OLEIC SAFFLOWER OIL, ORGANIC EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, ORGANIC GARLIC, ORGANIC LEMON JUICE, YEAST, SPICES. CONTAINS WHEAT.

Nutritional Facts:

Serving Size: 0.33, Servings Per Container: 3, Serving Weight: 113 g

Calories: 270, Calories from Fat:80

Total Fat: 9g 14%, Saturated Fat: 1.5g 8%, Trans Fat: 0g

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 490mg 20%

Carbohydrates: 42g 14%

Fiber: 2g 10%

Sugars: 5g

Protein: 6g 0%

Organic: 85%

Vitamin A: 6%, Vitamin C: 20%

Calcium: 2%, Iron: 4%

I paid about $4.50 for this single-serve pizza, which is a bit on the high side, but that is also the price we pay for organic and having to not wait more than 10 mins for it to cook. The toppings left much to be desired.

I desired more toppings.

They tasted good–just wanted more of them. The “sauce” is some type of vegetable, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was–cobweb-like onions is all I can think of to explain it. It satisfied my hunger, but it was just, ok. The lack of toppings really killed it for me. The crust was good, however–not soggy or chewy like some frozen pizzas. Definitely take the few extra minutes to bake it in the oven–I can’t imagine how terrible it would taste coming out of the microwave!

Check out (better) vegan products from Amy’s Kitchen–they do have some winners!

Product Review: Boca Meatless Ground Crumbles

These have been sitting in my freezer for a couple of weeks and so I finally got around to using them. I decided to make tacos with the crumbles and typically, I would add 1/2 a large onion, chopped to the pan, but I forgot. Oops. (I guess I was too focused on the review)!

The crumbles come out of the bag resembling frozen, cooked ground beef and breaks up easily in the pan. The back of the packages recommends adding to a skillet, sprayed generously with cooking spray. I used a Tbs of olive oil. Within 10-12 minutes, the crumbles were heated through and gave off an almost sweet, cinnamon-y smell. But the crumbles didn’t taste like it–in fact, there wasn’t much taste to them. I certainly recommend using a taco seasoning when making tacos–or any other seasoning when using these crumbles–they’re kinda bland. Fortunately though, they also don’t taste fake, or rubbery like some vegan meat. Overall, I was very impressed.

For around $4 for 12-oz, “ground beef” tacos are back, baby!

The tacos didn’t taste “altered” at all. Packed with Tofutti sour cream, vegan cheddar, diced avocado, lettuce and salsa, these were delicious, satisfying and very meat-like.

And here comes the really good part: These meatless ground crumbles have only 0.5g of unsaturated fat per serving–that’s 90% less fat than ground beef!! Not only that, there are 13 grams of protein per serving! It seems like a no-brainer.

As we were chowing down, we were listing off the different meals we could use these bodacious crumbles in:

Burritos

Lasagna

Enchilades

Tostadas

Chili

Taco salad (the back of the package features a recipe for this)

Really….these crumbles would work for anything requiring ground beef.

Check out Boca’s site for more info and ingredient list.

Product Review: Vegan Gourmet Nacho Cheese Alternative

The quest for tasty queso seems to be a never-ending task for vegans. The queso recipe posted earlier, is pretty darn good, but does require a lot more ingredients, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, the folks at Follow Your Heart have a great alternative and just as they claim…it DOES MELT! And $3.69 for 10-oz is not bad.

I chopped the block and added it to my electric fondue pot. FYH says you can melt it in a sauce pan as well. It is thick and solid enough to shred over tortilla chips and microwave, too.

After about 15 minutes, the “cheese” definitely resembled nacho cheese and quite surprisingly, tasted like it, too. It certainly has a spicy kick, but at the same time, that was about all I could really taste. That cheesy taste just wasn’t there–which is good in a way, too, because fake cheese can taste, well…fake. This didn’t taste like that, but it just was lacking something.

So what’s a vegan to do? I decided to add about 1/3-1/2C of rice (Galaxy Foods) Shredded “cheese” and it really gave it a much more cheesy taste and texture. It was just what it needed. The only thing that changed was, of course, the consistency. It made it a bit more elastic-y. It didn’t really allow one to “dip” a chip, but more, “scoop” the cheese. The taste was outstanding though–the closest that pre-packaged vegan cheese is to regular nacho cheese.

Follow Your Heart not only makes many great products such as Veganaise and salad dressings, but they are one of the most environmentally conscious companies around. Their manufacturing plant in California operates on 100% solar energy and used all recycled products in their facility. Check out the April 2010 issue of VegNews for more!