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

Quick and Easy Lunch: Chunky Chickpeas and Rice -- Epicurean VeganNot eating wheat, it can be tough not being able to make a quick sandwich. Scouring the pantry, I found Chunky Chickpeas from Tasty Bite.

Quick and Easy Lunch: Chunky Chickpeas and Rice -- Epicurean Vegan

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.