Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Product Review - Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods: Hemp Protein...

I’m a big fan of hemp, I love it. Hemp Seeds, Hemp Milk, Hemp Oil, even Hemp Clothes. I Love, Love, Love it.  I started off using Hemp seeds in salads, desserts, breakfast cereal, and smoothies for the protein and the omega-3 fatty acids. Then I switched from using olive oil to hemp oil in salad dressings for the same reason. I love the unique flavor of hemp, it’s both nutty and grassy in my opinion, and I love how nutrient dense it is. Hemp is packed with protein. It contains 10 essential amino acids and is really easy for your body to digest and assimilate. It’s also rich in balanced healthful fats like Omega-3 fatty acids, but also GLA - Gamma Linolenic Acid. It contains both short and long chain fatty acids which work together to ensure the body has an effective metabolism. Hemp also contains B vitamins, Folic Acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphoreus, potassium, chlorophyll and Vitamin E. Now what’s not to love about that?

Now, I’m also a big fan of protein powders, though strangely enough I’m not a fan of using them every day. To me a protein powder is one of those things I use when I need something quick for breakfast or lunch on a busy day when I haven’t the time to make anything else. Sometimes it’s nice to just throw a scoop of this or that into a blender, blend it up and drink without having to think too much about it. Sometimes I just really like the taste of a protein shake, and sometimes I just feel like my body needs an energy and vitamin boost. So while I may not like to use protein powders everyday or even several times a week I do like to have some on hand for those occasions when I need - or want - them.

Imagine my excitement then when I first discovered Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods several months ago. I was actually going to pick up a package of Vega when I saw Manitoba Harvest’s products siting a few shelves below. I’ve heard other people talk about Hemp Protein powder before  - other vegans, some raw foodies - but I’d never seen it. I’d always been curious to try it, and here it was staring me right in the face. I knew I had to get some. There were several flavors available but I decided to go for their dark chocolate version, because chocolate always seem to be my favorite flavor of any protein powder.

Before I get into the flavor aspect I’d like to say that I appreciate Manitoba Harvest’s dedication to Pure, organic, and fair trade hemp. I also love the fact that the co-founders of the company helped to legalese industrial hemp in Canada. Oh did I mention this is a Canadian company? Well they are, incase the name Manitoba Harvest didn’t give it away already they’re based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Now, Winnipeg, Manitoba is a far cry from my home city of Vancouver, way on the other side of the country in fact it’s a lot closer to Chicago then it is to Vancouver but you know, we Canadians like to stick together and so I’m happy to support my fellow countrymen. Manitoba Harvest also happens to be the largest manufacturer of Hemp foods in the world, and I really love that they’re both dedicated to the quality and purity of their product as well as reducing their carbon footprint on the earth.

Anyway, back to the product. Their Dark Chocolate flavor Hemp Protein is freaking amazing! Seriously! The flavor of this powder is really good, it’s sweet but not too sweet, and the chocolate flavor is more mild then overwhelming so I think even chocolate protein powder haters may enjoy it. Like many powders Manitoba Harvest is a little gritty, but that comes with the territory and I pretty much expect it whenever I buy a powder these days. - In fact I kind of like that texture, though I know some don’t.

As far as the ingredients go they’re pretty simple. Hemp Protein, Palm Sugar, and Fair-Trade Cocoa Powder. All ingredients are organic and raw, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free. Per serving the Dark Chocolate flavor has 120 calories, 9 g of fiber, 8g of protein, 4% Iron, 10% Calcium, and 400mg of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. A serving size is listed as 4 Tbsp but honestly I find 2-3 Tbsp per serving to be more then enough. My favorite way to drink this one is with Almond milk, a banana, a Tbsp of peanut or almond butter, and a ½ c of frozen cherries. Seriously yum, and it always keeps me full through the first half of work.

Now because I like to change my powders up, once I ran out of chocolate I decided to give their vanilla flavor a try, since vanilla is typically my second favorite protein powder flavor. Manitoba Harvest’s Vanilla contains Hemp Protein, Vanilla flavor and palm sugar, it’s organic, raw, vegan, GF, SF, and Dairy-free,  with a similar nutritional profile. 130 Calories per serving - 4 Tbsp - 11g of Fiber, 9g of Protein, 400 mg of
Omega-3 Fatty Acids, 4% Calcium, and 8% Iron.

I drank the Vanilla Hemp Protein Powder blended into some rice milk, with a banana, and blueberries. It was simple, but I wanted to really taste the flavor of the powder. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite as taken with the vanilla version as I was with the chocolate version. It’s not that I thought it tasted bad exactly, I just didn’t think it tasted very much like vanilla. For a powder that says vanilla I’d like to actually taste some vanilla, but it just tasted bland and hempy. I’ll give it another try, but for now I like the Chocolate version best.

Of course that’s just my opinion, who knows you may hate the chocolate version and love the vanilla or maybe you’ll prefer the original flavor instead. Regardless of what you like best I think Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods I worth trying out. It’s definitely one of the better protein powders I’ve had which is saying a lot.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods or their products you can check them out here... Manitoba Harvest 

*** Note - I just want to make it clear incase it wasn’t already - I don’t see how it wouldn’t be but there are skeptics everywhere - I do not get paid to right reviews of products or restaurants. I do not get asked by any business or company to endorse their products. I get nothing out of this. I right positive reviews for only those products that I actually enjoy, and use in my personal life, and I started writing these reviews in the first place because there are so many great vegan products out there that sometimes it can be overwhelming for newbie vegans. I hope that people find these reviews helpful, and that my opinion or recommendation gives people confidence in buying products they may be interested in but are unsure of. So again, I don’t write reviews for profit or personal gain. I write them to expand knowledge, and I write them because I always appreciate it when others review products.***

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Restaurant Review: Amibabul in Chicago...

I know I’ve been MIA for almost the entire month and I apologize for that. I’ve had so much stuff I’ve wanted to share but school’s really been kicking my ass lately so I’ve been really focused on that. Add planning a trip to Colorado in May on top of that and I’ve had little time to think of much else. Man how the time flies!

Inside Amitabul

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been dying to tell you about is this fantastic restaurant my husband and I ate at earlier this month. It’s called Amitabul! I’ve actually been dying to eat here for over a year because I’d heard such great things about it but as typically happens whenever we’d set out to go something would change and we never actually got there. Until now anyway. Amitabul is a vegan restaurant that serves healthy, Korean, Buddhist cuisine. There’s no seitan on the menu, no soy shrimp, no soy ham, no soy chicken, no ‘vegan meats’ of any kind. Tofu, and Tempeh are the only ‘meat’ option and I really liked that. I mean as much as I love all that other stuff I really appreciate and value the simplicity of not having it. According to their website Amitabul only brings in the freshest ingredients from the farmers market, and then they’re cooked in a way to bring out the true flavors of authentic Buddhist healing cuisine. If for some reason that sounds boring to you, like if you think the dishes are going to be totally minimalist and lacking in taste and texture you’re so wrong. Their menu is actually pretty extensive and they offer a nice mix of both traditional and modern recipes. Everything we ate here was amazing, and so flavorful, just further proof that you can eat healthy without sacrifice.

Mandoo Vegan Dumplings

Of course because the menu was so extensive and since it was our first time visiting we couldn’t decide what we wanted to get. So we started with no fewer then three - yes three - appetizers and a drink each. Our first ap was the Mandoo Vegan Dumplings. I don’t remember what was inside these but they were a steamed dumpling served in a light broth. There were sweet/salty and spicy dipping sauces that you could also use on them, though they were delicious all on their own. Also they come in a big serving 12 dumplings per plate!

Green Heaven (left) and Awakening Energy (right)

Next I got the Green Heaven Smoothie which was kiwi, lime, orange pineapple, spinach and cucumber. This was pretty good and exactly what I was looking for, not too sweet. However I think I liked my husband’s drink option even better. He got the Awakening Energy which is a drink that had Ginseng, Lotus Root, and some other stuff I can’t remember. It was a little spicy like fresh ginger is, but sweet too and it was a perfect combination.

Jade Maki

Spicy Kimchi Maki

Next up on the appetizer list was the Maki. We couldn’t decide between the three Maki options they offered and so we went for 2 out of 3. I got the Spicy Kimchi Maki which is exactly what it sounds like, Kimchi wrapped in a maki with spinach and carrot. It was really, really good - my favorite of the two - and not very spicy which is good If you don’t like spice. I do like spice however so I just added a bunch of wasabi. My husband ordered the Jade Maki which was a maki combo of Cucumber, Avocado and Spinach. Also very good, and they gave us so much! I was expecting a typical appetizer plate of maybe 6 rolls but there were more like 12-14 rolls on each platter. They were thinner then your average maki roll but still I don’t know how we ate it all!

For my entree I ordered the Dark Side of the Moon plate, and with a name like that how could you not right? It had 2 or 3 kinds of mushrooms, some mixed veggies, and rice noodles all served in a delicious flavorful sauce made with Chef Bill’s special 12 year fermented Black Bean Miso. Seriously guys, this was so delicious! Everything about this dish was amazing and this is coming from someone who used to hate - and I mean HATE - mushrooms. Really if you pay Amitabul a visit you need to try this out.

Dark Side of the Moon

My husband ordered the sweet curry noodles for his entree. This was mixed stir-fry veggies served over rice noodles in a sweet and slightly spicy curry sauce. My husband is a sucker for curry and so he’ll order it pretty much anywhere especially if it’s a sweet curry, but I agreed with him when he told me his dish was amazing. I took one bite of cauliflower from his plate, then a spear of broccoli and I was in love with the flavors of this dish.

Sweet Curry Noodles

For dessert we got the Giant Red Bean cake, which isn’t very giant but it is nonetheless delicious! I love red bean paste, seriously it’s one of my favorite things about Asian cuisine and back in Vancouver I used to order Red Bean paste everything all the time. Red Bean Paste doesn’t seem as common here in IL so whenever I see it anywhere I always have to get it. This cake was great, it wasn’t too chewy, it wasn’t too sweet, but it had a ton of flavor and I loved the black sesame seeds crusting the outside of it. That really brought the cake to a whole new level for me.

Giant Red Bean Cake

So, if you’re in the area you HAVE to stop into Amitabul, they are amazing. We ate so much food, but you know it’s healthy and healing when you stuff yourself silly and don’t feel like death afterwards. Despite all we ate we left feeling light, airy and satisfied. It’s also a cute little restaurant with a great mellow vibe, fun Buddhist phrases and statues and super friendly staff. It was a pretty quiet afternoon when we decided to stop in and we were served by Chef Bill himself, who is a super nice man. Another perk of Amitabul is that the parking outside is free, and if you live in Chicago you know what a miracle that is! Free parking in this city is almost unheard of. So check it out, you won’t be sorry you did!

Amitabul Restaurant 
6207 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL
Closed Monday
Opean - Tuesday-Sunday 12 Noon to 9pm. (Last seating at 8:45pm)

Amitabul Restaurant

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Quiet Easter Post 2013...

Stuffed Shells with Garlic Bread

I realize this post is coming a little more then a week late, but oh well. In truth Easter has never really been a very significant holiday for me. Though I was raised in the Christian faith, I was never particularly religious, even as a kid. For me the holiday has always been about something else. When I was a kid it was presents and candy, when I grew up it was about socializing with family members I didn’t get to see regularly and eating heaping plates of good food.

Breakfast - Sausage in a Blanket with Caramelized Apples &
Chive and Cheddar Omelet

Typically I’ll take any excuse to socialize, throw a party, and cook a lot of food. Perhaps you remember my Easter Post  from last year where I detailed everything I made and ate? It’s the kind of thing I really like to do, because I love to cook, and I especially love to cook delicious vegan food that inspires and impresses omnivores. This year however, I just wasn’t feeling it. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been so busy with school and a million other things or because as I get older I just care less and less about these kinds of things. Maybe it’s a bit of both, but probably a lot of the latter, after all when I really think about it there really isn’t anything about Easter that makes me want to celebrate. I’m a Buddhist, my husband’s an Atheist so on that point alone we have no cause to celebrate, but then factor in that we’re the only two vegans attending the celebration - which means having to make all our own food, and transporting it, not to mention make enough food for others - and I just said “To hell with it.”

Caramelized Apples

Since I’ve been super focused on my studies these past few months, really buckling down determined to have everything finished by the end of June I just didn’t feel like taking the time out to cook a bunch of dishes for a bunch of people who aren’t vegan anyway, for a holiday I don’t really give a shit about. That said, that didn’t mean we wanted to miss the socializing aspect of the holiday since we typically don’t get to see most of my husband’s side of the family on a regular basis - even though they all live close by. So rather then opt out of the festivities all together I decided to make a large breakfast for the two of us before we left, then make a nice dinner for us upon our return. The time in-between we could survive easily sans snacks.

Chive and Cheddar Omelet

Even though I love to cook, and love to show off my cooking to others I can’t tell you how happy I was about this decision. I felt really free, and a real sense of relief. Cooking for any large group is always hard, but cooking for a large group of picky omnivores who think vegan food comes from some alternate universe is undeniably frustrating. Trying to come up with a suitable dish - let alone half a dozen - that is creative yet familiar that pleases everyone is no easy task, and it often has me pouring over my 100+ cook book collection for days in a bit of a panic. Then once I decide what to make there’s the cost of the shopping, the time it takes to prepare everything, the logicists of the transport, what to do with leftovers. Ugh! I get a headache just thinking about it. Cooking for my husband and I is much simpler. I know what we like - virtually everything - and I know the kinds of meals we appreciate most. We’re easy, we enjoy food, and we’re not afraid to try new things.


This year I didn’t get up early and start cooking. I didn’t spend my whole day in the kitchen. I didn’t rush, I didn’t stress, I didn’t get frustrated, and there was no insanity. I wasn’t busy. I was completely and totally relaxed and I loved every minute of it. I got to walk my dog, I got to exercise, I got to spend time with my husband, I got to listen to music, I got to read, I got to just kick back and enjoy life for a while without any obligations. I didn’t have to worry about anything, I didn’t have to worry about getting meals on the table at a certain time, I didn’t have to worry about when so and so might arrive. Nothing. In fact I was so relaxed and enjoyed this new freedom so much I couldn’t help but start to wonder why I’d ever go ‘all-out’ for another holiday again. Why go through all that hassle? Especially considering my husband and I eat well every night and never need a special occasion to do so. If I want to make pie or cake, or cookies I do it. If I want to make appetizers, or dips, or other decadent offerings I do it. If I want to make a five course dinner on a regular old Wednesday night I do it. I don’t need Easter for any of that, or any other holiday.

Apple Sage Sausage 

I’m thinking I’d much rather bag the stress and enjoy a quiet meal at home with my husband for all future holidays. Besides despite our cultures emphasis on food that’s not what holiday's are truly about anyway. They’re about family, about togetherness, about socializing, and you don’t need to eat to be social and whether or not there is food at any particular location that is suitable for my husband and I to eat has never been a mark of our happiness or enjoyment in that place.

So then, what exactly did we eat for Easter?

Well, I wanted to make a big hearty breakfast that would keep us full for the entirety of the celebration, until I could get us home and make us dinner. So I decided to make the Sausages in a Blanket with Glazed Apples from Lane Gold’s books "Vegan Junk Food." To accompany the sweetness of the dish I wanted to also serve something savory and so I chose the Chive and Cheddar Skillet Omelet from Jenny Engel & Heather Goldberg’s book "Spork-Fed."


Both of these dishes were great, but I was particularly fond of the omelet. I can’t make an omelet to make my life, it’s one culinary talent I’ve never been bestowed with. I can’t make an actual egg omelet without if falling apart, and I can’t make a tofu omelet without it falling apart. So I really appreciate the ease of the skillet omelet, and I love the recipes that include baking or broiling an omelet in a cast iron skillet. This particular omelet contained chives, Daiya Cheddar Cheese shreds, tofu, gluten-free flour, black salt, almond milk, baking powder, nutritional yeast, brown rice syrup, turmeric, miso and a few other things. Then you cook it on the stove top for a few minutes and put it in the broiler to finish it off. I decided I wanted to bake it rather then broil it and so I put it into the oven to bake but it took quite a bit longer then I expected and so I ended up finishing it on the stove top where the bottom burned a bit. I was really upset that I’d burnt the bottom but surprisingly the omelet was still crazy-delicious! Seriously, we loved this thing, my husband gobbled up two slices and he doesn’t even like Daiya!


Though I enjoyed the sausages in a blanket I was less impressed with this recipe if only because it was very sweet, and I find that since I did my juice fast back in January I’ve been gradually moving further and further away from sweets and sugar in general. It just doesn’t ‘do it’ for me anymore you know? And even on those occasions where I want a cake or brownie or cookie, if I actually eat one I never feel satisfied. I just think to myself ‘bleh- why did I eat that?’ Don’t get me wrong, this new attitude towards sugar is a really good thing, it’s exactly what I wanted, there are just so many delicious desserts out there to try, that I probably won’t like all that much anymore haha!  You might not believe it but often times when I feel like desert a half glass of vanilla almond milk, or a tbsp of nut butter with some chocolate chips, or 1 or 2 pitted dates will totally do the trick. I get my taste of sweet, yet I feel totally satisfied afterwards! Anyway, back to the breakfast. My husband loved this and ended up eating 3 pancakes stuffed with sausage and apples. The recipe calls for Tofurky breakfast links but I used the homemade Apple Sage Sausages I made a month ago using Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman’s recipe from "500 Vegan recipes." They were really good, and worked well here. However rather then shape them into links when I’d originally made them I’d just shaped them into loaves and so for this recipe I have sausage rounds rather then links. Doesn’t matter, it all tastes the same right? Anyway you make the apples by boiling them in water and brown sugar until they’re glazed, soft, and saucy. Then you stuff a simple fluffy white flour pancake with sausage, and apple mixture and top if off with a bit of maple syrup. Like I said they were good, and the pancakes were super fluffy and moist but it was just a little too sweet for me.

Caesar Salad with Maple Wheat Croutons

For dinner when we got home I made the Caesar Salad with Maple Wheat Croutons from Chloe Coscarelli’s book Chloe’s Kitchen. I served it as the starter to her recipe for Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce accompanied by her recipe for The best Garlic Bread in the world - which really was one of the best garlic breads I’d ever eaten.

The salad was a pretty simple affair, romaine lettuce and capers in a homemade Caesar dressing that utilized tofu, Dijon mustard, and Miso to make it Caesar like. I think that this is definitely one of the better Vegan Caesar’s I’ve had, though I think Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Caesar from Appetite for Reduction is just a little bit better in my book. The croutons however were the real showstopper. I’m usually not a crouton person, I’ve never, ever liked them but I was intrigued by the maple component and so I decided to try them out and they were really good. They added a new exciting element to the salad.

The Garlic Bread as I said was really phenomenal. It was melted Earth Balance, Nutritional Yeast, garlic and fresh parsley slathered over a baguette and baked till crispy.

Stuffed Shells

Then the shells were also really good. I particularly liked the Arrabbiata sauce which is one of the better spicy tomato sauces that I’ve tried. The ‘ricotta’ stuffing for the shells was also good and quite simple. Tofu, miso, basil, garlic, lemon juice - the usual suspects and even though it was really good and really creamy, and really delicious I think I liked the stuff shell recipe from Myoko Schinner’s "Artisan Vegan Cheese" just a little bit better. That almond ricotta is to DIE for, even my husband thinks so and he doesn’t like almonds!

Anyway, the whole dinner turned out perfectly and it was completely stress-free which was the best part. Originally I was also planning on making a dessert, a mocha fudge pudding cake but after the sweet breakfast I really wasn’t feeling much like a heavy sweet dessert and so I opted out. Instead I made a batch of Rum Raisin Ice Cream from Cathe Olson’s sensational Ice Cream book "Lick It!" Now before you say “hold up, I thought you weren’t into sweet!” Cathe’s recipes generally only call for ½ cup of sugar for an entire batch of ice cream and if you like you can use a little less. That means the ice cream is more rich then sweet, certainly it’s a lot less sweet then store-bought ice creams, and so it’s a perfect dessert. Since I found my ice cream maker and started using it I’ve been obsessed with home-made ice cream. This latest flavor wasn’t my favorite - not enough rum and too many raisins - however it was pretty tasty! My husband was especially pleased.

And that’s how we celebrated Easter this year. I hope you too had a good time which however you chose to celebrate the occasion, and if you don’t celebrate at all I hope you had a good weekend complete with some lovely Spring weather!

PS: Sorry I forgot to take a picture of the ice cream, but I promise on my next ice cream making adventure I’ll take loads of picks and post all about it!