Saturday, April 25, 2015

Product Review - Field Roast: Chao Slices...

Field Roast is by far one of my favorite vegan companies, and they have been for some time now. All of their products are delicious, and not a one of them has let me down yet. They make some of the best vegan sausages on the market - and certainly THE BEST veggie dogs. - They also make killer deli slices, and burgers and now they’re tossing their hat into the ring and have begun making Vegan Cheese. Oh yeah, you heard that right, another vegan cheese!

Vegan cheese has come a long way in recent years, I know long-time vegans who say the vegan cheese now is light-years more advanced then what they had back in the day, but to tell the truth vegan cheese has even improved significantly from when I first went vegan five years ago. As far as I’m concerned the best on the market is Daiya, but Field Roast is definitely giving them a run for their money with their new Chao slices.

The new slices are made from Chao tofu which is a fermented soybean curd popular in Asia, and according to their website they make their Chao slices in a way similar to the way dairy cheese is traditionally made. Each flavor also contains coconut oil, as well as a variety of spices. They are Non-GMO, and roughly 60 calories per slice. They come in three awesome flavors such as Creamy Original, Coconut Herb, and Tomato Cayenne.  If you want my opinion each flavor has it’s virtues but I think I liked the coconut herb the best, it reminded me a bit of dairy goat cheese. Tomato Cayenne was probably my second favorite and reminded me a bit of cheddar though I really appreciate that Field Roast has attempted something different with their flavors rather then just try to mimic the same basic flavors of cheddar, mozzarella, and jack. Vegan’s need variety too and if you ask me there enough vegan cheddar and mozzarella substitutes on the market as it is. I love creativity.

All three flavors melt, and they’re particularly good for putting on burgers, sandwiches, grilled cheese, or any other thing you can think of. They’re even good eaten straight out of the package or is that just me? I have to say even my husband was impressed by Chao and normally he doesn’t particularly care for vegan cheese, so that’s saying something.

Field Roast made their Chao slices available sometime at the end of last year and so by now they should be easily available in most Whole Foods or health food stores, so next time you want a veggie burger grab up a pack of these slices to top it off with, you won’t be sorry.

If you want to learn more about Field Roast or their Chao Slices you can do so here

Friday, April 24, 2015

Product Review - Sophie's Kitchen: Vegan Toona...

Another vegan product I’ve been wanting to share with you for a while is Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Toona. Yeah, you read that right, Vegan Canned Tuna, how cool is that? For a while now Sophie’s Kitchen has been the leader in producing vegan seafood products, in fact I think they may be one of the only companies focusing solely on vegan fish-friendly alternatives. Other companies make things like vegan fish sticks and vegan crab cakes but Sophie’s Kitchen has Vegan Calamari, Vegan Shrimp, Vegan Fish Filets, Vegan Scallops and now Vegan Tuna.

So far the Toona comes in two flavors, Seat Salt, and Black Pepper. Both are really good flavor wise though I don’t think they taste anywhere near as fishy as actual tuna - probably a good thing anyway! They have amazing mouth-feel and texture though. The ‘meat’ flakes like fish tuna does and it shreds super easy so you can use it in a vegan tuna sandwich or tuna salad. Though I really liked both flavors I think I preferred the Black Pepper, I’m not sure why but to me it tasted slightly more tuna like, and it was really so good I could have eaten it straight out of the can. So far the only application I’ve used the Toona in is to make a Tuna Noodle Casserole for my husband - who used to love that sort of thing in his pre-vegan days. It worked really well, and the casserole tasted amazing. I myself have never eaten tuna noodle casserole so I can’t say whether it tasted like the fish-unfriendly kind or not, but my husband seemed to think it was a pretty spot-on replication.

I imagine Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Toona would be good in any dish calling for Tuna, and I’m actually really interested to try using it to make a spicy tuna sushi, as well as a traditional tuna salad. When I get around to doing either I’ll let you know how it turns out.

For now, the practicalities. Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Toona in Seat Salt Flavor is both Gluten and Soy free, made with Pea Protein - like Beyond Meat - which is probably why it has such excellent texture. There are no preservatives, artificial colors or MSG. A single serving contains about 100 calories, 12% Fiber, 18% Protein, 4% Calcium and Iron and only 1g of sugar. The Black Pepper Flavor is Gluten Free but contains both soy protein and pea protein so it’s not soy free. It is also free of preservatives, artificial colors and MSG though. It’s about 90 Calories per serving and contains 12% Fiber and Protein, 4% Iron and Calcium.

So if you’re looking for a good tuna substitute keep a look out at your local heath food store for Sophie’s Kitchen and if you want to learn more about them you can do that here

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Product Review - Beyond Meat: Beefy Crumbles...

Jeeze, I can’t believe how behind I’ve gotten on both my product reviews and restaurant reviews. I love to try all the new vegan products that come out - you know for the novelty and curiosity too - and I like to tell you about all the best ones because for some people veganism can be a challenge - though a good one! - and sometimes these innovative products can be helpful.

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about Beyond Meat. They are the newest vegan meat company on the market, and probably the best. Certainly they come the closest as far as mimicking texture is concerned. I talked about their Vegan Chicken Strips before, but they also make vegan beef now. Well, their beef crumbles have been out for about a year or so now - did I mention how behind I was?  - My husband and I were so excited to find their Fiesty Crumbles and their Beefy Crumbles in our local health food store and we eagerly picked up a bag of each. Since our initial discovery of the beefy crumbles I’ve purchased them a couple of times and used them in a few different applications. I’ve used the Fiesty Crumbles in Lasagna , the Beefy Crumbles in Tacos, and I even made this killer Italian Wedding Soup from Annie and Dan Shannon’s book “Betty Goes Vegan.”

Now, as much as I like these crumbles I can’t say they taste exactly what I remember beef to taste like, but they also don’t have that weird aftertaste that a lot of vegan meats have. They have a smooth ‘meaty’ flavor, but what I noticed the most is that the mouth-feel and texture of these crumbles quite resembles ground beef. They also ‘sweat’ or ‘grease’ a little when you cook them in a pan, like real beef would. That’s both slightly disturbing and completely fascinating to me! The progression of technology in all fields continues to astound.

As for practicalities, Beyond Meat - to my knowledge - is the only Gluten and Soy Free vegan meat product currently on the market. They make their products with pea protein, and they’re non-GMO. As for the Crumbles a ½ cup is about 100 Calories, with 0% Saturated Fat and 0% Cholesterol - can’t say that about animal meat now can you? That same ½ Cup also has about 4% Fiber, 20% Protein, 10% Calcium, 2% Iron and Vitamin C and only 1g of sugar.

So if you’re in the market for a good vegan beef, check out Beyond Meat. Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to find it they’ve also started making some bomb-ass Meatballs. Which I’ll have to review at another time, since I forgot to take pictures last time I bought them. Bad blogger!

To learn more about Beyond Meat check them out Here

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Peaceful Easter 2015...

I trust everyone had a lovely Easter weekend. Mine was relaxed and uneventful. The week of Easter I came down suddenly with a horrible flu that had me in bed for three days. It took me quite by surprise since I’m rarely sick and haven’t had the flu since I was about 12 years old. In the past ten years I’ve only vomited twice, once due to excess of alcohol, and once due to nervousness, and so it took me some time to recover. Though I was mostly better by the time Easter came around I chose to stay home rather then celebrate with my husband’s family. I felt I needed a little more recovery time and so I enjoyed the afternoon reading in the sun, and made a nice, but small dinner for the two of us to enjoy when he returned from his family’s party.

You know how much I love to go ‘all-out’ for holidays but since I’d been sick - and my appetite hadn’t returned at all yet - I wasn’t in the mood for preparing a grand dinner. Instead I pulled out my copy of “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” by Nava Atlas and chose a few simple dishes to make for dinner.

Moroccan Vegetable Soup

The first thing that caught my eye in the book was the Moroccan Vegetable Soup with Matzo Balls  Technically it’s from the Passover Chapter not the Easter Chapter but close enough I reasoned, and besides what better food to eat after being sick then a warm comforting bowl of soup? This particular soup contained leeks, potatoes, carrot, celery, turnip, tomatoes, cumin, turmeric, dill, parsley, and of course matzo balls which I made separately. The soup was also suppose to have mushrooms but for some reason the thought of mushrooms turned my stomach, and so I left them out.

Matzo Balls 

Moroccan Vegetable Soup with Matzo Balls 

I really enjoyed this soup and it was so easy to prepare. I loved the combination of flavors and it was a really hearty meal, but If I’m being honest I like Nava’s traditional Matzo Ball Soup better. I made that last year for Passover and it went over like gangbusters.

Moroccan Flavored Tofu with Apricots and Olives 


For our main meal I made the Moroccan-Flavored Tofu with Apricots and Olives from the Rosh Hashanah Chapter. Since I made Moroccan soup I thought I’d keep the North African theme, and besides this sounded so good. Tofu with olives and apricots, I loved the idea of a sweet, salty, tart dish. The dish uses pre-baked marinated tofu, and so I picked up some Italian-style Baked Tofu from the store. Under normal circumstances I probably would have just baked my own tofu but since I was still recovering I was happy for the short-cut in prep time. In addition to green olives and apricots the dish also had onion, green onion, garlic, broth, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, lemon juice, agave, slivered almonds and parsley. Nava suggests in the book to serve this over Quinoa which I did. Just a simple pot of boiled quinoa seasoned with salt, pepper, and parsley. Man was this dish fantastic, I can easily see making this regularly.

Moroccan Flavored Tofu over Quinoa
with Moroccan Carrots 

For a side dish I went with the simple Moroccan Carrots also from the Passover Chapter. These were super simple saute carrots cooked in oil, garlic, lemon, parsley, chives, salt and pepper. I left off the sliced almonds, but loved the touch of lemon zest added to this dish. These carrots were beyond perfect, I only wish I’d had a bigger appetite so I could have eaten more.

Moroccan Carrots 

For dessert I actually picked a recipe from the Easter Chapter and went with the very simple - but super delicious - Strawberry Snack Cake. This is basically a vanilla cake with a strawberry topping. You make the topping by cooking strawberries with sugar and water and cornstarch until it’s thick then pour it over the cake. Unfortunately my topping didn’t want to stay put and it kind of dripped and spread out all over the plate but the cake was nonetheless delicious. I especially loved the idea of it because it was light and fluffy, the perfect dessert for an early Spring day.

Strawberry Snack Cake 

So that was our Easter. Perfectly peaceful and though I didn’t eat much, what I did eat I enjoyed. It was my first real meal for the entire week, as I’d previously only been able to keep down some watermelon and toast.

I hope everyone else had a great holiday and if you haven’t tried out any recipes from “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” you should give it a look, so far everything I’ve made out of this book has been fantastic!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Cream of Leek Soup with Pink Peppercorns...

Believe it or not I came up with this recipe on the plane from Brussels to Chicago. It was partially inspired by a side dish of curried leeks I ate while in Luxembourg City. I was thinking about that dish on the plane ride home, and thinking how happy I was that spring was finally upon us. Leeks seemed to be a pretty popular meal item most places we went in Europe, which was fine by me since I love them so. You might think that after weeks of eating them I might be bored of them, but that wasn’t the case at all, in fact I only wanted more, and for whatever reason I kept thinking curry, coconut leek soup. This idea just wouldn’t leave my brain the entire plane ride home, and somewhere over the Atlantic I came up with the idea of adding fancy pink peppercorns and tarragon into the mix. Sounds crazy I know, but damn if it wasn’t delicious! This made a nice sized pot of soup, but my husband devoured most of it in one sitting. I wouldn’t be surprised if you did as well.

Cream of Leek Soup with Pink Peppercorns 

3 Medium-Large sized Leeks
6 Cloves Garlic Minced
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Tarragon
1 15oz Can Coconut Milk
2 C Vegan Chicken Broth
½-1 tsp Pink Peppercorns crushed
Green Onions or Chives to Garnish
Sea Salt to taste

- Thoroughly wash the leeks and slice thinly.

- Melt the coconut oil in a pot over medium heat. Add sliced leeks, garlic, and curry powder and saute for 6-10 minutes until leeks are bright green, soft and fragrant.

- Add the Vegan Chicken broth and simmer for about 10 minutes.

- Carefully remove leek and broth mixture form the pot, place in a high-speed blender and blend on high until completely smooth.

- Return the soup to the pot, and add in the coconut milk, tarragon and ½-1 tsp of Sea Salt - or to taste. Stir until the coconut milk is completely blended into the soup, then let simmer for about 5 minutes.

- Turn off the heat and stir in the pink pepper corns and green onions or chives. Saving a little of each to garnish each bowl. Serve and enjoy.