Bee Free Honee

I’m here today to recommend a product that’s new to me.  If it’s not new to you, why didn’t you tell me about it?!?

I was shopping at Vegan Haven in Seattle the other day, and the person in front of me in line was going on about how delicious the Bee Free Honee is, and the woman at the register was agreeing whole-heartedly.  Although my cart was already quite full, I zipped back out and grabbed a bottle.  I’m so glad that I did.

In my pre-vegan days, I enjoyed quite a few things that included honey, such as honey on biscuits with butter, honey in lemon or ginger tea, and peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  As my way of living and eating evolved, I dropped the honey and resigned myself to eschewing those former favorites.  Of course I tried substitutes (agave can get pretty close in certain things), but nothing’s quite like honey.  Until now.  This stuff truly scratches that itch for me.  Here’s a bit of info:

http://beefreehonee.com/

And here’s the first thing I did with it.  Yep, a peanut butter and “honey” sandwich:

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Whatever you do with it, I hope you like it as much as I do.

Enjoy!  xo

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Sliders!

Queenie and I recently tested out a few new (to us, anyway) slider options that we found in the freezer section at Whole Foods.  They were easy and tasty enough to recommend to you.

First, Beyond Meat’s “Beastly Sliders” (a smaller version of their equally successful Beast Burger) couldn’t be easier or more pleasant.  Good flavor, nice consistency… what’s not to love?  And for those of you concerned with such matters, they are gluten-free and soy-free.  While they would be excellent grilled, we just quickly heated them up on the stove top and ate them sans bun with a little ketchup.  Yum!

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Next up, the “Crispy Chick’n Sliders” from Gardein.  I didn’t realize at first that these came with buns!  I thought we were just getting the patties.  It’s pretty fun to have a complete little sandwich in there.  All you need to do is heat in the oven (the buns get inserted for the last couple of minutes) and top with your favorite burger toppings.  I wasn’t in the mood for bread, so Queenie took these for a test drive on her own, topping simply with mayo.  She said the buns were perfect – fluffy inside, just crisped perfectly on the outside – and she really enjoyed the patties’ taste and texture as well.

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We’ll definitely be having more of both of these again!  I’m thinking Beastly Sliders with pretzel bread…

Enjoy!  xo

Pizza Rolls!

Gene Baur is a wonderful ambassador for all things vegan and compassionate.  Queenie and I had the good fortune to see him speak recently, and I picked up his latest book, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life, at the event.  I expected the book to be a wonderful glimpse into life at Farm Sanctuary (it is) and to present compelling reasons to make more compassionate choices in our day-to-day lives (it does), but I didn’t really have any expectations about the recipe portion of the book, which is a collection of recipes from guest contributors.  Happily, it’s fantastic also!  So far, I’ve made three recipes – Sesame Soba Noodles with Collard Greens and Tempeh Croutons, Gardein Bolognese, and Pizza Buns – and all three have been scrumptious.

Queenie and I renamed the Pizza Buns, calling them Pizza Rolls instead (because their appearance resembles cinnamon rolls, and you roll them up), but whatever you call them, they’re yummy.  They’re also absurdly easy.  In fact, it’s more of a concept (a genius concept!) than a recipe, courtesy of Wendy Matthews, the education and outreach manager at Farm Sanctuary.  You basically take pizza dough (we used the pre-made pizza dough ball from Trader Joe’s), roll it into a rectangle shape, top it with whatever you want, roll it up into a log, and then slice into individual portions.  You pop those into a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake roughly like you would a pizza (about 10 to 15 minutes at 450).  The result is fun and tasty.

Queenie and I have been on a Gilmore Girls marathon lately, and these were the perfect accompaniment to a couple of episodes.  (They eat a lot of junk food and would love these.)  Queenie’s are on the right.  She kept it simple, opting for sauce, herbs and cheese (we used Trader Joe’s vegan mozzarella shreds, but any cheese you like will work fine).  On the left, to her base I added mushrooms and black olives.

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The possibilities are endless…

Enjoy!  xo

Vegan Cheese Plate

Queenie and I had fun putting together a cheese platter recently, the goal of which was to sample some of the vegan cheeses we hadn’t yet tried.  It was quite festive and tasty, and I wanted to share our impressions.  Here are the brands we explored:

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Cheese-wise, we tried Kite Hill’s almond-based Soft Truffle Dill & Chive, Treeline’s Herb Garlic Soft French Style, Heidi Ho’s Black Lava Ne Chevre, and two of the new slices by Follow Your Heart, specifically American and Provolone.  Our accompaniments were various kinds of crackers, apple slices, fig spread, olives and cornichons.  Once it was arranged, our plates looked like this:

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The results:  my favorite cheese by far was the Treeline Herb Garlic.  In the photo above, it’s the middle dollop, below the white triangle of cheese (the Kite Hill) and above the one with the black stripe running through it (the Heidi Ho).  It had a terrific spreadable consistency and a delicious flavor and mouth feel.  This cashew-based cheese is not subtle.  It packs a wallop of flavor!  But if you appreciate a hit of garlicky, herbaceous yumminess, you’ll probably like this, too.  We enjoyed it on crackers and on the apple slices.  Yum.  I definitely want to try more Treeline cheese.  Their link:

http://www.treelinecheese.com/

I liked the cashew-based Heidi Ho Ne Chevre (aka “no goat”) quite a bit.  The Black Lava is a type of salt, and it adds a lot of visual interest, along with the hazelnuts that are in that black stripe.  Queenie noted that the after taste of this one is reminiscent of the flavor profile of Dr. Cow nut cheeses, so if you’ve tried those, you’ll have a sense of this one.  Not everyone likes that vibe (Mr. Man included), but I do so it worked for me.  Also, Heidi Ho’s line includes a fantastic range of jarred melty cheeses (“Chia Cheeze”) that are perfect for dipping and nachos, etc.  Definitely a brand to get to know if you don’t already.

http://www.heidiho.com/

I have to say that the Kite Hill cheese we sampled was a bit disappointing for me (Queenie liked it a little better than I did).  Kite Hill is a line of almond-based cheeses developed by Tal Ronnen, and I’ve tried a range of them at Crossroads in Los Angeles.  I enjoyed those very much, so I’m not sure what happened here.  For me, it was a consistency thing.  It says “soft” right in the title, but that made me think of either something spreadable or something like a triple cream, but that wasn’t the case.  It held its form when cut, which I guess made me think it would have a different mouth feel than it did.  It was squishy and funky to me.  I didn’t go back for seconds on that one.  I will try other Kite Hills because of my respect for its creator.  Will let you know how that goes.

http://www.kite-hill.com/

Finally, we played around with the Follow Your Heart slices, which I’ve been hearing a lot about.  It’s not often that you can take a vegan cheese slice right out of the package and eat it happily.  These are pretty successful.  Slap some on a cracker with a bit of fig spread on top and you’re talking deliciousness.  The rumor is that they make divine grilled cheese sandwiches, which is how I’ll play with them next.

Enjoy!  xo

Product Review: Earth Balance Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips

If you’re looking for a healthy snack option, keep looking as this is most definitely not it.  But if you’re looking for a thoroughly satisfying vegan version of an old standby snack food, these will scratch that itch.  I figure if you’re going to eat some junk food, this junk is considerably preferable to its non-vegan counterparts, given that it’s GMO-free and cruelty-free, for starters.

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These chips are excellent.  Nice and crunchy, with a good ratio of the densely folded variety (I like those).  And somehow, perhaps with a magic wand, the sour cream and onion flavor is legit.  With a nice blast of salt and grease, these are finger-licking good.  And only to be consumed once in a while!

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Enjoy!  xo

 

Product Review: Vegan Cuts Snack Box!

I was asked to review the Vegan Cuts Snack Box, which I was quite happy to do.  I had heard about Vegan Cuts but hadn’t checked them out yet.  I am so glad that I did.  They can count me as a new loyal customer!

First, in case you have no idea what Vegan Cuts is, let’s start with the basics.  Vegan Cuts is a company that offers monthly deliveries of vegan products that have been carefully selected for your enjoyment.  For $19.95, you receive a box of goodies, delivered right to your door.  You can opt for the Snack Box, which I received, or the Beauty Box, which I haven’t played with personally but which looks great on the website.  More on that in a moment.  The $19.95 includes shipping – yay.

The point of both of these boxes appears to be to turn people on to great products that they might not otherwise have been exposed to yet.  As a long-time vegan who loves to eat, I was quite amazed that out of the nine products I received, I had only heard of one!  It was great to be able to sample those products and add them to my list of items I want to keep in rotation around here.  And while most of them are likely to be readily available at your local veg-friendly grocer, Vegan Cuts also stocks a wide variety of them on their website in full-size portions.  I was happy to see this, as it would be a bummer to fall in love with something and then not be able to find it!

Before we dive into the contents of the box, I want to share with you something that has very much impressed me about my Vegan Cuts experience:  the customer service is phenomenal!  Before the box shipped, I received an email from Jill and John, the founders, informing me that it was coming and that they’d made a substitution.  They also sent out an email clarifying a packaging mistake that Harvest Snaps, the manufacturer behind one of the products, had made.  While the product is vegan, Harvest Snaps had mistakenly noted “Contains Milk” on the packaging.  Jill and John very kindly assured their customers that there is, in fact, no milk in the product.  Great communication.  I was even more impressed, however, when I hopped on the website to poke around.  I was on for a few minutes when a chat box opened up.  It was the aforementioned John, asking if I needed any assistance.  Cool!  He was super friendly and fun to chat with, and in fact I did have a question.  I had noticed that all of the items in my box were palm oil-free, which made me very happy, but I wondered if that was a coincidence or a policy, so I asked him.  I’m thrilled to report that ALL of their products are ALWAYS palm oil-free!!!!  Awesome.

So what did the November box contain?

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There were nine products in sample-sized portions, along with a complete list of the box’s contents and a couple of coupons.  It was a nice mix of sweet…

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… and savory…

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… plus some tea…

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… and some useful info.

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First, the sweet!  I cannot believe I’ve gone this far in my life without knowing about Michy’s cookies!!!!  Oh my.  The sample cookie was the “Pumpkin Eater,” a pumpkin spice cookie with chocolate chips.  It was absolutely divine, reminiscent of a delicious, home-made cookie, assuming whoever is making them in your home is a baking genius.  The consistency was moist as opposed to crispy, along the lines of Uncle Eddie’s cookies but WITHOUT THE PALM OIL!!!  I popped onto the Michy’s website and saw a variety of mouth-watering flavors, including cookies and brownies galore.  I will be trying them all.  http://michysfoods.com/

See those crumbs at the bottom of the bag?  They were too good to toss.  I fished them out and ate them, too.  Yes, I’m serious.  It was that good.

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Queenie and I both sampled the Barbara’s Organic Snackimals Cereal in Vanilla Blast, and we both gave it a thumbs up.  I tried it straight out of the bag, and it was tasty and crispy and not cloyingly sweet.  Then Queenie had a bowl of it to see how it held up with soy milk on it.  She loved the taste and said it stayed nice and crispy right to the last bite.  We don’t eat too many sugary cereals around here, but Queenie would be very pleased if I would bring home a box of Snackimals one of these days.  Added bonus:  cute animals on the packaging.

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On the healthier end of the sweet spectrum:  the Chocolate Coconut Bliss bar by Raw Revolution.  Consisting of just a few ingredients, this was a wonderfully pure and simple bar that reminded me of the raw cacao truffles I sometimes make.  I will be keeping one of these in my bag at all times!  Delish.

At first glance, I thought the ChickPz “Premium Roasted Chickpea Snacks” by Nutty Bean Co. were in the savory category, which is where I photographed them initially.  Call me crazy, but roasted chickpeas sound savory to me.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that the flavor is “Cinnamon Crunch,” and a review of the ingredients showed them to be squarely in the sweet camp (cane juice, vanilla, etc.).  I must confess that I was a little nervous to try these, as it sounds like a strange combination.  I am happy to report, however, that these crunchy goodies completely won me over.  They pack a nice cinnamon punch, being heavily coated with the spice, and have a really nice crunch to them.  A very pleasant surprise that I’m quite sure I would never have tried on my own.

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Finally, the one item in the box with which I was familiar:  the Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates caramel bite.  I have enjoyed Sjaak’s on many occasions and can recommend them whole-heartedly.  In fact, the caramel bite is Queenie’s very favorite of their flavors, so please don’t tell her that I ate it before she could get her hands on it.  Solely for research purposes, of course.

And now, on to the savory (all of which were gluten-free)…

First, our minds and taste buds were blown by the Snapea Crisps Black Pepper crisps.  Yeehaw!  If you like the original Snapea Crisps (which we do), I predict you will LOVE these.  They have the same fun consistency, but they have a wonderful savory kick from the black pepper that is just perfect.  Warning:  they are wildly addictive.

The MixtBag Yellow & Blue Corn Tortilla Chips from RW Garcia were quite tasty.  The yellow chips were nice and dense, while the blue chips were light and lovely.  Both were perfectly salted.  While they would be great with salsa, guacamole or hummus, I devoured the whole bag by itself!

The Multiseed Crackers from Crunchmaster were super crunchy, as billed.  I loved the ratio of sesame seeds, which was high, giving it a nice flavor.

The final entry in the savory category was the Cracked Pepper Baked Lentil Chips from Mediterranean Snacks.  They had a nice crispness and would be great for dipping, as I don’t think they’d break off in the dip.  They had a nice after-taste and are also gluten-free.  For pure snacking, though, we preferred the Snapeas, which are hard to top.

Finally, we enjoyed the Stash Spice Dragon Red Chai Tea.  Naturally herbal (no caffeine), this tea has a beautiful red color from the rooibos tea.  It is nicely spiced without being overpowering.  Perfect on an autumn or winter morning!

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As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed my Vegan Cuts Snack Box experience.  The treats were tasty, and it was fun discovering so many new bits of yumminess.  And I really want to check out the Beauty Box!  I poked around on the website, and every month, subscribers to the Beauty Box receive at least $40 worth of products to sample in trial sizes, for only $19.95.  Pretty cool!  And all of the full-sized products are available for purchase on the site.

The people who make up the Vegan Cuts team are fantastic, making it a company I’m happy to support.  I encourage you to check it out, too, and can’t help thinking that not only will you enjoy it, but its snack or beauty boxes would make fantastic gifts for your friends and family!  http://vegancuts.com/

Enjoy!  xo

Cookbook Review: Isa Does It! (exclamation point added by me)

Let me begin by saying that I, like about a zillion other people, am a HUGE fan of cookbook goddess Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  I own and love every one of her books and am thoroughly grateful that she’s on the planet, generously creating wonderful recipes for the rest of us to enjoy.  So when she releases a new book, it is cause for celebration, indeed.

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With this book, she has once again managed to create something special that everyone who loves preparing delicious food is going to want to get his or her hands on.  With her track record, I expected the recipes to deliver super tasty results, and that is certainly the case.  What she has done here that’s new, however, is present those recipes in a spectacularly photo-filled, gorgeous, hard-bound book.  What a treat!  And this book’s focus on “amazingly easy, wildly delicious vegan recipes for every day of the week,” makes it a great addition to every kitchen, whether you’re a newly transitioning vegan or a seasoned veteran or somewhere in between.  The recipes are geared for people trying to get real food on the table in a reasonable amount of time.  Yay!  There are wonderful tips and lots of fun notes, which make it feel like you have a super fun, cool friend in the kitchen with you.

And now for some of the food I’ve made from the book.  I’ve only had the book for less than a week, but I’ve made five recipes so far, all with great results.  While it’s a close call, I’d have to say that the family favorite was the Chickpea-Rice Soup on page 32.  It’s a simple and homey recipe that is truly great.  The flavors come together beautifully, and the dish feels centering and nourishing.  Queenie had two bowls the night I made it, and then a thermos of it in her lunch the next day.  When she got home from school, she asked if there was any more.  It was a hit!

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Queenie and I also enjoyed the Roasted Potato and Fennel Soup on page 46.  I had received both fennel and a variety of potatoes in our CSA box this past week, so when I read this recipe, it seemed the perfect way to play with these ingredients.  This soup was SO easy.  By roasting the ingredients, there’s very little active time, with the oven doing all of the work.  And roasting brings out wonderful flavors.  Super tasty and hearty.    It was really thick, and I’d probably thin it a little more next time, but definitely a tasty addition to my soup repertoire.

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There are some great-looking recipes for bowls, and while I have a long list that I’m looking forward to trying (including the Chimichurri-Pumpkin Bowl next week!), so far I’ve only made one bowl:  the Spinach & Black Bean Burrito Bowl on page 196.  Sadly, we dove into these bowls so quickly that I didn’t end up taking a photo of them, but I can tell you that it’s a really filling, balanced bowl of food that’s super quick and easy to make.  Definitely check it out!

Now, on to pasta…  I’ve made two of the pasta recipes from this book so far, and they’ve both been divine.  Last night, I made the Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne on page 124.  Oh my.  Heavenly.  A tomato cream sauce made with sun-dried tomatoes and cashews blends with penne, red onion, broccoli and more sun-dried tomatoes to make a scrumptious dish.  Loved it.

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I also made the Goddess Noodles with Chickpeas & Broccoli on page 136 (which is actually entitled Goddess Noodles with Tempeh & Broccoli, but chickpeas are a suggested substitute, and I went that route on this particular evening).  I absolutely adored this filling, quick dish, with its lemon-tahini sauce.  YUM.  One caveat:  you need to like tahini to love this dish as much as I do.  Mr. Man and Queenie aren’t big tahini fans (something I can never quite get my mind around), and they weren’t as enamored with it as a result.  More for me!

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This book clocks in at 311 pages, so I have barely scratched the surface here.  My hope is that I’ve inspired you to want to pick it up and start working your way through it, too.  In addition to the soups, bowls and pasta sections I’ve mentioned, there are mouth-watering recipes for salads, sandwiches and wraps, stews, chilis, curries, stir-fries, breakfasts, desserts… and more!

Final happy note for my Seattle-area friends:  the author will be speaking tomorrow night at The Book Larder in Seattle at 6:30!  http://www.booklarder.com/events/info/isa-does-it

Enjoy!  xo