Gadget Review: Coco Jack! »
The Coco Jack is all kinds of awesome.
I’ve been on a kick of putting young Thai coconuts in smoothies, but HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU GET THE DAMN THING OPEN!?!?! A friend tipped me off to the Coco Jack after I posted an exasperated rant on Facebook saying I needed a machete (which in all honesty sounded like a fun idea). I immediately knew I needed one of these AMAZING gadgets for my kitchen arsenal (sorry, roommate, I know it’s getting crowded up in there). Thanks for sending me one so quickly, team Coco Jack!*
Coco Jack, Coco Mallet, Coco Scoop, and Coco Sack (yes, I just laughed while typing this).
I watched all the videos on their website, and was SO excited to try it! This how-to video made it look really easy, and I followed it step-by-step ("ooh baby, gonna get to you giiiiiiiirl…"). Seriously, it’s a game-changer! I can open up one of those bad boys in NO time flat! AND they sent me the Coco Scoop, which makes scraping out the coconut meat as easy as opening it. I can’t sing their praises enough!! I’ll be opening coconuts galore!!! Get a Coco Jack right now!
The meme that started it all. Thanks, Internet!
*disclaimer! I was sent the Coco Jack for free.
Product review: medium-spicy Nacheez! »
Great news, vegan cheese-lovers—Nacheez innovator Ilsa Hess has added a new flavor to her line of nacho cheese sauce! What was once only available in spicy or mild is now accessible in a medium spice level. I was generously sent a couple of jars to sample, one of which was simply heated up and poured atop tortilla chips immediately after I ripped the package open—delicious!
For the second jar I wanted to be a little more creative, as my first impulse was to eat it with a spoon over the sink. I’d been meaning to make the Nacheez banana empanadas for about a year, but to be real, it has sounded a little too eccentric for my taste.
I did make the empanadas, and though it is a funky combination of flavors, they’re actually really tasty! The sweetness of the bananas combined with the tang of the Nacheez is an eclectic harmony! Next time I think I’m gonna skip the work of shaping empanadas (okay fine, I really made calzones) and just make a pizza. That way the bananas, uncovered in the oven, will caramelize to their fullest potential (or at least until the pizza dough is nicely browned on the bottom).
Even if banana-Nacheez pizza isn’t your thing, you can enjoy medium Nacheez in a variety of different ways, like my personal fave—a chili cheese dog!
Chambers Lane pâté review! (amazing new vegan cheese alert!) »
Since Laura and I moved to the East Bay, we’ve been unable to get to Rainbow Grocery as often as we used to. Last time we were there, we um, went a little overboard. We came away with four new cheeses and cheese spreads that we had never seen before. Of these, the Chambers Lane Truffled Cashew pâté was far and away the favorite, even above the much pricier Punk Rawk Labs cheese.
So when the people of Chambers Lane contacted us to see if we were interested in trying their other flavors, of course we said yes.
All together, there are three flavors. The first we had tried was Truffled Cashew. They also have Fig Balsamic Walnut Cashew and Rosemary Thyme Almond. These are also quite good.
The Fig Balsamic is sweet, tart, and rich-tasting, with hints of spice, it definitely has a wonderful complex flavor.
The Rosemary Thyme, on the other hand, is savory, but with a milder herbed taste. It’s almond-based, so it’s not quite as creamy as the other two, but is still pleasantly nutty.
But the first one we had tried probably still remains the favorite. With its rich, decadent truffle oil and creamy cashew texture, it really is something special. We started out by eating it on crackers like fancy folks, but then polite affectations went out the window, and we finished by sticking our fingers directly into the jar to get every last bit.
In addition to being available at Rainbow Grocery, you can also find Chambers Lane pâtés at Country Cheese Coffee Market and Berkeley Bowl West in Berkeley, Woodlands Market in Kentfield, and Draeger’s in Menlo Park, Danville, and San Mateo.
Let’s hope they get into even more stores soon, because this stuff is the GREATEST. Insanely delicious vegan cheese for all!
Product Review: Belmondo Vegan Pore Cleansing Clay Mask! »
Here I am, back with more vegan skincare news! I recently became aware of this skincare company Belmondo:
This natural skin care line uses organic ingredients, sourced fair trade whenever possible, that are brimming with the earth-grown goodness your body recognizes and uses to heal and beautify itself.
The line is based all around organic olive oil. They never test on animals and most products are vegan (some contain beeswax). They’re also super environmentally friendly. Belmondo sent me a gratis jar of their Earth pore cleansing clay mask to try out and now I will tell you all about it!
The first thing I noticed is that unlike so many masks, this doesn’t feel all tight and awful while it’s drying! I like that. After I washed the mask off, my skin looked fresh and I’m pretty sure my pores were smaller (big pores are the worst!). I was concerned about the olive oil element seeing as I have oily skin but there wasn’t a trace of oil or residue after I used the mask. Huzzah! Another note: I think the design is very cute. Plus, all the bottles and jars are glass so you can easily recycle them! Bonus!
I can’t speak to the long term effects of the mask but if you want a nice vegan clay mask that doesn’t irritate your skin, this one is definitely worth a try.
Guest Review: Viana meat substitutes and more! »
After living in Austria and Germany, I recognised a vegan German brand, Viana (also known as Tofutown.com GmbH) at Whole Foods in Portland, Oregon (as well as Boston) which came out this year. Viana products use “wheat, soybeans and fresh organic vegetables into delicious meat alternatives, tofu products, soy and rice drinks and fine soy creams” (Viana Biography). These products are also found “throughout Europe and even in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and now in North America.” Viana products include seasoned and delicious veggie gyros, veggie döner kebab, chickin fillets, chickin nuggets, veggie cevapcici, cowgirl veggie steaks and finally Soyatoo! vegan creams! I had tried nearly all of them whilst living in Germany and Austria for couple of months and it is finally so nice to have these products in the U.S.
This is the veggie cevapcici I had with fresh and homemade Israeli bread and seasoned tahini paste served with arugula-Persian cucumber-salad (dressed in lemon juice & olive oil & sea salt). This is probably my favourite meat alternative compared to veggie gyros (they tend to be saltier, but it vary on one’s taste). I found the seasoned tahini paste at a kosher Jewish shop, “The Butcherie" in Brookline, MA. You can find "seasoned ACHVA Tahini Paste" online as well, good luck!
You can thinly slice veggie cevapcici as “gyro” in any ways from burritos to wraps to pitas. Some prefer less meaty or some prefer bulky type. You can use Trader Joe’s Habanero Lime Flour Tortilla with tahini paste and your choice of red hot chili sauce.
To see other post on Viana gyro meat, read more here.
Based both in Oregon and worldwide, Taiwanese vegan Rika runs an international and travel vegan blog since July 2011. She documents and photographs vegan cuisine, airports/lounges, groceries, products and home cooking. She also spends her time abroad caring for and feeding feral cats and dogs. You can find her on Twitter and Pinterest.
Product Review: CA Sunshine skincare! »
Hi guys! Welcome to my latest vegan skincare product review. I have some good skin stuff for you today! And a hair mask too. All these products are from CA Sunshine. CA Sunshine is an all-vegan company and they also support various ocean conservation efforts. They sent me some gratis samples to try and now I will tell you all about them! Plus, there’s a little Q&A at the end so stay tuned.
The first product I tried was Sunny Day, a “dewy look enhancer.” It’s organic argon oil, which is all the rage, plus sunflower oil, jasmin oil, and citrus essential oils. Bonus: the argon oil is sourced from women’s cooperatives in Morocco. I really like Sunny Day and it does give you a dewy look. I did find that it made my nose a little too oily, but I’ve used argon oil in the past and the same thing happened. I think my nose and argon oil aren’t meant to be BFF. So I ended up using Sunny Day all over my face except on my nose and that worked super.
The next product I used was Starry Night. It’s grape seed oil, jojoba, and lavender oil. This I used all over, nose included. It was also really nice. The bottles say to moisturize after you put on these products but I didn’t feel like I had to with Starry Night. The thing with both of these products is you really feel like you are doing something healthy for your skin. It feels like all natural and hippie. I can dig it!
The last product I used was the Radiant Beach hair mask. The hair mask is mostly organic coconut oil and organic ricinus communis oil. My sister was just telling me she occasionally puts olive oil on her hair for a half hour to keep it healthy so I thought coconut oil would be a similar idea. But unlike olive oil, Radiant Beach is thick and not oil consistency so it’s easier to apply.
So, Radiant Beach is totally nice! BUT DON’T put more in than they say. I put like half the jar in because my hair is so long I thought I would need more than suggested. That was super silly! It took a while to wash it out. Like two days. So just use the amount they tell you.
I did a brief question and answer for you guys with the creator of CA Sunshine, Terra:
1. Was is important to you that your products were vegan?
Terra: Since I eat vegan or vegetarian most of the time and I love natural products, it was almost expected that my product line would be natural and cruelty free. I like how my vegan products are pure and literally give you a guilt-free glow.
2. How did you get involved with Seafood Watch?
Terra: Several years ago The Monterey Bay Aquarium invited me to a conference about sustainable seafood, and I have been a proactive advocate of ocean conservation ever since. I love the Aquarium’s SeafoodWatch.com program because it empowers all of us to be conservationists as we grocery shop. It couldn’t be easier. Each of us can make a difference.
3. Do you plan on releasing any other products in the future? What?!
Terra: I am working on an avocado-based product but can’t say much yet. It will be fantastic! After that, I have a California-colors makeup palette in mind.
There you have it, pals! I’m super excited about an avocado-based product, right? Some of my favorite products are avocado-based, like guacamole and stuff with avocado.
Product Review: Rodelle Chocolate Extract and Vanilla Bean Paste! Plus, Chocolate Cake with Banana Frosting! »
This is not totally about vegan stuff, but as we vegans are a baking people, I could not refuse a free sample of Rodelle chocolate extract and vanilla bean paste! The great thing about this stuff is it’s organic, which is always nice, plus their facility is wind-powered AND a portion of the profits go toward environmental and reforestation efforts by Trees, Water and People. They also support sustainable farming and fund great programs in Uganda and Madagascar, where they get their vanilla. So you can feel good while you are making yummy food!
I was very excited to try the chocolate extract, as I didn’t know it existed. I feel like chocolate cakes that just have chocolate cocoa in them are never chocolatey enough! So my hope was that chocolate extract would give it that chocolatey oomph I’ve been looking for. I had never used vanilla paste either; the difference between vanilla paste and vanilla extract is while vanilla extract is made by infusing alcohol with vanilla, vanilla paste is made by scraping vanilla beans into a sugar mixture. So vanilla paste is sweet! This would have been great when I was little and always wanted to eat a bit of vanilla extract because it smelled so good—bad idea! Some people say vanilla paste is great for making vanilla ice cream because you get those little black specs of vanilla. I will have to try that!
I’d been waiting for the right opportunity to try my Rodelle stuff when along came my sis-in-law’s birthday! My brother asked me to get a cake. He wanted me to buy it! Ha! Silly guy. I decided I’d make one, adoy. He wanted something with banana. I looked around and found this recipe for vegan chocolate cake with banana frosting from Sarah Fit; As that sounds super awesome, I decided to go for it. Chocolate cake with banana frosting? DANG, SON!
"A" for Alejandra, my sis-in-law! Not the most beautiful cake I’ve ever made but it sure was tasty!
I substituted chocolate extract for the almond extract and the vanilla paste for the vanilla extract and got to work. So how did the cake turn out? Chocolatey delicious! No joke! I think the chocolate extract really did it’s job. I swear, it had that moist chocolate flavor that I’ve only found in stupid box cake mixes. I love this stuff! I want to use it in everything. Rodelle says you can use it in any recipe that calls for vanilla extract. Of course in this recipe I used both the vanilla paste and chocolate extract so it was a double whammy. I REALLY want to try the chocolate extract in whipped cream—chocolate whipped cream! Genius!
Here’s the interior. Yummy like I said! I have to highly recommend Rodelle and also this super recipe from Sarah Fit. All the omnis liked it. Oh, omnis! You guys are adorbs.
Cookbook Reviews by Rachel: Big Vegan »
This is the first installment in a regular series in which Rachel gets opinionated about cookbooks both classic and new. If you’ve got one you’d like to see her cover, hit her up at rachel [at] zurer [dot] com.
Chapter 1: Eh
There’s a new vegan cookbook in town and it’s enormous. But as your mom always says, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, size isn’t everything, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and get your elbows off the table (what?).
Case in point: Even though Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan is so full of intriguing recipes that I ran out of room for my little slivers of post-it notes, when the olive oil hits the skillet, the book doesn’t always deliver. Asbell’s instructions sometimes feel wrong, other times arbitrary, and don’t leave you with a sense you’re in good hands, despite her creativity.
Chapter 2: In Which We Get Deep
As Descartes once inquired, “What’s the point of a cookbook?” Or maybe that was Plato. Anyway, the question is even more important now, with the interwebs bursting with free recipes and people trying to sell you special kitchen-friendly iPad cases. Why pay for dead trees?*
One word: relationships.
A cookbook is more than just a collection of ingredients and instructions. Like an art gallery or record label (remember those?), a cookbook curates the vast world of possibilities according to a certain sensibility. Find an author whose taste you like (HAHAHA PUN!), and it’s like finding a foodie best friend.**
Except cookbooks go beyond curating. They also teach. And as sappy Hollywood flicks have proven time and again, good teaching matters. A good teacher sets clear goals and articulates the rules. A good teacher anticipates challenges and gives you the tools to meet them.
A good teacher is someone you trust.
Chapter 3: What smells like burnt fish?
I got a free copy of Big Vegan from Chronicle Books in September, and worked hard to test it as much as possible before writing this review. Some stuff, with minor modifications, came out great, like the version of “Lemony White Beans with Fresh Rosemary Vinagrette” I posted for Vegan MoFo and that both Meave and I found orgasmic.
I also used Asbell’s recipe for Avocado-Lime Cupcakes as the basis of my entry to the Denver Avocado Takedown. The Jamaican Tofu Chowder with Collards made a hearty addition to a soup potluck, and the Veggie Sandwich Loaves (bread with veggies baked into it) was definitely GOOD. And I should know, I’ve been baking bread like mad lately.
But here’s the thing: If I weren’t already an experienced cook, the book would have definitely led me astray. The Tofu Chowder recipe had me put the collard greens in at the end and cook them for just 10 minutes. I thus ended up with tough, icky collards.
The Crispy Sesame Kale was divine (KALE CHIPS!!), but the recipe told me to discard the kale stems. Seriously? You can’t give me a hint as to what to do with those besides throwing them away? (Hint: Put them in stock, or chop them up and add them to stir fries. For example.)
The Veggie Loaf called for “bread machine yeast”, with no explanation of why or what that was — I couldn’t find it at 3 stores, and finally used normal yeast, while ignore Asbell’s rising times, with good results.
Worst offense: The “Millter, Ginger, and Edamame One-Pot” called for adding a sheet of nori, “toasted and shredded” at the end. No further instructions. I put a sheet of nori in toaster oven. It caught fire. I put it in for less long. My husband walked in and asked, “What smells like burnt fish?” Against my better judgement, I added it to the food (trying to really TEST this, you know?). ICK. The dish was decent otherwise, but picking out shreds of nori made it way less fun.
Chapter 4: The Bottom Line
Other pros I should mention: A whole chapter on grilling (though I didn’t manage to try any); recipes for cultured vegan cheese (still on my to-try list); the paperback has flap at the front and back that are great for saving your page. On the flip side: The majority of the recipes are beyond-weeknight complicated, and many use ingredients I don’t tend to have on hand (shao xing rice wine? Kitchen Bouquet? semolina flour?). Very few photos.
Final verdict: This is a book I’ll keep using, but it’s not a kitchen staple, and I don’t trust it.
Overall Rating: B
Level of Difficulty: Intermediate/Expert
Best for: Experienced cooks looking for a challenge and wanting to expand their repertoires.
*That phrase is going to be outdated as soon as someone invents the iTunes of cookbooks and it’s worth it to buy these books digitally. But I’m sticking with it for now.
**Maybe “guru” is a better term for it, since the admiration only runs one way (as much as I like to pretend Isa’s my new BFF because I follow her on Twitter).
Product review: Lucini Cinque e’ Cinque, a.k.a. Tuscan frittata! »
Laura heard of this vegan Frittata mix by Lucini and she showed it to me. Your friend Megan Rascal was like about to die: I LOVE QUICHES AND FRITTATAS and all that eggy crap! So I wrote Lucini, my new best friends, and they sent me frittata mix, gratis. When I email people, they send me free shit. And when I dance, orphaned children find new homes.
How does it taste? It’s a little odd, but once you get used to it, it RULES. I’m obsessed with it and keep thinking about it ever since we made it. Like, for real.
The mix is essentially chickpea flour. First, I made one of the mixes straight-up, no veggies or nothing, and it was a little strange. It kind of has a custard-like texture? I don’t think you should make it and serve it plain . The pack even says to serve it on baguette or with tomatoes or something.
So I gave it another shot! My brother and I made it totally frittata-style and it was so great! We made the rosemary mix with broccoli, mushrooms and garlic. We had it with some kind of hearty toast my brother had. At first it was a little odd, but then once we got used to it, it was awesome! We BOTH had a slice for breakfast the next morning. I still thought it had a custard-y texture but my brother said it was like eating mashed potatoes with a bunch of veggies in it. We both agreed that it’s more frittata/egg-like when you eat it with toast. Also: I needed to add a serious amount of sea salt, but that’s me.
The other great thing about this frittata mix, it is SO EASY to make! But I have some tips for you: if you don’t know, generally when you make a quiche-type thing, all the fillings are pre-cooked. So we steamed the broccoli and sauteed the mushrooms before we put them in the batter. Something that is served raw, like tomatoes, you might not cook, but do pre-cook most other veggies. Also, we had to cook it for quite a while longer than it said but we got some extra water in it when we added the mushrooms. Lastly: halfway through, you are supposed to open your oven a little and let it cook for the rest of the time with the oven door a jar. This lets all the extra moisture out. My oven does not just stay open so a little thing you can do is stick the end of a wooden spoon in between the door and the oven just to keep it open a bit. The end of your spoon will probably blacken a bit but it’s not a big deal, unless you are a crybaby brother. This is also a great tip for when you are making biscotti. Got to dry them mofos out!
Here’s a pic out of the oven:
You can see it’s a bit moist in the middle but it had stopped giggling when we wiggled it so we took it out and it was fine. Oh, another bonus: it’s pretty healthy! Go health!
Moral of the story: two thumbs up, but you have to be open-minded at first bite. Go forth! I want someone to make it in a crust like a real quiche. Do it!
Product review: Mark Bittman Vegetarian Cooking app! »
I got to test out a gratis copy of the new Mark Bittman How to Cook Everything Vegetarian iPhone application! Since my last mention of the app was less than informative, here is a thorough review, because I love you!
My official recommendation: it’s awesome! If you want to spend the $4.99, it’s worth your money and a lot cheaper than purchasing the actual cookbook. The recipe selection looks pretty amazing. I haven’t made anything yet but there are really a lot of things I already want to make! Or get someone else to make for me! You can make me food and I’ll give you fashion tips—fair trade!
I am told there are 950 vegan recipes and variations out of about 2,000 vegetarian recipes in total. The breakdown is 397 recipes and 553 variations to non-vegan recipes. There’s also a “top 100 vegan recipes” list under “Bittman’s picks” and several little “references” that like suggest vegan breakfasts for you, cheese substitutions, and one I’m really interested it: how to make any bread vegan. I love bread!
I don’t see any way to isolate the vegan options for the entire app but when you search for something, it’s super-easy to bring out the vegan options because of the vegan filter. You can search for key words if you want or you can use the filters they already have like “style.” So you can do a search by selecting “sweet” as the style and select just vegan options and it will pull up anything sweet and vegan (you saw where that was going). You could also search “cauliflower” or whatever word you want and select just vegan options. Oh and one of the style options is “raw” and there are 26 recipes and variations with that search. That’s for my raw friends! You know I’m always thinking of you.
When you are just browsing the recipes, the vegan ones are clearly marked but you can’t immediately see if a non-vegan recipe has a vegan variation. But when you use the search function, it lists all vegan recipes and all vegan variations for that search so that is prob the best way for us to look at variations. But just browsing for recipes is easy. There are no pictures so if you only like cookbooks with food pictures, this is not the app for you. I often like pictures but the names of these recipes are enticing enough that I don’t think I would miss them that much.
One thing to note: Reader Ryan K. says that some non-vegan recipes are marked vegan and vice versa. I haven’t run into this yet. I can send the creator a note about this and hopefully they can fix it in a future update.
Here are some screen grabs! First, a recipe; as you can see, it has the overview, ingredients, steps and variations:
Here’s a progression of how you can browse without the search. First you pick a general category and a more specific category:
Then you pick a recipe. You can easily see which recipes are vegan but if you select a non-vegan one, like the first veggie burger, it might have a vegan variation:
This is also cool: when you look at a recipe, you have all these options for what to do with it:
Another function is that you can generate shopping lists—kinda nice and useful. And as long as you have your phone, you will always have your grocery list.
Here’s my favorite part:
Under the style search option, you can search for hippie! It pulls up what you’d expect, tofu and whatnot.
Here’s my second favorite part! For some of the basic recipes and techniques, there are these illustrated guides:
Love it! You KNOW I like pictures over actually reading instructions. And as you can see, these aren’t crazy Ikea-style stick figure pictures that I can never understand.
All in all, I’d say it’s worth at least $4.99. Even though all the recipes aren’t vegan, I’m still very pleased with it. If you are vegetarian, it’s DEFINITELY worth the money. It has more recipes than the Vegan with a Vengeance app and that one costs $9.99 (say what?). The recipes are a little lacking for vegan dessert options but I actually think the first thing I want to make is the vegan banana chocolate-chunk bread pudding. Banana and chocolate are my favorite and I love bread pudding! I’m going to eat the hell out of that.