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04/17/2014

Victoria Vegan Pasta Sauces: The Vegan Alfredo-Lover’s Dream!  »

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The lovely family over at Victoria Vegan recently sent me a variety of their pasta sauces for review, and so review them I happily will!

imageThey sent me their Arugula Pesto Alfredo, Artichoke Alfredo, Vodka sauce, Roasted Bell Pepper Alfredo and Original Alfredo to try. I invited my sister over for the fun, as pasta is her favorite food. We called it our “Marinara Tasting Party”, though our party was dominated mostly by Alfredo sauces! 

imageClockwise from top left: My plate, my sister’s plate, sautéed spinach with vegan bac’un bits and my niece Audrey enjoying the Original Alfredo sauce with pasta! I made my sister and I the garlic bread and spinach (veganized), because those were staples on pasta night when we were growing up. 

I had tried the Roasted Bell Pepper sauce a little while ago, so I already knew I was a fan of this brand! It was exciting to be able to sample so many varieties, and though I really enjoyed them all, my personal favorite was the Arugula Pesto. The Artichoke Alfredo definitely came in at a close second. They were so interesting and full of flavor; I thought the creaminess of the Alfredo complimented both the Arugula Pesto and Artichoke so well! My sister’s favorite was the Vodka sauce, so I sent her home with it. (She’s always open to trying vegan food, and it feels like such a victory when we find things she likes.) Audrey just had her 18 month check-up earlier that day, in which she was given the okay to finally introduce nuts in her diet. That was a good thing because Victoria Vegan Alfredo sauces are cashew based (it’s more of a fruit, I know, but you can never be too careful with nut allergies)! The sauces are also non-GMO and gluten-free! REJOICE! Sometimes they are soy-free as well, but be sure to check the labels on that.

After my sister left, I had four open, full jars of sauce to figure out what to do with! Things got creative over here. I had some jumbo shells I was waiting to do something special with, and having the Arugula Pesto sauce was the perfect reason to finally make them! 

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I filled my shells with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, onions and kale. I also added pinches of nutritional yeast, bac’un bits and salt. I was quite pleased with the results! 

By this time I was getting tired of eating pasta, and was racking my brain for something fun to make. I thought fried mac and cheese sounded good, but not quite what I was in the mood for. So instead, inspired by this recipe, I fashioned baskets out of phyllo dough. It’s not as hard as it sounds, I swear! I made mac’n cheese with sautéed onions, mushrooms and spinach, again with a pinch of bac’un bits and nooch. I used the Orginal Alfredo for these, but any of the white sauces would be perfection! [Ed. note: DAMN GIRL GIMME THAT!] 

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Phyllo dough is not impossible or overly intimidating to work with, I swear! My mom’s secret is to keep it covered so it doesn’t dry out, but with a dry towel instead of a wet one. I greased a muffin tin, and then stuffed one folded sheet of dough into each hole. I then filled the dough with a spoonful or two of mac’n cheese, brushed the edges of the dough with olive oil and baked it at 350 until the edges were lightly browned. EASY, SEE? 

All in all, I am a big fan of Victoria Vegan Alfredo sauces! If you see the Arugula Pesto, I’m telling you, pick it up! You can’t go wrong with any of the varieties and seriously, don’t be afraid to dress them up a little when you make them! I don’t live near a Whole Foods right now, but I was daydreaming combining any of the sauces with these ravioli (I can almost taste it!). 

Read more about the Victoria Fine Foods family here! Victoria Vegan products are sold at a variety of establishments, including SproutsRainbow Grocery in San Francisco, and Vegan Essentials.

Full Disclosure: Victoria Fine Foods sent me these jars of sauces, free of charge, to review. All opinions stated above are solely my own. 

06/17/2013

Upton’s Bacon Seitan is tops!  »

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Review time! Have you heard the news? Upton’s made a seitan bacon! My general rule on vegan bacon is pass the vegan breakfast sausage but I hear so many good things about Upton’s in general, I thought I’d give it a shot!

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I was not disappointed! Of course it’s not exactly like bacon (um, thank god), but it has a good bacon-y flavor for sure. The texture isn’t chewy and crispy like bacon though, but still good. I think it would be better for eating in a BLT or something rather than straight but it was enjoyable off the stove all by itself. Damn, I kind of really want a bacon-avocado sandwich right now! I don’t have any avocados! Will my sandwish ever come true? Stay tuned. 

07/09/2012

Fruit leather, step aside. You just got your ass kicked by my new favorite flat snack: Veggie-Go’s. 
Take the fruit leather you know and give it a classy, vegetable-oriented makeover, and you’ve got the sophisticated dehydrated foodstuff known as a Veggie-Go. I met these Colorado-made cuties at a street fair in Denver a few weeks ago, and after sampling each of the five flavors, I knew I had to pull the Vegansaurus card and convince the guy at the booth to give me a bunch for free. SCORE!
Verdict: The snacks are a bit thinner and more brittle than fruit leather, so you can’t do the thing where you scrape them down with your teeth, but they’ll still make you do a little dance in your chair when you remember you brought one in your lunch. My favorite flavors are Carrot Ginger and Sweet Potato Pie, but they’re all good.
Right now they’re only for sale at a couple Colorado Whole Foods, but you can order them online from Abe’s Market, which I recommend you do post-haste. Especially if you’re rich, because they are kind of pricey, like all sweet things in life: pedicures, true love, signed first editions of Alice in Wonderland, etc.
Bonus: The owners are at the tail end of a Kickstarter campaign that has a pretty sweet perk: Donate $25 or more, and you’ll not only get to sample each current flavor, you’ll get to help them pick the next flavor, too. And if you’re really feeling bossy, $1,000 will buy you the rights to create your own flavor. Jackfruit lychee jicama lime! Bam! Done! You’re welcome.

Fruit leather, step aside. You just got your ass kicked by my new favorite flat snack: Veggie-Go’s

Take the fruit leather you know and give it a classy, vegetable-oriented makeover, and you’ve got the sophisticated dehydrated foodstuff known as a Veggie-Go. I met these Colorado-made cuties at a street fair in Denver a few weeks ago, and after sampling each of the five flavors, I knew I had to pull the Vegansaurus card and convince the guy at the booth to give me a bunch for free. SCORE!

Verdict: The snacks are a bit thinner and more brittle than fruit leather, so you can’t do the thing where you scrape them down with your teeth, but they’ll still make you do a little dance in your chair when you remember you brought one in your lunch. My favorite flavors are Carrot Ginger and Sweet Potato Pie, but they’re all good.

Right now they’re only for sale at a couple Colorado Whole Foods, but you can order them online from Abe’s Market, which I recommend you do post-haste. Especially if you’re rich, because they are kind of pricey, like all sweet things in life: pedicures, true love, signed first editions of Alice in Wonderland, etc.

Bonus: The owners are at the tail end of a Kickstarter campaign that has a pretty sweet perk: Donate $25 or more, and you’ll not only get to sample each current flavor, you’ll get to help them pick the next flavor, too. And if you’re really feeling bossy, $1,000 will buy you the rights to create your own flavor. Jackfruit lychee jicama lime! Bam! Done! You’re welcome.

02/01/2012

Vegan cooking: There’s an app for that (and a bonus pumpkin pie recipe)!  »


Scroll down for the recipe for this pumpkin pie!

Sarah Kramer wrote the first vegan cookbook I ever owned, and now she’s responsible for the first vegan cooking app anyone’s ever asked me to review. She’s like a pioneer! Let’s send her a bonnet!

Now, I’ve mentioned before how I feel about apps vs cookbooks: books all the way. And the harsh truth is I’ve never been impressed with the recipes in How It All Vegan. So I can guarantee if I hadn’t gotten this app for free, I’d never have downloaded it.

On the one hand, I’ve had it for a couple months now and I’ve yet to get inspired to make any of the recipes. How’s that for radical honesty? I’m the worst reviewer ever! But no not really, because I think that says a lot about the fact that this app doesn’t really fit into my life.

On the other hand, I’m impressed with what Kramer’s done, and I think for some people, it could be a really great tool. The app includes 60 recipes, 10 of them brand new. You can access them by meal, or by other categories like “gluten-free” or “with video”

The videos are well-done and fun to watch; my favorite is about people who say they don’t like tofu (Kramer says that’s as dumb as saying you don’t like cake flour; of course you don’t like plain tofu! Also then she stuffs her face with cake flour. Classic).

Within the recipes, you can do all sorts of iPad-y interactive stuff, like add ingredients to a shopping list or email an invitation to come eat food to a friend.

You can’t see the list of ingredients and the list of steps at the same time, which I imagine would be a pain while actually in the kitchen, except the steps themselves are really detailed and take that into account. The photos, as you can see, are hella pretty.

Anyway, at $6.99, this is a cheap alternative to an actual cookbook, and you can have it with you even at your grandma’s house or on vacation or whatever. May this be the beginning of a flood of wonderful authors truly taking advantage of the digital format! I’ll probably just late-adopt on this trend though.

OK, here’s the recipe I promised! Sarah’s people were cool enough to let us use it! Let us know how you like it if you make it!

Pumpkin Pie from the GoVegan! w/Sarah Kramer App
App available at www.goveganapp.com

I’m thankful for pumpkins, for sugar, and for this pie. Don’t worry that it won’t look ready when you first take it out of the oven—it sets as it cools.

Topping
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1/4 cup (25 g) flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vegan margarine
1/4 cup (30 g) walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

Filling
1 14-oz (398-ml) can unsweetened pumpkin purée
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegan “milk”
1/4 cup (40 g) cornstarch
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 9” (23 cm) pie crust

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar, 1/4 cup (25 g) flour, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 2 Tbsp. vegan margarine, and 1/4 cup (30 g) finely chopped walnuts. Set aside.

In a food processor, blend together 14-oz (398-mL) can unsweetened pumpkin, 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegan “milk”, 1/4 cup (40 g) cornstarch, 1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. allspice, 1 tsp. vanilla extract until smooth.

Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared pie crus. Sprinkle topping evenly over top and bake for 40–45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve at room temperature. Makes 1 pie.

01/06/2012

My friend’s cat Romulus likes her heated cat bed.

Vegans love cats, right? And cats love snuggling into warm little balls. So when my cat Zuki met her first Colorado winter and started living next to our radiators like her life depended on it, I began exploring how to keep her warm and happy even when my lap was at work all day. A friend from Chicago recommended a heated cat bed. Kitty bliss! I would be the best cat owner ever!

The nice folks at K&H liked Vegansaurus enough to send me one to try, and thus began my journey of acceptance that my cat is a freak. Because no matter what I tried, be it kibble or cat nip or sweaters, nothing could convince her that the green plush disk with the 4-watt heating pad tucked inside was anything other than a portal to hell. She didn’t just not like it, she hated it with a passion.


"Radiators are far superior to THAT thing!"

Luckily I found another, saner cat to test the bed. My friend Steph reports, with evidence (see video above), that Romulus is a fan.

The bed is somewhat pricey ($40 on Amazon), but it should last for years, and you do want your cat to be happy, don’t you? The heater is pretty mellow—under the bed gets warm, but the surface of the cushioning isn’t actually hot to the touch until the cat’s body helps insulate it. If your cat has a history of nestling in things, she’ll probably like it. If not, don’t bother. But consider moving somewhere with radiators.

12/20/2011

New Quorn Vegan Burgers: Yummy!  »

Quorn’s got a new vegan offering and I got to taste it! I like it a lot! Yay for new foods! The company sent me a free package of the new frozen patties via flying monkeys, a.k.a. FedEx, which made me feel like a rock star. 

The directions say you can microwave, grill, bake, or pan-cook them. Since I was at work and am impatient and lazy, I nuked the thing in order to taste it right away. 


Naked Quorn 

If you’ve ever had the non-vegan Quorn chicken patty, just go ahead and erase that memory forever; these ain’t nothing like that. They’re thinner and not breaded and have more of a smokey, baconesque flavor profile. The microwave made the thing really tough and chewy, kind of like a jerky patty which sounds gross but which I dug in a salty-MSG-yum kind of way.

A few days later I did the Quorns up right as part of a sandwich with coleslaw (BBQ sauce woulda been swell too, someone should buy me some of that). 
This time I cooked them on the stovetop and they were much moister and softer. Husband said the texture reminded him of fish sticks, kinda flaky. The smoky flavor is pretty strong, so don’t expect these to meld or fade into your meal like a slab of tofu or whatevs.

Bottom line: This Boca Burger hater has found a new sandwich filler of choice. Yay fungus! But I’d be even happier if the company offered a few flavors to mix it up. May Quorn come to a store near you!

10/31/2011

Stuff your face with Nicole’s Fancy Vegan Caramels!  »


Reader special: Say Vegansaurus sent you when you buy these caramels and $1 will go to
 Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Imagine this: You’re a stay-at-home mom and a fiction writer, and suddenly you need $30,000 to repair water damage at your house. You could sell your child into slavery, obviously, but Nicole Kornher-Stace of New Paltz, N.Y. came up with a way tastier and more legal option: sell vegan caramels on the interwebs.

Her Etsy store is called Feed Your Face, and did I ever! The budding entrepreneur contacted Vegansaurus to see if we wanted to try her desserts and then tell you about them. Duh, next question. What I didn’t expect was that she’d send along two delicious little nuggets of each of 11 different flavors. Holy fatness, my day was made! And my dentist’s, too!

Nicole started making her caramels for fun, and because her three-year-old will only eat vegan sweets (rock on, kid). All her candies are vegan and gluten-free, and don’t have no corn-syrup neither (she uses coconut milk for the fat). She wraps them in parchment paper, which you can compost, so that’s cool.

Best of all, they’re damn yummy. The texture is on the gooier than chewier side, with some flavors even downright fudgey (though that varies with your room temperature), but the taste is all caramel, all the way. I didn’t love all flavors equally, though, so here’s my own personal, subjective, and totally professional review:

  • Pomegranate balsamic: win! Tangy and not at all like a salad.
  • Spicy mango: great chewy texture, would be perfect after Indian food.
  • Dark chocolate sea salt: way too salty for me. Really salty. 
  • Dark chocolate orange: pne of the less-chewy ones (kind of crumbly), but the taste—orange oil and deep chocolate—is awesome.
  • Green tea chai: Can I have this drink in a coffee shop please? Someone call Starbucks.
  • Double ginger: YES YES YES! Kind of like a ginger chew but less intense and sweeter, and like a ginger snap but gooey! (I do love my ginger). 
  • Spicy chocolate: I think the chocolate is what fudgifies the texture; these have a nice kick without being overwhelming. 
  • Sea salt: still pretty salty but more edible than the chocolate sea salt ones. If you’re into salt and sweet, you might really dig these.
  • Espresso: Coffee flavor’s definitely there but this is less “Pow!” than some of the others. 
  • Maple: like pancakes and Canada! Nice maple flavor, kind of extra sweet.
  • Pumpkin spice: perfect for this time of year! Really nice, like pie. Holy crap, you could make pie with melty caramels on top or something. Score!

In short, if you’re looking for a yummy special fix, I definitely recommend what Nicole’s putting out there.

Nicole also has a section called Cookies For a Cause, where she’ll sell you a PDF of some cookie recipes she’s developed, and 50 percent of profits from that sale go to charity. Cool idea! Even cooler idea: Use her recipe to make cookies for a bakesale (like Sunday’s SF Vegan Bakesale) and then give THOSE profits to charity, too. So much giving!

Final bonus! A photo of Nicole’s vegan-sweets-loving three-year-old petting a turkey at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. CUTE!

09/19/2011

I grew mushrooms, and you can too!  »

Look what I made! It’s oyster mushrooms, growing out of a box, and heading straight for my belly! 

The box, as you may or may not be able to tell from my crappy, grainy photo (sorry) is a kit from Back to the Roots. The kit is pretty rad and makes growing fungus on top of your refrigerator a miraculous joy instead of just a gross accident, like it normally would be.

The whole thing started right at U.C. Berkeley in 2009, when a pair of students figured out they could become rich and famous by selling people kits to grow mushrooms on coffee grounds. 

I first encountered these kits in an earlier iteration for sale at Berkeley Hort in mid-2010. I bought one for my man for his birthday, but you had to collect your own coffee grounds and we only drink a little coffee, so that took forever. By the time we had enough, the mushroom spore/coffee mixture had molded; it was a messy disaster.

Fast-forward to this year’s VegFest Colorado in Boulder, which I will remind you is 1,250 miles from Berkeley. Lo and behold, there was a Back to the Roots booth! This stuff had gone global (or at least regional)! I told the lady at the table about my sad, gloppy failure, and she was totally puzzled. See, now the kits come pre-loaded with coffee grounds (they come from Peet’s), and is much fancier and easier. She gave me a free one so I could try again and write this review.

Well, VegFest lady, it took me forever but I have tried, and I have conquered, and I say to the pink dinosaur-loving masses, go grow thee some mushrooms!

Step 1 involves slitting open the bag of mushroom spores (white) and coffee grounds (black) and soaking them in water for 24 hours. The water turned all dark like coffee; it was kind of gross, but not really that bad.

Next, you put the bag back in the box, put the box in a spot with indirect light, and keep the whole thing moist by misting it twice a day. For nearly a week, it looked like NOTHING was happening. Then BAM, it was like super-speed.

See all those little shroomies poking out on the right of the opening? I’d leave for a few hours, and when I came back, they would be noticeably bigger. Every time! It was like The Peanut Butter Solution. SO COOL!

I harvested a batch and they were tasty. I’m going to see if more grow, then I’m going to flip the kit over and open the other side and do it again. I’ll update if there’s more news. Home-grown mushrooms. Love ‘em.

08/01/2011

Meet Sunsational sunflower seed milk, the new deliciousness on the block!  »

Remember back in the day when rice milk and soy milk were your only choices? Ha! We spit on you, Past, with our vast and growing selection of dairy alternatives!

Voilà another addition to the dizzying array: Sunsational sunflower seed milk! If you live in the Northeast, Florida, or parts of the Midwest, you may have already seen it on the shelves of your local Whole Foods or hippie co-op. For the rest of you, expect it to be on Amazon in the next month or so, and in the meantime, I think you can order it directly from a guy named Steve at the product’s website, via the contact form. I believe that’s what you do, if it’s different, I’ll update this review! 

So far Sunsational comes in two flavors, Original and Vanilla. I got to taste them both, and find them quite pleasant, with a nutty but mild sunflower flavor. There’s no unsweetened variety, which I would prefer since this milk is definitely on the sugary side, but that may come in the future. The main drawback is the unappealing grayish color. I swear I’m not drinking newspaper pulp, guys! No seriously. 

Conclusion: if you see this stuff in the store, it’s totally worth a try. Hooray for choices!

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