Label me delicious: Bites of Bliss superfood treats rule! »
As a high raw queer vegan, I think about labels a lot, how they’re helpful and also kind of complicated. Labeling a product vegan is a bold visibility move, and I like that. I’ve seen entire Facebook photo albums devoted to highlighting explicitly vegan products. It’s actually really validating, like, WE BUILT THAT, but less offensive because we’re talking about the vegan movement and not political tomfoolery. I do worry that overtly vegan labels might scare people away from trying vegan things for the first time. If all apples had huge VEGAN stickers on them, do you think everyone would still buy them? No, they’d protest until McDonald’s finally took the stickers off, uniformly chopped the apples, coated them in chemicals, and made them into a “pie” or something.
As the Vegansaurus raw correspondent, I get the privilege of seeing a lot of products’ labeling, and that has me thinking—doth the label maketh the product? The short answer is no, but when it comes to labeling raw vegan products, I’m convinced certain labels really do help make the sale, aka trip to my tummy. Alerting consumers that your product is raw, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, agave-free, dairy-free, and contains no GMOs is pretty much required if you want to party with the elite raw vegan foods crowd.
If the above description sounds absolutely incredible to you, then you’re in luck: I just tried Bites of Bliss, and they’re really delicious! I tried the goji berry, carob almond butter (you know there’s a chocolate-free label they wanted to slap on but were too scared of the raw chocoholics seeking vengeance. Best to downplay that particular feature!), and my absolute favorite, pineapple coconut with chia seeds. I haven’t had a piña colada since the early ’00s, but holy tropical fruit, this is truly delicious! It tastes creamy and it’s just the right ratio of pineapple to coconut.
The ingredients are delightfully simple: raw dates, raw walnuts, raw pineapple, unsweetened coconut, coconut nectar (yeah, EFF agave, that higher-glycemic sweetener!), raw chia seeds, and coconut oil—all organic, of course, and the taste is HELLA TROPICAL! I can almost feel the ocean tide and hear someone offering me bathing-suit-optional snorkel lessons. This product is a winner! Get it online and in select Bay Area health food stores.
Do you care about what’s on the label of your raw/vegan products? For research purposes it’d be rad hear about it in the comments!
[images via Bites of Bliss]
Product review: Healthy Surprise snack box! »
My name is Jenny and I’m a snackaholic. Give me a box of crackers and 15 minutes and I will surely amaze you with my ability to consume the whole thing in HALF THAT TIME. I do my best to stay away from salty, crunchy, delicious, bite-sized substances: They are no substitute for a meal, and that is exactly what I make them.
Naturally, when we were offered a snack box from Healthy Surprise, I went for it.
A few days later, after trudging home from work, I was ready to zone out on the couch to watch whatever weird shit was streaming on Netflix when I found the GLORIOUS BOX OF SNACKS had arrived, and it was jam packed. I was the happiest vegan in all the land!
I soon fell into a snack-induced
coma nap. When I awoke, there were about five opened, half-full packages lying around me, and I started snacking once more. But why feel guilty when Healthy Surprise is full of gluten-free, mostly raw snacks?
I knew that these snacks were special because I have eyes and taste buds, but also because I didn’t have a stomachache after I awoke from my post-snack-hysteria blackout. A box of healthy snacks sent to you in the mail? What a brilliant idea! Easy on the stomach and allergens? GENIUS! It’s like a CSA box for the
stoners diehard snackers in your life! Or new mommies (hey sis!), college kids, shoot, maybe even vegan newlyweds. Who wouldn’t want this box of treats sent to them every month?
If you go on over to the Healthy Surprise webpage, you can gather all kinds of details, like prices and how to sign up. You can even follow them on Facebook, like me! (They sometimes have some kind of fun promotions or contests.)
Healthy Surprise, I love you. Thanks for making being a snacker something to be proud of! Another great thing? I was exposed to so many new snacks and products I’d normally pass up at the grocery store. Who new dried apples would be my newest jam?
On to the pictures! Just know that Healthy Surprise changes their inventory every month, so you’ll always get a new selection, not necessarily what is pictured here.
Gone Nuts are so decadent — they’re like savory dessert. Both these flavors were delicious, but spinach will always be my numero uno. As far as hemp seeds go, I still have them because I don’t know what to do with them. I would very much appreciate any suggestions. Thank you!
Raw food pizza party, and you’re all invited. My sister turned her nose up at the idea of them, but that was fine, because I got to eat them all. Sprouted flax seed pizza crackers aren’t for everyone, but they are definitely for me.
My newest all-around jam. I’m sure this company has seen some profit increases in the last couple months thanks solely to me.
More snacks! I wish I still had them, I miss them so.
Gluten-free Cinnamon Toast Crunch tasting snacks. You have to know those were the first to be ripped open and demolished — that’s how I do me.
What are you waiting for? GET ON IT.
Product Review: Nutty Bean Chick Pz! »
Clockwise from the left: Vanilla Chai, Sesame Crunch, and Sweet and Spicy Chipotle.
Hello, friends! Here I am with another product review! This time we have some healthy snack food: Nutty Bean Chick Pz. These are flavored roasted chickpeas. All flavors but the Honey Roasted are vegan. I tried the Chai Vanilla, Sesame Crunch, Sea Salt, and the Sweet and Spicy Chipotle (for those following along at home, that’s all but the Honey Roasted and BBQ). Nutty Bean sent me these flavors to try for free and now I will tell you all about them.
I’ve actually seen roasted chickpeas before; I used to go to the Italian festival in New Jersey every year (which I highly recommend—except for the cannoli eating contest; whatever you do, don’t watch the cannoli eating contest! You will vom!) and they had them in big burlap sacks. Haven’t seen them since then. I always thought it was a good idea though, seems like a healthy snack idea.
So, in brief: they are a bit weird…AND I love them. The weird part is the texture. They are crunchy at first—kind of like wasabi peas or something—but then when you bite into them, they have a kind of dusty texture? I think dusty is the best description. But I think you get used to it and then you can enjoy them with reckless abandon!
The really cool thing is that these are super healthy. If they were bad for you and had the unfamiliar texture, I might not be into them. But I think the health factor makes it a good gamble. There are two servings per package (a good size!) and each serving has 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and only 1.5 grams of fat. It also has 10% of your daily iron, so that’s nice. And a little shot of calcium to boot.
My favorite-favorite flavor is the Sweet and Spicy Chipotle. Yummy! It rules. I’m kind of a nancy about spice so these are a little too hot for me. My solution was to eat like four, then eat a handful of sea salt ones to relieve the spice. Funny Megan! But it worked great.
I didn’t like the Sesame Crunch that much; I think you would definitely like that flavor if you like those little sesame sticks they always sell in bulk candy sections. You know the ones? My mom used to buy those for us when we were hippies. I was never that into them. But if you were, this is your flavor.
As for the Vanilla Chai, I thought I wouldn’t like them because sometimes chai is über-sweet. But to my surprise, this was my second favorite flavor! Not too sweet but nice and cinnamon-clovey. Definitely yum and a nice sweet treat that’s not too sweet.
That’s the other good thing besides the health: these hit the spot. If you want a little touch of sweetness, you got it; if you want something salty, boom. And you can feel like you are doing something good for your body because of the iron, fiber, and protein! So it’s really a great snack option. I officially recommend!
Rawxies: Heart-shaped raw vegan deliciousness! »
Rawxies (“foxy raw treats,” according to the company’s website) are gloriously delicious heart-shaped raw food bars sweetened only with fruit and coconut palm sugar. Coconut palm sugar has recently gained favor in various raw food circles, and reportedly has less of an effect on blood sugar than agave or cane sugar. Either way, it’s totally delicious, and so are these lovely raw cookie bars! Rawxies sent me some samples of each of their flavors.
Rawxies founder Callie England parlayed her raw food interest with her graphic design prowess to make healthful treats that are so effing adorable they will be guaranteed to impress your date/friend/gym partner with whom you share one of the two heart bars found in each colorful serving pack.
Combined with high-quality organic raw ingredients like poppyseed, almonds cacao powder, cacao nibs, vanilla rains, walnuts, and other delicious add-ins, and sweetened with dates and/or coconut palm sugar with tasty oat groats, these bars really are a cut above many other vegan snacks on the market.
Using coconut palm sugar essentially guarantees you’ll have the low-glycemic-loving raw crowd on your side, and abbreviating “essential oil” to “E.O.” on the package of the mint chocolate chip Rawxies made me feel I’m in a special raw vegan club that has shorthand only cool kids know—except now everyone who reads Vegansaurus knows (in case you didn’t already suss that one out!), so I guess all of us are in a special club, and can eat Rawxies with the knowledge of all of its ingredients, together!
Callie created Rawxies to bring foxy raw food to the masses. Their shape reminds me of the vegan Heart Thrive energy bars that undoubtedly got me through my varsity collegiate cross-country seasons (they were sold through Vassar’s meal plan!). I think that these treats are in keeping with Stephen James Organics’ bars in that they emphasize the fun, flirty appeal of raw food, though I guess a lot of folks feel the need to fight the “raw foodists eat twigs” stereotype! I’ve never worried about being accused of consuming twigs, since I admit to my propensity to down twig tea with abandon, but regardless of whether it’s essential to create raw food products that combat any crunchy public image, I think it’s great that so many people are making raw food more accessible and delicious!
Product Review: Stephen James Organics Bars and Volcanic Pili Nuts! »
Stephen James Luxury Organics sprouted nut, seed, and superfood bars taste great, but the best thing about them is the super cute packaging. A chiseled half-naked cartoon man adorns the Berry Bar, inspiring vegans everywhere to eat more berries and do more push-ups.
All of the bars are crunchy, and the flavors range from very good to excellent: The Beauty Bar and Berry Bar were my favorites, with just the right amount of sweet and tang, followed by the Pizza Bar.
Remember pizza combos, those pretzels filled with mile-long artificial ingredients that somehow confuse your brain into thinking you are eating pizza? The pizza bar tastes kind of similar, if all the chemical aftertaste were replaced by a smushed-together raw pizza you might get at Cafe Gratitude (before it closes!), replete with delicious tomato and botija olives—such a fancy/interesting touch, and it totally works!
The Beauty Bar has a sassy lady on the cover, so one might assume she is love interest of the dude on the Berry Bar box. Since a fellow Vassar grad I know works at Steven James Organics, I’m going to spill the beans: Berry Bar is single, waiting for his Mr. Berry to come along, and Beauty Bar is totally into the meditating chick on the Smart Bar. They’re all delicious, just so we’re clear!
SJO also sells Volcanic Pili nuts. Their Pili nuts are sourced from the Philippine rainforest, and taste like a mix between macadamia and Brazil nuts. They are super high in Vitamin E (a beauty nutrient, according to David Wolfe), and have the highest magnesium content of any nut. They are creamy and lovely. Highly recommended!
Product review: Rhythm Superfoods’ kale chips win; sweet potato chips do OK »
I’m a broken record about my love for bears, but did you know that I also enjoy snacks? I’m talking chips, cookies, and crackers, not so much any sort of healthy food, like fruit (blech) repurposed as snack food. Given the choice, I’ll usually choose the trans fats, the high sugar content, the empty calories.
Rhythm Superfoods provides the best of both worlds: filling my crunchy snacky urge and giving me less gas than Frito-Lay products. Rhythm Superfoods produces raw, gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO snacks. To me, a person who grew up on Twinkies and Cheeto dust, that’s not exactly promising.
They sent a nice box with a bag each of Zesty Nacho kale chips and Sea Salt sweet potato chips. I popped open the sweet potato chips first. Although the chips were perfectly seasoned, I think the oil-free quality of the chips made them less than crispy. I don’t enjoy a bendy, chewy chip. I need CRUNCH, motherfuckers!
Although the kale chips were rather crumbled from their trip in the box to me, they saved the day. Crunchy with a cheesy flavor from being smothered in nutritional yeast, I ate the entire bag in one sitting (which is only two servings, sadly). Rhythm rekindled my passion for the kale chip, to be honest. And now we are involved in the most sordid of love affairs: snaxploitation.
I got my Lollihop vegan box in the mail! Happy day! Mine was gratis but you can buy one on their site—they have a limited quantity though and the cut off for ordering is November 1st! And then you can get surprise snacks, too. I’m pretty pleased with my selection. And like I said before, next year they are planning on having a full-year vegan subscription option for us vegans! I’m stoked. I love surprises!
The Good Bean: chickpeas a-go-go! »
A few months back, my brother was diagnosed with celiac disease, which is a digestive disorder that makes one unable to process gluten and also be incredibly annoying about it to others. I don’t know whether this is true of all persons suffering from celiac disease or peculiar to my brother,* but after hearing about how celiac disease was the worst thing that could happen to anyone, and phone calls about how I should give up doing therapy because any and all clients I would ever see would not be suffering from depression and anxiety but undiagnosed gluten allergies, I thought that I would appease him by going on a gluten-free diet for a couple of weeks.
Unfortunately, being gluten-free is really hard: everything delicious has gluten in it. My brother is also an omnivore, so what he gave up in eating bread and pasta, he made up for eating five to 10 whole chickens a day. I, on the other hand, would have to give up all manner of veggie burgers, delicious Gardein, and sugary breakfast cereals. This, I was sure, would kill me faster in the long-term than celiac disease.
My biggest problem was snacks, because often what was gluten-free was not cruelty-free and I was refusing to spend my 10-minute breaks at work chomping on carrots day after day. That really killed the gluten-free diet for me, and after three weeks of suffering my way through, I inhaled an entire bag of salt-and-pepper chips and never looked back. That is, until the Good Bean emailed Vegansaurus to inform us of a new vegan and gluten-free snack made of chickpeas. Hell yes! I love chickpeas with the passion of a thousand burning suns (and 15 women scorned).
I received the package from the Good Bean on a Saturday afternoon and was delighted to have a chance to try the different flavors immediately (only partly because I can stretch a tasting session into about four hours while watching old episodes of Bones when I should really be writing a paper). Fortunately, Allen had a friend over and I invited them to join me in the tasting process (only partly because if I hadn’t Allen would ask me why I was watching reruns of a show about forensic anthropology instead of writing the important paper I’d been moaning about for weeks), so we sat around the dining room table and discussed how we felt about roasted chickpeas.
We were all very excited about the fact that the snacks that the Good Bean produces are not only vegan and completely gluten-free but also low in fat and high in protein. And they come in stylish little packages that are easy to open (no scissors required) and carry-friendly! When we opened the packages, however, our excitement waned a little.
First of all, I have to warn you that roasted chickpeas are not as crunchy as you may believe they are. These chickpeas do not have the same texture and consistency as other roasted bean snacks that I’ve tried (the ones you may find at Mexican supermarkets, for instance) and are less firm than one would expect. The first bite, too, is a little bit of a shock; the chickpeas are very chalky in texture. Once you’ve had a couple, however, the texture is not only tolerable but welcome. In fact, I found that biting in became more and more pleasurable as I continued eating and became somewhat addictive. Allen and his friend did not warm to the texture, however, and while they enjoyed trying the different flavors, they both suggested that the roasted chickpeas might be more delicious if they were firmer.
We received four different flavors: sea salt, cracked pepper, smoky chili and lime, and sweet cinnamon. I am a huge fan of anything that features cracked pepper as a main ingredient and immediately downed a handful of that flavor, while Allen and Sunny both tried sea salt.
Our responses were mixed. While we all agreed that the snacks were pleasant, the texture took us by surprise and as mentioned, took a little getting used to before we could comment on the flavors. As for the flavors themselves, these too were a mixed bag. The flavor of the cracked pepper was strong and a little bit spicy, leaving a nice aftertaste that lasted perhaps a bit too long. The flavor of the sea salt snacks varied between too much and too little, making it harder to enjoy a balanced taste. Allen and I also agreed that the cracked pepper went much better with the texture and that the sea salt, while good, was not as congruous (I cannot believe I just used that word. Thanks, geometry!).
The other two were more of the same. Allen and I both enjoyed the smoky chili and lime flavor, but wished that the chickpeas were more firm, and we both agreed that the sweet cinnamon seemed like an unusual choice. However, as I am writing about it, I think that it would be nice to try sweet cinnamon chickpeas in a bowl of soy milk as a breakfast food, or sprinkled on top of a bowl of oatmeal. Let me know if any of you try that, because in my mind it is delicious and I wish I had some of that flavor left to try it with.
This brings me to an important point: I finished all of the snacks. No matter how unusual the flavors and the textures may have been, I enjoyed these snacks well enough to finish all four 2.5-oz. packages, and would eat more if I had them. As a fairly new snack, the Good Bean still has a ways to go, but is not unpleasant by any means. I would happily eat these snacks at a party or if offered to me by a friend, and I will definitely be interested in new flavors and improvements, but at this time I cannot guarantee that these snacks would be a permanent fixture in my shopping cart.
*100 percent sure it is the latter.
Review: Mary’s Gone Crackers makes some surprisingly yummy snacks »
Approximately a million years ago the folks at Mary’s Gone Crackers emailed us about reviewing their gluten-free vegan snack foods. I like crackers and free stuff so I accepted the offer, even though IN GENERAL I am skeptical of gluten-free baked goods. Mary’s sent me a monstrous amount of food, one of almost every product:
Exhibit A: An overwhelming supply of snack.
Now, after a long and rigorous testing process that included a road trip, a plane flight, an interminable graduation ceremony, and many weeks without grocery shopping, I am pleased to bring you my opinion about almost everything Mary’s Gone Crackers (MGC) makes.
Executive Summary: These are pretty decent snacks. I’d buy the Sticks and Twigs again. I’d be perfectly happy to eat the cookies and crackers for the sake of a gluten-sensitive friend, but probably wouldn’t seek them out.
MGC says it manufactures its food in its own dedicated gluten-, dairy-, and nut-free facility. Though I don’t have serious food allergies, I have much sympathy for people who do, and thus I declare that such a level of dedication is awesome. Their ingredients are also organic and non-GMO, yeehaw.
Did the name “Stick & Twigs” focus-group well?
Sticks & Twigs
Dear MGC: That is not an appealing product name. Also “Pretzel-Snack” is not a word and is not a good description of the food contained in this package.
That said, these are delicious and my household devoured the three bags we received within about two days. Think super-crunchy, health-food Fritos, but with less grease and more chia seeds. My favorite was the curry flavor, my BF liked the chipotle tomato (not particularly spicy), and we both found the sea salt pretty snackalicious. These have the addictive level of crunch that all snack food have, and due to their high seed-content are hard enough to chew that you might just avoid eating the whole bag in one sitting. Thumbs up.
Mary’s makes five flavors of crackers. They are small and round and like the Twigs, rather dense and seedy. They’re not crumbly or melt-in-your mouth like some kinds of of crackers, which makes them kind of an intense eating experience and not in my opinion the perfect place for hummus or other spreads to lay. However, when I treated them like little round snack chips, I found them worth eating and kind of like rice crackers (which they are).
- Herb flavor: Very rosemary-esque and not to my liking
- Black pepper: Nice kick
- Original: Seed-tastic
- Caraway: Reminds me of rye bread
- Onion: Not enough onion! Never enough onion!
A challenging arena, and MGC did OK. These are some of the better gluten-free cookies I’ve had, but I’m not in love with them. Somehow all the flavors remind me of raisins. But I’ll admit, in late-night cookie-binge desperation, these were pretty damn worth stuffing my face with.
- Double chocolate: Chocolate saves things
- Ginger: Crumbly, nice zing
- Chocolate chip: Hmm. Not so much
- N’Oatmeal Raisin: I miss oatmeal.
Confession: I only finally got around to writing this review because I’m moving and it became obvious I couldn’t move with an entire box full of cookies and crackers. Has anyone else had experience with MGC? What’s your favorite flavor? Do you have other gluten-free options you recommend? Does anyone who’s not allergic prefer to buy gluten-free? If so, can you explain that to me?
Vegansaurus’ Roadside America! »
Robin Soslow has a post up at Peta Prime about how to eat vegan when you travel. Is Peta Prime like a Peta blog for old people? That’s the impression I’m getting. That’s cool, man. Gots to keep the old people in the vegan know, too! She wrote this post in response to the most ridiculous USA Today article. This writer, David Grossman, a “Business Traveler,” writes about all the difficulties he faces traveling while vegan. This reads like a Snuggie commercial—like that insanely exaggerated part where the spider web (which represents a traditional blanket) inhibits the person’s ability to function! Check him out:
“Until recently, dining was my passion…. That all changed two years ago. For a variety of health and other reasons, I decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Giving up sushi, pizza, filet mignon and hot fudge sundaes was manageable at home, but I soon discovered traveling on a restricted diet presents a more formidable challenge.”
All right, I’ll give it to him, traveling as a vegan can be a formidable challenge, but the rest of this?! Kind of nutty. Dining is even more my passion now that I’m vegan! And homeboy needs to catch up on his vegan blog reading; of all things that you have to give up, god damn sushi is not one of them. Filet mignon, yeah, that’ll be difficult, but a hot fudge sundae? EASY PEASY. I mean, maybe he is saying he can’t eat these things because of the “variety of health and other reasons,” but it’s NOT because he’s vegan. By the end of the article, I did become kind of fond of Grossman, but he really does need help. I guess Soslow agreed!
One thing me and Soslow have in common is a love for Happy Cow. When my sister and I drove from Philly to Portland, Ore., we hit up a vegan/vegetarian restaurant in every major city—it ruled! My sister isn’t even vegetarian but she’s a good sport and ended up loving a lot of the food we ate as much as I did. Maybe Grossman needs some more supportive friends! Who will go out to vegan places with him! He also definitely needs to check out Happy Cow because he says when he goes to London, he sticks to Indian and Lebanese restaurants. Those are fine choices (the Indian food in London is out of control!) but come on, if you want sundaes, check out the vegan cheesecake sundae he could have had at London’s Zilli Green:
They have a brownie sundae, too. I think Grossman needs to read my epic guide to London because there’s nothing like vegan bangers and mash!
Soslow’s article could help him out a lot too but it didn’t really give me any new information. I thought it was going to be about how to eat at rest stops and gas stations! I don’t find it difficult to find good veggie options at restaurants when traveling but when you’re on the highway trying to make good time, it can be difficult to find anything to eat. So! Here are some of my rest stop and gas station suggestions!:
1. Corn nuts! Every gas station in America has corn nuts. They have some fat but they are also high in fiber and protein! You’ve got to stay a bit healthy or you’ll get cranky and murder your fellow passengers. It happens. Also, corn nuts always makes me think of Heathers—“BQ!” That was the best.
2. Nuts! All gas stations have nuts. I love cashews, myself. If they have walnuts, you should totally get them because walnuts are a superfood! Almonds are supposed to be good for heartburn so if you’ve been eating other crap, almonds are a good choice (can’t find a link for that but I swear I heard it somewhere!).
3. If you are anywhere near Philadelphia, don’t forget to look for Peanut Chews! They are only the greatest candy ever. They aren’t that healthy but they aren’t that terrible either! Plus, they will make you happy and that helps when you’re trying not to murder your fellow passengers.
4. Snyder’s peanut butter pretzel sandwiches! I seem to always be able to find these at rest stops and often at gas stations too. These are great! And vegan! They also make good impromptu dog treats because they aren’t all salted like other pretzels and dogs love peanut butter.
5. Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars! I like the peanut butter. These make a good breakfast! Gas stations always have these.
6. Original Sun Chips! These are better for than chips and they are super yummy!
7. Wheat Thins! Rest stops always always have those mini boxes of Wheat Thins. God bless them! I often like to bring a jar of peanut butter on the road—you can make peanut butter Wheat Thin sandwiches!
8. For fruits, you should check the rest stop Starbucks—they often have a few bananas and green apples at the register. But the BEST fruit is at the roadside fruit stands! Anytime you see one, make sure you stop and stock up on some fruit! They have these anytime you’re in farm country; just keep an eye out for a hand-painted sign!
Those are my best suggestions for on-road dining! What are your roadside go-tos?