Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Miyoko's Kitchen Review

I used to be a very big cheese lover/eater before I went vegan. I don't really miss cow cheese but I miss the richness that cheese can add to a dish. I've certainly found vegan ways to make my favorite cheesy dishes from mac & cheese to nachos to au gratin potatoes and I'm perfectly happy with those.

If I had to admit I missed anything about cow cheese, it might be the whole cheese and crackers thing. I used to love a good cheese curd or a smooth and rich spread over a Triscuit. I even enjoyed a stick of string cheese now and then.

I've made delicious cashew cheese spread here at home that has made me exceptionally happy and I even bought Miyoko's Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook, but I have to admit... I don't have the patience to do it. It takes planning and aging and that weird rejuvelac stuff. I don't have the desire or motivation to make rejuvelac so that is why I haven't tried making the cheeses.

I had first heard about Miyoko's plans to bring her cashew based 'cultured nut product' to retail a good year ago thru Miyoko's Kitchen. She isn't allowed to call it cheese in California but I'm going to call it cheese in this blog post because that is what it is to me.

I watched as she set up her manufacturing facility and warehouse, watched her tease the packaging and names for the products and I even watched her roll it out.. from debuting at various food conventions and even to her actual online sales launch. I sat and watched as bloggers were given freebies for review and I waited to see what everyone thought of it.  I started hearing the rumblings from people that had been able to try it and I searched out actual blogger reviews.

From the moment it became available online I longed for it but the shipping costs were holding me back out of principal. I hate paying for shipping. The 2 day Fed Ex shipping runs from $9 to $30 depending on where you live and how many boxes you buy. I am, of couse, in the zone as far away as possible from California. I knew that the odds of this product every making it to stores in my midwest area, were slim to none. I might eventually see it come to Whole Foods but that is still a one hour drive (each way) away from me and you can't guarantee the product will be there when you decide to go.

However ... one day, Miyoko sent out an email with a code for $10 off and that is what finally spurred me on to place an order. I was able to justify paying $5 shipping vs $15 for the 4 pack I had chosen.  We'd have to pay the gas prices to drive an hour and back if Whole Foods ever did get it around here so it seemed like it made sense to just order it.

When I placed my first order, Miyoko's Kitchen had packages of 3 or more of the cheeses pre-packed but now they have a mix & match procedure so you can try the flavors you want to rather than buy in a pre-packed grouping.

Right now, you can order a minimum of 3 boxes to a maximum of 10 boxes in an order. If they'd open it up to be as many boxes as you wanted, it might help those of us in Zone 3 because then we can order in bulk and share the shipping costs. We do 10 boxes for ourselves. The cheese does freeze well according to the website but we don't keep it around along enough to do that!

Overall .. these are amazing. There is no one that would ever know these were made from cashews. If I didn't have the package in front of me and I knew for a fact it was vegan. I'd think someone was flat out lying to me. It's THAT good. There is no weird texture or aftertaste. These are so good that I won't even cook with them.. I want to eat them in their full, straight on glory .. simply on a cracker.

When I first saw the size of these, I was a little disapointed thinking they wouldn't last long but I was completely wrong... one wheel lasts a decent amount of time. I've been having cheese and crackers just about every day. I slice off about a half ounce wedge of three flavors at a time as a snack with Triscuits and it takes awhile to work thru a wheel and that is with my husband enjoying some a few times a week as well.

I've been able to try almost all of the flavors available right now so here are my opinions:

Double Creams Selections- These are a thick, rich cream cheese that you'd use on a bagel or a cracker. It's perfectly smooth and thick and amazing. They melt in your mouth.

  Garlic Herb - This is probably my fave of the double creams. I love them all but if you forced me to choose one, I'd choose this. It has a nice balance of garlic and herbs. it's excactly like a fancy cream cheese. I like mine on Triscuits. I did try it on a bagel but I feel like you need to use too much in that capacity and it's too good for a bagel. The husband liked this one a lot.

  Sun Dried Tomato Garlic - this has a lovely tomato-y vibe to it.. almost like a pizza cream cheese.

  Chive - this is a nice classic cream cheese flavor. Perfect.

French Style Winter Truffle - This one was a bit weird for me. I love truffle flavor but I didn't get that from this. It's a soft cheese with minced mushrooms. This didn't work for me on a cracker. I just didn't like the texture. The flavor was nice but it was not a cheese I'd use for crackers so I had to find a new use for it. I used half a wheel to make a delicious cheesy alfredo type sauce to use over linguine. I melted it with some soy milk and it was delicious and very fancy. I wouldn't buy this again simply because for me, it makes a pricey mac & cheese.

High Sierra Rustic Alpine - this is a mild, creamy cheese. A little drier than the double cream type but very spreadable. I like this one but I tell people it's the least exciting of the flavors. It's delicious but doesn't have a flavor that I can really put a lot of adjectives to. I'd buy it again tho.

Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash - This is one that I was both hesitant to try and intrigued to try. It seemed really weird to me but also like it could be incredible so I figured I needed to at least try it and hope one of us liked it enough to make sure it didn't go to waste!  It is coated with black vegetable ash. I don't know what that means but I hoped it wasn't going to taste like an ashtray... that was the thought my brain had as I was wrapping my thoughts around trying it. Well, it's delicious... the ash gives it a tangy sort of bite. I really liked it.

Aged English Sharp Farmhouse - This is the only one I wouldn't eat again. It's too sharp for me. It reminds me of the sharpness of blue cheese and I don't like that. The Farmhouse cheeses are drier so it isn't as spreadable unless you let it sit a bit to warm up.

Aged English Smoked Farmhouse - This is probably my favorite. It's the driest of the cheeses. It isn't smooth. It flakes but you can still use it on a cracker. It just takes a little extra strength to work on a cracker. I haven't tried to grate it because, like I said, I use these solely as cracker topping. It has a delightful smoky edge to it.. melts in your mouth like the rest tho. My husband likes this one too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Original Recipe - Perfect Hummus with Variations.

Feel free to share this recipe but please link back to this blog.

Ah, hummus.... it seems lots of people love it.  Commercial hummus is ok.. it does it's job but homemade is always better and so much more affordable.

I'm a bit of an odd one when it comes to hummus. I'll buy it with good intentions of using it and I usually end up tossing it out. I don't know why. It's great as a wrap spread or with veggies, pita wedges or crackers and it's the best snack - - - low fat, lots of protein and fiber and it's something you can dig into without guilt. 

We have a local Mediterranean restaurant that makes the best hummus... I can eat an entire plate of it by myself but if I bring leftovers home, I don't eat it... I don't know why. I really don't. 

Anyway ... I learned from Ellen Degeneres's chef, Roberto Martin, that adding water was the key to perfect hummus and he's right! He has a great cookbook called Vegan Cooking for Carnivores and while his recipe was fine... I needed to make my own with more seasonings and flavor. 

I wanted to replicate the one made by our local place. Roberto doesn't use tahini and I don't either .. it's high in fat and I'm not a big fan of the flavor and why add oil and fat if it tastes great without it? Turns out, my local place doesn't use Tahini either .... they use toasted sesame oil! 

You'll need a food processor for this. Side note about the plum vinegar ... that is a staple in my kitchen and I like it for the tang it gives the hummus but you can skip it if you don't want to buy it or can't find it. I'm not sure I'd sub anything else tho. 

Shelly's Perfect Hummus (base version)

(1) 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed.
1/4 to 1/2 c water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp plum vinegar
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
dash pepper

Put everything into your food processor and blend for 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and whipped. Start with the 1/4 water and add more util you get it the thickness/thiness you'd prefer. 

Now, if you want some variety..... punch of the flavor and add in other goodies!

Garlic Hummus (shown) .... just add a spoonful of minced garlic on top and stir in! Adding in roasted garlic is really good too!

Basil Hummus ... toss in some fresh basil leaves.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus .. you can top the basic hummus with minced pepper or toss it in to blend it up. I like to buy the roasted peppers in the jar and use those.

Sun Dried Tomato Hummus ... toss in some pre-soaked tomatoes. Choose the oil free ones if you can.

Olive Tapenade Hummus ... top with a spoon full of jarred or homemade tapenade.. or just use minced black and green olives.

Chipotle Hummus ... add in one chipotle in adobo and blend it in.

You can also thin it with water and use it as a salad dressing.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Annoying Plant Based Myths Debunked

I get annoyed easily. Just ask my friends. I'm often ranting on Facebook about 100 different things.

One area that really gets me fired up are the endless and idiotic myths surrounding plant based eating.

I'm sure you've heard the basic ones about getting enough protein or B12 or how milk is good for bones. I hear other, less common ones that drive me crazy so I'm going to debunk them right here, right now.

"Eating a plant based diet is expensive"

Complete and utter bullshit. Any diet can be expensive if you want it to be. If you choose to buy 100% organic or lots of prepared and processed convenience food then you can easily inflate your grocery bill but the truth is this - whole plant based foods are the least expensive foods int he entire store. Potatoes, rice, beans, lentils, fruits, and veggies are all very affordable and downright cheap.

How do you keep the budget in check?

* Only buy organics when necessary. There are about a dozen fruits/veggies that you should buy organic but if you feel you can't afford it then don't worry about it. Eating a non-organic veggie is better than not eating a veggie at all! I won't pay $7 for a bag of apples. I just won't.

* Shop online. Hitting the internet is a great way to save money. I buy a vast majority of my products online thru websites like Amazon, VitaCost, iHerb, Anuts and Bulk Foods I can buy my raw cashews and nutritional yeast at a fraction of the cost I'd pay locally. I can get my protein powder, cacao and maca half the price online. Many of these places even have free shipping when you reach a certain dollar amount. I subscribe to Amazon Prime so all of my orders are shipped free with 2 day shipping!

* Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk online or locally can save you money! Some grocery stores have bulk items like nuts, beans and grains. Check into your local warehouse store. I like to buy some of my produce at our local warehouse store because I can get large quantities at a lower price. I also buy some of my spices at the warehouse store. They also have great things like nut butters, coconut oil, nut and dried fruit.

* Shop around. Check out the various stores in your area. I go to various stores each month. We have a produce store, a regular grocery where I can find things like the plant based meats and mayo, Aldi is a great store for basics like pasta and beans and the warehouse store.

* Recognize that some items are specialty items. Yes, some ingredients can be pricey but you aren't buying them every week. Some ingredients you need to replace every few months so the cost per use is affordable. You might get sticker shock at the beginning of your plant based transition because you want to buy several of these items at the same time.  Buying online can help with that. Search out the best prices.

* Don't rely on convenience foods. Yes it's handy to have a box of veggie burgers or Gardein Beefless Tips in the freezer but don't eat those things more than once or twice a week. the only exception to that is the Field Roast brand or any other brands that are isolated soy free...  those can be eaten more often.

* Learn to cook. Don't whine, just do it. Taking control of the food that goes into your body is empowering. Making your own veggie burgers, your own soup, your own salad dressing .. it means controlling the ingredients and that is 100% win. It doesn't take much to set aside a couple hours to make some food that you can throw in the freezer or fridge. Seriously.

"Desserts without eggs, butter and milk are gross!"

Complete and utter bullshit. I hear this from people that have never even tried a plant based dessert or those that have tried one and it wasn't good so they think all plant based desserts are bad. Look, there are bad plant based recipes just like there are bad non-plant based recipes. just because you'd have one bad cupcake doesn't mean that all cupcakes are bad. In fact, I think plant based desserts are far superior to those containing eggs, cow butter and cow milk. Why? You've taken out some of the guilt factor. Plant based desserts have no cholesterol. That right there is a win! yes, you can have plant based desserts that are junky .. ones that contain lots of sugar and fat but you can also have plant based desserts that contain a nice dose of protein like a tofu based french silk pie or bean based brownies! Don't wrinkle your nose up .. both are delicious and you'd never know the tofu or beans were in there!

How do you find success with plant based desserts?

* Don't reinvent the wheel. If you take your beloved great grandmothers recipe for her famous cake and try to veganize it, you'll probably be disappointed in the outcome. Instead, search online for a recipe that is similar. There hasn't been one thing that I haven't been able to find a recipe for since I went plant based 11 years ago. Look for well-known bloggers, cookbook writers and chefs. They've done the work for you! Just like with non-plant based recipes, you might need to try a few to find a recipe that works to your tastes. My husband's favorite cake is a spice cake with a cream cheese frosting. I found a very simple cake recipe online and he says it's the best spice cake he's ever had. I found a frosting recipe that is very cream cheese like in flavor without even using vegan cream cheese! The tangy flavor is created using spices.

* Stop the comparisons and be fair. You have to evaluate every recipe individually. You can't compare desserts to one another when they are all different. It's like if you walked into a bakery and got a vanilla cupcake and a chocolate one and you decided you liked the chocolate one better.. that doesn't mean the vanilla one isn't good. It's personal taste. You might love the chocolate one and someone else might think it was dry. Don't base your entire opinion on just your opinion. I've made desserts before that I thought were kinda dry or kinda whatever else and I've had five other people tell me they were fantastic and ask for the recipe.

* Don't be an ingredient snob. You may see ingredients in plant based desserts that you've never seen used in non-plant based desserts. You may see applesauce, flax 'eggs', egg replacer powder, beans, and tofu. Don't be obnoxious and turn your nose up just because it's different. I'm not saying you have to love the outcome but be willing to at least TRY those recipes.

"I can't give up pizza, nachos and mac & cheese!"

You don't have to. I eat those things on a very regular basis. When I think about what I've 'given up' by going plant based, I think about the animal fat that is no longer running through my veins, that I am free of animal hormones and free from worrying about animal diseases that come from eating flesh. I think about no longer consuming hen periods and the pus filled secretions of cows. That's pretty gross. I gladly gave that up.

Let me tell you - I was a HUGE cheese lover. I loved cheese. Loved it. Now? I don't miss it at all.

While there are many plant based cheese brands available, I actually prefer my pizza without any at all. I order mine with extra sauce, mushrooms and black olives and then I sprinkle on my own homemade cashew cheese. It's incredibly satisfying and not heavy like a pizza with cow cheese always was. I enjoy loaded nachos made with plant based taco meat or even shredded Beyond Meat chick'n strips, homemade cheese sauce, guacamole, salsa, tomatoes, onions, black olives, beans and whatever else! I also have a few delicious mac & cheese recipes I make. Some are made with a cashew sauce, some with a sauce made with broth and nutritional yeast that gets thick and bubbly! I can also make chickpea enchiladas, burritos, lasagna made with a cashew cheese filling, black bean burgers, tempeh bacon ... there is nothing I can't create using plant based foods and the high point is that they are healthy!!

"I couldn't live with cutting out whole food groups" 

OK, flesh is NOT a food group. The USDA lists 5 food groups - protein, fruits, vegetables, grains and 'dairy', which translates to calcium rich foods and the only reason dairy is still listed is because the industry has such a strong foothold with the government that you'll never see them dump cow dairy from their recommendations. Never.

ALL food except oil and sugar has protein in it. It's nutritionally impossible to not get the protein you need as long as you are consuming enough calories each day.

The government even lists non-animal based foods under it's protein heading - nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, TVP and plant based convenience foods. Calcium is found in fortified drinks like juices and plant based milks, foods such as beans, dark greens, tofu, nuts, seeds, grains and fortified foods like oatmeal. Eating cow dairy for calcium is a ridiculous choice seeing as how evidence shows that animal protein actually leeches the calcium out of your bones and makes them more susceptible to breakage. Caffeine, cigarettes, salt, soda and alcohol ALL cause calcium loss and causes problems with absorption.

"A plant based diet is extreme and restrictive"

Complete and utter bullshit. I'm not sure why choosing to eat the dead flesh from an animal or the secretions of other species, the eggs of various creatures. the bodies of sea creatures hauled up from the depths became the norm on this planet. It's mind boggling that I'm the weird one because I eat plants.

Let me say that again ....... I eat plants.

My plant based diet is far from extreme. You eat lots of plant based foods whether you realize it or not. Baked potatoes, spaghetti marinara, french fries, sorbet, nut butters and jams, pastas and more.

The amazing thing is that plant based foods contain no cholesterol. Did you know the body makes it's own cholesterol? Surely, you understand that when you eat chunks of a cow, you are consuming his or her cholesterol. Pretty gross.  I mean, if you aren't already grossed out that you're noshing on flesh, muscle, veins, tendons, blood, the secretions of other species and what is essentially a hen period (eggs).. maybe consuming the cholesterol of someone else doesn't bother you. I call eating flesh extreme and primitive.

My plant based diet is far from restrictive. I don't live my life saying 'I can't have that' .. I can have anything I want but I make the right choices instead. I try not to eat junky processed food and I do not eat anything that came from an animal. I eat pretty much everything else. If I asked you to make a list of the things you ate on a regular basis, I think you'd find that YOUR diet is rather restrictive. Most flesh eaters have a rotating menu of about 15 things. You tend to eat the same flesh over and over. You tend to make the same side dishes over and over. You tend to make the same desserts over and over. Flesh eaters close themselves off from the wonders of the plant based world. Have you even tried half of the fruits, veggies and grains available in the store? I'm guessing not.

Let me tell you .... there is nothing I can't do with plants. I can make ANYTHING. There hasn't been one thing that I've not been able to make in the 11 years I've been eating a plant based diet. From omelets to ice cream, cheesecake to nachos, cakes to cookies, french toast to burgers, cheese to chik'n nuggets!

"If you were trapped on a deserted island, would you eat the wild animals there?"

OK, so this is one of the dumbest questions plant eaters are subjected to. I guess the question is 'if you had to consume animal products to survive, would you?' If I'm on an island that is supporting wildlife then there is food available. What do you think they are eating? I'd follow them and find their food source and we would share. I'm going to turn this question around to the meat eaters... if you lived in a place where food choices were abundant, would you chose to kill an animal for no reason?

If you had to consume plant foods to survive, would you? The difference between your scenario and mine is that yours would never happen to me. I'm never, ever going to be trapped on an island. However, mine is happening right this second. Every single day, you choose food that comes from murder, torture, rape, abuse and neglect. Ask yourself WHY.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Original Recipe: Thai Mango Smoothie

I often end up with fruit that is too ripe to eat on it's own but not too far gone that I need to toss it so into a smoothie it goes!

I had a big bowl of Thai mango that needed to be eaten so I created this. It made enough for two but I managed to sip on it for an hour or so and drank it all myself.

Shelly's Thai Mango Smoothie
2 servings

300 grams of fresh Thai mango
1 1/2 cups almond milk (I used unsweetened plain)
1/2 cup citrus or tropical juice (I used mango-tangerine)
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 ice cubes

Blend everything well and drink!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Original Recipe - 'Chick'n' Taco Seasoning Mix

This seasoning is a clone recipe from a well-known spice house. You can use this with Soy Curls, chickpeas or to season any commercially available chick'n strip type product for tacos, like Beyond Meat or Gardein.

The original calls for jalapeno powder. If I don't have it in my kitchen, it isn't something that is going to be used often so I left it out. Most of the ingredients will be in a normal kitchen except maybe the Ancho powder. You can sub in whatever chili type powder you have if necessary.

Shelly's Chick'n Taco Seasoning Mix

1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
1 1/4 tsp Spanish paprika
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cilantro
1/4 tsp ancho chile powder (add an additional 1/8 tsp if you like it spicier)
1/8 tsp black pepper

Blend together with a whisk.

I prefer not to add a bunch of oil to my food so I'd just cook or warm up whatever 'chick'n' I was using, sprinkle the seasoning over it and add in some water and cook it until it's coated and done. Not rocket science. I'd even add a squirt of lime juice if I was feelin' it.

The original recipe give these directions for the equivalent of one pound of chicken. If you're using pre-cooked items then you'll need to adjust the initial chicken cooking time.

In a large pan over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp of corn oil and cook chicken for 7 minutes , Stir in 1 tbsp lime juice and 2 tbsp of the seasoning mix. Cook 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, reduce heat and simmer until done.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Original Recipe: Garlic Alfredo Mac & Cheese

Feel free to share.. just link back to this blog. 
I came across a recipe for a creamy garlic pasta. It wasn't plant based so it had yucky ingredients like chicken stock, heavy cream and lots of Parmesan. No thanks!

So, I got to work and modified it to create a deliciously mild, rich and creamy mac & cheese that will be especially perfect for the newly plant based! I think kids would like this too so if you try it on them, let me know.

Please make an effort to find the Ready Cut Spaghetti. Creamette makes it and it's very close to the traditional mac & cheese noodles from Kraft.

Shelly's Garlic Alfredo Mac & Cheese
This makes one large serving or 2 smaller side servings.

1 tbsp earth balance
          1 tsp minced garlic
         1.5 cups veg broth (I used water with 1 tsp of no chicken bouillon)
         4 oz Ready Cut Spaghetti
         1/4 c. cashew cream (recipe follows)
         1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Make the cashew cream and set it aside.

If you don't have a Vitamix or Blendtec blender, you will need to soak 1/2 cup cashews in water overnight. (or at least 4 hours) Drain and rinse and then proceed.

Take 1/2 cup raw cashews and 3/4 cup water and blend in blender until perfectly smooth. If you rub it between your fingers, it shouldn't be grainy. This could take a few minutes with a good blender, longer with a less powerful one. You will have left over cashew cream as you will use about 1/4 cup of it. You can save it for a few days to keep making this or check out the Isa Does It cookbook.. she uses cashew cream in many of her recipes so you can use leftovers there.

In a medium saucepan, heat the Earth Balance until melted. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. When the broth is boiling, add in the ready cut spaghetti and boil until it's cooked al dente, about 6 minutes. The broth should cook down a little and start to thicken.

Lower the heat and DO NOT DRAIN the noodles/sauce. Add in 1/4 cup cashew cream and the nutritional yeast. Heat over low heat while stirring until the sauce thickens up and is absorbed by the noodles. If you'd like it saucier, add more cashew cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. (use white pepper to avoid the black specs if that matters to you)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Original Recipe: Lick The Spoon Golden Gravy

So, mashed potatoes and gravy.. 

is there anything more amazing and perfect? 

No, no there isn't.

I apologize for the photo .. the time change makes it much darker at dinner time now and my indoor pics aren't that great .. however this gravy is great!

This is so good that I licked the spoon. Seriously.

This is a golden gravy you can use with any sort of chik'n type meal. 
Think Tofurky roast or on mashed potatoes. 

I'd really like for you to get your hands on 'Gravy Master' as it really makes it good. I also use the Better Than Bouillon No Chicken flavor in this and Rapunzel vegetable bouillon. 

Lick The Spoon Golden Gravy

2 Tbsp Earth Balance
2 Tbsp flour

8 oz vegetable broth
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp No Chicken bouillon paste
1/2 tsp Gravy Master
1/2 tsp bouillon powder (or more of the No Chicken)
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
salt to taste (at the end)

First.. make a roux! Melt the Earth Balance in a medium sized sauce pan and add the flour. Using a whisk, cook over medium heat it until it is smooth and slightly thickened and browns a little. While whisking, slowly add the vegetable broth and incorporate it into the roux until smooth and thickened. Add the rest of the ingredients, making sure to whisk after each addition to keep it smooth. Once everything is in there, taste it and add salt to your liking.