Vegan Caviar? Huh?

Vegans try and replicate everything we used to eat as omnivores.  Enter: Vegan Caviar (aka Cavi-Art).  I’ve never even had real caviar (fish eggs were never at the top of my list of things to eat).  I have no idea how this compares to the real stuff, but I just know that the vegan version of it was not to my liking.  And maybe it tastes like what it’s supposed to be (maybe I wouldn’t have liked fish caviar if I had tried it) – who knows?  It’s made of seaweed, so it has that “fresh from the ocean” flavor.  In fact, when I took a bite of the stuff on crackers it tasted like I had swallowed ocean water.  Not that pleasant.

Caviart

Cavi-art

I even tried to bring crackers and pawn it off on friends at a dinner, but couldn’t get rid of the stuff.  Some people tried it, but it was only a small amount.  Once you have a small taste of it, you are good to go.  Now what am I going to do with the rest of these two jars?  Oddly enough, the Cavi-Art website has a bunch of recipes that use their product.  Too bad all of them are full of animal products!  One friend recommended I use bits of it in sushi.  Maybe I’ll give that a go.

Caviart

Cavi-art on Crackers

 What do you think?  Have you had this product?  What recipes have you used with it?

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Chreesy Mashed Potatoes

Vegan MoFo Day 19.  Enjoy your Friday night plans, but first, a quick review of Chreesy Instant Mashed Potatoes:

It’s always nice to have convenience products made especially for vegans.  Yes, they may be a processed foods, but in those moments when you just don’t have the time to cook certain things from scratch, these products certainly help out.  I recently ordered some goodies from Vegan Essentials and decided to throw Chreesy Mashed Potatoes in.

Chreesy Mashed Potatoes

Chreesy Mashed Potatoes

This product is easy to prepare: add the powder to a pot with some liquid, cook, then add some soymilk and buttery spread.  The final product, in my opinion, wasn’t that great.  I thought the texture was too mushy and the flavor could have used some more spices.  I think the best application for these potatoes would be in a casserole or shepherd’s pie type dish and not as a solitary side.

Chreesy Prepared Mashed Potatoes

Chreesy Prepared Mashed Potatoes

I did set aside half the product to prepare a recipe described on the box: Croquettes.  Just like the basic product preparation, this recipe was easy to prepare: shape cooked mashed potatoes into patties, coat in panko bread crumbs, and pan fry in a little bit of oil.  This method of preparation made it taste so much better.  The panko added the bit of texture I was missing with the original potatoes.  This would make a better side dish than the basic mashed potatoes.

Chreesy Croquettes

Croquettes

I’m not sure where they sell this product in stores, but it is still being offered by Vegan Essentials.

My Favorite Store Bought Mac and Cheeses

Vegan MoFo Day 10:

I just want to take a moment to tell you how amazing Leahey Gardens Mac and Cheese is.  I purchased a bunch of these from Vegan Essentials, because I can’t find it locally.  In my opinion, this is the best vegan mac and cheese in a box (or bag) on the market.  It’s prepared very similar to the conventional kind in the blue box.  The sauce is a powdered mix that you cook with some water or non-dairy milk (I also add some Earth Balance to it) then mix it in with the cooked noodles.  So simple and so delicious.

Leahey Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

And also a shout out to the best frozen mac and cheese out there:  Amy’s Rice Macaroni and Dairy Free Cheeze.  Even easier than Leahey Gardens!  Just pop this guy into the microwave.  It’s a small meal, but very satisfying.  And the best part is that this one is pretty readily available in your local grocer’s freezer section and is gluten free.

Amy's Mac and Cheeze

Amy’s Mac and Cheeze

(Source)

But if you don’t want to clean up dishes from either of these, I’d like to tell you about a Vegan Mac and Cheese Competition coming up this Saturday, October 13th in Los Angeles. Pay $5 to sample vegan mac and cheeses from local restaurants.  There will be a People’s Choice Award and a Judge’s Choice Award.  Get there early, because (apparently) only the first 100 will get samples.  See details here.

Back to the Roots Mushroom Growing Kit

Vegan MoFo Day 5:

Many months ago, I bought this deal for three mushroom growing kits by Back to the Roots.  I thought this was such an awesome thing!  I can grow my own mushrooms?!  I love mushrooms.  Plus, oyster mushrooms were expensive and hard to find in the stores.  I thought I’d save a bundle.

The thing is, you have to spray the thing with water twice a day, everyday, until you are ready to harvest.  Since I’m gone most weekends, this kit ended up being quite a burden.  When I finally found a good time to start growing, I did as directed.

First, you have to soak the kit (instructions are included when you buy the kit).  Then you drain it, put it back in the box, cut some slits, and wait for things to grow.

Back to the Roots

Soaking the Bag

If your kit actually grows – it’ll look something like the following pictures (I’m such an urban-farming hipster now!):

Back to the Roots Day 1

Day 1

Back to the Roots Day 7

Day 7

Back to the Roots Day 8

Day 8

Back to the Roots Day 9

Day 9

Back to the Roots Day 10

Day 10

Back to the Roots Day 11

Day 11

I say “if” you kit grows, because my first kit did not grow.  They have a 100% guarantee, so I contacted them for support.  It took a few days for them to respond (a lot of time wasted for a kit that should be harvestable in about 10 days).  By the time they did reply to me, I had already given up on that kit and started a new one (seen above).  They gave me tips on how to save the first kit, but it never did grow, so they sent me a new one.

They also say that “when you are ready” you can go ahead and follow the same steps to harvest the other side of the kit.  Cool – I can get two harvests out of one kit!  Well, I wasn’t “ready” to harvest the second side immediately after finishing the first side, so I waited a week or two.  That was a mistake.  I came into my kitchen one day to see my kit covered in mold (the bad kind) and fruit flies swarming the place.  I had to take that kit out to the trash – leaving me with only one harvest under my belt.

So, would I buy this again?  Definitely not!!  I think I bought it for around $13, but I’ve seen oyster mushrooms being sold at Whole Foods for $10-$15 a pound.  Considering I only got 3 and 1/8th ounces out of my one harvest, it was way not worth the money. I’d say this is only worth it if you have kids and want to do something fun with them.  Save your mushroom purchases for the stores.

And did they taste good?  I actually didn’t see much difference in them compared to some varieties of cheaper mushrooms at the store.  I had been wanting to try this Clam Chowder recipe from Healthy Happy Life, so I used the mushrooms for that.  The soup was great!!  But I think you could easily sub the mediocre Back to the Roots mushrooms for another variety.

kblog Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

Honee Review and Bonus Recipe!

Today is the first day of Vegan MoFo!  Happy Vegan Month of Food everyone!!  In honor of this great month, I will be posting my first recipe to this blog.  Not many more will follow, but I will bring you some of my favorite tasty recipes every so often.   And check out the official Vegan MoFo blogroll to see some awesome blogs talking about how amazing vegan food can be.

Anyway.

A new product has come on to the markets replacing honey.  Now, I know some vegans eat honey, so this is a non-issue.  But I used to love honey and now I don’t eat it anymore.   I was super excited to try this Bee Free Honee made from apples.  Apples?  Really?  I had read reviews raving about how this product tastes “just like honey!!”  They claimed it doesn’t even taste like apples.

I beg to differ.  The syrup was good, but it did not taste like honey.  In fact, it tasted just like a sweet apple syrup. Hmmm – now what was I going to do with the bottles I had bought in excitement for a product supposed to taste exactly like honey?  I didn’t like the taste of it in my traditional uses for honey (mainly with peanut butter and bananas), so I sought out recipes for this product.

Bee Free Honee

Bee Free Honee

Keep Reading for Recipe

Being Vegan in Rancho Cucamonga

I think I’ve said in every post from the Inland Empire that it is more difficult to be vegan here.  I sort of take that back, because of places like Bright Star in Rancho Cucamonga.  This all-vegan thai place is very similar to the vegan thai places all around LA (I never knew burgers and pancakes were such a Thai staple).  But, in addition to the burgers and pancakes, they do have more traditional Thai dishes.

I got a lot of food (and shared most with my family).  My first appetizer was the Shrimp Batter: deep fried soy shrimp and vegetable tempura with sweet plum sauce.  I normally don’t get tempura at Japanese restaurants, but this had a thicker batter and was quite good.  Sweet sauces are my thing (I’m not a salty soy sauce girl) and this one was delicious.

Bright Star Fried Shrimp and Veggies

Shrimp Batter

Another fried appetizer was next – the Fried Chicken.  This one also came with that delicious sweet plum sauce.  I liked this dish – simple, greasy comfort food.

Bright Star Fried Chicken Appetizer

Fried Chicken Appetizer

My favorite appetizer was the Chicken Satay.  This dish comes with a sauce that is the best sauce of all time: the peanut sauce.  Really – what can’t creamy peanuts go with??  If you aren’t into fake meats, they have this dish with tofu instead of chicken.

Bright Star Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay

Although tempted for more peanut sauce, I didn’t get the Pad Thai and instead went with Pad See Ew.  Really, there’s nothing “ew” about it! (sorry, bad pun).  Thick rice noodles are coated in a lovely, light brown sauce and tossed with two of my favorite veggies.  It’s great the next day, too!!

Bright Star Pad Sew Ew

Pad See Ew

My least favorite thing I ordered here was the Teriyaki Chicken.  I was expecting chunks of chicken marinated and coated in teriyaki sauce.  This was just some grilled chicken with a teriyaki dipping sauce.  Not as flavorful as I had hoped.

Bright Star Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki Chicken

But the Orange Tofu was a lovely dish.  They have it with chicken, but I had already ordered so much chicken.  The tofu was lightly fried, making it not so heavy.  And of course I’m going to like that sweet, orange sauce.

Bright Star Orange Tofu

Orange Tofu

And if all the sweet sauces didn’t satisfy that sugar craving, I wanted a small dessert.  They have a few more traditional desserts, but that Pancake just sounded too appetizing for me to pass up.  This pancake was nice, a little dense, and maybe not the best vegan pancake ever – but it will sure make those pancake cravings go away.

Bright Star Pancake

Pancake

And to make Rancho Cucamonga even more vegan friendly, I stopped by Viva la Vegan – a moderately sized all-vegan grocery store.  This place has lots of vegan products to offer.  You can get all kinds of things here: from organic produce to frozen foods to fresh foods prepared by local vegan vendors.  It’s kind of out of the way from me, but I sure would like to come here more often.

Viva La Vegan Grocery

Viva La Vegan Grocery

I didn’t get much (any perishable foods would have spoiled by the time I got home hours later), but I did get some stuff I can’t easily find in my local health foods store.  (Seriously – Chocolate Inspirations products are delicious!)

Viva La Vegan Goodies

Viva La Vegan Goodies

Bright Star
9819 Foothill Blvd Unit F
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
909-980-9797

Monday – Sunday: 11 am-10 pm

Viva la Vegan
9456 Roberds St
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91701
909-941-4495

Monday – Sunday: 10 am-8 pm

Great Risotto from a Box?

Risotto is that rice dish that takes forever to prepare.  One has to stand at the stove and gradually add in broth to the cooking rice.  And if you’re vegan, don’t even think it’s that easy to find a place to make you risotto free of cream, cheese, or meat broth.  I think I’ve only found one place in my life that was willing to modify their risotto recipe to accommodate my vegan diet – and this was in not-at-all-nearby Oakland.  Luckily, there is a product in a box that makes making risotto a little bit easier.

Caley & Cobb is a small business offering gourmet foods such as risotto mixes, spices, and spreads.  These products aren’t meant to be vegan, but a few of their products actually are.  I love the Mushroom Risotto, because it tastes so good and is pretty easy to make.  It comes with a rice packet and and a spice packet.  Just saute the rice in some olive oil and butter (Earth Balance) and add the spice packet and some vegetable stock.  Keep adding the stock a bit at a time until the rice is fully cooked.  Easy peasy.  I topped mine with some Parma Vegan Parmasean Cheese and ate it up.

Caley & Cobb Artisan Mushroom Risotto with Parma

Mushroom Risotto with Vegan Parmesan

Where can one find this product?  You can order by phone at 909-794-4415, but I always buy mine inside Gerrards Market at 705 West Cypress Avenue, Redlands, CA.

Breakfast and More at Follow Your Heart

I went to Follow Your Heart, because it’s one of the few places to get a vegan breakfast.  I love this place, not only because of their varied menu, but also because they have a wonderful market with hard to find vegan products.

My breakfast meal was the cleverly titled Om Lette ($10.25): an omelette shaped tofu pancake with your choice of three fillings and cheese.  I chose to have my omelette filled with mushrooms, spinach, and avocado.  It also came with a side of hash browns and fruit.  I loved this dish, although I thought it had a bit too much cheese.  It’s nice to be able to get a vegan omelette, though.  Real Food Daily used to have one at their Sunday brunch, but it is no longer on the menu (bummer).

Follow Your Heart Vegan Omelette

Vegan Omelette with mushrooms, spinach, and avocado

I also shopped around the market and found some vegan goodies I haven’t bought before.  I haven’t used the Tofutti Ricotta ($5.79) yet, but now you know where to get it.  Since purchasing this Ricotta, though, I have heard it’s not that great.  Have any of you tried it? Follow Your Heart now carries Upton’s Naturals ($4.89) for those of  you looking to try some new seitan varieties.  I used this to put into a beans and rice dish from the cookbook “Vegan Yum Yum” and it was delicious.

Goodies from Follow Your Heart Market

Goodies from Follow Your Heart Market

Amanda's Bakery Cupcakes at Follow Your Heart

Amanda’s Bakery Cupcakes at Follow Your Heart

Amanda’s Bakery has their cupcakes here and you can get them in the refrigerated section in packs of four.  I got the Maple Cupcake and Raspberry Chocolate Cupcake.  Both were really good.  And even though I don’t know how long they had been sitting there, they still tasted pretty fresh.

Amanda's Bakery Maple Cupcake and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake

Maple Cupcake and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake

Daniel's Choice Mac and Cheese

Daniel’s Choice Mac and Cheese

And they have a new prepared Vegan Mac and Cheese from Daniel’s Choice.  I thought this was very creamy and a good sized quantity.  It did have this one flavor.  It reminded me of when I was a child and I would eat the boxed mac and cheese at friends’ houses and sometimes they would add chopped hot dogs to it (something I did not enjoy).  Even though I would pick the hot dogs out, it still had that hot dog taste.  I’m guessing this smokey taste came from the roasted peppers listed in the ingredients.  I’m weird, I know, and this is probably my personal little quirk, but that flavor just bothered the little child inside me.  Otherwise, it was very tasty.

Daniel's Choice Mac and Cheese

Daniel’s Choice Mac and Cheese

Follow Your Heart’s market has tons of other products on their shelves.  There’s always something new to discover.  If you haven’t been there yet, you’re missing out.

21825 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91303
818-348-3240

Daily 8 am – 9 pm

Raw Cheesecake from Earth Cafe

Have you seen those single servings of cheesecake in your local natural foods market?  Chances are, they are from Earth Cafe.  I know they are a bit pricey, but it’s worth a try.  I once brought some samples to my male meat-eating co-workers and they thought it was delicious. These cheesecakes are totally raw and primarily nut based.  I went on a little splurge (what’s new?) and bought one of those group coupons for two cheesecakes at a discounted price.  Since I’ve purchased mine, I’ve seen this discount come up a few times (be on the lookout, my cashew-loving friends).  Gathergreen is a good one to follow (in fact they are running the deal right now).  The cheesecakes freeze well – bonus if you don’t have a need to eat an entire cheesecake at once.  Because I’m very indecisive, I got the Sampler Cheesecake.

Earth Cafe Raw Cheesecake Sampler

Raw Cheesecake Sampler

From front to back: Strawberry (my favorite!), Vanilla (creamy – your basic flavor), Chocolate (just the right amount of cocoa – not bitter at all), Lemon (way too tart for me), Blueberry (very blue, but a very mild blueberry flavor), Raspberry (creamy on the outside – just enough tart on the inside), Coconut (strong coconut flavor – me likey), and Blackberry (same idea as the Raspberry flavor, but with a less tart center). Another thing I noticed was the crust was too salty for me.  I’ve had the single serving packages in the stores and never found them to be too salty.  I’m hoping someone just got carried away with the salt when making this batch of crust and they didn’t change their formula for good.

Earth Cafe Raw Vegan Cheesecakes

Raw Vegan Cheesecakes

I think I’m good for awhile on the raw cheesecakes.  I ended up having my vegan guy taste some and I gave most of a cheesecake to my family, but I ended up eating a little more than an entire cheesecake by myself.  In about a week.  Glutton.  I know.  And I’ve learned my lesson.

Frozen Meals at Whole Foods

When I first became vegetarian, there were only a few frozen food companies offering veg*n meals.  Amy’s Kitchen was (and is still) one of them.  At some point, Gardenburger came around and made veggie patties more mainstream.  And now there is a plethora of vegan options in the frozen foods aisle.

Look at some of the newest meals being offered for vegans I found at my local Whole Foods.  Candle Cafe (the famed NYC restaurant) has entered the frozen foods market and now offers four vegan varieties: Seitan Piccata with Lemon Caper Sauce, Mac and Vegan Cheese, Tofu Spinach Ravioli, and Ginger Miso Stir-fry.  I bought three of these flavors and also a Whole Foods brand Vegan Lasagna.

Whole Foods Frozen Dinners

Frozen Meals Found at Whole Foods

First up- the Candle Cafe Seitan Piccata with Lemon Caper Sauce.  I thought this one was very tasty, although I also thought it was a bit too lemony for me (lemon flavored items aren’t one of my favorites).  This was a very light meal and at only 210 calories, it may not satisfy your hunger.  I would definitely recommend having a side, soup, or salad handy to compliment this meal.

Candle Cafe Seitan Piccata with Lemon Caper Sauce

Seitan Piccata with Lemon Caper Sauce

Next up – the Candle Cafe Tofu Spinach Ravioli.  This was my favorite of any of the meals reviewed here.  Like the seitan, this meal was small and I would recommend adding a side, soup, or salad along with it.  It had a great sauce and the ravioli was moist and wonderful.

Candle Cafe Tofu Spinach Ravioli

Tofu Spinach Ravioli

The last of the Candle Cafe frozen meals was the Mac and Vegan Cheese.  I wasn’t a big fan of this one.  The Daiya sauce clumps up and only sticks to a few noodles – leaving some bites to be super flavorful and others to be bland.  I prefer Amy’s Kitchen Vegan Mac and Cheese a lot better.

Candle Cafe Macaroni and Vegan Cheese

Macaroni and Vegan Cheese

And finally, I gave the Whole Foods brand Vegan Lasagna a shot.  I did not like it.  I thought the sauce was kind of tangy (like unripened tomatoes had been used) and the filling was kind of bland.  I also didn’t like that only a few large broccoli florets were used instead of being cut into smaller pieces and spread throughout the dish.

Whole Foods Vegan Lasagna

Whole Foods Vegan Lasagna

All in all, I’m definitely going back for the ravioli and probably none of the others.  There are lots of other options in the frozen foods aisle that I enjoy and I’m sure you’ll find ones that you would enjoy as well.  Hit up your local health foods store to see what you can  try.