Sunday, July 11, 2010

For every up there is a down

by Anne

Yesterday I attempted carob chip cookies. They were, as Beyonce would say, uh DIS-AS-TUH. They were definitely cooked too long, but I even cooked them less than the recipe called for. The carob chips melted and burnt, and over all, the cookies didn't have a great taste or texture. I would blame the carob  chips but the dough tasted fine. Next time (if there is a next time), I will find a different recipe, especially one that does not call for cinnamon.

But! I had a new success today. 

I have never had kale, but it's one of those health foods that the average American doesn't eat. I've never had it as it always seemed like it was probably going to be disgusting. I imagine that raw it probably doesn't taste very good. However, like many things, coated with a little oil, salt, and apple cider vinegar, and baked, kale tastes pretty good. They crisp up nicely and taste a bit like veggie chips or veggie crisps if you like those. However, no matter what anyone says, they don't taste like potato chips.

If you're so inclined, here's the (practically doesn't count as a) recipe. 

A few cups of kale, chopped into chip-sized pieces (I bought bagged, pre-cut)
1 T canola/vegetable oil (slightly less works well)
1T apple cider vinegar
1/2 t salt (or less) (I used 1 t and it was too salty)

clean and very thoroughly dry the kale. put in large bowl, add oil, salt, and vinegar and toss to coat. Spread on cookie sheet in one layer, probably best to do it in  a few batches. Bake for 12-14 minutes in a 350 degree oven and eat. They look strange on the cookie sheet and they should be mostly crispy. You might have a soggy bit here or there, but for the most part they should crisp up. They're very crumbly.

Kale has a good deal of calcium in it which is a concern for vegans, and obviously these are a lower fat and calorie snack than potato chips.

Here's a photo stolen from one of my favorite recipe websites,

Don't judge them based on their looks

I realized I never wrote about my macaroni and cheese attempts. The frozen Amy's mac and cheese was very thick but tasty. I attempted to make my own but it was not good. It was completely bland, I'm interested to know more about how Amy's makes their cheese sauce because mine tasted absolutely nothing like theirs. I'm tempted to try Daiya vegan cheese to make up a small batch of macaroni and cheese to see how it works. It seems too good to be true, but I figure if I make a b├ęchamel with enough vegan butter, salt, and black pepper, it will probably get close to the right texture. The only problem is is that Daiya cheese costs about $5 per 2-cup bag. The most expensive things I've bought are the dairy imitations. Fortunately, I discovered that BJ's, our local wholesale store sells almond milk in half gallons which definitely drops the price. They're only $1.75 as opposed to the over $2.00 for the smaller box.
Daiya is lower in calories and fat (not drastically lower, 20 fewer calories per ounce, 3 fewer grams of fat). But it doesn't have much in the way of nutrients, no calcium, iron, vitamins, etc. It's lower in saturated fat, is cholesterol free and is free of all preservatives, hormones, and soy. I will report back on it's success or failure as a cheese substitute.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

One month

by Anne

Whoops, I haven't written in here in a bit. And I almost posted this on Queen City Sabres. Haha that would've been confusing.

Today marks one month of me being a vegan. So far, so good. I must confess that I inadvertently drank a regular milk frappuccino the other day because I was distracted while I was ordering and forgot to ask for soy milk. Oh well, I felt guilty but better to drink it than let it go to waste. My Mom was more than happy to drink some and help alleviate some of my guilt.

So far after one month I've lost seven pounds, feel pretty good and haven't really missed much. I don't miss meat at all, I don't miss eggs, I miss cheese the most, but if I don't see it, I don't really miss it much. Homemade macaroni and cheese is the thing that makes me the most nostalgic for dairy. Other than that, it's been pretty uneventful. A friend of mine is a long time vegetarian who is trying out being a vegan for a while. She texted me this morning to ask about sub rolls at Subway, haha. For the record, their italian and hearty italian are okay, as well as the regular wheat but the honey oat is not as well as all of the cheese breads and the flatbreads. Hopefully she likes italian or plain wheat.

Tonight my sister leaves for Chicago for a few weeks. I'm going to try to whip up my first batch of carob chip cookies. My vegan birthday cake was good. The cake was vanilla and rather dense, almost like a pound cake. I really liked it but it wasn't a universal success. My Mom didn't really like it, but the rest of the family seemed to. My Mom has never been a huge cake fan.

On to the carob chip cookies! I was amazed by how long they have to cook, most recipes called for at least 25-30 minutes. I'm going to keep a close eye on them to see if that isn't a little too long. I shall report back on their success or failure.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tofu is so gross, especially when you don't know it's there

by Anne

I really hate tofu. People who are all "TOFU IS SO GOOD IT CAN BE ANYTHING!" are just wrong. It's gross. It looks gross, it tastes gross, it's texture is repulsive and it just isn't worth the protein it gives you.

Therefore, I was less than thrilled to discover when I heated up my lunch today that there was tofu in it. I should've noticed it on the package and in the ingredients but I was in a hurry when I grabbed it and didn't think to look closely.

I give it two thumbs down. It was only just so-so as far as frozen meals go, and then the chunks of tofu just sent it off the cliff. No good. I don't recommend it. Amy's makes a LOT of really really good vegan products so I encourage people to try them, but I will not be buying this particular product again.

I'm trying this new non-dairy macaroni and cheese tomorrow. I'm a little scared, to be honest. It's made mostly with rice, and is soy free so I'm giving it a shot. My expectations are low already because it's a frozen meal but we'll see how it does as a macaroni and cheese substitute.

Lunch tomorrow?

Tonight for dinner was Pseudo-Burritos. It was a huge hit with everyone who tried a "bite" going back for several more bites or a bowlful. I wasn't sure there'd be enough for me when I was ready to eat dinner, haha.

Here's the recipe:

15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
10 oz can ro-tel, DON'T drain it (I used mild because Mom is a spicy food wimp)
2 1/2 cups of corn ( the original recipe calls for a 15 oz can but everyone agreed it needed more corn)
1 C uncooked barley
2 1/4 C vegetable broth
2 T lime juice
2 t cumin
1 t chilli poder
2 T minced onion (original recipe called for a whole chopped onion but I didn't have one and didn't want to go back to the store)
1 clove garlic, minced

Toss everything into a slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours. I pan-fried a couple of tortillas with  a little non-stick cooking spray and ate it that way. It was deeelicious and filling and definitely reminds me of the vegetarian burritos at Chipotle.

A usual day of experimental vegan eating: some ups and some downs. They can't all be good.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Two Thumbs Way Up

by Anne

Found a few new vegan-version recipes to try out. Once the chocolate cake is gone I'm going to move on to baklava. I found that they sell blue agave nectar at Wegman's which can be used in place of honey. I'll definitely be picking some up when I decide to make the baklava, maybe next weekend.

Two new vegan foods to rate. In my quest to find vegan ice cream I decided to try:

Turtle Mountain Purely Decadent made with Coconut Milk
Vanilla Blean flavor

I opted to try this instead of an almond milk version because this line is soy free. I was hesitant because, while I like coconut, I don't LOVE coconut. Well, I can say that the coconut flavor is definitely there but is blended smoothly with the vanilla bean flavor. However, if you really dislike any hint of coconut, don't eat this ice cream.

The best part about it was the texture. Very soft and very much like real vanilla ice cream.  Many soy-based ice creams are incredibly hard and don't soften all that quickly.

I would definitely recommend this ice cream to anyone who's been in search of a satisfying non-dairy ice cream. There are some vegan replacements you can convince yourself you like, but some things just don't cut it. This definitely cuts it for the ice cream cravings.

The other product I tried today was Health is Weath Veggie Munchees.

They're small in size, each munchee is about the size of a marshmallow, and six of them, or half the package are only 130 calories. They're very tasty, especially if you've been missing the taste of egg rolls. I ate four of them and gave two to the 11 and 12 year old cousins and they were universally approved of. I recommend dipping them in a little soy sauce if you're so inclined.

I also bought a box of potstickers I'm going to open up after I finish the Munchees... which will probably be tomorrow. :)

Two thumbs way up for each of these vegan products.

Tonight for my parents I made macaroni and cheese (just regular real mac and cheese) with broccoli. It smelled SO. GOOD. But I resisted the temptation, great though it was. I ended up leaving the house to see the NHL Awards at my sister's house so I removed myself from the temptation. It's the first time I really craved cheese since I started eating vegan as strictly as possible. Instead for dinner I ate leftover spaghetti sauce with whole wheat pasta shells. Still deeeeelicious. 

Tomorrow I will probably be making some slow-cooker burrito filling with barley, corn, and black beans, among other ingredients. Definitely looking forward to those tastes and textures again.

Cake = Really tasty and Really sweet

by Anne

So the (mostly) vegan cake was deeelicious. The only downside was that I used regular sugar instead of a vegan type. Whatevs, baby steps to being totally vegan, baby steps.

It was ridiculously sweet so if you like things that are only subtly sweet, this cake is not for you. It's  mostly the frosting that makes this cake so crazy sweet. Next time I make it I'm going to try a less sugary recipe.

Here's the recipe for the cake:

3C flour
2C vegan sugar
6T Hershey's cocoa
2t baking soad
1t salt
3/4 C vegetable oil or 3/4 unsweetened applesauce (next time I make it I'm trying it w/ applesauce)
2T white vinegar
2t vanilla
2C cold water

Mix dry ingredients until they are well blended. Add wet ingredients to the dry mixture one at a time (don't blend them separately). Stir until smooth. Pour into greased and floured pan (can't emphasize enough how important it is to flour baking pans!)  the pan can be either one 13x9 pan or two 8" or 9" round cake pans.

Bake in 350 degree oven 30-40 minutes until the skewer comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from pan or frosting.

It's very moist and very tasty.  Next time I make it I'll probably just top it with a little vegan powdered sugar or maybe dust it with some cocoa powder. The only vegan vanilla frosting recipe I found got dreadful reviews. I might try a peanut butter one or maybe, if I were making it for someone else, a mint one. For the record, I hate mint. The only mint I like is wintergreen gum and wint-o-green lifesavers.

If you see the previous post, vegan sugar isn't some crazy new -angled product. It's things like Sugar in the Raw or Florida Crystals; sugar that hasn't been refined in a process that uses bone char.

In unrelated but still vegan food news: I discovered that almond milk, despite being made from a nut, is much lower in protein that soy milk and cow's milk. Oh well, I'll just have to be more conscientious about my protein intake. The more I read about soy and think about a family member who drank soy formula as a baby and all the health problems she's had and how soy might have contributed to them, I'm trying to avoid it as much as I can. It's not easy considering LOTS of things have soy protein in them. It's not AWFUL in small quantities but a lot of small quantities add up to a large quantity.

Tomorrow I'll be cleaning out the fridge and making do with leftovers for myself while I make a macaroni and (real) cheese bake for my Mom for dinner. I found a few really tasty sounding recipes to test out in the next few days.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Quest to find a vegan birthday cake

by Anne

My birthday is coming up and, as most people could probably deduce, most cake mixes, particularly chocolate (my favorite) are not vegan.

Today in addition to more spaghetti sauce that my family can't get enough of, I'm making a vegan chocolate cake. 

As I delve into vegan food research it has come to my attention that sugar is not strictly vegan. Sure, if you look at the ingredients, or ingredient, it's usually pure cane sugar, and therefore has no animal products directly in the food itself. However, if you dig deeper you will learn that most white sugar is bleached in a process that uses animal bone char to whiten the sugar. Therefore, because an animal byproduct has been used in the making of the product, strict vegans will not eat it. Learn something new every day. Since all I have is regular bone-char whitened sugar, that's what I'm going to use. Therefore, the cake and frosting will only be about 95% vegan instead of 100%. Alas.

I haven't had the full cake yet but the crumbs I just snuck off of the bottom of the pan when I turned one of the layers out onto a plate were pretty darn delicious. I'm excited to try it with the vegan chocolate frosting that we just made.

I tried almond milk for the first time today as well and I much prefer it over soy milk. It also comes without the freaky soy-related fears. Two thumbs up.

I shall report on how the entire cake tastes at a later date. 

Yesterday I bought a bunch of frozen vegan foods to try. Amy's brand didn't steer me wrong with the shepherd's pie, so I'll see how a few more of her frozen foods and a few frozen foods from Health is Wealth.

Deliciousness will hopefully abound.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Whoops I missed a few days

by Anne

Veganism is not easy.

It's pretty hard to totally avoid all animal products. This country's entire diet hinges on animal products. It's easy to avoid meat, that's rarely hidden into food, and cheese is easy to escape because it's always listed in a food's description but eggs and butter are pretty hard to avoid in most things that are cooked. Salad is a pretty safe bet.

Vegan foods I've tried recently include the Pirate Brands snack foods. Tings corn sticks and Veggie Pirate's booty are both vegan so I've given them a try. I really like both of them.

Most of, if not all, of the Pirate's brand snack foods are kosher as well.

My sister and I went out to lunch yesterday. I had an endive salad with caramelized pecans. I have no doubt that they were made using butter. I'd say this is harder than I thought it was going to be but it's really just about as hard as I thought it was going to be.

I'm not sure if Newman's O's dairy free are technically vegan. According to a PETA list they are. The list says that all Newman's O's are vegan but if that's true, why is there a dairy-free version? Those are the ones I ate. Here's the PETA list of vegan friendly junk foods for those who read this (HA!) who might want to know. I was really excited to discover that Stacy's Pita chips are, in fact, vegan. SCORE. Although I really don't think Ritz crackers are vegan, I'll take PETA's word for it.

That link above provides a link to a really helpful website for the new vegan shopper. I'm excited to keep researching and find out more. I think I'm losing a little bit of weight, but I'm definitely feeling better. Losing weight was always going to be a happy side effect if it were to happen. Feeling better was the goal and I already do feel better eating lighter foods with less yucky stuff in them.

Woo! Feeling better about this vegan thing all the time!

ETA: Now the links are back, haha.