Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Go Veggie Vegan Cheese

An embarassingly long time ago — um, January? — Go Veggie! sent me a very generous package of their vegan cheeses to try. But at the time, I was in the middle of a month-long cleanse. And then also around that time, I got in a number of other products to review. And, well, stuff just got behind. Really behind.

But over the past few months, I've been trying the cheeses (the slices and the vegan parm have a pretty long shelf life) in different ways. First, I worked my way through the vegan cream cheeses because those would expire soonest. They sent the Classic Plain, Chive and Garlic, and Strawberry.

One of my first post-cleanse meals in late January was a breakfast of an Ozery Bakery Bun with Go Veggie! Strawberry Cream Cheese Alternative and cranberry sauce. The strawberry cream cheese is very creamy, and it has a mild berry flavor. Good stuff.

The Chive & Garlic was my fave though. I'm just a savory kind of girl. I enjoyed it all kinds of ways — on bagels with hot pepper jam ...

On bagels with cucumbers ...

And in cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches!

I actually think the Go Veggie! cream cheese is the best on the market. Better than Tofutti and even Daiya! Go Veggie's other cheeses, which we'll get to in a minute, are second or third-tier compared to some of the other brands. But the cream cheese is spot-on. I find that it most resembles the taste of dairy cream cheese.

I wanted to spread the Classic Plain cream cheese on bagels, too, but I knew I needed some variety for this post. So I used it in Joni & Celine's Macaroni & Cheese recipe from Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites. Love this mac because it gets its creaminess from the cream cheese, and the Go Veggie is just perfect for this. In the book, you can find this recipe with the recipe for the fried mac 'n' cheese balls.

Go Veggie! also sent their slices in Cheddar, American, and Pepper Jack. Note that Go Veggie! Does make some non-vegan cheeses, too. So, when you buy these, look for the word "vegan" in the top right corner.

I used each of these in various ways, and while they're quite delicious, they're not my favorite slice on the market. I prefer Chao and Follow Your Heart slices, but these are okay. They remind me more of a vegan version of those Kraft American cheese slices I grew up with, while the Chao, FYH, and Daiya slices are more like fancy cheese. But sometimes, you need that basic Kraft-style slice.

I needed that for this Field Roast Hand-Formed Burger on Ezekiel Sprouted Grain. I used the Cheddar here, and it got all melty!

I also used the Cheddar slices to jazz up these Gardein Chick'n Sliders. Served with whole grain mustard. Yum! A fast-food classic.

And the American was also perfect for my Breakfast Bagel Sandwich.

Somehow, I must have erased the pictures with the Pepper Jack from my phone, but, like I said, some of these were taken quite awhile ago. But the Pepper Jack was actually my fave, flavor-wise. It had just the right kick of spice.

Go Veggie! also sent me a package of their Mexican Shreds, but I opened the bag and started using them before I could get a picture! Here's what the package looks like.

These shreds had a nice kick of Mexican spice, and they melted quite well. I had some on a bowl of chili, and it really stepped my meal up a notch. 

They really do taste best when melted, but I enjoyed them cold too. The texture was a little waxy when cold, but that was sort of canceled out when the shreds were mixed into my taco salad. This had vegan beef, Fritos, Mexican shreds, guacamole, corn, vegan sour cream, and hot sauce.

Finally, they also sent me a canister of their Go Veggie! Grated Parmesan Style Topping.

LOVE THIS STUFF! It's really the only widely available vegan parm substitute on the market that actually tastes like parm. Some of the others, like Parma, are awesome, but they taste more like nooch. This one actually tastes like parmesan cheese. Perfect topper for my Spinach Linguine with Homemade Spaghetti Sauce!

In conclusion, I'll say that the best products were definitely the cream cheeses and the parm. Would buy those again and again. The slices are good for nostalgia, and sometimes you need that. And the Mexican shreds are original. No other company has a vegan cheese flavored quite like that, so it certainly fills a void.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Weird Vegan Meat Hot Pot!

I live just a few blocks from a little Vietnamese market called the Viet Hoa. That's where I get most of my tofu, sriracha, soy sauce, vegan packaged ramen, frozen steam buns, and other assorted treats. The Viet Hoa has a huge selection of vegan meats in its freezer case. But some are kind of pricey, and most are quite mysterious, not resembling any sort of actual meat. So I've not tried many of them.

But a week or so ago, I was perusing the freezer case, and I happened upon this frozen bag of Vegan Traditional Hot Pot mix.

It's by Verisoy, which is a brand the Viet Hoa carries a lot of. They make vegan meats in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I couldn't really tell from the frosty window on the bag what was inside, but the picture on the outside looked intriguing. It was kind of more expensive that I'd typically spring for — $12.99 — so I put it back. But I went home and couldn't stop thinking about it. So a couple days later, I splurged. And then late last week, I made the soup using the frozen mix (which included a spice pack) and fresh bok choy, carrots, snow peas, and mushrooms.

As the meats thawed in the soup pot, I could tell they were weird. But I expected as much. They certainly didn't resemble any meats I'd ever eaten in my former Standard American Diet. Here's the finished product.

The little logs were my favorite. I believe they may have been made of fried tofu because they had the spongiest, tofu-like texture.

The little white and red balls seemed to be emulating some sort of seafood. They had a chewy texture that was slightly off-putting, but that didn't stop me from eating them. There were also some strange greyish shrimp-shaped pieces that had the same flavor and texture as the balls.

Judging by appearance, I think the rectangles (in the foreground) are made from tofu. But the texture is squishier than normal, and they had a sea veggie taste. These weren't my fave. That purplish thing in the background was a chunk of taro, which was also in the mix with the meats. It was okay, kind of potato-y. Before, I'd only ever had crispy taro chips.

I really loved the beefy pieces. Verisoy makes a lot of dried TVP products, and this was very clearly rehydrated TVP. There's something comforting about knowing what you're eating.

The first few bowls of this I ate were just broth, meats, and veggies with a steamed cabbage & soy protein-stuffed bun on the side (also from the Viet Hoa ... love these!). But tonight, I had some leftover soup and added rice noodles, and that really stepped it up.

Would I buy this again? No. Too weird. But I'm still working through the leftovers, and I plan to finish it out. I don't regret buying it though. I love trying new things, at least once!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sunday Night Dinner at Pam's

Almost every Sunday morning, my friends and I go out for vegan brunch — usually either at Imagine Vegan Cafe or Irie Vegan Kitchen (inside The African Place). This Sunday was no different. Around 11:30 a.m., we were seated around a table inside The African Place, spiking our fresh watermelon juice (that Cassi us brought from home, made in her juicer!) with vodka and ordering tofu scrambles and such.

While we were eating, Pam mentioned that she'd made an awesome dessert for a vegan potluck on Saturday night that neither of us ended up going to. And she needed help eating it. So she invited Cassi and I over for dinner later. Why not?

After brunch, we parted ways for a few hours and then met back up at Pam's on Sunday night at 7 p.m. She told us not to bring anything, but I really wanted to share some of my most recent review shipment of Miyoko's Creamery cheese. I've done a full review of Miyoko's cheeses before, and some of the flavors they sent are repeats, so I'm using them to develop recipes or, in some cases, I'm sharing with friends and getting their reviews. I brought over the French Style Winter Truffle with some crackers.

This is a soft, spreadable cheese with a strong umami flavor, thanks to the truffle oil and mushrooms. It's one of my top two faves of Miyoko's Creamery cheeses, and it's the one that has the shortest shelf life (fridge life?). So I wanted to share this one first before it went bad. Before dinner, we sat around in Pam's living room and sipped on red wine and nibbled on cheese and crackers. Both Pam and Cassi loved it!

Here's what Cassi had to say: "I love that the texture is creamy and smooth like 'real' cheese. And I love that the hint of truffle is perfectly balanced."

And Pam said: "Tastes awesome. I could eat 20 every day!!!"

Haha, 20 wheels of cheese! Damn, girl. But she's right though. It's that good. We almost filled ourselves up on cheese, so I politely suggested that we move to the dinner table. I could tell prying Pam away from the cheese would be difficult, but we did it. Pam had an amazing spread waiting for us!

For starters, there was Pam's famous (at least in our circle) Asian Cabbage Slaw with Tofu. This has a sesame flavor and lightly fried tofu. It's amazing. 

For the main, there were Balsamic-Marinated Portabella Steaks. So savory!

On the side, we had Green Beans with Whole Grain Mustard. These were crisp and slightly tangy, thanks to the mustard seed.

My very favorite dish of the night was Pam's Vegan Alfredo Zoodles — lightly steamed zucchini noodles with a cashew cream alfredo. So good! I need more zoodles in my life.

No meal is complete without Bread and Earth Balance!

Pam is from Chile, so she loves her red wine. And she kept our glasses full throughout the meal. Here's Pam and Cassi taking a wine break before dessert.

Uh oh, my glass is almost empty here! Don't worry. Pam filled it right back up after this picture was taken.

Finally, it was time for dessert — the whole reason Pam invited us over in the first place. She'd made a ton of Marsala Wine-Spiced Peaces with Cashew Cream Mascarpone. This was so cooling and fresh on this hot summer night. The temps outside were in the 100s, and Pam kept these chilled until serving time. Her mascarpone had just the right level of tanginess and creaminess. And the peaches were spiced with all sorts of things — cinnamon, clove, etc.

I was stuffed, so I took a few bites and packed the rest of my peaches up for a Monday afternoon snack. And just when I thought we were done, Cassi breaks out yet another dessert — Pomegranate Mascarpone-Stuffed Phyllo Cups!

When Pam was discussing her mascarpone dish last week, before the potluck that she ended up not going to, Cassi was inspired to create her own tofu-based mascarpone. She's catering a wedding soon, and she wants to serve these. So we were her guinea pigs. These definitely passed my test! Love the contrast of the crunchy phyllo cup with the cool, creamy, sweet vegan cheese and tangy pom seeds.

I have the greatest friends, y'all! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Big Yoga (and Hula-Hooping) Weekend!

Okay, this is a food blog. But every once in awhile, I like to check in and talk about my workouts. As any regular readers have probably read a million times, I've been dealing with an ugly case of runner's knee since completing the Little Rock Half-Marathon in March. It's getting better, and I'm able to run a little. And one of these days, I WILL run a full marathon.

But the key to staying fit during an injury is to stay active! So I'm still working out six days a week, even though I'm not doing as much running. And two of my favorite workouts are yoga and hooping! And this weekend, I got a couple of fun opportunities to do both. On Friday night, Co-Motion Studio — the hooping studio where I take classes — held a glow-in-the-dark yoga/hooping event called Glo-Motion. It was two 30-minute yoga sessions, one 30-minute hooping class, and a hooping dance party all done under a blacklight with lots of glowsticks and glitter. Kind of a dream come true, right?

My friend Pam and I got all glowed up with glow necklaces, bracelets, anklets, etc.

Our friend Nicole was there doing glow body paint for people.

Here were her designs! Love the Buddha and the lotus!

After painting everyone else up, Nicole painted a unicorn on her own face. She's so talented!

Here's Co-Motion's co-owner/hoop instructor Chloe in her awesome unicorn horn!

And Co-Motion co-owner/hoop instructor Adriene, who did the organizing for the second annual Glo-Motion.

Before we got started, while everyone was getting all painted up and stuff, Pam and I chowed down on these Vegan Rainbow Glitter Cupcakes from Cassi's Pink Diva Cupcakery. I picked them up on my walk to class, since Pink Diva and Co-Motion are both down the block from my house.

Finally, it was time for class! We started with a vinyasa flow yoga class led by LaurieJean.

Then we had a basic hooping class with Adriene and a hoop yoga class with Meredith. We followed that up with a hoop dance party to tunes from DJ Intuigroove. I brought my LED hoop for extra glow fun, but the batteries were dying so it would only flash red and green instead of the rainbow colors it's supposed to flash. Oh well!

On Saturday morning, it was time for more yoga! Lululemon hosted a FREE yoga class at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park. Before I left home, I had a quick PureFit Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip protein bar.

It was HOT outside at 9:30 a.m. Probably around 95 degrees. Cassi and I joked about how it would be like hot yoga without the room and the ridiculously high membership fee.

I got to wear my new Vegan Plant Proteins tank from my pal Katie's (of Vegan Noms) new vegan workout clothing company, Vegainz! Next time someone asks me where I get my protein, I'll just point my shirt. ALL THESE FOODS, yo. Anyway, y'all should check out Vegainz Clothing Co.'s sweet-ass workout gear. A portion of the proceeds goes to animal welfare orgs!

Before class started, Midtown's new all-vegan I Love Juice bar handed out free samples of juices, ginger shots, and watermelon slices.

The class — a combo of vinyasa and kundalini — was led by Delta Groove Yoga's Olivia Lomax. I'd never taken one of her classes, but I absolutely loved her teaching style. And there was live music by Sibella. The class was purely magical. And the hot sun beaming down on us really made me feel so alive. I definitely prefer outdoor yoga over indoor yoga, no matter how hot it is outside.

Aw, yoga! Such a lovely weekend. Namaste!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vegan Cheezy Spaghetti with Mushrooms

When it comes to talking about my next cookbook project (a retro vegan recipe collection), I've mostly been sharing pictures of recipes from the turn of the 20th century. At least lately. That's because, after a couple years of developing recipes all willy-nilly over the decades, I decided to start working in chronological order. I went back and started with 1900-1909 and then on to 1910-1919. And I still have much work to do in those decades (mostly need to fill out the desserts for those chapters).

But sometimes, I like to jump around and make something from a more recent decade. Last week, I veganized a 1983 Southern Living recipe for Cheezy Spaghetti with Mushrooms.

Technically, the 1983 recipe was a three-cheese spaghetti, but since I was making it vegan, I figured that was a little too over the top. One cheeze is plenty. Especially when that cheeze is nooch sauce. That was the basis for this super-simple pasta dish. Sure, I could have gone with melted Daiya or Follow Your Heart. That would have been delicious, but what would a good '80s vegan do? Use nooch! Because that's all they had back then.

So, let this dish be a celebration of the original vegan cheese — Nutritional Yeast!!! And just for fun, here's the recipe.

Cheezy Spaghetti with Mushrooms
Serves 4

1 8-ounce package spaghetti noodles
2 Tbsp. vegan margarine, divided
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder, divided
Black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup water
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. dried parsley

Boil the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. margarine in a skillet and add the mushrooms. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to soften. Add the soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and black pepper. Saute for 5 more minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the nutritional yeast, flour, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and salt. Stir until well combined. Add the almond milk and water, and whisk until the lumps are gone. Turn on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer and whisk continuously until the sauce thickens like a gravy. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. margarine and the mustard. Stir until margarine melts.

Toss in the cooked pasta and mushrooms and stir to coat. If pasta and mushrooms have cooled, allow them to re-heat in the sauce before serving.