Archive for the 'Product Reviews' Category

Barnana, Bar None

Barnana Organic Chocolate Chewy Banana Bites

With a bit of assistance in the review department today, I’m reviewing Barnana, the super potassium snack. They’re dehydrated organic banana pieces with a sweet and chewy bite.

I received all four flavors from the company to try out. I shared them with a couple of little omnivore foodies in the family, ages eight and ten.

Barnana Organic Chocolate Chewy Banana Bites

Their number one favorite is the Organic Chocolate Chewy Banana Bites. Covered in dark chocolate, it’s like eating a piece of candy. The banana bites look like candy too. Sadly, they are not vegan as the glaze has an ingredient that’s similar to honey in it. But it is vegetarian.

Barnana Organic Original Chewy Banana Bites

Raw and vegan, the Organic Original Chewy Banana Bites was also singled out as being a favorite. The natural brown color didn’t fazed the mini taste testers one bit although they did ask about the white powder which is just organic banana powder (not sugar as one tester guessed).

Barnana Organic Peanut Butter Chewy Banana Bites

Another flavor that’s vegetarian instead of vegan is the Organic Peanut Butter Chewy Banana Bites. I had a few of those as well as the chocolate bites before I discovered they weren’t vegan. It’s not labelled on the package but it is on the Barnana website.

I don’t usually make a big deal out of accidentally eating something that’s vegetarian instead of vegan, it’s not like a vegan angel loses its wings or anything. I had just assumed all the flavors were vegan. It’s my own fault for assuming instead of checking.

Barnana Organic Peanut Butter Chewy Banana Bites

The peanut butter was our least favorite flavor, the eight year old didn’t even try as he’s not a peanut butter fan and the ten year old was unenthusiastic. I thought it was another one that’s very candy-like but with peanut butter.

Barnana Organic Coconut Chewy Banana Bites

We all liked the last flavor, Organic Coconut Chewy Banana Bites (raw and vegan). It’s very similar to the original bites but with coconut. The smaller, square shape were also noted.

Overall, the kids really like trying out the various flavors. It’s a great, healthy, portable snack. They liked them so much, they were running around chanting “Barnana, Barnana, Barnana…”

Later in the day, they also enjoyed eating Barnana quietly while watching a movie.

Barnana Organic Coconut Chewy Banana Bites

As I had an extra bag of the coconut Barnana, I used it in the crust for mini cheesecakes. Based on my mini raw mixed berries cheesecake recipe, I replaced the dates and coconut with Barnana and used up the last of the fresh strawberries from the farmer’s market.

Dessert instead of a snack. Given its mini size, it’s more like a snacky dessert.

Mini Raw Strawberry Cheesecake

Mini Raw Strawberry Cheesecake
Makes 4 mini cheesecakes

Crust
1/2 cup raw almonds
One 3.5 ounce bag of Barnana Organic Coconut Chewy Banana Bites
Pinch of salt

Place almonds in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Add the Barnana bites and salt, continue to pulse the mixture into fine crumbs.

Coat the pans with raw coconut oil. Press the mixture into the bottom of four 4-inch diameter mini pans, packing it well into the pans. Set aside.

Filling
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup strawberries, sliced
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon raw coconut oil, melted

Pulse the cashews in a food processor until crumbly. Add the rest of the ingredients except the coconut oil and pulse until smooth.

While pulsing the food processor, slowly add the coconut oil until blended in. Spoon the filling into the prepared crusts. Gently wiggle the pan around until the filling smooths out.

Place in the freezer until firm. To serve, defrost in the refrigerator for about an hour. Top with additional strawberries.

Disclosure: I received the products free of charge from the company to review. The opinions and experience with the product expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

This post also contains Amazon links, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on any of the links and make a purchase of anything.

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On the Go with Rice Scooters

Sprogs Rice Scooters

Rice Scooters, I first came across these tasty little snacks at the downtown Palo Alto farmer’s market.* Made by Sprogs, they may be small in size but they’re mighty in flavor.

Freshly made from Northern California brown rice, they’re hand-pressed slabs of rice with a variety of ingredients. Similar to o-nigiri but with more modern flavors. With meatie, veggie and sweetie options, there’s something for everyone. Plus, all of the veggie ones are vegan! Bonus points for that, and a couple of the sweeties are vegan as well.

Sprogs Kale & Kimchee Rice Scooter

Pictured above is the Kale & Kimchee which is my favorite. I like the spicy flavor the kimchee adds. The Shiitake pictured below is a close second, you can’t go wrong with mushroom umami. The other two veggie flavors are Coconut Red Lentil and Roasted Corn & Poblano, both good in their own way.

Vegan sweetie flavors are PB & Berries and Sunflower Butter & Berries. Just like a pb and j sandwich but with rice, although I prefer my rice to be savory rather than sweet.

Sprogs Shiitake Rice Scooter

Normally, I don’t like to eat cold rice, but these rice scooters are different. The rice stays soft even when chilled so they’re fine to toss from the fridge into a bag and let it come to room temperature for on-the-go eating. They can also be warmed up which I’ve haven’t tried.

It may seem a bit pricey at $2.59 each for a block of rice. But I figured it’s no different than paying $4.99 for a simple avocado roll from the supermarket take-out sushi counter. Plus the scooters are much more portable. And tastier. I’ll be packing a few for the trip to Grandma’s house next week.

* I haven’t seen Sprogs at the farmer’s market lately. But they’re available in select San Francisco stores, see their website for a current list or order online.

Pressed Juicery Freeze

Pressed Juicery Half Greens Half Chocolate Freeze

For those of you who don’t live anywhere near Palo Alto, California, you might want to turn away and not read any further. Continuing on may very well result in a little sad face.

Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Over the weekend, I stopped by Pressed Juicery in the Stanford Shopping Center to try out their new frozen treat called “Freeze”. Basically, it’s their cold-pressed juice frozen to a consistency like soft serve. But it’s not ice cream. It’s like eating a soft serve popsicle only it’s not icy or slushy. It’s smooth and creamy and airy like soft serve but the taste is similar to a juice popsicle.

It’s amazingly good! And it’s 100% juice, nuts and vegetables. Nothing else. That’s actually Pressed Juicery’s motto. There’s no dairy, no added sugar, no gluten and it’s vegan.

I got half Greens and half Chocolate as I couldn’t decide which flavor to go with. There’s six to choose from:

  • Greens – kale, spinach, romaine, cucumber, apple, lemon, dates, coconut meat
  • Roots – carrots, beets, fuji apple, lemon, ginger, dates, coconut meat
  • Citrus – orange, apple, pineapple, coconut meat and dates
  • Fruit – fuji apple, strawberry, coconut meat, dates
  • Chocolate – almond, dates, sea salt, cacao
  • Vanilla – almond, dates, sea salt, vanilla

I got the small size (4 oz) for $4.95. I didn’t get any but there’s also a range of toppings available and they’re the healthy kind too. Add a dollar for up to 3 toppings, everything from fresh berries, to chia and hemp seeds to granola and almond butter as a syrup.

They also had their bottled juices for sale which I barely glanced at. And while they’re known for their juice cleanse, I probably won’t ever do that, but I would happily stop by anytime I’m in the vicinity for a healthy, nutritious frozen treat.

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My Sweet Mid-year Status Report

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting

It’s past the mid-year point and well past the time most New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Me? I’m still going strong on my resolution to try every cupcake flavor from the vegan bakery, Sweet Aha! And not just the cupcakes, I’ve extended the goal to encompass everything that’s available including the muffins, scones and cookies.

Bet you thought I couldn’t keep such a resolution and that I would crack under such decadence. But no, I’m a trooper and so far I’ve stuck to it and with going to the gym regularly so I can keep up with the resolution. Experts say accountability is the key to reaching your goal. So here goes, the latest flavors I’ve tried:

Pictured above, a classic flavor combo – chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting, drizzled with chocolate. The peanut butter flavor is a bit on the subtle side and like all of their offerings, it wasn’t overly sweet.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake

Chocolate frosting on a chocolate cupcake is just like taking a big bite of devil’s food cake. As always, the cupcakes are all ever so light and super fluffy.

Vegan German Chocolate Cupcake

Another chocolate cupcake, but this time with chocolate buttercream frosting with German chocolate topping. I’ve always loved German chocolate cake back in the day, especially the topping. It’s exactly like it but in a cute cupcake form.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Muffin

I’ve had my share of vegan muffins, can’t say I’ve enjoyed each one. It actually took me awhile to branch out and try a Sweet Aha! muffin (pictured above is the chocolate chip). I don’t know why I hesitated so long, like their cupcakes, the muffins are airy and light and made with all natural, organic, vegan ingredients.

Vegan Lemon Poppy Muffin

In fact, for their lemon poppy seed muffins, they actually squeezed and zested fresh lemons, by hand no less, for a pure, real lemony taste.

Vegan Banana Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting

Lest you go away thinking there’s only chocolate, chocolate or chocolate cupcakes available, I also tried a banana cupcake with coffee buttercream frosting with peanuts. Out of their many flavors, there’s usually a selection of three options: a vanilla one, some sort of chocolate one and one other flavor. You really can’t go wrong with any one of them.

Next check-in, end of the year, until then I’ll be striving to stay the course…

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Manresa Bread Project

Manresa Pumpernickel Rye Bread

Is it bad to eat nothing but bread for lunch? And for dinner too? This is what happens when you get a loaf of bread from Manresa, a Michelin two-star restaurant in Los Gatos, California.

Dubbed the Manresa Bread Project, they’ve been selling their restaurant bread at the Campbell farmer’s market. And they recently opened up a booth at the California Avenue Palo Alto farmer’s market. I’ve seen the long lines and thought “What’s that all about?” But loaded down with fruit and veggies for the week, I had no desire to wait in line to find out.

Then, one fine morning, I happened to be in front of the booth without such a line. Now’s my chance to see what’s all the fuss. All of their bread is vegan except for the brioche and obviously, anything with cheese.

I got the pumpernickel rye for 8 bucks. Taking the paper bag, I was surprised at the hefty weight (1 pound and 8 1/2 ounces). Looking into the bag, it’s not a large loaf by any means, only 4 x 4 x 4 inches. Hmmm, it seems to be quite heavy for its size, I hope I didn’t just spend 8 dollars on a brick.

I heaved the loaf home and have a slice. Packed full of seeds, as you can see, but it’s not dense tasting at all. In fact, it’s flavorful and delicious. I may be biased though as rye is my favorite type of bread. I thought I would make sandwiches but it’s good just by itself all on its own. Hence, lunch and dinner.

P.S. I had a slice as a snack too.

Relax, Isa Does It

Muffin Pan Mini Omelets

I’ll been eating well lately. Really well. Yup, I’ve been living the good life trying out recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s latest cookbook, Isa Does It. Everything I’ve made so far has been either super easy or easy enough and delectable.

Starting with the first meal of the day, Muffin Pan Mini Omelets (page 247), served with giant strawberries and homestyle potatoes. Aren’t those the cutest little tofu omelets?

It’s certainly a nice change from always having tofu scrambles. And they’re fun to make too, you can watch them rise a bit while they’re baking, then deflate towards the end of the cooking time.

Lentil-Quinoa Stew

I’m still learning to cook lentils and quinoa but I’ve come a long ways from having been at best indifferent to lentils for years and unsure how to pronounce quinoa (say “KEEN-wah”). Now look at me, I’m making Lentil-Quinoa Stew with Lots of Kale (page 148).

Pleasantly surprised at how much flavor is packed into this stew and with such simple ingredients, I’ve since made it several times even without kale and serving it with other veggies instead.

Smoky Incan Stew

More quinoa, this time with beans in Smoky Incan Stew (page 165). Since the quinoa soaked up quite a bit of the broth, I added the leftover tomato juice as mentioned in the notes. I love these helpful little tips and tidbits included in some of the recipes.

To add my own note: I didn’t have red quinoa called for in the recipe but I did have red lentils and swap around the colors, it’s still a bright and flavorful stew.

Cheddary Broccoli Soup

Cheddary Broccoli Soup (page 53), yes, another soup. This was back when I was having jaw pain so there was a lot of soups and stews going on. Having never tried broccoli cheddar soup before, I didn’t expect it to be so rich and without any sort of processed vegan cheese. Not that I have anything against store-bought cheese but cheddar cheesy taste from real ingredients, that’s a winner.

Pesto-Cauliflower Pasta

Finally off of soups, my jaw has healed and I’m back to my munching and crunching ways. Since fresh basil started showing up at the farmer’s market, what’s better than pesto? Bestest Oil-Free Pesto (page 128) for Pesto-Cauliflower Pasta with Breaded Tofu (page 126).

No oil necessary in this pesto, it’s replaced with vegetable broth. But alas, I only had Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base, not wanting my pesto to taste chicken-y, I just used plain water and it’s totally fine. I usually prefer to bake my tofu but the skillet pan method wasn’t too messy and didn’t take too long. Besides, the nicely browned breading was well worth the effort.

There’s so many more recipes to try now that I can chew food again. From the few I’ve made so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if Isa Does It becomes the go-to vegan cookbook for generations to come.

Still on the fence? Download the free e-book from Amazon, Breville presents Make It Vegan: Recipes from the Yiddish-speaking, Nebraska-living, post-punk vegan, Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Most of the 10 recipes in it are from Isa Does It and includes the breaded tofu pictured above. You don’t even need a actual Kindle, just download the Kindle app for your mobile device or computer. The directions are right there on the product page.

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This post contains Amazon links, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on any of the links and make a purchase of anything.

The Vegan Divas Cookbook

Spiced Red Lentil and Coconut Milk Soup

Silent for far too long, the cookbook review department is revving up with a slew of upcoming reviews. The first is The Vegan Divas Cookbook by Fernanda Capobianco. Being on the West Coast, I haven’t ever heard of the New York City bakery which the cookbook is based on.

Fortunately for the hapless baker that I am, the cookbook isn’t limited to just baked goodies. There’s savory plates and treats. And soups too, like the above Spiced Red Lentil and Coconut Milk Soup (page 156). First time using dried lentils, it was easy and much quicker to cook than I had imagined (and I have a wild imagination).

Sugar-free Carrot Cake

Hapless or not, I had to try at least one baked dessert, Sugar-Free Carrot Cake (page 102). Still, I was sweating bullets over the batter. It looked very thick. Was it too thick? I have no idea. Crossing my fingers, the pan went into the oven. I was on pins and needles the entire half hour it was in the oven, I’m just not meant to bake. It actually came out fine, maybe a little on the dense side.

Roasted Kabocha Squash with Peanut Sauce

A very tasty savory treat was the Roasted Kabocha Squash with Peanut Sauce (page 164). If only it wasn’t so hard to cut into, I was afraid for my fingers. It was well worth it though, I pretty much love anything roasted. But there’s gotta be an easier way to cut up the squash.

Orange Tofu Yogurt

Tofu Yogurt My Way (page 30) on the other hand was super easy to make. And you can flavor it any way you like. I went with oranges for an orangesicle kind of a flavor. I didn’t have any granola so it’s topped with walnuts.

While I liked the taste and knowing exactly what’s in it. I didn’t feel like it’s really a yogurt as it doesn’t have any probiotics. One of the reasons why I eat yogurt in the first place is to get the beneficial bacteria. Perhaps it should be “yogurt” in quotation marks.

Raw Chocolate Avocado Tart

Having never tried avocado in a dessert before, I made the Raw Chocolate Avocado Tart (page 96). I really like raw desserts. They seem easier to make, there’s no baking involved. They usually have healthier ingredients and use other sweeteners besides sugar.

While making the filling, I taste tested it and it’s so good, sorta like chocolate pudding. I could have eaten the filling as is, before it even went into the crust. You just know it’s going to be awesome when the individual components are good on their own.

Instead of one 9-inch tart, I made mini ones and froze them for about a week while I was away on holiday. After letting it thaw in the fridge, it’s totally fine. So smooth and rich tasting – no weird avocado taste at all, just chocolatey goodness.

I may never get to New York City to visit The Vegan Divas in person but the cookbook’s easy recipes and gorgeous photos more than makes up for it.

Raw Chocolate Avocado Tart
Makes one 9-inch tart, serves 10 to 12

Chocolate Crust:
2 cups (200 g/7 oz) pecan halves
1/4 cup (28 g/1 oz) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons (28 g/1 oz) liquid coconut oil
1/4 cup (74 g/2.6 oz) maple syrup
1 teaspoon (4 g/0.14 oz) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g/0.05 oz) kosher salt

Chocolate Avocado Mousse:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (191 g/6.7 oz) vegan semisweet chocolate morsels
3 small, ripe avocados, pitted and flesh scooped out
1 tablespoon (7 g/0.25 oz) arrowroot powder
1/4 teaspoon (0.75 g/0.026 oz) kosher salt
1 teaspoon (4 g/0.14 oz) vanilla extract
1/4 cup (28 g/1 oz) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
1/3 cup (80 g/2.8 oz) almond milk
2/3 cup (198 g/7 oz) maple syrup
1 tablespoon (15 g/0.5 oz) smooth peanut butter

Make the crust:
Brush the bottom and sides of a 91/2-inch springform pan with vegetable oil and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse the pecans until crumbly (you should have some finely ground pecans and some pieces no larger than 1/4 inch). Add the remaining crust ingredients and pulse until just mixed. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and press it onto the bottom of the pan with slightly wet fingers or a spatula. Place the crust in the freezer to set while you make the mousse.

Make the mousse:
Place the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on medium (50%) power for about 3 minutes, stopping to stir it every 45 seconds. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool slightly.

Combine all the remaining mousse ingredients except the melted chocolate in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and process until smooth.

Remove the crust from the freezer and pour the mousse into it. Smooth it into an even layer and freeze, uncovered, for about 2 hours until firm.

Serve the tart:
Remove the tart from the freezer and unclasp and remove the side of the pan. Place the tart on a serving plate and allow it to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

From The Vegan Divas Cookbook by Fernanda Capobianco. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Disclosure: I received the book free of charge from the publisher to review. The opinions and experience with the book expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

This post also contains Amazon links, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on any of the links and make a purchase of anything.

A Sweet Resolution

coffee-chocolate-cupcake

It’s 37 days into the new year on the Gregorian calendar and day 7 on the lunar calendar. How’s your New Year’s resolution going? I don’t normally set resolutions or goals but this year is different. I have a goal. A secret goal – to try every single flavor of Sweet Aha! cupcakes. Shh, don’t tell anyone. Especially not my waistline.

With so many flavors, all natural and organic, how can I not try them all? Oh sure, I could have gone with something like eat healthier, eat more kale, eat more fiber. Blah, blah, blah. But why? When I can have a coffee chocolate cupcake. You can’t look at the above photo and not be nodding your head yes, yes, yes. One bite and you would never guess it’s vegan.

While I’m not much of a coffee drinker, I love the smell of coffee. Since Sweet Aha! uses real coffee, it has a nice subtle, authentic taste of coffee as well as caffeine. But it’s not too strong. It reminds me of See’s coffee candy lollypops (if you grew up in California, you may remember those from high school fundraisers). I’ll take my coffee as a cupcake any day.

strawberry-cupcake

The strawberry cupcake will take you back to the days of strawberry-flavored icing as a kid. But this frosting with its beautiful pink color and taste is made with actual strawberries (available year around at the San Mateo farmer’s market). The vanilla cupcake is just your standard cupcake but provides a nice contrast to the strawberrylicious frosting.

Sweet Aha! Cinnamon Raisin Scone

Oh no, I succumbed and tried a breakfast scone instead. I’m not usually a scone eating person, I don’t care for the dry, crumbly texture. But the cinnamon raisin scone from Sweet Aha! are entirely different. They’re soft and like their cupcakes not overly sweet.

I’m off to the gym so I can keep up and achieve my sweet resolution for the year.

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