Archive for the 'Product Reviews' Category

The Many Flavors of Sweet Aha!

Sweet Aha! Infographic

Remember when I made a resolution to try every single Sweet Aha! flavor?

Well, I did it!

It took a little over a year, but any worthwhile endeavor takes time. Needless to say, I enjoyed each and every bite. To keep track of all of those vegan cupcake, scone, muffin and cookie flavors, I made an infographic (no need to strain your eyes, click on the infographic to view a larger version).

Even though there’s a lot of flavors, Sweet Aha! only has a few select ones available each week at the farmer’s market. Which is probably a good thing, fewer options makes it a little easier to decide. Of course, if you’re ordering a dozen or more, you can choose whatever flavor your heart desires.

Vegan Coffee Cupcake with Vanilla Frosting

Perhaps a Coffee Cupcake with Vanilla Frosting, topped with salted caramel. It has a hint of a coffee taste, the perfect amount for me as I’m not a big coffee drinker. The caramel topping adds a bit more sweetness and flavor just like one of those fancy coffee drinks.

Vegan Coconut Cranberry Scone

Coconut Cranberry Scone, one of my favorites with its light, fluffy texture and plumb cranberries.

The nice thing about Sweet Aha! scones is that they keep for a long time, at least a week. Although I’ve never been able to keep any that long. No matter how hard I try to ignore it and pretend it’s not sitting on the counter, staring me down, I’m incapable of saving it for later. It’s gone by the next morning.

Vegan Classic Butter Scone

Compared to some of the other scone flavors with their added-in extras, you might think the Classic Butter Scone to be rather plain. It is in fact anything but.

Vegan Classic Butter Scone

There’s a reason why it’s called “classic”. It’s buttery and fluffy, with a sprinkle of sugar on top.

Vegan Lemon Cupcake with Lemon Drizzle

If you love lemons, then this is the cupcake for you – Lemon Cupcake with Classic Frosting and Lemon Drizzle.

Vegan Butterscotch Cookie with Pecans

Butterscotch Cookie with Pecans. I don’t know how they get the butterscotch taste into these cookies but they do.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate Chip Cookie. You might have notice by now, I like to have a nice glass of dairy-free milk with my cookies, muffins and cupcakes. Because, in Chow Vegan land, that’s what makes it a complete snack.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake

Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Frosting and Coconut, Pecan, Caramel Drizzle. So light! And fluffy! And chocolatey! And with just the right amount of sweet (unlike other cupcakes with their overly sweet frosting).

Alright, I’ll stop gushing now and just sit here quietly drooling while you look at the remaining photos.

Vegan Coconut Raisin Muffin

Coconut Raisin Muffin

Vegan Ginger Spice Muffin

Ginger Spice Muffin

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Maple Frosting

Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Vanilla Frosting

After trying all of their flavors, I can say unequivocally it’s been an awesome and tasty experience. You really can’t go wrong with anything from Sweet Aha! Their commitment to using only the best, freshest, all-natural, mostly organic, minimally processed ingredients shines through in every single item.

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Are You Vegiterranean?

Quinoa Belila

Could you be Vegiterranean?

Yes. Yes, I can. You can too. It’s easy with the latest book in for review, The Vegiterranean Diet by Julieanna Hever. It’s like the Mediterranean diet but better; it’s a whole foods, plant base update to the long-standing Med diet.

The beginning sections of the book covers the history, science and nutrition (complete with tables, charts and references), the myths and benefits of the Mediterranean diet and how it can be improved upon, thus becoming the Vegiterranean Diet. Primarily by debunking the myth that it’s olive oil, red wine and fish that’s the main benefit of the Med diet when it’s actually the whole food way of eating that’s truly beneficial.

The next part covers tips, strategies and meal plans for eating healthy and well. And lastly, a selection of Mediterranean-style recipes demonstrating just how tasty eating Vegiterranean can be.

Middle Eastern Tofu Scramble

Starting off with Belila (page 222) pictured at the very top, a traditional Egyptian breakfast of wheat cereal with warm milk. I’ve never tried belila before but I loved this updated gluten-free version with quinoa. And if you already have cooked quinoa in the fridge, it takes less than 5 minutes to whip up this warm, filling breakfast.

No stranger to tofu scrambles, the Shakshuka (Middle Eastern Tofu Scramble, page 223) is one of the better ones that I’ve had, with its many herbs and spices. I’m just bummed it isn’t tomato season yet, I had to leave them out as there’s no way, no how, I’m using store-bought tomatoes.

White Bean and Rosemary Dip

The White Bean and Rosemary Dip (page 194) came out a little chunky, I blame my super ancient blender. The flavors are all there though, with the lemon and rosemary brightening up the white beans. Very easy to make with canned beans and just simply served with Mary’s Gone Crackers.

Cheesy Smoky Butternut Squash Pasta

The Cheesy Smoky Butternut Squash Pasta reminds me of a lighter, healthier version of mac n’ cheese. I don’t know where the smoky flavor comes from, there’s no liquid smoke or anything like that in the ingredients. Perhaps it’s the roasting of the butternut squash. Once again, it came out a little chunky. Dang blender.

The Vegiterranean Diet Book

A refreshing Brain-Boosting Blue Smoothie (page 189) to enjoy while reading (sciencey things is not my strong point, even if it is written in an easy and straightforward manner, I need all the brain boosting I can get).

Whether you’re just starting out or been at it for awhile, The Vegiterranean Diet is a helpful guide to making sure you’re eating healthy on a plant-based diet. To download a 5-day sample meal plan and three recipes click over to Julieanna Hever’s site, The Plant Based Dietitian.

Cheesy Smoky Butternut Squash Pasta
Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 1/2 cups chopped butternut squash, raw
1 (12-ounce) package dry pasta (e.g., rigatoni, penne, macaroni, and spirals)
1 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets
3/4 cup unsweetened almond, soy, or other plant milk
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked and drained, or hempseeds
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice with zest
1 tablespoon tamari
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle powder

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. On a baking pan, roast the squash until dark brown and bubbling, 20 minutes.
3. Fill a large pot 3/4 full of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add pasta and return to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer over medium heat until pasta is soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Before draining, add fresh broccoli florets and allow to wilt, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain and return to pot.
4. Meanwhile, puree the squash, almond milk, cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and zest, tamari, and chipotle powder in the blender until smooth, 10 to 20 seconds. Pour the squash sauce over the pasta and the broccoli, and stir to combine. Serve warm.

From The Vegiterranean Diet by Julieanna Hever. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014

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.

Nakd Here

Nakd Bars Sampler

Why, hello there.

Today, I’m reviewing a sampler box of Nakd bars from Natural Balance Foods. If like me, you’re clueless about them, you’re in for a delightful surprise. If you haven’t heard of them before, it’s probably because they’re an UK company that’s been making its way across the pond to the US.

Back of Nakd Bars

The best thing about Nakd bars is that each is made with just a few ingredients, basically fruit and nut. That and being gluten, wheat and dairy free and vegan. It’s easy to see the breakdown of each ingredient with the percentages printed on the back.

Nakd Ginger Bread Bar

First up is the Nakd Ginger Bread: 48% dates, 32% almonds, 18% pecans and ginger, cloves and cinnamon. I really like the texture, it’s not too chewy and it’s not too soft either. Combined with the nice gingerbread flavor, it’s one of my favorites.

Nakd Banana Crunch Bar

Next is the Nakd Banana Crunch. As soon as I torn open the package, the smell of bananas wafts out. For being just 6% banana, it had a nice banana flavor with a slight crunch from the soya crunchies (the crunchies add extra protein).

Nakd Cocoa Mint Bar

Nakd Cocoa Mint, another favorite as it tasted exactly like a chocolate mint candy and it’s just dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa and a hint of natural mint and chocolate flavouring.

Not pictured are the other cocoa flavors, all were good. From the Nakd Cocoa Orange (tasted like chocolate with orange) to Nakd Cocoa Delight to Nakd Cocoa Crunch, it’s hard to go wrong with chocolate anything.

Nakd Pecan Pie Bar

With ingredients of just dates, pecans and almonds, Nakd Pecan Pie didn’t exactly taste like pecan pie. It tasted fine, just not like pie but maybe that’s expecting a little too much from a 3-ingredient bar.

Nakd Crunch Bars

I’m taking a little break from trying the rest of the sampler box. Even though there’s no added sugars or syrups, there’s still plenty of natural sugar and sweetness from all the dates and raisins. Overall, I really like the minimal ingredients in the Natural Balance Foods cereal bars. It’s a way better alternative to a candy bar when the munchies hit.

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 an Amazon link, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on the link and make a purchase of anything.

Miyoko’s Creamery

Miyoko's Creamery Classic Double Cream Chive

I never thought I would be swooning over vegan cheese. I remember a time when non-dairy cheese was disgusting to put it mildly. But now thankfully, we live in the era of artisanal vegan cheese.

Ever since I heard about Miyoko’s Creamery, I’ve been anxious to try their cultured nut-based cheese. I had read through Miyoko Schinner’s vegan cheese making cookbook, Artisan Vegan Cheese. But deep down I knew I’m much too lazy and impatient to make my own nut cheese.

I finally spotted the white boxes in the refrigerated section at the Whole Foods near me (Redwood City and San Mateo). There’s only a few flavors available on the store shelves, compared to the many flavors seen on their website.

Miyoko's Creamery Packaging

Actually, it’s probably for the best that the selection was limited otherwise I would still be standing there trying to decide on a flavor. I settled on the Classic Double Cream Chive and Aged English Smoked Farmhouse. The first one I tried is the chive cheese and it’s my favorite. It’s creamy and totally spreadable on a cracker with a great chive taste (pictured at the very top).

Miyoko's Creamery Aged English Smoked Farmhouse

As for the smoked farmhouse, just unwrapping it, you can smell the smokiness. It’s a harder cheese and it crumbled much more easily and wasn’t quite as spreadable compared to the chive cheese. At first, I thought I didn’t care for it but I’ve since come around and appreciate the sharp, rich taste.

Depending on the flavor, prices range from $9.99 to $11.99 for 6.5 oz, it may seem a little pricey but really it’s no different than the cost of a nice, high end dairy cheese. As an occasional treat, my wallet and taste buds have no problem leaving the nut-cheese-making to the experts.

Now & Zen Package Labels

Fun Tidbit:
Anyone else remember Now & Zen? Way back when, they made vegan meaty seitan things like UnTurkey, UnSteak and BBQ UnRibs. I never got around to trying the UnTurkey but I loved the other two (I even saved the packaging labels, I’m such a nerd). I was so sad when the company went out of business. The talent and brains behind Now & Zen was none other than Miyoko Schinner herself. So happy she’s back in business with Miyoko’s Creamery.

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

Tyler Florence Inside the Test Kitchen

Vegan Gravy Ingredients

Apparently, I’m not much of a traditionalist. I always seem to be trying out a new something or other for my holiday meal. This year is no different, with focus shifting away from a main dish and landing squarely on a side dish. And not just any ol’ side dish, but the best mashed potatoes and gravy ever.

Drawn in by the notebook style/theme of Tyler Florence’s latest cookbook, Inside the Test Kitchen, I came across the Vegetarian Thanksgiving Sauce (page 81).

Delighted to see a meat-free version, I knew I was making this sauce when I saw the recipe doesn’t include flour or cornstarch. It’s made from pureed vegetables (see ingredients photo above). You’re now free to smother your entire plate with gravy without having any guilt whatsoever.

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

Naturally, I had to make the Extra Potato-y Mashed Potatoes (page 192) to go with the gravy. They really are the best mashed potatoes ever. The recipe calls for the potatoes to be cooked in heavy cream instead of water, to retain more of the potato flavor. I subbed in full fat coconut milk instead and vegan butter.

For you mashed potatoes purists, no worries, it doesn’t taste like coconut, the predominant flavor is that of buttery potatoes. Soft, oh-so-fluffy, buttery potatoes. You can see the recipe here.

Fig-Hazelnut Fruit "Salami"

I also made the Fig-Hazelnut Fruit “Salami” (page 54) as part of a cheese plate. Easy to make out of just hazelnuts and dried Mission figs, it’s sweet and figgy.

There’s a few more recipes I’m excited to try like the Kale Waldorf Chicken Salad (page 74) and the Creamed Kale (page 155), all veganized of course. One already vegan is the Black-Eyed Pea and Charred Vegetable Chili (page 238). But the vast majority of the recipes are for omnivores (if looking at meaty things bothers you, it’s probably best to look away or quickly flip past those pages).

Inside the Test Kitchen Cookbook

Inside the Test Kitchen is very nicely put together with its notebook design complete with rounded corners and elastic stretchy band/bookmarker on the outside. Inside, the theme continues in the page layouts and the content. The success and failures of various experiments by Tyler and his team, like the stretchy cheese test (I would love to see someone do a vegan cheese version).

The Test Kitchen is a real, actual place, located in Mill Valley, California. It’s where the recipes for the cookbook were created, written and shot entirely on an iPad by Tyler. The cookbook was such a fun read, I’m inspired to be like Tyler and try my own kitchen experiments.

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.

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

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.

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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