Sunday, August 31, 2008

Product Review: Purely Decadent Ice Cream

We've been fortunate enough on a couple of occasions to review some great vegan products but this was the package we anticipated the most. The kind folks at Turtle Mountain sent us samples of their new Purely Decadent vegan ice cream flavors to try and we're so glad they did. We were especially keen to try out their new line of vegan ice creams made with coconut milk. I have to confess that we tried a small sample of almost every flavor within minutes of the package arriving but this weekend we invited a bunch of friends over to help us sample this bonanza. Unfortunately almost everyone we invited was either busy or out of town this weekend (or we just don't have many friends). Either way I guess that's more for us.

So yesterday we did little sample plates for us with all five of the coconut milk based flavors and all five of the new soy based flavors. And today we did have one friend come over to sample some of the creamy goodness. I took pictures but go on over to the Purely Decadent site to see what professional pictures of all these flavors look like.

The coconut milk flavors are (clockwise from top left): Vanilla Bean, Coconut, Cookie Dough, Chocolate and Mint Chip. With the exception of course of the coconut flavor, we hardly noticed the coconut milk base in any of these. What we do notice is a rich, full-flavored creaminess that's every bit as good as (or maybe better than) dairy ice cream. To be fair, maybe we're not ones to judge since it's been many years since either of us has had dairy ice cream, but the friend we had over is not vegan and her first remark (after mmmmm) was that she would've never known these were dairy free if we hadn't told her. All of these flavors are truly outstanding (I just know I'm going to run out of superlatives here) but the two flavors that really stood out for all of us were the Chocolate and Cookie Dough. In fact the Cookie Dough is fast on its way to becoming the first of all the flavors we received to disappear completely - probably because it reminds Darlene of downing whole pints of Ben & Jerry's cookie dough ice cream after long bike rides way back in the day.

We're totally enamored with the coconut milk based flavors but the new soy based flavors are awesome as well. They are (clockwise from top left): Dulce de Leche, Blueberry Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie, Snickerdoodle and Belgian Chocolate.

These all live up to the Purely Decadent name quite well, though they're maybe a tiny notch below the coconut milk flavors in creaminess. Our surprising favorite among this batch turned out to be Snickerdoodle. Neither of us initially thought this would be a favorite but it packs a powerful cinnamon punch and has scrumptious bits of cookie dough mixed in - what's not to like? The Key Lime Pie is incredible as well and I'm all about the Belgian Chocolate too, even though I like the coconut milk based chocolate flavor a bit more. There's definitely not a single flavor in the whole lot that we won't savor to the last drop. (I also must confess that I totally licked those plates clean after I was done eating the samples with a spoon.)

Now all this writing has made me hungry so excuse me while I go dig into the freezer...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Banana Nut Muffins

I've already posted about my old standby banana bread recipe so this is really just a way to re-use some content. I've been making muffins from this recipe lately, which I like because they take less time to cook. In the original recipe I used egg replacer. There are those who would argue that you don't need egg replacer in banana bread (or muffins) because the banana acts as a binder. I did leave it out when I made the muffins this time and they came out fine but I do think the egg replacer helps them hold together slightly better. So add it if you've got it but feel to leave it out per the recipe below.

2 ripe bananas
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. + 2 Tbs. soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Mash bananas in a large bowl then add oil, sugar, soy milk and vanilla and mix well. Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and gently mix until well combined (it will be a fairly stiff batter). Fold in nuts, then divide equally into oiled muffin tins (makes 12). Bake at 350º for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vegan Express Salads

I wanted to try something new but not too involved this weekend so I figured Nava Atlas' excellent new book Vegan Express might be a good place to start looking for ideas. One of the first recipes I came across sounded good - Chickpea and Carrot Salad with Parsley and Olives. It was a snap to prepare too, just mix together canned chickpeas, grated carrots, parsley, green olives, and scallions. Add a little lemon juice and olive oil, and season with cumin, salt & pepper. She suggests serving this with her Sweet and White Potato Salad and who am I to argue with that. This was a pretty basic potato salad served with a vinaigrette and chopped tomatoes and avocado, but the addition of sweet potatoes makes it a little more interesting. Everything was served on a bed of lettuce and another interesting addition is the toasted pumpkin seeds on top of the potato salad. This made for an excellent dinner and it didn't take that long to prepare.

On the page facing the carrot salad recipe is the Middle Eastern Chopped Salad recipe. This caught my eye too because it's basically a jazzed up cucumber and tomato salad - and we've been getting a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes from our garden. It also includes bell pepper, olives, scallions, parsley, sesame seeds and pine nuts. This was a good start to last night's dinner and afterwards we just had some basic sandwiches. Fun stuff, though it's not always like this. Tonight's dinner was a little of the leftover carrot salad and PB&J on toast.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Typical Week

When we started here (going on three years ago), the idea was to show what a couple of vegans eat on a regular basis, from the ordinary to the spectacular. After a while the ordinary just wasn't "blog-worthy" anymore and we started posting only the better stuff (or whatever was new or fun). Now that we have a baby and thus very limited time to cook, there's not much that's new or blog-worthy anymore. So I thought I'd document the typical again and post about what we had over the course of a week. Actually this turned out to be a decent week with maybe a little more time for cooking than we might have other times. I started a week ago Saturday with the BBQ Tempeh I've already posted about.

Next up was black-eyed peas with chard, then Monday night was a tofu scramble with spinach (that came out of the freezer) and roasted potatoes. I saw the big fingerling potatoes at the farmers' market and they were a little expensive but I just had to get them so I could make these oven fries.

I also splurged a little and got some organic baby squash at the market. On Tuesday night I quartered them lengthwise and sautéed them in olive oil with garlic then I added pasta. I was going to do just olive oil and garlic but I found some tomato/tempeh sauce I made a long time ago way in the back of the fridge so I used that up.

And that was pretty much it for the cooking. On Wednesday night we just had a big salad. Yeah, those silly vegans eating nothing but salad... Ours had red lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes from our garden, carrots, artichokes, chick peas, slivered almonds, pine nuts, and dried cranberries.

Then it was back to the freezer - this time for the whole meal - for Amy's pot pies. These are a tad pricey but a lot cheaper than eating out.

And the week finished off Friday with a salad and a sandwich. More cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden, and a sandwich on whole wheat bread with seitan, tomatoes and vegan mayo.

If you've read this far, maybe some of you other bloggers can help me with a question. Other than moderating comments, is there any way to have Blogger notify you if you get a comment on an older post? I'm not sure I want to moderate all comments, but every so often I notice comments that appear on older posts - usually a long time after they appeared. I always read and appreciate new comments, even if I don't respond to them all, but with well over 500 posts now who knows how many comments I've missed on older posts. OK, it's probably not that many but still I'm curious.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

In Defense of Whole Foods

Wait. Before you fire up those flamethrowers hear me out. I'm not going to sit here and extol the virtues of any money-grubbing corporation, Whole Foods included. But I thought I'd comment on this recent NY Times article about Whole Foods and how they're trying to convince people that they can be an economical place to shop. I find this amusing because I already know that. Oh sure, the moniker Whole Paycheck is not without reason and if you just go in there willy nilly and buy whatever you want it may hold true. But for a lot of our staples, believe it or not they're the least expensive game in town. And that's important when you're on a budget - especially a new-baby-budget. We don't have a Trader Joe's here, nor do we have a co-op where you could become a member and get a discount. So for things like tofu, soy milk, a lot of bulk items and even the occasional produce item we shop at Whole Foods. Yes they often irritate me but no more so than any other mainstream grocery store.

What I really wanted to point out though are a couple of choice quotes from the article that just rubbed me the wrong way. I've written before about how the mainstream media often takes little pot shots at vegetarians and vegans and this article is no exception. First up is the quote from the Whole Foods employee regarding tofu, "It looks gross but it's delicious." I supposed you could view that in a positive light but still. What looks gross is a package of bloody ground beef, or a whole fish laying on ice and staring up at you with cold dead eyes. Hell, some things in the produce section look gross (celery root anyone?) but tofu? C'mon! It's an innocuous white block. Get over it.

Worse though is the closing quote from a Whole Foods shopper who says she considers "Whole Foods expensive for average people...It was only cheap if you were a vegetarian willing to eat beans and tofu." Well count me in then! So I guess if you eat beans and tofu you're not average. I just looked up antonyms for 'average' and the first one I found was 'abnormal'. I always suspected I might be abnormal, now here's validation ;-)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Easy BBQ Tempeh

I don't have many of my own recipes to share these days so I'll co-opt someone else's. We got some more fresh corn from the farmers market yesterday and the one thing I could think of that goes with corn on the cob is barbecue. Except we don't have a grill. Nor do we have the time to fire one up and cook something on it. So I decided to do my old standby of pouring barbecue sauce over tempeh and baking it. Except we didn't have any barbecue sauce. Probably because the last time I was in the grocery store looking at barbecue sauce and scouring ingredient labels for things like anchovies, I found that it all had high fructose corn syrup and I couldn't bring myself to buy any. So I made my own from a Vegan Dad recipe. All of his recipes rock, but especially this one. I halved the recipe for the sauce, upped the maple syrup just a tad, left out the brown sugar and added a tablespoon of molasses. Then I poured it over cubed tempeh and baked at 350° for 25 minutes. The amount of sauce was just right for an 8-oz. package of tempeh (unless you end up eating most of the sauce with a spoon first like I almost did).

We started the meal with a tomato salad made in large part from a monster yellow tomato from our garden. Only about half the tomato plants in our garden are doing anything this year but this one plant is producing like gangbusters. (There's a 'normal' sized tomato and an ear of corn in the picture for perspective.)

The salad was simple, fresh and delicious: tomatoes, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a touch of fresh basil.