Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Vegan Product Review: My Favorite Non-Dairy Milk! Silk Nutchello

One of the hardest parts of being a vegan, is figuring out what stuff is worth buying. Do these vegan products taste like what you grew up with?  While I have only been vegan for a relatively short time, I was mostly vegetarian for a very long time.  So I can still remember the taste and texture of dead animals (not very appealing when you think of it that way, is it?) enough to know if these faux versions are any good.  (I bought this item myself. No one is paying me for this review.)

Todays Subject for Review: Silk Nutchello

Does it Taste Like Dairy Milk:  No, it tastes so much better!  I am quite literally obsessed with this stuff.   Its viscosity is similar to dairy milk.  It has a smooth clean taste, not too nutty or with too strong of a coconut taste.

I use the Silk Toasted Coconut + Cashews Nutchello when I need a plain non-dairy milk for cooking. It's also what my Hubby prefers to drink.

I like the Silk Caramel Almonds + Cashews Nutchello to drink.  I could drink the whole bottle in one sitting, it's that amazing.  It's sweet, but not too sweet.  Something about it reminds me of drinking Kahlua and cream.  Which I haven't done in over twenty years, so maybe I'm remembering it wrong...

The Silk Rick Dark Chocolate + Walnuts Nutchello is like drinking liquid chocolate pudding. Literally.  I have it in place of dessert when I run out of my favorite ice cream.

Will Dairy Milk Drinkers Drink It:  Yes, I think not only will they like it, but they'll be surprised at how good it is.

Is it Healthier?:  Yes.  (As per their site) Compared to dairy milk, it has 50% more calcium, no cholesterol, lower calories, and less fat.  And as per my own research (references to studies not
that were not dairy-industry funded can be provided) dairy milk has been linked to obesity, dementia, depression, osteoporosis and its production is directly linked to the destruction of our environment and a lifetime of torture, abuse and misery for cows.  Go ahead and Google "dairy industry abuse."

Would I Buy it Again:  Um...Hell yeah!  I buy it all the time.  I know this is a little more expensive than other non-dairy milk.  For me. it's worth it, because I just love how amazing they taste.  If I have to use a lot of unsweetened non-dairy milk for a recipe, I'll buy whatever is on sale.  Or I'll whip up a batch of soy milk.  It's also more expensive than a gallon of milk, I get that.  But, considering the health benefits and the lack of animal cruelty, it's worth it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Stowaway - A Portable Roof Rack

This post is not sponsored, nor am I receiving anything for posting about it. I just bought one earlier in the campaign and realized it was something worth sharing here.  The Stowaway is a portable roof rack that sets up in minutes and is smaller than a shoebox.  What?!  I know, right?

I have spent many hours cramming boards and plywood in and on top of my car leading to various levels of unsafe driving.  I kept thinking about getting a roof rack, but that seemed like a pain.  I knew I'd never have it on me when I needed it.  Plus, they're expensive as all get out!  The makers say it's durable...I don't know.  Unfortunately, I won't know until after its ship date of February 2017.

Check it out (FYI I can't get the video to work on Chrome, but it's fine on other platforms.  If you're having an issue, just click the product link and watch it on Kickstarter.)

I'll come back and post a review after I get it. In the meantime, if you want one for yourself, there's only 4 days left to order it. You can find it here on Kickstarter.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Book Review: Lucky Peach Presents Power Vegetables

Apparently, there is some amazing food magazine in publication called Lucky Peach.  Well, amazing according to the reviews I read.  They say it's very hip.  Ugh, hip.  In my world, hip translates into lame things people trying really hard to be cool think are cool.

As someone who's not into anything considered hip, I wonder if that's why I was so conflicted about this writing this review.  Just starting with the cover of Lucky Peach Presents Power Vegetables!...what is the deal with this cover?  Something about it makes me feel like I'm about to watch an obnoxious infomercial.  I hate it.  Literally, hate it.

But as we all know, it's not about the cover, it's about what's inside that counts.  I really want to like what's inside because it's a mostly vegetarian cookbook.  Peter Meehan's explanation of why it's not a vegan cookbook only marginally makes sense.  He apparently knows more vegetarians than vegans (although it sounds like he actually knows pescatarians wrongly calling themselves vegetarians), he wants to appeal to omnivores "who wants things to be delicious first and foremost" (um, hello?  vegans want that too), and that cutting out meat is important for climate change.  Again, hello?  Dairy farms are high on list of industries destroying the planet.  Have you not watched Cowspiracy?  So, right off the bat, not impressed.  Hopefully, his recipes will be more impressive.

On a positive note, there is a full page picture for each recipe.  The pictures are not the bright photos with light backgrounds I've grown used to seeing. These have some sort of weird 1980's vibe to them. Not really my thing, but maybe I'm just not hip enough to get it...or whatever.

The recipes were a real mixed bag.  Things like the falafel was spot on recommending you use a meat grinder and not a food processor to grind the soaked chickpeas (never chickpeas from a can people, never).  A lot of the dips and condiments looked good.  Then there are things like Buffalo Cucumbers and Asparagus Like a Steak.  Is putting buffalo wing sauce on cucumbers really a recipe?  And I don't think cooking asparagus in butter, garlic and herbs is cooking it like a steak, I think that's just making good asparagus.  Isn't it?  I'm so confused.

While there was nothing in this book that made me feel like, "Wow!  I can't wait to make that!" there were recipes that looked interesting.  The Nishi Sweet Potato with hoisin, chilis and mint looks interesting. Saltie's Clean Slate seems like a new twist on the veggie wraps I make.  Tofu Akuri is a vegan scramble recipe from a relative who is Parsi.  It's different enough from my usual tofu scramble, that I plan on making it for breakfast this week.  Even the Zucchini Mujadara looks like a dish with simple ingredients that will wind up being really good.

Okay, so writing this review forced me to take a slower, more in-depth look at the recipes, and I guess I did find more recipes I was interested in making than I initially thought....

IS IT VEGAN FRIENDLY?:  I didn't see anything in here that couldn't easily be veganized.  With the exception of the recipes with hard boiled eggs, anchovies, dried shrimp or dried scallops.  Pescatarians, please for the love of God, stop calling yourselves vegetarians.  It confuses people.  And it's incorrect.  Perhaps invest in a dictionary instead of this cookbook.  And everyone should watch Cowspiracy.  Educate yourself people, stop turning a blind eye to what's happening in the world around you.  Just saying.

WOULD I BUY IT: I wouldn't buy it, but I would take it out of the library.  I might even photocopy a few recipes.  So why the four-star review?  I'm giving this book the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe I'm just guilty of judging a book by its horrible cover.  The truth is, I want to like this book.  I always want to like books that are promoting a more vegetable heavy diet.  If that's the case, I will gladly come back and update this post.  But honesty, I think the rave reviews are from hip people that know the hip writer and the hip editors of this hip book.  Also, just saying.

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.  There was no obligation to give a positive review, and if you read my blog, you know I'm a tell-it-like-it-is kind of girl.  I mean what I say and say what I mean, that holds true for my review.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Recipe Review List for: A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones

A while back I reviewed Anna Jones new book A Modern Way to Cook.  I absolutely loved her first book, A Modern Way to Eat and had high hopes for this follow-up cookbook.  I decided to do another Recipe Review List  to keep track of my hits and misses as I went through these recipes.

Let me start by saying, this is not a vegan cookbook, but she does provide a lot of substitutes to the egg and dairy in these recipes.  I do feel like this book contains more recipes with egg or cheese than her last book.  Thank God for all the cheese substitutes that are readily available now.

Kale, tomato, and lemon magic one-pot spaghetti p. 24  I made this prior to getting this book.  I had seen it online a while back.  It's one of those super simple but really good recipes.

Lemongrass, peanut, and herb noodle salad p. 63 I had to make a few substitutions, you can read about it here.  I would make this again.  It's easy to put together and packed full of flavor.

Carrot and chickpea pancake with lemon-spike dressing p. 104 This wasn't life changing, but it was good.  Her directions say to "cut the pancakes into slices and top with sprouted seeds...."  That seemed odd.  Did she mean strips like fettuccine?  I don't know.  We just put everything on top of the chickpea pancake and rolled it up crepe style.

Butternut and sweet leek hash p. 114 We used to make potato hash with over easy eggs every Sunday morning, but stopped since going vegan.  That is until I found The Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk.  I made a make-shift egg white out of tofu and used The Vegg to substitute for a regular egg yolk.  I also used sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash.  It was okay.  It was more labor intensive than my usual potato hash, and honestly, I don't think it was worth all the extra work.  Read about it here.

30-minute sweet potato chili p. 117 Anna Jones has a great vegan chili recipe in A Modern Way to Eat that is amazing.  Somehow light but still very filling.  This was good, but not as good as that one. My two taste testers liked it, but not as much as I did.  

Sweet roasted zucchini with crispy chickpeas p. 130 This was a pretty easy recipe.  The directions were a lot of put this on a sheet tray in the oven, now add this and now add that.  It was a great way to use up garden veggies.  I served it with spaghetti.  You can read about it here.

Green bean and chile paneer p. 140 So...I really wanted to like this.  I used pressed tofu in place of the paneer.  It was good, but I think as someone who has eaten authentic Indian food, this was just missing something.  I think this would probably be good for someone used to more bland food, and cannot handle the kind of spice and heat you'd usually find in Indian food.  It's good, but it's not Asian approved.  Well, not by this Asian.

Spinach and lemon polpette p. 152  A polpette is basically a meatball...but without meat.  The spinach polpettes were okay, tasty and flavorful but dry.  Maybe I baked them for too long.  Or maybe substituting Go Veggie Parm was the problem.  I would try it again to see if I could get them right. The biggest surprise was the sauce, almonds, and tomatoes?  Really good!  For the record, if you look at the picture of hers in comparison to mine, they look like two totally different meals.  You can read about it here.

Fragrant herb and star anise pho p. 172 This was good, but it took a long time to make what was, for all intents and purposes, a simple soup.  I also didn't like having to waste all the vegetables after the making the broth.  It was good, but not good enough for me to make again.

Quick-pickled roasted root vegetables, polenta and carrot-top pesto p. 192 I had just picked some beets and carrots from my garden, so how could I not make this recipe.  I made a risotto instead of polenta.  I made polenta over twenty years ago, and I was thrilled by it, so I never bought it again.  I should probably get over it, and give it another shot.  Anyway, the roasted vegetables were great and mixing the carrot top pesto into the risotto was amazing.  

Lentil ragu agrodolce p. 195 This was super delicious!  The Tyrant said it was her favorite Anna Jones recipe.  Honestly, I wasn't impressed while I was making it.  It seemed like a whole lot of nothing.  But when it was done, it all came together in this amazingly rich and filling meal.  This is one of those vegan meals that would satisfy a carnivore.

A modern moussaka p. 217  This is good, but a moussaka it is not.  Where's the nutmeg?!  Grilling the eggplant took forever, if I were to make it again, I would put the eggplant slices into the oven with the tomatoes.  If you half the recipe, still make the full bechamel recipe.  It was an okay dish, but if I want moussaka again, I'll just veganize a traditional moussaka recipe.

Crispy chickpea and harissa burgers p. 220  These were a lot better than I thought they'd be, but way too much work for a veggie burger.  The relish, on the other hand, was very easy to make and delicious!  I've made it again for when I serve store-bought veggie burgers.  And I have to say I liked serving them with humus.  It's a great change from the usual mayo, ketchup, mustard mix.

Ultimate pecan banana breakfast bread p. 236 I have an amazing banana bread recipe, so I almost didn't try this one.  I'm glad I did!  It's dense, but not in a bad way.  I would have never thought that adding caraway seeds would work, but it really did.  If you're the type of person who frequently has a bunch of bananas sitting on the counter getting overripe, I'd keep this recipe dog-earred.  

10 minute-pancakes p. 290 These were a big, wet, sloppy mess!  I wish she'd stop talking about grinding oats into a "scruffy flour."  What does that mean!  I think if I just ground it into a full-on, totally pulverized oat flour, then maybe it would have worked.  I might try it again.  Might.

THE VERDICT:  Now that I've had time to go through many of the recipes in here, I've made a final decision about A Modern Way to Cook.  Most of the recipes were tasty, but very few were amazing. They also felt more labor intensive than the recipes from her first book, A Modern Way to Eat.  Perhaps the problem for me is that I loved A Modern Way to Eat so much that my expectations for this book were too high.  

I would still recommend people buy it.  I like how it's broken down into time increments which makes it easier to pick which recipe to make on a weeknight and which to make on a lazy Sunday.  I also like that the recipes include no plant-based or soy-based meats, and instead rely on the vegetables to speak for themselves.  While this book probably won't be on the heavy rotation list of cookbooks on my shelf, I am sure I will continue to go back and make more recipes from it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Vegan Tieks Review

Let me start by saying, I did not receive these Vegan Greystone Tieks by Gavrieli shoes for free.  I paid for these with my own money.  I was not solicited by anyone for a review.  I noticed most of the rave reviews online are from bloggers who received them for free.  I'm not saying that influenced their opinions.  I just want to be clear that I bought these Vegan Greystone Tieks myself.

My other disclaimer is that I have crappy feet.  Well, not really, but kind of.  I was one of those girls in the 90's who liked to run around town in pointy toed stilettos.  Then I had a baby, and my already bleh feet got a little flatter and wider, and that was the official end of me wearing those shoes.  That led me to a hunt for the perfect flat shoe.

As I started to research, it became clear that the online world's favorite flat shoes were Tieks.  At first, I wouldn't consider buying them because the bulk of the line is made out of leather.  Maybe you're into wearing dead animals, I am not.  I was surprised to find that they carried a line of vegan shoes.  Their site description of their Greystone Vegan Tieks is as follows:

"Timeless texture, classic color and modern design come together to create a one-of-a-kind staple.  Our vegan interpretation of wool in neutral grey is soft, durable and breathable.  Greystone Tieks will become your go-to pair to add warmth and a unique style to any outfit."

My first thought is that these are expensive as all get out.  In fairness, I also normally buy shoes on clearance from Target for under $10.  Sneakers are the only things I splurge on, and even then I won't go over $50 maybe $60.  These shoes were definitely above what I'm normally willing to pay.  My husband pointed out, that if they were really good, and I could wear them all day without my feet hurting, then wouldn't that make them worth the price tag?  I had to agree.  Maybe it is a better idea to buy one pair of expensive shoes that make you feel great, instead of five pairs of crappy shoes that hurt your feet. I was also hesitant to buy shoes I couldn't try on in real life, but they have a great policy of exchanging shoes to make sure you get the right size.  I bit the bullet and ordered them.

They come in a Tiffany-ish blue box with a pretty bow.  All the information inserts were about their leather-line, not their vegan shoes, which seemed weird, but no big deal.  Have you noticed the crease in the middle of the shoe?  Part of the Tieks by Gavrieli schtick is that these shoes are foldable, so you can bring them in your bag to...I don't know, throw on after a long day of walking in heels? I didn't mind the crease that much, but honestly, I was kind of unimpressed with the material used for the bottom liner.  It had the feel and appearance of laminated cardboard.  I'm not saying that's what it is, I'm just saying that's what it seemed like.  I didn't let that deter me, I was determined to like these popular shoes.  I did like the color a lot.  I felt like you could dress it up or down easily.  Their entire vegan selection consists of three solid colors and two patterns.

The soles look weird, but I did like the added cushion.  When you wear these shoes, the extra lift of the cushion is slightly noticeable at first, but you quickly forget about it.

 Let's start with the good points:
  1. They are vegan and pretty, which is harder to find than you would think.
  2. Tieks really does have great customer service.  When the first pair of Tieks I ordered were too tight, they happily, and quickly, sent out a larger size.  They didn't charge me for that pair, and wouldn't charge me, as long as I returned one or the other within (I believe) thirty days.
  3. When I did return both pairs (spoiler alert, I didn't keep them) they were very nice about it and I received my refund quickly.
  4. Even if you return the shoes, you can keep the pretty flower bow.
Now the not so good points:
  1. They just weren't comfortable for me.  I've heard of people wearing the leather ones with thick shoes to stretch them, but I didn't think that was the way to go with these faux wool ones.  I didn't take a picture of my feet in them, but you could see my toe making a lump in the top of the shoe.  The size 8 was just too tight, and the size 9 was too big.  My foot would slip out of the back when I wore them.
  2. They also say you should wear them around to break them in.  Well, if you think you might return them, you can only wear them inside.  Returned shoes must be in like new condition.  Even though I wore them around for a month, they never felt more comfortable.
  3. After wearing them inside for a day, my feet felt just as crappy at they did with my usual cheap Target flats.  I know these are not miracle shoes, but reading the reviews online, I expected a little more comfort than my cheap shoes.
I had read so many glowing reviews and watched so many YouTubers regale in the wonders of Tieks that I thought I was crazy.  Is it just me?  Everyone seems to love these shoes!  So I did a little more digging, and guess what?  I'm not the only one!  The blog with the most comments seemed to be here at Mommy Gearest where there were a surprising amount of people that sounded like me!  We all wanted to like them but they just weren't the miracle shoe that other people said they were.

Maybe my post-stiletto, post-baby feet aren't the kind of women they're designing these shoes for.  Or maybe they're just not for everyone.  So if you're on this side of the Tieks-don't-fit-me fence, you are not alone.  You're not crazy.  Maybe we should start a support group....

Monday, October 3, 2016

Book Review: The Bread Baker's Apprentice

When I saw The Bread Baker's Apprentice, 15th Anniversary Edition: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread come up for review on Blogging for Books, I was apprehensive.  I was concerned that it would either be full of recipes that use dry milk powder like  A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets, or that it would be some pretentious crap with weird expensive ingredients like Marc Vetri's Mastering Pasta.  I decided to go ahead and request it after seeing so many bloggers and bakers online wax poetic about this book and all its wonders. This book must be good if people took the time to start a Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge...Google it, you'll be amazed.

I was pleasantly surprised that this book is a cookbook/textbook hybrid.  In the first half, he walks you through all the basics of techniques and equipment. I love that his recipes work with grocery store unbleached bread or all-purpose flour.  Instant yeast, tap water (if it's drinkable, although we're slowly learning none of our tap water seems to be drinkable, but that's a different post), no preference to hand kneading, electric mixers, bread machines or food processors, and no fancy thermometer is needed.  Granted, these are not simple mix, rise, bake recipes, but they didn't seem overly complicated to me.  Now that cold weather is upon us, I'm looking forward to trying his recipes out.

IS IT VEGAN-FRIENDLY:  Yes and no.  His recipes do include a lot of dairy milk and butter, but with all the non-dairy milk and butter options, I doubt you'd have an issue making a substitution. When I try some out, I'll let you know.

WOULD I BUY IT?:  Yes.  I like books that don't make cooking or baking seem like a rich man's hobby.  Baking is for everyone.  While this book is more complex than recipes you'd find in your run of the mill baking book, I think the extra work will be worthwhile.  I also think the textbook-like first half provides enough information to make it worth the price of the book.

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.  There was no obligation to give a positive review, and if you read my blog, you know I'm a tell-it-like-it-is kind of girl.  I mean what I say and say what I mean, that holds true for my review.