2015 Favourites: Just Mayo

I’ve been meaning to do this for a bit – say, about a month? – but have been taking care of personal stuff so haven’t had the chance. Until NOW, that is! I want to share with whomever reads this a few of my favourite vegan things from last year; I promise that when I say ‘a few’ a mean exactly that – my top three discoveries. Any one of these items has likely been around a lot longer than a year, but I just didn’t know about it until sometime within the last 13 or so months. So, without further ado, the first in my three-part series:

  1. Just Mayo, by Hampton Creek

    justmayo

    Mayonnaise is probably my favourite condiment. I was about to say that I would literally put it on anything, but that’s not true. I don’t use mayo on my fruit, or in my oatmeal. But, um… yeah. Everything else. As a vegan who is steadfastly opposed to eggs and dairy, mayo has been the hardest for me to resist when eating out. To be honest, if I get a veggie burger from an omni restaurant, more often than not I will eat it with whatever mayo they put on it. Its the one thing I just can’t resist

    When local vegans began posting that Just Mayo was available for an amazing price from our neighbourhood Costcos, I made sure to look for it as soon as I possibly could. And when I brought it home and gave it the first taste test, with some crinkle cut french fries piping hot just out of the oven, the sauce passed with flying colours. The smell, the taste, the colour, the texture – there is no way someone would notice any difference if every restaurant and fast food chain were to suddenly start using Just Mayo rather than the egg-and-dairy-based stuff.

    Now, I’ll be honest – the health benefits to switching from egg-based mayo to Just Mayo are limited to one very key difference – Just Mayo has absolutely ZERO cholesterol. Bad cholesterol leads to heart disease, and with the amount of mayonnaise I can consume when I’m on a savory food bender I was at a serious risk for developing too much of the bad cholesterol that could cause me to suffer a stroke one day. While the calorie count and fat count are relatively similar between traditional mayonnaise and Just Mayo, when eaten in moderation, Just Mayo will make a much bigger difference to your health in the long run. Another benefit is not to your body, but actually to your wallet! Just Mayo is MUCH cheaper than regular mayonnaise. And, best of all, ZERO innocent animals were subjected to misery and torture to create this product. So now when I go out, I can bring a little container with this delicious stuff and use it on my restaurant food so I can have my cake (mayo) and eat it too!

    As a little note – it was announced yesterday or today (who can remember anything these days?) that Hellman’s, the company that sued Just Mayo for calling itself mayonnaise even though it did not contain the traditional egg ingredient, is now set to release its OWN vegan mayonnaise. I’ll be sticking to Just Mayo as long as it is available to me, but it’s inspiring to see more and more vegan options become available.

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Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread (or, Life is Beautiful)

One of my clearest memories of spending time with my mother when I was a little girl is sitting at the kitchen table with what (at the time) seemed like a gigantic silver bowl, a sturdy fork, and a pile of bananas that needed mushing. While my mom puttered around the kitchen taking care of a hundred other things that needed doing, I would sit there and press the tines of that fork into chunk after chunk of over-ripe banana, as gleeful as if I’d just been given a hundred quarters and dropped in the middle of an arcade. Finally, my mom would have to take the fork away from me before a) the bananas were turned entirely into soup and b) the table was covered by any more flecks of banana flesh that had spattered across its surface due to my over-exuberance. My mom would turn my handiwork into a delicious loaf of banana bread using a classic recipe from the Joy of Cooking cookbook her sister Karen had given to her as a wedding gift in 1980. That Joy of Cooking was a staple in our kitchen as I was growing up, and after, and when my mom passed away in 2012 it was the one possession of hers that I was almost desperate to make sure I reclaimed.

joc1

 

Now that I’ve gone vegan, the Joy of Cooking recipe for banana bread is off limits. Sure, I could try to adapt it on my own but I am not experienced enough in the kitchen to try that level of master cookery. Instead, I kept my eye out on the internet for a simple but tasty-looking recipe to try. Thank heavens for One Green Planet, whose Green Monster newsletter dropped the perfect recipe right into my inbox! The recipe (and the picture just below) is from the vegan maestro at iheartcrapkitchen.com, and be warned – visiting her site is like going down a rabbit hole of ridiculously tempting vegan yumminess!  My tummy still won’t stop growling.

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You can view the recipe as I first saw it in its entirety here on the One Green Planet site. I only made a couple of alterations. Firstly, I used plain all-purpose flour. Then, I did not include the desiccated coconut that the original recipe calls for, simply because I did not have any in my kitchen at the time I fancied baking this up. And lastly, as you can see from the pictures, I opted out of making the chocolate ganache. Instead, I simply sprinkled vegan chocolate chips across the top of the banana bread, and I found that just doing that made the banana bread extra chocolate-y enough for me! Just a note: I found the cooking time was spot on – I kept my bread in for the full fifty minutes and it turned out perfectly. And, using a little vegan Becel to coat the loaf pan before pouring the batter in allowed the bread to slide perfectly out after I’d let it cool down completely.

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After cutting off and savouring an end piece just to ensure quality control I brought the rest of the banana bread loaf to work for a snack day in honor of a couple of departing staff. It is the first time I actually brought something homemade, and boy was I proud of myself. While I didn’t announce to all that it was vegan, I was happy to have brought something that a couple of my coworkers who have specific dietary restrictions could eat and enjoy. And the reviews from the omnis that were present? “Yum!!!” bb

 

 

My First Giveaway! (or, What’s Mine Is Yours!)

As some of you may or may not know, I started my very own Seed page on Facebook in order to better interact with others of the veggie community. To celebrate the people who take time out of their busy days to make compassionate choices, to live mindfully, AND to read my ramblings, I am having my very first giveaway. To be entered in the draw, all you need to do is like Seed on Facebook before March 30th, 2015 – its that easy!

Now for the good part – the prize!

rescuechoc1I came across Rescue Chocolate several months ago and knew that they would be a fantastic company to support. Not only do they donate all their profits to charity, they make VEGAN CHOCOLATE. Yes, please! So, my first giveaway will be for the 4 Paw Collection of Rescue Chocolates, wrapped all nice with a pretty red bow. Rescue Chocolate
As per the Rescue Chocolate website, “Our delectable hearts, bonbons, and organic chocolate bars are all vegan-friendly, kosher, and handcrafted in Brooklyn.” Sounds pretty darn good to me. And again, all you need to do is like Seed on Facebook before March 30th and your name will be entered in the draw, which will take place March 31st.

Product Review: Gardein Crispy Chick’n Sliders

There is a lot of talk about faux meats in the vegan world. Many vegans don’t understand the appeal of fake-meat burgers, hot dogs, ground “meats”, etc. Those vegans tend to state that they don’t miss the tastes and/or textures of meat, and therefore have no desire to consume any products made to resemble them. I happen to be on the other end of this particular teeter-totter. I, and many vegans I’ve talked to online, LIKE faux meat products – they help fill a void left by those foods we were all raised to eat, are used to eating, and might miss for some reason or another.

Last week I decided to try my first Gardein products – I had heard of the brand before, had even seen their products in my usual grocery store, but had never taken the leap to actually trying anything by them. The date of purchase, though, I just happened to be Craving (with a capital ‘C’) a chicken burger so gosh-darned bad. I know that sounds terrible, and I’m not proud of myself, but it just was what it was. So, I grabbed a box of these Chick’n Sliders to try.

BoxofSliders

When you open up a box of Gardein Crispy Chick’n Sliders you find yourself with two plastic-wrapped packages. Inside each package is two small slider burgers, buns and all. For my first go, I chose to make two of the burgers instead of all four, and picked the quickest way to get them into my belly, which was using the stovetop. I heated just a touch of oil on a skillet and then fried each of the burgers for about five to six minutes per side. The recommended cooking time is only three to four minutes, but I like everything a little extra crispy so I kept the patties on longer. In the last minute of cooking I added the two buns, face down, as directed by the cooking instructions on the package. After I took the skillet off the heat, I swiped a layer of Veganaise on to each side of the bun, added  lettuce, and then patties.

Slider

As far as taste and texture go, the chick’n patties met my expectations. Though small, the burgers were hearty and filling, and pleasing to the palate. I wouldn’t say they tasted exactly like chicken, but that wasn’t what I was expecting anyways. The most important thing to me was quieting that annoying craving without heading to my nearest McDonalds; I’m happy to say that my hunger for “flesh” was more than satisfied. My only complaint about the Chick’n Sliders pertains to the buns. For some reason I found the slider buns sweet, which put me off a bit. The buns are also slightly domed, so when I heated them up on the skillet the crest of the top over-cooked while the rest of the bun remained slightly chilled. Next time, I will look for Gardein patties specifically, and get the bread to go with them separately.

The only OTHER downside to the Gardein Crispy Chick’n Sliders is the ingredient list. As any successful vegan will tell you, eating whole foods is the way to a healthy and happy body. Often the complaints regarding faux meat products is how chemically processed they tend to be, and Gardein’s sliders are no exception.

SliderIngredients

But, for a quick fix, or to soothe the savage hunger beast in your belly, these will definitely do in a pinch.

Product Review: Dr Lucy’s Maple Bliss Cookies

lucys

I am an undeniable cookie-a-holic. I love cookies. As I have gotten older, my tastes have expanded from strictly the softest of soft chocolate chip to encompass all the flavours and tastes of cookies available to me. Transitioning to vegan means that the wealth of baked goods available to me directly off the grocery store shelves has decreased a hundred-fold, which makes satisfying my sweet tooth a little bit trickier. As I have come to learn, a woman can only eat so many Oreos (an accidentally vegan product) before she simply cannot stomach them anymore!

On my latest off-the-beaten-path shopping trip, I found a new brand of cookies called Lucy’s. There were two different flavours displayed: Ginger Snaps and Maple Bliss. I decided to try one flavour for my first go, just to see what I thought of them, and went with the Maple Bliss.

The cookies, once I finally broke down and ripped open the adorable package (which was SO CUTE I couldn’t bear to wreck it), are just a little bigger than bite-sized. In the picture below, you can see that one of them fits perfectly into the palm of my hand.

cookie

When you crunch into a Maple Bliss cookie the first taste that you get is of oatmeal, though these cookies are much lighter and airier than your average Dad’s Oatmeal cookie. Intertwined with that is the sweet maple, which lingers on your tongue long after you’ve swallowed the last tasty morsel. With an almost unnoticeable touch of salt that nevertheless tickles those particular sections of your taste buds, these cookies cover all the bases.

The selling point to Lucy’s little masterpieces, though, has to be the texture. While there is a lot in these cookies that can be compared to an oatmeal cookie, these maple bliss babies hold together well until you pop a piece into your mouth – that’s when they yield to your salivary glands and crumble in a soft, buttery way, surprising considering there is absolutely no dairy in this product.

From the peanut gallery: I had a few non-vegan coworkers try these cookies and they were blown away by how good they are. There was more than one surprised “yum” from those expecting dry and flavourless cardboard after hearing the word vegan, which I find is the best compliment a person can give a sweet treat.

The Maker

The culinary hands behind – and the namesake for – Lucy’s cookies is Dr. Lucy Gibney. She began creating allergen-free recipes for her young son, who suffered from severe food allergies. Her line of tasty baking currently consists entirely of a variety of cookie flavours that are all 100% free of gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. You can see all her amazing products and which stores carry them (or you can even order them online!) at her website, http://www.drlucys.com.

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Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies

Last week a friend of mine on Facebook shared a recipe for Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies. Always on the lookout for easy, straight-forward vegan recipes (especially the sort that involve chocolate!) I saved the recipe and thought I’d give it a try over the weekend. My only other experiences with vegan baking were several years ago when I made vegan carob chip cookies for my vegan friends as a small gift, which I never actually tried myself; and, a few months ago, when I made a blueberry vanilla protein cookie that turned out horrendously awful. I’m no whiz in the kitchen so I was pretty wary of how this undertaking would turn out.

Thankfully, the Skinny Chunky Monkey cookies are a cinch to make. The ingredients are all standard things you’d likely have already; all I had to pick up from the grocery store was the applesauce. The recipe itself is short, sweet, and completely, blissfully idiot-proof; you don’t even have to pull out a mixer (a huge selling point). 

The finished product:

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookie

So how did they turn out? Actually, really good! The cookies are very soft and a little sticky so you may want to keep them refrigerated so that they don’t get goopy all over your fingers. They are very dense, so a couple of cookies will satisfy your sweet tooth easily; but, I’ll admit that they are a tad bitter thanks to the cocoa. I think next time I make these I will dust the cookies with a fine coat of confectioner’s sugar/icing sugar once they are done baking – this will help make them a little less sticky and a little bit sweeter. All in all, though, delicious results. I realized I forgot to pack some in my lunch for today and am super disappointed!

I can’t figure out where exactly the recipe originated, so I’ll include the one I found on MyRecipes.com that matches what I found on Facebook. I obviously did not create the recipe, and do not make any claims to it whatsoever.

  • 3 bananas
  • 2 cup(s) oats
  • 1/4 cup(s) peanut butter $
  • 1/4 cup(s) cocoa
  • 1/3 cup(s) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla

Preparation

  1. Directions:
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mash bananas in a large bowl, then stir in remaining ingredients. Let batter stand for approximately 20 minutes, then drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Just a note: I did end up baking both batches of cookies for closer to 17-18 minutes, so check them at the recommended time and put them back in for longer if need be.

 

Moby; or, My First Vegan

When I became a fan of Moby (after seeing his video for Natural Blues on MuchMusic circa 2000 and becoming completely and utterly enchanted) one of the first things I learned about him was that he was vegan.  Fourteen years later I still consider Moby a revolutionary musician and artist, and an animal-rights champion I not only admire, but whose complete commitment to living a cruelty-free life inspires me on so many different levels.

I just found this article that Moby wrote for Rolling Stone magazine in March of this year. Give it a read – even if you’re not a fan of his music, Moby’s unflinching devotion to leading a compassionate life is so inspiring.

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/opinion-why-im-vegan-by-moby-20140318