Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Product Review: Earth Balance Original Mayo

Earth Balance released their new vegan mayonnaise lines recently. The company is mostly popular for their array of vegan butters. With other products such as Vegenaise and Nayonaise out there, it didn't surprise me that the company wanted to add more products. Personally, I hate Nayonaise. It has an awful aftertaste. I refuse to use it unless I can mask the taste of it somehow (then what is the point of really using that brand, right?). So, for many years now, I have sworn by Vegenaise.

To keep pledging my allegiance to Vegenaise or to branch out and try a new vegan mayonnaise? Well, I can't resist new vegan products. I'm like a very excited child when I get to the grocery store and I find a company has released something new.

Nutritionally speaking, Vegenaise and Earth Balance match up. For one serving, 14 oz., each is 90 calories. The total fat is also the same. Earth Balance does have a little less sodium, 70 mg versus Vegenaise's 85 mg. The only real difference in the ingredients is that Earth Balance uses "pea protein" while Vegenaise uses "non-GMO soy protein".

Overall, I found out that I enjoyed Earth Balance's original mayonnaise very much. Even better that Vegenaise (shock and horrors!). It has a tangy taste (which I prefer - I have a very sour taste palate). I think this would be great for dressings like making homemade ranch or caesar dressing. If you want a more plain taste of "mayonnaise", I would still go for Vegenaise. I haven't tried the Earth Balance on a sandwich or bread yet, but some people may not care for the tangy taste it holds. I give the Earth Balance mayo a 4.5/5 stars! I leave off half a point just in case someone doesn't care for the tang. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chick'n Scallopini with Wild Mushroom Risotto

Tasty and a perfect romantic dinner.

Chick'n Scallopini with Wild Mushroom Risotto
* Prep Time: 15 minutes
* Cook Time: 45 minutes
* Ingredients (for risotto):
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 5 oz. bags dried wild mushrooms, dehydrated, sliced
  • 1 cube vegetable bouillon, follow directions
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil, chiffonade 
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • vegan Parmesan, to taste* 
* Ingredients (for chick'n):
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Gardein chick'n scallopini patties*
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup pinot grigio white wine*
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
  • 2 tbsp Daiya mozzarella, split between scallopini*
  • 1/2 medium lemon, juiced
  • basil, chopped, to top 

* Recipe (for risotto):
  1. Dehydrate the wild mushrooms in boiling water until soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove mushrooms and slice, reserving water to make broth.
  3. With mushroom water, add the cube of bouillon and the amount of remaining water needed for two cups. Bring to boil.
  4. In a skillet, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and sautee onions with salt until translucent and soft.
  5. Add remaining oil and cook the garlic and mushrooms, about 5 minutes.
  6. Next, add the rice, parsley, rosemary, basil, vegan Parmesan, remaining salt, and pepper. Sautee until rice starts to brown, stirring constantly. Add a ladle full of broth at a time, stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  7. Repeat the process until all the broth has been used.
* Recipe (for chick'n):
  1. Add oil to skillet and caramelize onions.
  2. Next, add garlic, thyme, and scallopini. Cook through until scallopini is golden brown. Add wine to deglaze.
  3. As wine is cooking down, add lemon juice. Allow the sauce to cook.
  4. Remove scallopini and slice in thin strips.
  5. Top with sauteed onions, wine reduction, Daiya, and bake to melt cheese at 200 degrees.
  6. Remove and place atop risotto.
  7. Sprinkle basil over dish.
* Note: For vegan Parmesan, I use Galaxy brand. Gardein is a great mock meat company that you can find in most groceries. Make sure your wine is vegan! Daiya is a tapioca based cheeze product that has become readily available at most health food stores. You can also find it online. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Italian Wedding Soup

I do miss Italian wedding soup a lot. This was pretty taste. I would recommend using the Galaxy brand Parmesan if you can find it. I tried three Whole Foods, but couldn't find anything so I settled for Parm which I do not particularly care for. It has too much of nutty taste for me. The floating bits in the pictures are from the Parm. Apparently that's what happens to it when added to liquids. There is also couscous at the bottom of the soup too which you can not see in the pictures. Some people prefer spiral pasta noodles, though, so pick whichever strikes your fancy! 
Italian Wedding Soup

* Prep Time: 15 minutes
* Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
* Ingredients (for meatballs):

  • 1 package (8 oz.) Italian style seitan, finely chopped*
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan*
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 "eggs", made as directed by box instructions*
  • 1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs*
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
* Ingredients (for soup base):
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegan Parmesan
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine*
  • 1/2 cup couscous
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

* Recipe (for meatballs):

  1. Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Form into small to medium shaped balls.
* Recipe (for soup):
  1. Over medium heat in a pot, add the olive oil. Brown each side of the meatballs for about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the meatballs and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 20-30 minutes.
  4. When done cooking, place some broth in a bowl and add several meatballs.
* Note: For my seitan needs, I swear by local seitan gods, Upton's Naturals. You can find it online at vegan stores. You could use other seitan-style meat crumbles such as Boca Ground Crumbles,Gimme Lean Sausage by Lightlife, or Yves Meatless Ground Round Original. For ease, one could just use frozen vegan meatballs too such as Nate's. For vegan Parmesan, I recommend Galaxy brand. I basically only use Ener-G for egg replacement purposes. Make sure your breadcrumbs are vegan as they often have dairy in them! I use Whole Foods brand. Make sure your alcohol is vegan.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vegan Springfield, IL: Part Two

Vegetable Delight Hibachi
Part Two begins with Japanese hibachi. It has been years since I've had hibachi. Kiku is nice because it is rather quiet and one can ask for special needs diet stuff without feeling like a burden. They are really nice about not using butter or fish sauce (their teriyaki sauce has animal product in it). When you get there, just say you are vegetarian and would like oil to be used on the vegetables instead of butter. Ask for only soy sauce and ginger sauce. Their miso soup is vegan, but I am not sure about the hibachi soup. I usually get the hibachi soup traded for miso when I get the vegetable delight hibachi. The salad that comes with it is also vegan. Also, ask for no shrimp appetizer. I'm pretty silly, so I'm a huge fan of all the hibachi cooking tricks. I particularly love the flaming volcano made out of onion! :D

Tom Yum Veggie Soup
Spring Rolls
Other items at Kiku are a variety of vegetable sushi including inari, avocado, and asparagus. They also have edamame and seaweed salad.

Screamer Tofu
Vegetarian Buffet
The best place for Thai food in Springfield, in my opinion, is Thailand Cuisine. Mona, one of the owners, is the sweetest lady you will ever meet. Their food is traditional Thai and holds true to it. A lot of places have a mix of Chinese and Japanese, but not Thailand Cuisine. It is never busy and the service is the best. I really recommend it. They have a cheap lunch buffet that has many vegetarian options. Mona will go out of her way to let you know what has animal products in it too. The tom yum veggie soup is also vegan if you ask for no fish sauce. It is rare that I find a Thai place with soup that doesn't have animal product.
Fresh Carrot Juice

Vegetarian Buffet
Lastly, Holy Land Diner has the best vegetarian buffet on Saturday nights. It changes from week to week, but generally, they always have Mediterranean salads, olives, lentil soup, homemade hummus, homemade falafel, and a variety of entrees. The entrees are always some kind of grain (usually brown rice) and several vegetable dishes or veggies with pasta. They never use salt in their dishes either. The owners, Afaf and Jamal, are really sweet too. I leave MFA literature with them including Vegetarian Starter Kits and Vegetarian Eating brochures.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vegan Springfield, IL: Part One

For most people, this may not be too helpful as I'm not sure how much traveling is done to Springfield, IL. If you like Lincoln, this is your place.
Vegetable Mix Sushi
There are quite a number of Asian restaurants which tends to be the best bet for eating veg. Osaka is newer and has a rather extensive menu of Japanese hibachi and traditional entrees, sushi, and Thai food. They also boast a large range of home infused vodka's, whiskey's, sake's, and rum's (which are tasty too). This place has sort of turned into the hip place to go it seems and would be great to take someone out on a date. I usually go with a seaweed salad (their house salad dressing has dairy in it), hibachi soup (the miso soup contains fish stock), edamame, and the vegetable mix sushi (it comes with salad so no salad, just trade out the miso soup for hibachi soup). There are many Thai entree's that can be made vegan including eggplant, trio nuts, mango, etc. Just be sure to ask for tofu and no fish sauce or oyster sauce. The same can be said for the Thai noodle dishes (no egg too). Appetizers that are also good are the fried tofu and the summer rolls (ask for tofu instead of shrimp in them). There are a couple other vegetarian sushi rolls on the menu as well as vegetable teriyaki (check for fish sauce in the teriyaki; I have not had this dish so always best to check). Lastly, Osaka also has vegetable tempura, mini rolls, and gyoza, but again, one would have to double check for dairy/eggs. I had a great experience here with a very knowledgeable waitress who knew what was exactly vegan and not.
Portobello Sandwich

Spring Salad
If you're heading downtown to check out those many Lincoln sites or the Illinois capital stuff, there are a few places with vegan options. I like to go to Cafe Brio where they give you chips and salsa to start and I always get their spring salad. For sandwiches, one is kinda at a loss for a vegan grub, but they have a portobello sandwich which you can have them veganize (no pesto and aioli). This pretty much just leaves you with bread and a mushroom, so get some sandwich veggies and mustard and you're good to go. They have some pretty tasty hand-cut fries and sweet potato chips too. Two other places to also check out downtown are the Garden of Eat'n and Andiamo. The Garden of Eat'n can make vegan wraps, salads, and sometimes they'll have a vegan soup. They also have chips to go along with your wrap or salad. Andiamo has sandwiches as well as pizzas. I've never eaten there, but I do see on their menu they have a vegetarian sandwich and I'm thinking one could ask for no cheese on their mushroom pizza. Doesn't hurt to ask, ;].
Dal Soup

Almond Vegetable
Green Masaala
Another great place for vegetarians is Gateway to India. They have a weekday lunch buffet that is cheap, good, and they let you know what's vegan and what is not. The mint chutney is not vegan, to note! There are a number of vegetarian and vegan options. To start, one could go with vegetable samosa, pakora, salad, or dal soup. For entree's, I like the mango vegetable, green masaala vegetable, almond vegetable, baingan bharta, or the mushroom masaala waala. One can go with roti or garlic naan without butter for a side. They also have a killer fresh mango juice and organic, vegan wine. This is another place to take someone out on a date, I think. It has a lovely atmosphere (but quiet) which would be terribly romantic!

Veggie Samosa
While on the subject of Indian food, there is this great little store hidden away in Springfield called Mini Devon Groceries. One can pick up all sorts of vegan Indian things there such as bulk grains, chutneys, frozen entrees, and produce. Food Fantasies is the local health food store in Springfield and most people know about it to get vegan or green products. But if you are looking for some more traditional Indian or Pakistani food supplies, I recommend checking out Mini Devon (and grab a snow cone when you leave - Ice Deli is just next to it and hey, those are vegan too!).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Moo Shu Tempeh

These last couple posts have been inspired by just your average weeknight meal sort of thing. It is not everyday one can make something like an Italian "Beef" Sandwich!

Moo Shu Tempeh
* Prep Time: 1 hour
* Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
* Ingredients:
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 tbsp sake
  • 1 tsp + 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 oz. tempeh, sliced thin*
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 4 button mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup green onions, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1/2 medium Japanese eggplant, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 14 oz. can chop suey vegetables*
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp sugar*
  • 3-4 tbsp hoisin sauce*
  • 1 cup napa cabbage, chopped
* Recipe:
  1. Combine 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp sake, 1 tsp sesame oil, and 2 tsp cornstarch in a small bowl. This is the marinade for the tempeh.
  2. Add tempeh to a small ziplock bag, pour in the marinade mixture, and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.
  3. Add 1 tbsp sesame oil to a medium sized frying pan. Heat on medium heat.
  4. Add the mushrooms, green onions, garlic, ginger, eggplant, snow peas, bell peppers, chop suey vegetables, salt, and pepper to the pan. 
  5. In a small bowl, combine 3 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp sake, 1/2 tsp cornstarch, and 1/2 tsp sugar. Add to the vegetable pan. Also add the hoisin sauce. Cook for about 10 minutes.
  6. While the vegetables are cooking, in small pan add the last 1 tbsp of sesame oil to the pan. Heat on medium heat and add the marinated tempeh. Brown on each side; about 5-10 minutes.
  7. In the last several minutes of cooking, add the tempeh and napa cabbage to the pan with the vegetables. Cook for a few more minutes.
  8. Serve with moo shu wrappers, tortillas, or homemade moo shu pancakes.
* Note: I used Lightlife Organic Garden Veggie Tempeh. It's my favorite out there. For chop suey vegetables, I used La Choy brand. Feel free to use fresh been sprouts and some canned water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, etc. Make sure your sugar is vegan! For hoisin sauce, I used the Iron Chef brand at the store. Personally, I didn't care for it. I'm sure there are a lot of other brands out there that are better. Now I know!

To serve this, I used a really basic homemade moo shu pancake recipe I found. It wasn't amazing and I added some egg replacer to it. I would recommend trying to make a much more fancy moo shu pancake recipe. I remember how they taste and this was not doing it for me at all. In contrast, if you are feeling lazy or don't want to mess with the pancakes, just use tortillas. I couldn't find any moo shu wrappers in the store, but from Googling, they all seems to have egg in them. If it were me next time, I would just toast up some tortillas!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lemon & Lavender Chick'n with Quinoa Pilaf and Asparagus

I was inspired by the spice rack on this one!

Lemon & Lavender Chick'n with Quinoa Pilaf and Asparagus
* Prep Time: 10 minutes
* Cook Time: 40 minutes
* Ingredients (for quinoa pilaf):
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 red and orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 zephyr squash, diced*
  • 3 small tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • truffle salt, to taste*
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
* Ingredients (for lemon & lavender chick'n):
  • 3 tbsp Mediterranean spiced olive oil*
  • 1 tsp Herbs de Provence with lavender*
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp truffle salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • tiny pinch saffron
  • 1 package Gardein chick'n scallopini*
* Ingredients (for asparagus):
  • 1 bunch green asparagus
  • 1 tbsp balsamic reduction, drizzled*
* Recipe (for quinoa pilaf):
  1. Place quinoa and water in a small pot and cook covered on medium to low heat for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile in another medium pot, add olive oil and bring to medium heat. Throw in the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook until onions are translucent.
  3. Add celery and carrots and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add bell peppers, squash, tomatoes, stock, salt, pepper, basil, and oregano. Cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Mix in the cooked quinoa with the vegetables. Add the cilantro. Cook on low for another 5 minutes if it is too mushy still.
* Recipe (for lemon & lavender chick'n):
  1. Heat skillet to medium heat.
  2. Mix all ingredients except chick'n patties. Add to skillet.
  3. Place the patties in skillet and cook on both sides until done, about 5-10 minutes.
* Recipe (for asparagus):
  1. Cut ends off asparagus and steam in large pot for about 10 minutes until tender.
  2. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.
* Note: Zephyr squash were readily available at my local health food store with their organic produce. You could use an ordinary squash. Truffle salt is just something I picked up. Regular salt will do. The Mediterranean infused olive oil is again something I picked up. Feel free to use a regular olive oil versus an infused one. I couldn't find straight dried lavender and as a result I ended up with the Herbs de Provence with lavender which I think I like better anyways! Gardein is a great company and one can find it at most grocery stores with the organic products or Boca products. Lastly, the balsamic reduction is something I found bottled in the spice aisle at the store. One could just drizzle plain old balsamic on top if they chose.
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