Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fakin' it

Every good, health-conscious vegan knows that highly processed meat and dairy substitutes are NOT a requisite part of a healthy, balanced diet. That being said, they certainly can be fun every now and again--so while we should be working to center our diets around whole, unprocessed grains, vegetables, and legumes, I think it's okay to enjoy these fun foods every now and again.

Like many of you, I received a shipment of vegan cheese samples from Galaxy Foods a while back. I never much shared on this blog how I used those products, so here's a sampling.

I used the Pepper Jack Rice Vegan cheese slices to make a small array of simple Southwest-style foods, namely...

Cheese and mushroom quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas, and

Nachos on baked blue corn tortilla chips with salsa. Both were ready in just a few minutes and made satisfying and tasty small meals. I was surprised and impressed by the melt that I was able to achieve with these rice cheese slices--a rare quality among vegan cheese products.

With the white cheddar block cheese I went a healthier route and made salads... most notably this delicious salad with roasted apple-shallot vinaigrette. Cheese and apples make a surprisingly complimentary pairing, and this "sharp cheddar" style vegan cheese brought back remembrances of that. All in all, I liked the Galaxy Foods products that I sampled. I was more impressed with the individually sliced cheeses than I was the block cheeses. I may purchase these products from time to time in the future, but I really can live without them. I'm sure all of us as vegans have heard people tell us over and over again that they could never give up cheese. But really, it's pretty amazing how you get used to not eating it, and you really don't miss it or crave it ever. You just have to learn new habits--and it's easier than most people realize!

But I digress. I picked up these vegan buffalo wings made by Health Is Wealth Foods one day just to give them a try. I always loved the flavor of buffalo wings. But you know what they say--Wings are for flying, not frying... I made a dipping sauce by mixing some vegan ranch dressing (from The Grit Cookbook) with some Louisiana hot sauce. These were actually very, very tasty--a good treat every now and then.

I used some vegan sausage patties from Trader Joe's to make this breakfast sandwich on a whole wheat English muffin with strawberry preserves. Another one that's good for a treat once in a while.

This one's an all-time favorite weekend brunch--tofu scramble. I threw in some mushrooms, red peppers, and zucchini, and added some fresh salsa at the end. Tofu scramble is hardly an egg substitute--it is delicious and unique in its own right. And it's a great way to take in some vegetables early in the day.

I made a nice trip to the farmer's market yesterday and picked up plenty of veggies to do some cooking this week. I recently got a new cookbook and I am excited to delve into it--and to share with you what I come up with! So I will be back around soon. Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A few favorites

Not much new in the world of my kitchen recently... though I have made a few of my favorite foods to enjoy.

First and best of all, I made Fantastic French Toast from Vive Le Vegan! Cooking a fun breakfast on the weekends used to be one of my favorite things to do... This was fabulous--I made it with slices of whole wheat sourdough bread, and I made a strawberry-maple topping. A breakfast like this puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Another long-time favorite is Quinoa Spring Salad, also from Vive! It's so easy to make and so refreshing and so healthy, I can't understand why I have not been making it for myself all summer. A simple dressing of fresh lemon juice and olive oil is all you need to allow all of the wonderful flavors to come through. This contains green peas, roasted red peppers, diced cucumbers, scallions, cilantro, and toasted pine nuts.

I had a fun sandwich idea one evening after work--slice up some portobello mushrooms, zucchini, and red bell pepper and sear them in a hot pan with olive oil and a glaze of balsamic vinegar. Then make a batch of Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto (Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan) and spread a nice layer of that on a slice of bread. Heap the seared veggies on top, and you have a fabulous dinner.

Here's something I've been meaning to blog for a while. Like many of you, I received a sample of Vegan Pro Bars in the mail a while ago. I received five flavors--cherry pretzel, maple pecan, kettle corn, cocoa pistachio, and sesame goji. I was anxious to try them and to share my thoughts on my blog... but somehow it fell by the wayside. But better late than never, eh?

This is the kettle corn bar, though I think my favorite was the cocoa pistachio flavor. In any case, I was quite impressed with this product. You can probably tell from the picture that it is made from whole, recognizable ingredients such as dried fruits, almonds, and sesame seeds. It is healthy and filling, providing plenty of protein and healthy fat. I found it to be an excellent breakfast, and I typically try very hard to make breakfast pack a powerful nutritional punch to start the day. The down side? They are quite expensive, to the point of being cost prohibitive. I don't know that I could ever fit Pro Bars into my food budget... Still, I'm glad to have been able to try them and be impressed with the fact that there actually are healthy, whole food snack options available out there.