Monday, September 27, 2010

Nacho Mom's Ultimate Vegan Queso

Fat Goblin makes Nacho Mom's Ultimate Vegan Queso. That's a simple enough way to start a post. But their website puts it another way. It boasts that Fat Goblin is the "Manufacturer of Mind-Blowing Vegan Queso That's Fat on Flavor But Wickedly Healthy." That's not only more colorful, it's also accurate. To back up the latter part of that proclamation, their home page includes a lengthy list of all of the things that Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso doesn't contain, like dairy or other animal ingredients, cholesterol, soy, nuts, sugar, or fat.

Wait a minute—queso without fat? Fat-free queso? Queso sin grasa? Isn't that an oxymoron? This stuff can't possibly taste good. I was a bit dubious about the "fat on flavor" part of their statement.


So what is in it that makes it taste like queso? Well, of course, the ingredient that gives it its "cheesy" flavor is nutritional yeast. It also contains tomatoes, green chiles, flour, paprika, salt, garlic powder, and other (unnamed) spices. I fully expected Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso to taste like little more than glorified nutritional yeast. But when I dipped my spoon in and took a small taste, my tongue and I were both surprised to discover that it tasted a lot like ... queso! The texture is smooth and creamy. And it's also a bit picante (at least for my palate), so I mixed it together with some milder Trader Joe's Smoky Peach Salsa and made a delicious dip for tortilla chips. I ate a whole bowlful along with a big green salad for lunch that day. I was sold on the flavor part!


The number of ways that Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso can be enjoyed is almost endless. The list includes such yummy ideas as using it to make a Southwestern style mac 'n cheese, grilled cheese, and guiltless cheese fries. (I can't wait to try the latter with baked sweet potato "fries.") Last night I decided to try Nacho Mom's with my Black Bean, Corn, and Rice Burritos, which I thought tasted pretty amazing already.


Wow! Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso took this meal to a whole new level of yumminess. It sure seemed like I was eating something "bad," because it tasted so good!

Thank you, Chef Alana, for creating a creamy, melty cheese that tastes so decadent, but is fat-free and McDougall-friendly. I love Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso so much, I'm actually considering getting this tattooed on my belly:

OK, maybe not. But Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso is so good, its flavor is forever tattooed on my tongue. Discover for yourself all the tasty ways to enjoy Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso. It's starting to pop up on natural food store shelves everywhere, but you don't have to wait to find it at a store near you. You can order a jar at any of these online vegan stores right now: Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe, Vegan Essentials, Food Fight Grocery, and Pangea.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I See Veg People!

I had an amazing time at the Portland Vegfest last weekend! And I can't believe that it took me almost a whole week to write about it. It was so wonderful to see so many of my vegan friends from near and far there! I hadn't seen my dear friend, Dr. Michael Klaper in many years, and it was a joyful reunion!


And after five years of online camaraderie, finally meeting my virtual buddy, Kyle Vincent was also a special treat! He's such a sweet, compassionate, and funny guy!


Vegan bodybuilder, Robert Cheeke, is living proof that you don't need to eat meat, eggs, or dairy to have a strikingly beautiful muscular body. Wehn I first me Robert five years ago, he was living here in the Willamette Valley. Now he's down in Los Angeles living in vegan heaven. I didn't tell him, but I am insanely envious! He thoughtfully signed a copy of his new book, Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness for me, and I am really looking forward to reading it!


My very favorite acquisition from VegFest was this nifty button, a cute homage to the movie, The Sixth Sense, and a very thoughtful gift from my Naughty Vegan friend, Jeff Rogers. 


Wearing it in a room filled with vegans was lots of fun, but wearing it out in the real world gives it a whole other meaning. I like to think of it as an exercise in creative manifestation.

Saturday night, my friend, Ken Viscidi, and I went to Blossoming Lotus and had ourselves an amazing dinner! We started with  two sensational appetizers: Live Nachos and a Creamy Pesto and White Bean Dip. They were beyond scrumptious!


Ken and I both had big eyes and growly tummies for the many plates of Four Cheese Lasagna that were carried past us, while we waited more than 45 minutes for our table. (It was worth the wait!) But by the time we were seated, they were all out of lasagna, so we had to quickly make two other choices.  Ken opted for Black Bean Chili Quesadillas, but I hungered for something a little different and ordered the Crispy Thai BBQ Salad. I'm a sucker for anything with the initials "BBQ" in the name, and mixed greens, crispy rice sticks, curried cashews, and Thai spiced barbecue soy curls topped with a creamy ginger dressing and toasted coconut sounded irresistible.


After my very first forkful, I declared it the best salad I have ever eaten!
With so many tasty-looking dessert choices, it was difficult to choose just one. But I was already quite full, so I asked Ken to choose and said that I would take a bite of whatever he ordered. He brilliantly chose the Blood Orange Live Cheesecake. Now I would have played it safe and selected the Key Lime Cheesecake. But not Ken, God bless him! He went for broke.


Ken and I both took a bite and just gave each other a wide-eyed look. We couldn't believe how powerful the orange flavor was, and I had to ask our waitress if they used some kind of orange extract or oil to give it that amazing flavor. She told us that there was nothing orange in the cake, other than the blood oranges. If you can imagine what the brilliant red color of that cake might taste like, that's exactly what it tasted like—an explosion of blood orange! Needless to say, I couldn't stop at just "a bite," and Ken thoughtfully allowed me to eat half of his cake. I can't wait to go back to Blossoming Lotus again!

I didn't forget that in my last post I promised to share the recipe for Carrot Apple Muffins I came across on allrecipes.com. We still have lots of apples on our little tree, and so we're still enjoying our happy little harvest! So here's the recipe. These are really quite lovely for breakfast.


Ingredients

• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups finely grated carrots
• 2 large apples - peeled, cored and shredded
• 6 teaspoons egg replacer (dry)
• 1 1/4 cups applesauce
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil or 1 banana, mashed
• 1/3 cup raisins (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
2. In a large bowl combine brown sugar, white sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in carrot and apple; mix well.
3. In a small bowl whisk together egg substitute, applesauce and oil. Stir into dry ingredients.
4. Spoon batter into prepared pans.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Happy Apples!


I planted a little apple tree a year ago, and what a mighty harvest it has blessed us with in its very first year! The tree was no more than a 5-foot-high tender shoot when we planted it, and now it has branches thrusting a foot and more higher. While we've already picked well over two dozen apples so far, it still has two dozen brightly-colored globes hanging from its slender branches. It's such a happy little tree!


I have no idea what variety these apples are. They look like small Gala or Braeburns, but as I recall the gentleman at the farmer's market who sold me the tree (for a whopping ten bucks!) said that it was some kind of apple/pear hybrid. But they taste wonderful! They're crispy, not too tart, and not too sweet.

After eating a few, I wondered what I might bake with them. Hmm ... apple pie just seemed too ordinary, and apple cobbler just didn't get me all worked up into a baking frenzy. But apple cake—now there's an idea! So I scoured the web for some recipes and found a vegan apple cake recipe on Madhuram's Eggless Cooking blog. The photos were mouthwatering. She even made apple cake truffles by rolling pieces of the cake into little balls and then dipping them in melted chocolate! So with a few tweaks, (I reduced the fat by replacing half the Earth Balance with apple sauce), and used So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Beverage in place of the soy milk. (It adds such a nice "crumbiness" to all of my baked goods!) While it meant that my cake didn't brown quite as much as hers, it still came out deliciously moist and fluffy. And since I diced the apples, instead of grating them as she did, the texture had delightful bits of crunchiness, too.


While super delicious all on its own, I wanted to dress my after-dinner cake up a bit and couldn't decide between Purely Decadent Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk Ice Cream and Healthy Top Whipped Topping. Healthy Top is my new favorite indulgence! It's about the same price as my beloved Soyatoo (about $4.59/box), but it seems to make a lot more. The company that makes MimicCreme also makes Healthy Top. So far, I haven't been able to wrap my brain around MimicCreme. I've tried cooking and baking with it, but with less than amazing results. Healthy Top, on the other hand is incredibly dreamy-creamy! This soy-free whipped cream is made from coconut oil, almonds, and cashews. That's a whole lotta fat and a whole lotta yum! I really have to restrain myself from eating it straight from the carton. It's absolutely incredible with fresh strawberries. The only problem I have with Healthy Top is its name. It's much too decadent to be called "healthy." They really should have called it Tasty Top, Creamy Top, Dreamy Top, or even Crazy Delicious Top. Anything but Healthy Top!


After all that talk about Healthy Top, it may surprise you to know that I went for the Purely Decadent last night. (Actually, I'd already had my Healthy Top fix earlier in the day.) Just look at how moist and fruity this cake is!


What else will I do with all these apples? I just found a recipe for Carrot-Apple Muffins. Stay tuned ...

Snappy Apple Cake

Ingredients:

2 Tbs Earth Balance, softened
3/4 cup evaporated cane crystals
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage (I used Original, but Vanilla or Unsweetened would work, too)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups baking apples, diced (you can also grate them, if you don't want little chunks)
1/4 chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream Earth Balance and sugar until light and fluffy. In a tall glass, whisk together Egg Replacer, water, coconut milk, and vanilla until foamy. Add the Egg Replacer mixture to the creamed Earth Balance and sugar and beat together with a hand mixer until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat together. Batter will be thick. Using a large spoon, stir in apples and walnuts.

Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean and cake begins to pull slightly from the edges of the pan. Can be served warm with ice cream or whipped topping, or at room temperature on its own.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tofu to Gail: "Press Me at Your Own Risk!"
... No More!

Just last week I was saying how a TofuXpress was at the top of my wish list. And look what arrived in the mail yesterday!


When I first heard about the TofuXpress from my friend, Bryanna, I didn't think I really needed one. After all, anyone can build a "tofu tower" out of heavy items they have lying around the house. So this is how I used to press my tofu:


No less than five minutes after I completed my last tofu tower, it all came crashing down. I ran into the kitchen to find a floor full of broken shards of glass, porcelain, and grains of rice scattered everywhere. I admit that I went a bit overboard with this one, but to be honest, it wasn't the first time this had happened. I realized then that I really needed a TofuXpress. So I stopped being foolish, and I got one.

Now I can make The Great Untuna Salad


and Scrambled Tofu (recipe below)


without turning my kitchen into a hazard zone. So, that's just what I did today. I used my new handy-dandy TofuXpress and made a tofu scramble for dinner. I loved not making my hands red and chilled from crumbling tofu that still had the last vestiges of cold water in it. And it crumbled so easily! In only an hour, the TofuXpress removed more water from my block of tofu than any tofu tower ever could. See how bone-dry this block of tofu looks:


It's hard to tell from the photo, but this block of tofu compressed to about two thirds it's original size. I can't even imagine how much more water would have been pressed out had I left it in the press overnight.

My TofuXpress came with everything you see here:


including a marinating lid, instruction booklet and recipe guides, and a light tension spring attachment for silken tofu and for making vegan cheese and yogurt. (Apparently, this is an optional item, but one I thought would come in very handy.) The TofuXpress also comes with a 1-year limited warranty, although with its sturdy construction, it seems rather indestructible to me.

While reading the instruction guide, I discovered that the TofuXpress can also be used to squeeze the water out of defrosted frozen spinach. That was super exciting news to me, because my hands get nearly frostbitten whenever I try to squeeze all the water from frozen spinach when making Pizza Bombay from Vegan Planet.

I often write about how much I enjoy eating breakfast for dinner. My recipe for Garden Tofu Scramble served with Smoky Tempeh Strips and Roasted Potatoes is one of my favorite go-to breakfast-for-dinner meals. And now that I have my very own TofuXpress, I'll probably be making it even more often.


I used to think that $39.95 was a steep price tag to pay for this nifty gadget. But much like my Cuisinart immersion blender, it's one of those kitchen tools I didn't think I needed until I got one. Now I am kicking myself in the butt for not having purchased a TofuXpress years ago. It makes life a little easier (and in my case, a lot safer) and my tofu doesn't mock me anymore. If you want your very own TofuXpress, head on over to their website and grab one for yourself.

I think there are as many recipes for scrambled tofu as there are snowflakes. And I really do want to try Julie Hasson's Yummy Tofu Scramble, because Bryanna has been telling me how wonderful it is! Everyone has their favorite spice blend, and most people like to add nutritional yeast. Following is my favorite recipe for Garden Tofu Scramble. I actually prefer it without the nutritional yeast. But you can of course, add up to 1/4 cup, if that suits your fancy.

Garden Tofu Scramble

Ingredients:

1 lb extra firm tofu (I use White Wave Reduced Fat Tofu drained and pressed)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
4 green onions, chopped
3 tsp low-sodium soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground pepper
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets
2 cups packed spinach leaves

Directions:

Using your hands, crumble tofu into a bowl and set aside. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté green onions 3 minutes until slightly softened, then mix in tofu and sauté for 2 minutes more. Add soy sauce, stir well, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add spices, and mix together well.

Mix in the shredded carrots and red bell pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets and about a cup of spinach. Stir well, then add remaining spinach. Stir, and cover skillet. Continue cooking until spinach is completely wilted, about 5 minutes more. Makes 4 large servings.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Reubenesque

I titled this post "Reubenesque," because Allison's recipe for Grilled Tempeh Reuben Sandwiches makes one voluptuously sexy sandwich. When I saw the mouth-watering photos on her blog post, they just bowled me over. Now, I've never been a big fan of the Reuben sandwich, as corned beef was never high on my list of favorite foods, nor was the idea of eating any meat with Swiss cheese. And the tempeh versions of this classic sandwich that I'd tasted in the past had all been rather uninspired. But I'm a sucker for grilled onions and Thousand Island Dressing, and I was definitely in the mood for something completely different, so I thought I'd give Allison's recipe a shot.

I have to agree with Allison. This is far and away, one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten! The secret I think, is in browning the tempeh with the spices and grilled onions and also substituting mashed avocado for the Swiss cheese. And it didn't hurt that my Thousand Island dressing turned out to be the best I've ever tasted. I used my own homemade vegan mayo instead of Vegenaise, and sweet pickle relish in place of the dill pickles. But any way you make this, it's going to have to be great. Try it, and see if you don't agree that it's one helluva tasty sandwich!