Thursday, August 26, 2010

Product Review - Uptons Natural Seitan and Smoked Cheddar Style Sheese

Before I delve in to the review I just wanted to shoot out a couple of reminders. Don't forget about the Men Who Cook 2010 Challenge and Giveaway. Men can show off their mad kitchen skillz and get a chance to win the most awesome American Vegan Kitchen cookbook by Tami Noyes from Vegan Appetite! Entries must be submitted before September 8th. Click here for contest details and get those boyz cookin'!

Also coming up is the next Food Network Friday Challenge. This week we're taking on Tyler Florence in honor of the new FN show The Great Food Truck Race. Each of us will put our spin on his Double Dipped Fried Chicken recipe. It's a lot of fun, so I hope you can join in. Do your thing with the recipe and post a link at Vegan Appetite or e-mail Tami with your creation.

While I was visiting in Chicago in July I had the pleasure of meeting up with Liz from Cooking the Vegan Books and Tami from Vegan Appetite. We had great fun talking food, partaking in adult beverages, and enjoying the city together. The only complaint I have as that our time together was too short. Liz was kind enough to bring me some Sheese products all the way from the UK. Sheese makes some amazing tasting vegan cheese products. I had tried the blue cheese variety when I visited Portland last year and really liked it. Sadly, I left Liz's gift at my mom's house when I retured to AZ. My neice just happened to visit a couple of weeks ago and brought the Sheese back for me. Yay for awesome neices!

So finally I get my goods. Sheese freezes and travels quite nicely by the way. It is actually produced by a company out of Scottland called Bute Island Foods. I have yet to find it here in the Phoenix area, but you can order it online. The company has a really nice website that gives you information on where you can find their product in the U.S. Last night I opened the Smoked Cheddar flavor. It has a nice smoky smell. The texture is nice and firm and wonderful for grating. Grate it I did. I also tasted it before cooking it. The texture will not fool you into believing it is dairy cheeses, but it did not offend like some other brands. We thought it tasted more like smoked Gouda than Cheddar...which for me is a big plus. I love that Gouda flavor. I made a chorizo and cheddar quesadilla. I have to say it didn't melt really well, but no matter, it was really tasty on the quesadilla. Just a word of warning: if you are looking for the ooey gooey melty texture you will be disappointed. If you are looking for a yummy tasting alternative to cheese, this is it.

Also featured in last night's quesadilla is a product I had never heard of: Upton's Natural Chorizo Style Seitan. Upton's is based in Chicago. They boast all natural seitan products that are all vegan and low soy. Their products can be found in several states, but sadly not AZ. However, they do sell their products online through Vegan Essentials. I chose the chorizo style seitan. I used to love the spices and flavors or chorizo (both Mexican and Spanish style). The texture of Upton's chorizo was much like that of ground beef. It was closer to Mexican style than Spanish style, but it was much drier than the chorizo I've had in the past. This is not necessarily a bad thing depending on how you use it. I think it would work quite well in burritos or enchiladas. The spice mix is a little weak for my taste, but if you are a little leary of a lot of spice and heat, this might be just the product for you. It is very easy and convenient to use. It crumbles very nicely. I love the fact that it is truly a natural product and made in my kinda town.

Here you can see the cheeze is not very melty, but it was oh so tasty

When you put both products together, you get a quick and tasty snack or meal. I added a bit of chopped onion and jalapeno and called it dinner. I try not to use processed food too often, but I would use both of these products again. I do hope to see these products here in the future. I liked them both better than a couple of other products we have in the valley.

For those of you who are not vegan or are just starting to embark in meat/dairy substitutes, always keep in mind these products are not meant to be identical to their animal derived counterparts. You must enjoy them for what they do offer and that is tasty flavors and interesting textures.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Taking on the Vcon Part 11 - Blueberry Corn Pancakes

This week has been ridiculously busy, so I was very happy that this week's recipe was quick and simple. It took less than 10 minutes to mix the pancakes up (about 7 to be exact). I subbed frozen blueberries for the fresh. Organic fresh ones are stupid expensive right now. We had some frozen ones in the freezer, so there! I'm not a huge pancake eater so I love the idea of little twists on traditional pancakes. This recipe was easy and different for sure, but it was not a home run for me. I found the mix to be far too thin and the pancakes really spread out. The texture might be improved by reducing or eliminating the water. Come to think of it, the frozen berries just may add the additional moisture you need to leave the water out completely. I would probably let the mix sit for 10 minutes before adding the blueberries next time to see if it would tighten up more. I didn't have time to wait this time.

The flavor and texture were OK, but honestly I much prefer the Banana Walnut pancakes in Vegan with a Vengeance. They are a tiny bit more work but a whole lot more substantial and tasty in my opinion. If you are looking for a quick and easy breakfast, this one will fill the bill, but if you have a ripe banana and a few more minutes. Make the other ones. They always go over well when I make them for people.

Here you can see the massive spreading.

Ready for the eating.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tofu Dog Wars - Who's is Best?

Last week I had a bunch of teen agers coming over for a party. I was trying to find an easy way to feed this army of boys. Of course hot dogs came to mind. They can be cooked on the grill quickly (an important feature in 100+ AZ weather). The trick for me was that all the neighborhood kids know that I do not eat meat, which makes their noses crinkle quite often. So I wanted to make the veggie dog experience fun. In the spirit of adventure I devised a blind taste test of three brand of tofu dogs to see which one meat eaters preferred.

My local Whole Foods had three different brands (pictured above). All the dogs were cooked on an outdoor grill. They were cut into bite sized pieces for all to try naked (the dogs, not the peeps). This may not have been the best option, because hot dogs really need the fixings to taste good in my opinion. But who am I to say? I never really liked hot dogs of the meaty variety all that much either. But that could be because I found out how they were made at a rather tender young age. 

I'm not sure if it was bias on my testers' part because they knew they were veggie dogs or if the results were truly accurate. No one really cared too much for any of the selections. I had a rather large plate of hot dogs left over, which with 10 hungry teen aged boys is not a good sign. There was a clear winner amonth the three. The Yves Jumbo dogs recieved the most votes by a great majority. They had the most realistic texture and the best flavor overall. Fred likes to have some quick protien available for busy days. I do buy him tofu dogs on occassion. After this test, he will be getting Yves from now on.

 The Tofurkey dogs were the loser with only one vote. Most of the crowd thought the flavor, color and texture of the Tofurkey dogs was odd and gross. No one really commented on the Litelife Smart Dogs.

So what have we learned from all of this? Don't let your neighbor kids know you don't eat meat before serving them hot dogs. Do not serve tofu pups naked. If you are going to enjoy a pre-packaged tube steak, try Yves Jumbo dogs. Don't forget the brat relish from American Vegan Kitchen. That stuff will make any dog taste like a million!