Saturday, September 22, 2012

Product Review - Amande Cultured Almond Milk

Yesterday while I was looking for my beloved Wildwood plain yogurt at Whole Foods (which they don't seem to be carrying anymore boooooo!), I came upon an interesting product I had not yet tried; Amande cultured almond milk. I thought it was worth trying as I like to have a little creamy something-something with my berries in the morning.

I bought the plain flavor because I like to add my own sweetener to control the amount of sugar in recipes. The texture is not quite as creamy as soy yogurt, but the flavor is very nice. It does have that slight tang you find in most yogurt. It does contain 45% of the RDA of calcium per serving. This is an improvement over Wildwood's plain soy yogurt that has 30%. That is the upside.

There were a few things that made me go hmmmmm this might not be a regular option for me. First off, it is not organic. I do try to eat organic whenever possible, so for me this is a big thing. It is higher in fat, which is kind of expected as nuts are pretty high in fat. It has 10g of sugar, which is not a huge amount really, but compared to Wildwood's 4g it is a bit sweeter. For sweet dishes, it is a good alternative to soy. In savory dishes, it might be a bit too sweet. One of the main reasons I eat any type of cultured yogurt type product is for the protein and calcium content. Amande certainly delivers in the calcium department, which gets more important as I reach the magical menopausal years (oh joy haha). However, the protein content is only 4g compared to Wildwood's 10g. Amande has no iron, Wildwood has 10% of the RDA of iron. The caloric content is a little higher for Amande; 170 calories for Amande, 150 for Wildwood. With 20 calories difference its no big deal really.

Now I know my list of cons is a lot longer than my list of pros. This doesn't mean I don't like the product. It is fantastic for those who are sensitive to soy or are trying to limit their consumption of soy. Sometimes it's just fun to shake it up and try something different. Both products are comparably priced and are available in 24 oz containers. I do like Amande cultured almond milk and I do hope they consider making an organic version in the future.

I did make a yummy smoothie with the Amande. I'll share the recipe here with you.

Very Berry Almond Smoothie

3/4 cup Amande plain cultured almond milk
1 cup frozen mixed organic berries
1/2 cup organic orange juice
1t - 1T agave nectar (depending on how sweet you like it)
handful of ice cubes (optional)

Put cultured almond milk, frozen berries and orange juice in blender. Blend until smooth. Taste for sweetness. Add agave nectar 1 teaspoon at a time until desired sweetness is achieved. I like my smoothies a little thicker. If you do too, add a handful of ice cubes and blend on high until mixture is thick and smooth.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Upcoming Cooking Classes October and November

I was so bummed I had to postpone the Whole Foods cooking class. I am very excited to announce the class has been rescheduled. Come join me at Whole Foods Scottsdale, 7111 E Mayo Blvd. (just south of the 101 on the south west corner of Scottsdale and Mayo). It's going to be held on Sunday, October 14th at 1pm. The menu will be the same, just the date has changed. Click here for registration information.

The Hackett House Dinner Party Cooking Class will be held Thursday, November 8th. Doors open at 6pm. The fall menu will again feature produce from Horny Toad Farms. The food is all vegan of course!!! Their will be wine pairings with each course. Click here for more information on reserving your spot. The spring class sold our very quickly, so make sure to get your spot soon!

The menu:

Appetizer: East Meets Southwest Tamale Eggroll with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Soup: Pumpkin Bisque Garnished with Spiced Pecans and Sage Oil Drizzle

Entrée: Wild Mushroom Strudel with a Cabernet Reduction served with White Bean and Horny Toad Farm Fall Vegetable Ragout

Dessert: Dessertini Sundae – Cinnamon Ice Cream topped with Warm Wilcox Apple Compote and a Salty Caramel Sauce Served in a Martini Glass with Pastry Swizzle Stick

Hope you can make it to one or even both of the classes!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Veg-in-Training Blog Down/Cooking Class Cancelled

This has truly been an odd week.

I apologize to those of you who have been trying to access the Veg-in-Training blog at . Blogger has a rather serious problem with their DNS servers that affects any blogs that recently added a custom domain name. I am not techie, I'm a foodie, so I am a bit lost on a lot of the jargon on their message board. What I have determined is that they have no fix for it and they are not sure when they will have one. This must be a sign that it is time to revamp the blog. So revamp I will starting with a new name and a new look!

In other news: Today was supposed to be my debut as a cooking class instructor at Whole Foods in Scottsdale. Sadly, it is going to have to be rescheduled due to a pesky cold. I have been talking with the lovely Marketing Director, Lisa Wilson, about when it can be rescheduled. I will make sure to post once we have scheduled the new date.

Now, you might ask, how would someone who eats such a veggie and nutrient rich diet succumb to a little cold? Well my dear readers, there are some other key factors to keeping that immune system fired up. Never underestimate the importance of a good night's sleep. It is the time when the body repairs and rebuilds itself. I'm not sure why I still think I can stay up late and get up at 430am and stay bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! Yep, I'm a 21 year old living in a 40-something's world. 

On to yet another silver lining...OK so I won't be able to share (in person) some great vegan cooking tips and food with you today, but I can share some of that awesomeness here. I will spend my down time doing some more research for Vegan MOFO (month of food) coming in October. My theme is going to be COOKBOOK MANIA! I'll be featuring some new and classic vegan cookbooks for the entire month. There will be informative reviews, great pictures, maybe even a recipe excerpt or two. Here is the most exciting part...GIVE AWAYS!!!!! There will be at least 12 brand spanking new vegan cookbooks up for grabs during the month. Several of the titles are from the VegNews 2012's Ten Must Buy Vegan Cookbook List!

A dear friend of mine swears some of my soup recipes have magical healing powers. So I will be making some of that today. I am also going to re-post the recipe here for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks for your understanding of this week's challenges. I am going to work at moving some of my previous posts to this site; moving the recipes first because cooking is king!!

Garlic Wonder Soup

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, roughly chopped
10 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup marsala wine (not sweet)
1 cup butternut squash, 1/2 inch dice
4 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound kale, ribs removed chopped, about 2 1/2 cups after ribs are removed
1 can navy beans with liquid

In a 4 quart heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, saute onion, until slightly golden, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in thyme, black pepper and salt and saute for another minute. Pour in marsala wine to deglaze pan, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pot. Saute for another minute or two until liquid is reduced by half. Reduce heat to low. Add cubed butternut squash and saute until it is just starting to slightly caramelize, about 3-5 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bay leaf. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat back down to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until butternut squash is al dente. Add mushrooms and simmer for 5-10 more minute until mushrooms and butternut squash are soft. Add kale and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Add navy beans with their liquid and simmer until they are heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread and feel the wonder! Oh yes and don't forget to brush your teeth after :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Blog Tour: Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson

I'm excited to be doing my first blog tour! The kind folks at Harvard Common Press invited me to host a stop on the Blog Tour for Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker. Not only am I going to tell you about the book, you will also have a chance to win your very own copy. Details of the giveaway will be at the end of the post, so make sure to make it all the way to the end.


The first thing that struck me when I received my copy was the beautiful cover. Pictures speak more than a thousand words when it comes to food. The tacos on the front cover made me want to tear into the book. The only other pictures were on the back cover. I do wish there were more pictures because I totally love to drool over my cook books.

Robin Robertson is no stranger the cook book scene. She has written many wonderful vegetarian and vegan cook books. Her experience shows in her writing and organizational style. I've been cooking for decades. But I have to admit, my use of the slow cooker was pretty limited. Using the slow cooker was usually reserved for cooking beans. Robin teaches us that this was the first modern day slow cooker was developed specifically for cooking beans.

The first part of the book is full of tidbits and information on just about everything you need to know about using and enjoying your slow cooker. She offers advice on learning the timing for your specific cooker (which can vary greatly from brand to brand), when to add spices and other ingredients for the best results, the best way to thicken liquids and even a nice reference for vegan proteins used in slow cooking. If you don't want to spend a lot of time reading, she has included highlight boxes for quick reference. Even this old cooking dog learned some new tricks reading the first few sections of her book. Robin has a knack for taking simple pantry friendly ingredients and creating pleasing and hearty dishes.

Now I mentioned earlier that my repertoire for the slow cooker was pretty limited. After reviewing Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker, I have a completely different outlook on the uses of the slow cooker. I can now "bake" cakes when it is 110 degrees outside without heating up my kitchen (no minor deal in Arizona). If you have had bad luck making your own seitan, I highly recommend trying it in the slow cooker. It is virtually fool-proof. Robin provides a basic and easy recipe on page 136 of the book. If you are busy or just like the idea of walking in after a long day and having dinner ready to go, this book is for you.

I tried four recipes, including the seitan I mentioned above. I have my eye on many more. I really want to take a crack at making my own home made catsup or maybe the Slow-Cooker Pho. Oh so many possibilities! Below are a few of the recipes I tried out this week.

Holy Mole Red Bean Chili (pg. 82)

Chili is the quintessential crock pot dish in my opinion. They just go together like peas and carrots to me. This is probably why I made it first. I made it with the TVP option.  It had a nice spice, but seemed to be missing something. I think I would use veggie broth instead of water with this option to add more depth to the flavor. The seitan (that Robin recommended using) probably would have added an added dimension of flavor this could have used. But on a whole it was homey and good. I loved the hint of heat and smokiness the chipotle provided. It was very filling as well. Not midday snacks were needed after a lunch of Holy Mole!

Grandmom Gennaro's Minestre (pg. 54)

Fred picked this one out. He is still on his very low carb regime (for 2 more weeks). I am proud of his accomplishments, but am looking forward to being able to cook beans, tofu, tempeh and seitan for him freely again. This recipe is chock full of veggies! The ingredient list is short and simple. I was able to get everything into the crock pot in about 20 minutes before going to work (this included sautéing the onions and garlic). My crock pot took quite a bit longer to cook this than the 6-7 hour time stated in the recipe, but as Robin points out in her tips, all Crock Pots are not created equal. Mine is an oldie, so it probably needs more time to get up to speed (or temperature in this case).

Apple Walnut Cake (pg 244)

This cake was very pantry friendly and easy to make. The batter was very thick with nice warm spices. I cooked it in my 4 quart round crock pot. Sadly the crock pot cooked very unevenly. One side got a bit burnt and the other side was not cooked enough. This is a good way to test your crock pot for even cooking. That said, even with the uneven cooking the cake was not a total loss. It was still pretty tasty and fairly moist. I am guessing it would be really good in a properly working crock pot. Fred has requested I make this again when he can eat carbs. He loved the flavors. I thought it was so cool to be able to bake a cake without turning on the oven!

So now dear readers it is time to talk about how to score your very own copy! It's simple really. First, if you are not already a follower of the Veg-in-Training blog, please become one, because to win the book you must be a follower of the blog. Easy peasy right? Then make a comment on this post by midnight MST today, September 8th, 2012. Make the post slow cooker related if you can (optional). That's all you have to do to enter. The winner will be selected at random and announced here tomorrow. Please make sure to check back tomorrow to see if you have won! Good luck!

***Sorry to all of the international readers, this one is for US residents only.***

Congratulations to #27 Ilene Klang!!

Ilene, you are the winner of Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker. Please contact me at vegintraining at g mail dot com with your mailing address so the publisher can mail you your copy. Congratulations. You are going to love all of the wonderful recipes. Happy slow cooking!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hatch Melt on Marbled Rye

Last night as I worked to bag and freeze my green gold (aka Hatch Chiles), my Food Saver took a dump. Tonight I got home to a brand new Food Saver (thank you Fred). Fred gallantly headed first to  Costco then Bed Bath and Beyond to find a replacement. Not only did he score, but the very nice cashier gave him the 20% discount even though he forgot his coupon. Nice!! We also had a $50 gift card from some of our lovely friends. What could have been a kitchen tragedy actually turned out to be an "up with people" moment.

When I arrived home tonight, I knew I had a bit of a task ahead of me. It was time to bag up those delicious spicy chiles. Before digging in, I felt the urge for a sandwich. Not just any I had scored some fabulous marbled rye yesterday. I love the stuff. This called for a melt. Not just your average every day melt. That would not do as I surveyed my giant pan of green chiles. This one would have to be a spicy melt. Here is how it went down...

First I thinly sliced some sweet onions. I tossed them into my iron skillet with a touch of oil and some Southwestern spices I had left over from who knows what. I then diced up a hatch chile and sauteed that along with the onions. Then some thin sliced seitan had to go in the pan and saute until just golden. The marble rye slices were sprayed with a bit of oil on one side. One slice went in oil side down. A couple of tablespoons of shredded Daiya went on to the bread. The seitan mixture was placed on top of that. Then I found just a smidge of some leftover sriracha vegannaise was dolloped on the stack. Next the last piece of bread. The melt was cooked until the bread was perfectly crunchy and golden brown. I don't have to tell you...well yes I do. The combination of the succulent filling, the ooey gooey Daiya, the spicy mayo and chiles perfectly complimented by the beautifully grilled bread was sheer joy! I love when bits of this and that turn into a great meal.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hatch Chile Season is Upon Us

Every year it's the same thing. I get all tingly in the tummy and the tongue. My inner New Mexican comes to life and I anxiously await the coming of the Hatch Chiles like a child waiting for Santa. Well my friends, today was like Christmas morning. The Sprouts Markets in my neighborhood had the REAL Hatch Chiles from New Mexico for only $.69 per pound.

Fred heard a rumor that several of the local grocery stores were selling chiles grown in Mexico as "Hatch" chiles. Well anyone knows New Mexico Hatch chiles are grown from magical seeds in magical soil. The chiles we purchased were confirmed to be US, New Mexico grown. Score. Now for years I have been buying my chiles from a small market that roasted them for me, but sadly charging a rather outrageous price; a price I was more than willing to pay for my precious chiles. This year I bought them fresh. I had planned on roasting them on my grill when I remembered a random conversation I had with a co-worker/friend a while back. I remembered him saying he had a roaster. As luck would have it, he still had it and Fred picked it up from him this morning. What transpired was a fun night of roasting, enjoying a Mexican beer and some pool time. Oh yes, then there was the tacos!

Here they are waiting for me to throw them in the roaster.

Here is the roaster waiting for the chiles.

Perfecting my roasting technique. This needs to be an annual event/party!

Ready for packaging. We freeze 'em and use them all year long.

The first thing I decided to do with them? Tacos baby!!

Seitan Hatch Chile Tacos

Makes 8 tacos

Taco filling

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
2 large hot green chiles (preferably Hatch) roasted, peeled and diced (approx 1/3 cup)
8 oz seitan, diced small
1 tablespoon medium chile powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/2 cup water

8 crispy corn taco shells, prepared per package directions
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 large tomato, diced
1 large avocato, diced
Taco sauce or salsa of choice (I use Tapatio hot sauce)

In a 10 inch non-stick or iron skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and green chiles and saute until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add diced seitan and saute until browned, about 3-5 minutes. Add all dried spices and agave nectar. Stir until well combined and saute until just fragrant, about 1 minutes. Add water. Simmer until liquid is gone, about 5-7 minutes. Turn heat off.

While taco filling is cooking, bake taco shells according to package directions. Add about 2-3 tablespoons taco mixture in each taco shell. Top with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced avocados.   Sprinkle with hot sauce or salsa. You can also dollop some vegan sour cream on top if that's how you roll. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Free Cooking Class at Whole Foods 9/15/12

I'm super excited to announce a free cooking class and demonstration at Whole Foods Scottsdale.

This is my first time demonstrating at Whole Foods. They have a beautiful Wolf kitchen that is just waiting for me to whip up some vegan goodness. I'm ridiculously thrilled to have such a great opportunity.

The class will be held at 1pm on Saturday, September 15th. Space is limited to the first 50 people, so please reserve your spot soon. It's free, vegan and delicious, so I suspect it will fill up quickly. To reserve a spot, you can email Lisa at Whole foods or you can sign up at the Sub Zero/Wolf Kitchen Counter at 7111 E. Mayo Blvd.

**There is one item missing from the menu. I will be making Sloppy Chipotle Joses as well.