Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: Lightlife Gimme Lean Vegan Ground Beef

A veg friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook one day of a burger made with Gimme Lean Ground Beef  and I was intrigued because it looked so much like a cow burger. I'd seen the product at my local store but I just never thought to pick it up but I did last night.

I had read reviews of this product and others and I got frustrated because some reviewers aren't fair to certain products like this.

I call them 'ingredients' because like raw animal flesh, they aren't usually good straight out of the package and you have to do something with them in order to make them into something delicious. Tofu and tempeh are other 'ingredient' products. They are not 'ready to eat' products like a nugget or finished patty is.

If you were to take a hunk of cow flesh and make a patty and fry it up.. it would be pretty boring and bland if you didn't season it with things like salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, pickles, etc (plants - how ironic) so it isn't fair to try and use these products 'as is' in a review.

You can't take a bite of flour and declare it bland and boring because it doesn't taste like a cookie!

Also, some reviewers are meat eaters. A meat eater simply cannot be objective when reviewing vegan anything. Their taste buds are compromised. I know this because I used to be a meat eater. It took me a good 6 months before I could like and appreciate vegan convenience foods. I needed the animal stuff out of my system. You cannot compare apples to oranges. Vegan foods are not trying to be meat .. they are simply in the same form of familiar foods - like burgers, hot dogs, balls, nuggets, deli slices, sausages and crumbles.

When I buy vegan nuggets I want something familiar to me that I can dunk into bbq sauce and serve with fries. They don't taste like chicken (beyond any familiar spices that are added) and I'm not wanting them to.

so.. that said... here is my review:

This comes in a one pound package that is much like those rolls of cow flesh you can buy. It holds together as it's slightly sticky like cow flesh is. It's a little more dense than I was expecting because my intention was to mix spices into it but it seemed a little tight for that. However, my friend adds bbq sauce to hers so I know it can be done, I just didn't want to mess with it today.

I sliced off a 2 oz chunk and formed it into a patty shape. It made a thin patty but comparable in size to a fast food burger and it was the perfect size for my bun. I sprinkled on some course ground 'steak' seasoning that has garlic, onion, red pepper, salt and spices. I fried in up in a pan with a little olive oil. It held together great and it looked just like a cow flesh burger. I think this might even be something you could toss on a grill without it falling apart. It browned up like a cow burger as well. I served it on a toasted whole wheat bun with leaf lettuce and some special sauce I made using Vegenaise, ketchup, dill relish and salt.

It was good. I'd eat it again. The husband (who does still eat meat when we go out) said 'it's pretty good' when I gave him a bite.

I'd compare this to a Boca type burger. They aren't my favorite and I'd rather eat any other kind of burger (ie: veggie, mushroom, bean) than a retail Boca burger if given a choice but I'll definitely make these again.
I think they'd make good meatballs and meatloaf. Although I didn't try to crumble this up, I think if you want to make tacos or use it as a crumble, you should buy the Lightlife crumbles... I think you'd have better luck but it may not be impossible!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Recipe: Shelly's Butterbeer

If you share this recipe, please link back to this blog! 

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. Huge.

Fangirl proportions. Squee!

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I often wondered what Butterbeer tasted like! I'm not a drinker and I don't even like actual beer but my imagination had Butterbeer as a sweet and tasty beverage that would make me drunk and send me straight to Madam Pomfrey for sorting out!

I've come across various recipes for Butterbeer and they all seemed rather insane.. lots of sugar or actual dairy butter and even ice cream.. who wants to drink that? Who wants to give that to their kids?

I have a version that uses fruit and water .. kids won't know it isn't Butterbeer. Just make it when they aren't watching.... and get a frosty mug for extra effect. Serve along side some Pumpkin Pasties (ie: muffins) and your kid will have no idea you just used magic to get them to eat something good for them!

So.. do a little HP marathon and have good for you treats!

My magic ingredient? Butter extract from Watkins.  You can get it in the 2 oz size for $3.49 or the 8 oz size for $9.99. Sometimes it's on sale. It's possible you can find butter extract elsewhere but I have no idea.

In full disclosure, I am a Watkins Associate. It is a business I have. If you decide to order, please use my ID # 116054N to place your order so I get the commission!

Shelly's Butterbeer

12 ounces water
4 medjool dates (pitted)
1/2 tsp Watkins Vanilla
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Watkins Butter Extract
dash sea salt

Add the water, salt, vanilla and pitted dates to a high powered blender. Add in 1/4 tsp butter extract (you can add more if it isn't buttery enough) and blend until it's smooth. You want all the date pieces to be fully blended into your drink, no chunks! Pour over ice and serve with a straw. Let it sit for a few minutes and you get the nice foamy head shown in the photo!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cook Stocking Your Fridge in an Hour or Less!

There is nothing that frustrates me more than hearing someone say they 'don't have time' to cook. I get that people have jobs and kids and go to school or have other activities that take up their time but everyone has one hour to spare someplace.. and if they don't then they probably have enough money to hire a staff to cook for them!

You can find an hour by spending less time on Facebook or sitting in front of the TV. You could get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later. You could surely find an hour on your day off.

I'm certain you have an hour. I'm positive.. if you look for it.. you will find it.

So... I timed myself and I made four recipes in about 45 minutes and since I've made all of these before, I might be a little faster at it so I am confident you can make these in under an hour.

Of course, planning is important as are the recipes you choose.. so you'll need to print out the recipes and add the ingredients to your weekly shopping list. The key to getting things done quickly and efficiently is making sure you are not interrupted (crate the puppy, turn off your cellphone, ask the kids to go do something or tell the spouse you need help to keep them busy), knowing where your tools and ingredients are, making sure they are within reach and not wasting time.. multitask in the kitchen! If I have my oven on baking black bean burgers, I'll also make a quick pan of croutons. I never let my oven work half full!

During this time I could have also made a batch of almond milk if I needed to as it takes 10 minutes and I had that 10 minutes available. If I'm cooking or baking, I cannot leave my kitchen or I will get distracted and end up burning things.. so I stay in there but I try not to have downtime when I'm in there!

If I decide to make cookies then I am doing things during the 10 minutes each batch takes to bake - be it washing dishes, loading and unloading the dishwasher, marinating tempeh, feeding my dogs, or even checking email on my laptop.

This cooking commitment is all about beans! If you don't like beans then you should learn to like them because they are one of natures most perfect foods! They are full of protein and fiber so they keep you full and give you lots of vitamins and necessary nutrients.

Once these foods are in your refrigerator you are literally a minute or two from a wholesome food choice.

People tend to overeat or eat the wrong things when they allow themselves to get hungry or they are too tired or unmotivated to invest time into making a meal right then... this is why you need things prepared ahead of time.

I usually have these items in my fridge every week (the soup flavor changes) and I like to keep homemade black bean burgers in the freezer as well.

Here is what you are going to make and how to use it:

Tempeh Bacon - make BLT's or toss the tempeh on top of your salad or chop it up with green onions, chopped tomatoes, a little dill and vegenaise and you have a delicious salad filling you can use in wraps, on a sandwich or just eat the salad plain!

Chick Spread - I like to add nutritional yeast and No Chicken Bouillon to mine as well. I usually skip adding the tofu and celery but I do like to stir in some shredded carrots when it's done blending. You can adjust the texture to your liking.. from a flaky tuna like texture to a hummus texture. Eat this like you would a tuna or chicken salad - on bread, on crackers, in a wrap, on a salad or with veggies for dipping.

Black Bean Tortilla Soup - I usually halve this recipe because it makes a lot for just two people. I like to add in some lime juice and ume plum vinegar to the soup at the end. It's delicious! Serve this along side a salad and a piece of crusty bread and you are set!

Refried Pinto Beans - You can make burritos or tacos, use it as a dip for chips or as a side dish. You can also serve it with some brown rice. I usually just heat some up and slap it into a tortilla for a quick snack.

Breaking Down The Hour

Take 5 minutes the day before your hour cooking commitment to slice up and marinate a block of tempeh for the tempeh bacon recipe because it needs to marinate overnight.

It will take about 20 minutes to get your soup and the refried beans to the stove. That includes chopping onions, measuring out the spices (they use pretty much the same spices so it's simple to do both at once. Just use two small bowls to measure each batch of spices as you go), opening the cans of beans and getting the ingredients into the pans.

Once your beans and soup are cooking you can get the tempeh cooking as well .. tempeh only takes a few minutes to cook.

Once your tempeh is cooked and packed into a container (don't forget to date your food so you know when it was made.. trust me, you won't remember so just put a date sticker on there!) you can make the chick spread while your soup and beans are cooking on the stove.

The chick spread took me 5 minutes to make. You toss everything in the food processor and put it in a container.

That is it! You now have a bunch of yummy food at your fingertips. That is what I call fast food!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Original Recipe: Summer Corn Salad

If you share this recipe, please link back here to the blog!

I live in the midwest so around here.. we like our sweet corn! It's sort of ironic that I use frozen sweet corn most of the time! Anyway... here is a yummy side dish!

Shelly's Summer Corn Salad

1 1/2 cups sweet corn (I used frozen and warmed it up)
3 small Campari tomatoes (or whatever tomatoes you have - about a cup or so) wedged
one small onion, diced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Combine corn, onion and tomatoes in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a measuring cup and whisk together.

Toss the veggies with the dressing and refrigerate for at least an hour so the flavors can meld.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Original Recipe - Not-Roast Crockpot Veggies

If you share this recipe, it must be linked back to this blog. 

My fave part of a beef pot roast was the veggies cooked along side it. This recipe gives you the yummy veggies minus the pound of flesh.

I use 'steak seasoning' in this.. it's just large grains of salt, pepper, garlic, onion, red pepper and mixed spices.

Shelly's Not-Roast Crockpot Veggies

4 to 5 russet potatoes (peeled and chopped)
1 onion, diced
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cups water (or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 tbsp No beef bouillon paste (if you use broth, cut this back to half)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp steak seasoning

Toss everything into a crock pot and cook on high for 2.5 hours, until tender. If you want gravy, take the liquid and heat it up in a pan. Mix in a tablespoon of cornstarch or flour to 1/2 cup water and slowly add to the veggie liquids while whisking until thickened.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Original Recipe: Cheesy Potatoes

Feel free to share this recipe but it needs to be linked back to my blog. 

I used to love au gratin potatoes. I didn't even care if they were the crappy boxed kind.... give me potatoes coated in a cheesy sauce and I'm a happy girl. Going vegan meant no more cheesy potatoes.. until now!

I created this recipe by adapting the 'Thyme for Creamy Scalloped Potatoes' recipe from Chloe's Kitchen cookbook. You should just go buy this cookbook because it's fantastic and you will not be sorry... any who... her recipe is perfectly fabulous as is but I wanted to make them cheesy so I had to experiment!

The first time I made Chloe's recipe, I halved it so you can easily do that. Just use a 9x9 pan instead.

If you have a Vita Mix, you can skip the soaking part on the cashews

Shelly's Cheesy Potatoes

1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight or boil for 10 minutes to soften them)
2 cups water
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp sea salt
1 to 2 tsp fresh thyme (I sub in dried herbes de provence)
4 small to medium russet potatoes, sliced thin
4 to 5 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan

In a blender, puree cashews, water, garlic, sea salt, thyme, yeast, onion powder and paprika until perfectly smooth. Absolutely smooth!

Arrange half of the sliced potatoes in the pan and cover with half of the cashew mixture. Repeat for a second layer. Cover with foil and bake until the potatoes are tender (about 30 minutes) and then uncover and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until lightly browned on top. You may need to adjust baking time based on the thickness of the potatoes and the pan you use. Chloe's recipes says 45 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered but I found that to be too long with my mandolin sliced potatoes. Mine came out very mashed potato like.. which was fine but if you want a sturdier sliced potato dish then cook less.

Original Recipe: Herbed Cheesy Garlic Croutons

Feel free to share this recipe but please link back to my blog! 

I love croutons. You should know that about me. I've been known to eat a salad simply so I'm not noshing on a bowl of the bite sized goodness!

I must keep up appearances!

People always ask me for my various crouton recipes but I tend to dump and stir without writing things down.... but today.. today is your lucky day!

I took notes!

Now, I prefer sourdough bread to make croutons but feel free to use what you like or what you have. I also use Italian and French. Whenever I buy a loaf of bread and I use about half, I'll toss it in the freezer to save for croutons.

Shelly's Herbed Cheesy Garlic Croutons

9 oz of cubed bread (your choice)
1/2 cup olive or canola oil
2 tbsp Earth Balance 'butter', melted
2 tbsp plus 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp parsley (I used dried)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cube bread and set it aside in a large bowl. It needs to be big enough to toss the cubes.

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, melted Earth Balance, 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder and salt.

Pour the wet mixture over the cubed bread and toss to coat well. Once it's coated, sprinkle the remaining tablespoon (or more if you like!) of nutritional yeast over the cubes. Pour onto a large cookie sheet with sides.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes and then start paying attention. You'll need to check on the croutons every few minutes and toss them around on the cookie sheet. Bake until they are evenly brown and crunchy.

Store in a plastic container on the counter. I usually stick a date sticker on it and it they aren't gone in 2 weeks, I toss them and make new ones.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Original Recipe: Cookies & Cream Mousse

You can share this recipe but please link back to this blog. 

Did you know that Oreo cookies are vegan?

Yep.. of course, choosing a less junky brand of creme filled sandwich cookies, like Back to Nature or Newman's is better but you can use Oreo cookies here as well.

This is rich and decadent, full of dark chocolate flavor and full of protein.

Protein?! Yep!

Super quick and easy to make with just a few ingredients, this will fool all your meat eating friends and your suspicious kids! Just don't let them see you making it!

I make this into a pie (sans the added cookies) by pouring it into a cookie crust and one time I took this to a gathering and didn't tell anyone what it was beyond a simple 'it's a chocolate cream pie' ... I sat and watched a friend, his wife and their 4 kids eat and enjoy this while he made the proclamation that he'd never eat tofu.

When he was done, I broke the news and then he and his wife argued over who was going to get the last piece.

You can make this without adding the cookies but they add a nice treat feel to it.

This recipe can be adjusted for your personal taste in sweetness and level of chocolate. Start with 8 oz of chocolate and then taste test it. Add in the other if you want it. You may not want or need the maple syrup as the sugar in the chocolate may be enough for you. You can also sub agave for the maple syrup if you want to.

Cookies & Cream Mousse

1 pkg silken extra firm tofu (12 oz), drained
8 oz to 12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
2  tsp maple syrup, optional
1 tsp vanilla
pinch or two of sea salt
cream filled sandwich cookies, like Oreos

Melt the chocolate chips and set aside.

Place drained tofu in your food processor along with a pinch of salt and the melted chocolate chips. Blend until super smooth and fully blended. Taste test and decide if you want more chocolate and/or the maple syrup added in.

I like to make individual servings of 1/3 a cup mousse with 2 broken Oreo cookies (did you know that 2 Oreo cookies is a serving? yea.. not an entire row!) and I like my Oreo cookies to be crunchy in the mousse so add the cookies right before serving unless you want softened cookies!

You can pour this into a cookie crust for a pie or even use it to make a trifle!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Respecting All Life.

Loving Animals Doesn't Mean I Hate Mankind.

One thing that frustrates me is when someone thinks that I love animals more than people.. .in some individual cases, that is true.... when we are talking about a specific animal abuser but being an advocate for the rights of animals doesn't mean I don't care about humans and their rights. 

That is like saying I can't shop at Old Navy because I shop at Target or I can't like apples because I like bananas. It makes no sense to have to choose who you love, support and care about. 

I can have my vegan cake and eat it too.... 

Why can't I love the planet and all it's inhabitants? Why is it some people think if I don't want to eat animals it's because I hate my fellow humans? It isn't about having to choose who I love more - animals or people.... love and kindness and decency isn't about picking and choosing who is worthy of those things.

If it lives... it should be respected.

If you have a heart that is capable of loving one being, you can love another. Clearly, there are many people who think they must pick and choose.. people are constantly closing themselves off from feeling anything for living beings not of our species. 

I invite everyone to sit down and really THINK about the topic of eating animals and animal ingredients like dairy and eggs. Search your belief system and heart and write down why you can keep a dog as a pet but eat a chicken. Why can you be anti-abortion but still drink milk when you know the horror of the mother cows who have their babies taken away? Why are you enraged when you see an abused or neglected pet but not equally enraged to see cows, pigs and chickens treated the same way or even be victims of far worse cruelty on a massive scale every single day? Why can you find eating veal so wrong when you can eat a steak?  Why is eating a pigeon so distasteful when you don't think twice about eating a chicken? How can you save a baby bird or bunny and then turn around and smash a bug or kill trap a mouse?

How can you respect life in one form and yet disregard it in another? What allows that divide within you?

Doesn't that divide scare the hell out of you? Don't you wonder how you can just shut yourself down from feeling empathy towards certain living beings?

Why have you elevated some species like dogs and cats to special privilege of being family members while eating others like cows and pigs and then deciding some species are not worth your kindness or worth eating, like rats or woodchucks?

I no longer consume animals or animal products and I can't even tell you how amazing it feels to know that my body is not a graveyard. My choice of diet doesn't cause suffering, fear, pain, abuse, neglect and death.

Kindness towards all living things is how you find inner peace. Harm no one.