Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Sunday, July 27, 2014

vegan cuts double feature :: beauty and snack box reviews

Press Samples for Review
Ambassador Link

Monthly subscription boxes are all the rage, and there seems to be a box for everyone. Birch Box [a beauty product box], Bark Box [treats and toys for cats and dogs] and Lullubee [kits for crafters] to name a few. In fact, a co-worker friend recently enticed me to sign up for StitchFix and I'm hooked [I've been looking for perfectly-fitting skinny white jeans for 3 years now, and they delivered in one fell swoop.] But I digress: what about a fun, monthly box for those of us who like to sample the cool new plant-based, ethically sourced food and beauty products?

Enter Vegan Cuts! I've been a long-time fan of Vegan Cuts – and I'm not just saying that because they sent me boxes to review. You know me – I tell it like it is, and I liked it so much that I became a subscriber myself-- and I don't get any discounts. Cutting to the chase, I heart Vegan Cuts because they curate and promote fun, new vegan products. Plus, they create demand for vegan items – cementing veganism as both a lifestyle and a profitable business direction. And why shouldn't vegans make a profit as they purvey their respective passions? I so strongly believe in this business model that I decided to take them up on their offer of becoming an ambassador. First, if monthly subscriptions are not your thing, definitely check out the Vegan Cuts Marketplace, where they offer incredible deals on the latest, greatest vegan food, fashion and beauty and personal care items.

Here's how the boxes work. For $19.95 per month, including shipping, you get a box of cool products to try. In the Beauty Box, which I subscribe to, you get 4-7 items, and in the Snack Box, you'll get 7-10 vegan goodies to try. They range from trial size to full size, but bottom line is the value usually seems to exceed above and beyond $19.95.  These boxes make fabulous gifts for that "hard to shop for" vegan [You know who you are]. Also great for kids in college, to let you know you're thinking of them.

First, let's have a look inside a typical Vegan Cuts Snack Box. Each month's theme is different. They give you a little postcard, outlining what's in the box, a bit about each company and social media links. They sometimes also include coupons. This box included a sample of Loco Natural Soda, and also included a 50 cents off a four-pack coupon. The Choo bar was my favorite and I was so sad it was only a mini. I also loved the Earnest bar, the Loco Ginger Ale, despite the fact that I'm not much of a soda drinker. Since I love salty-crunchy snacks, the Tortatos, made from corn and potatoes, were right up my alley.

I was really skeptical about the Vigilant Eats Oat-Based Superfood because it looked like THIS when you added water as directed. But I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the taste – nutty, slightly sweet, chewy yet crunchy.

And any breakfast cereal that contains espresso is virtuous in my eyes. But seriously, look at that ingredient list – all whole foods, and many raw ingredients,

I was excited about this Roots powder since I drink a lot of smoothies.

Pretty decent 30-calorie nutrition boost, right? I liked the taste of this, but I didn't love it.

Another product that seemed perfect for me. Since I run a lot, I need more protein than the average bear, so I'm always trying out new protein powders.

This one provides 17 grams of protein plus  a slew of vitamins and probiotics. It's soy free and is sprout based. I tossed it into a post-long-run smoothie and really enjoyed the taste and texture. Creamy!

I took the Gluten-Free Soybean Noodle Soup to the office one day. It came with its own cute little fork. The pleasantly chewy noodles swam about in a mild broth, and it made a quick, nutritious lunch. I don't usually buy instant stuff like this, so I must admit, trying it out was fun.

I was shocked when I read the label. Twenty grams of protein? Plus tons of calcium, iron and fiber. Boom!

Vegan Cuts Beauty Box
Now, let's take a look at the Vegan Cuts Beauty Box. [Again, yours will be different, since this is a review from a box I received earlier this year.]

My favorite item in this particular box was these NCLA nail wraps. I love painting my nails [I find the ritual soothing, plus it makes me sit still] so I honestly thought I'd hate these. Plus, I wasn't a fan of the colors. But once I finally applied them, I was in LOVE. I definitely want to order more. They lasted so long, too. You get 44 – enough for 4 manis. If you have small nails, like me, you may need to trim some.

Here's what they look like on. I got so many compliments when I wore this mani.

Also received a sample pot of Schmitt's Bergamot-Lime Natural Deodorant. First things first, like most people who eat a plant-based diet, I find I can easily go without deodorant. Not that I would. But I can. I just don't emit offensive odors, even after 15 mile runs! – probably because I don't eat offensive [aka, dead] food. Still, for good measure, I use Thai Crystal Deodorant daily. It lasts forever and it's easy to apply. But Schmidt's deodorant smells so fresh and good. It's like applying all-natural perfume under your pits. I smelled fresh and clean all day each time I used it. If I didn't have long nails, I'd probably buy this again. My only gripe is that it gets under my long fingernail when I scoop it out.

Sunology Face and Body sunscreen samples. Nice product. Got the job done. I'll definitely be on the lookout for the full size bottles.

Reflexology Acne Spot Treatment. I'm lucky to have had clear skin most of my life. But like everyone, I get the occasional zit, even at age 49. This little baby dries out pimples without drying out your skin. The rollerball is a nice touch.

Being a lip balm fan, I was stoked to get two lip balms in this particular box. This Peach Lip Tint comes via Fanciful Fox.

It's super moisturizing, but I'm not a fan of the smell or the nubby texture. And the packaging needs a little TLC. But that didn't stop me from using it up.

My biggest gripe was that this was supposed to be a lip "tint." I applied it vigorously to my pale forearm, and as you can see, there's no tint. They should either add more pigment or simply rename it "lip balm."

Last but not least, I was thrilled to spy a stick of my very favorite silky lip balm by Hurraw! This is a night treatment but I've just worn it during the day, and I love it.

Just to give you some perspective, I just received this Vegan Cuts Beauty Box last week and actually remembered to take a photo. My favorite item was the on-trend, bright orchid Emani full size lipstick [a $16 value]. As you can see, these boxes are more than worth the money.

Which would you rather – the food box or the beauty box? To order, visit Vegan Cuts post-haste.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

tofurky pockets and quiches

Press Sample

Tofurky Sausage and Veggie Quiche with a shaved fennel, orange and onion salad I threw together
A few months ago, the nice folks at Tofurky sent me samples of their then-new Tofurky Pockets and Pies to review.  I guess they figured since I had just written a vegan pie cookbook I'd have a strong opinion. I'm not a frozen dinner or convenience foods aficionado. If I'm too tired to cook, I will usually just eat a salad, defrost leftovers or order in. In some ways, this fact made me the perfect reviewer to try these quick meals.

Here's what I got: BBQ "Chick'n" Pocket, Pepperoni Pizza Pocket, "Turkey" Broccoli and Cheddar Pocket, Chick'n Pot Pie and Sausage and Veggie Quiche. See specific notes below.

First up was the Pepperoni Pizza Pocket. I made it in the oven. I liked the spice combination but it was not the best crust – kind of cardboard-like. Still, I would probably eat this pocket in a pinch. Only 5 grams of fat and 290 calories for the whole pocket. Pockets come 2 in a box, so the price point is good.

Next, I sampled the Pot Pie. I baked it in the oven, but there's a microwave option. The upside was that it tasted delicious, in an all-American, carby, "I need comfort now" sort of way. It reminded me of frozen pot pie from my childhood. This is what you eat after a bad day at the office, after a break-up or in the middle of a blizzard. The crust tasted flaky, but a bit dry and processed.

The downside? The nutrition panel. With 33 grams of fat, 14 of them saturated, and 520 calories for a pie, it's a splurge for sure and not an everyday standby. I'm a scrappy girl. I tried to cut it in half and to feel satisfied only eating half. But I couldn't. You have to eat the whole floury thing. Good thing I'm not a carb counter, because this little number contains 45 grams. The long ingredient list also scared me, even though most of them are recognizable. The crust was better than the pocket crust, but it still tasted processed. 

I liked the Tofurky Turkey and Cheddar Pocket much more than the Pepperoni Pocket. It was, as you can see, very cheddary.  Like the Pepperoni, this also contained 5 grams of fat and 290 calories. Not bad. 

The BBQ Chick'n Pocket was enjoyable. Then again, I'm a sucker for BBQ sauce. It was chewy in a way I think transitioning meat eaters would enjoy. Somehow this one only contained 4 grams of fat and 290 calories. 

My favorite of the bunch was the Sausage and Veggie Quiche. I made it tonight, and decided to try the microwave option since it's so hot outside. Microwaving agrees with this quiche. The crust turned out flaky and moist, unlike the pot pie and pocket crusts. I'm convinced that the microwaving helped. The texture of quiche itself was also moist, and similar to a homemade quiche. I'm already a fan of Tofurky Italian sausages, and they are happily peppered throughout this quiche, along with sweet-hot red peppers. The only downside –520 calories and [gulp!] 28 grams of fat. I tried to eat only half, but I was still hungry so down the hatch the whole thing went.

Here's my summary:
All in all, I think they're good products, perfect when you're too tired to cook. But given their nutrition profile, consider them treats, not to be consumed daily.
The good: Vegan. Convenient. Comforting. No isolates, preservatives or artificial ingredients.  Easy to prepare after a long day. Reputable, ethical company, vehemently non-GMO. Satisfying because the protein fills you up.
The not-so-good: Ingredient list, although relatively healthy, is a bit too long for my taste. Carb heavy. Pies are very fat-heavy. No gluten-free options.

  • Wondering which one to try? Get the Quiche! Microwave it and eat it with a fresh salad.
  • Get a 75 cents off coupon here
  • Read the Laziest Vegans in the World review of the Pepperoni Pockets [very different than mine] here

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

kite hill vegan cheeses :: review

press sample

Vegan, nut-based cheeses by Kite Hill.
Vegan cheese is not an oxymoron, and it's not new news. But it's confirmed: vegan cheese is the new black:

A few months back, Whole Foods asked me to sample nut-based Kite Hill Vegan Cheeses. They are – quite aptly – sold in the cheese department at Whole Foods, nestled among all the dairy cheeses. They are packaged like traditional dairy cheeses, in round thin wooden boxes. They look like traditional dairy cheeses. They are made like traditional dairy cheeses – using superior ingredients, French cheese-making equipment, and enzymes. But they are vegan – made from a proprietary nut milk and a specially developed, lactose-free culture. 

Cassucio – a soft, delicate plant-based cheese

I tried the Cassucio and the White Adler. Their web site and press releases suggest all sorts of mouth-watering pairings, but I sampled these in the throes of F-stop's hospitalization, so there was no time or inclination for getting fancy. I simply nibbled on the cheeses with bread, wine and olives, and that suited me just fine.

Cassucio is a moist, delicate cheese – similar to a feta but not quite as strong. The texture was, like feta, ever-so-slightly crumbly.

If you like Brie or Camembert, you'll love White Adler. It's my favorite,.
If Camembert and Brie had a vegan love child, it would be White Adler. It's a rich, creamy, slightly stinky cheese – heaven! Encased in a soft, delicate rind, and overflowing with earthy, woody undertones, White Adler is a classic "fool an omnivore" victual. You would never guess this was crafted from nuts. And really, it doesn't matter because as my blog tag line states, "Good food is good food." This is great food.

You can find Kite Hill cheeses at select Whole Foods across the US. As of now, availability is largely concentrated on the right and left coasts, so Midwesterners will have to DIY for now. Which ones are you going to try first?

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

bobby flay stoneware lasagna pan review

Press sample for review

I received a gorgeous, stoneware Bobby Flay Lasagna Pan to review. It's a real eye-pleaser with its dark base and a deep sangria color. I also love the fact that the pan has handles on either end, although they look like they could break after some wear/tear and clumsiness. It's an oversized lasagna pan – 9.5 x 14.25 inches, as compared to the traditional 9 x 13 inch pan, which makes for generous servings.

"Love handles" on the Bobby Flay Lasagna Pan, I love them.
The label says the pan is safe up to 375°, which coincidentally happens to be the temperature at which you bake most lasagna recipes. It also says the pan is microwave and dishwasher safe. I don't know about you, but this would never fit in my tiny, city kitchen microwave [it barely holds my coffee cup!]. And because of the handles and this size of the pan, I would not feel comfortable placing it in the dishwasher.

I thought the burnt-on tomato sauce would make for a difficult clean up. I was wrong.
I tested out the pan by making my creamy-dream vegan Butternut Squash Lasgana. My lasagna baked evenly, and I enjoyed the depth of the dish. It made for quite a dramatic presentation – even though I was eating solo! After baking, quite a bit of my tomato sauce had baked onto the pan, as you can see in the photo, and I was certain cleaning it would be a pain. I filled the pan with dish soap and warm water and went for a run. When I came back, the crispy sauce stains came right off – a real plus in my eyes!

The pans retail at Kohl's for $44.99. Several cheery colors are available.

Pros: Aesthetically pleasing, classic design. Handles make for easy transport from oven to table. Dishwasher and microwave safe [caveat: I did not test using these appliances]. Affordable elegance. List price is $44.99 but it looks like a more costly Le Creuset pan. I just checked on the Kohl's web site and it looks like they are now on sale for $34.99, which sounds like an excellent price for such a swanky piece.

Cons: Excessive packaging. The Bobby Flay label enveloped the entire pan, which I really don't have a problem with; it's his line, after all. What irked me is that all of this packaging was glued to the bottom of the pan. Of course you expect to wash any new pan or or utensil. But removing that glue took quite a bit of elbow grease – not what I was expecting. Heaviness: it's a blessing in the looks department but a curse on the practicality side – quite heavy and cumbersome to remove from the oven.
The glue from the packaging was a pain to remove.
Would I buy this? Being cheap, if I had to purchase an actual lasagna pan, I would probably go for the more frugal, plain glass Pyrex 9 X 13. But I must say, after testing this pan out, I would definitely purchase other Bobby Flay bakeware items, especially when they're on sale. [And I am very happy to own this lasagna pan.]

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

creamy-dreamy vegan butternut lasagna

Press samples [Bobby Flay bakeware, Daiya, Beyond Meat]

vegan butternut lasagna – creamy, dreamy comfort food
I love-love-love lasagna. But since putting it together can be a time-sucker, I haven't made it in literally years. When I recently received a snazzy stoneware Bobby Flay lasagna pan to review [in red, my favorite color], plus care packages from Daiya and Beyond Meat, I felt doubly .... no, triply inspired to make – and eat lasagna. [That and I felt compelled to load to use up the last CSA share butternut squash that had been collecting dust on my counter since November.]

My Lasagna Philosophy

The Bobby Flay pan made for a pretty presentation
First, the philosophy behind my vegan lasagna recipe. [I'll post the pan review in another day or so.] If you are the kind of person who likes to make every blessed thing you consume from nuts, whole grains and fresh vegetables, you may want to skip this post. Following my 80-20 rule, 80% of what I consume is made from 100% whole foods. But I have a life including a stressful job. I get up at the crack of dawn to train for my running races. And I have a boyfriend, friends and kitties whom I want to spend time with. [And I do like to watch "Rehab Addict" in between all that.]

For this reason, my new lasagna recipe falls into the 20% category. It's still totally healthy – and cholesterol-free. But it's made using some store-bought, albeit relatively healthy time savers. If you are disappointed that my lasagna recipe does not include home-made, gluten-free pasta, artisan, scratch-made vegan cheese and garden-to-pot tomato sauce, I'm sorry. I'd rather spend those 16 hours with my loved ones.

This lasagna was gone in 3 days.
Being lazy pressed for time, I prefer using no-boil noodles but you're welcome to boil yours if you prefer. I also used Daiya Mozzarella Shreds, my favorite brand, and a packet of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles. I love their pea-protein based No Chicken Strips so I was beyond excited [yuk-yuk] when they sent me the ground beef crumbles to try. The texture turned out to be perfect for lasagna.

Lasagna just before going into the oven
I'm so pleased with the way this lasagna turned out; I made it during another ubiquitous cold snap and it was just what the doctor ordered. The sweet butternut squash compliments the crumbles and tomato sauce, and the tofu ricotta and Daiya cheese topping add that necessary creamy comfort. It's one of those "fool the omnivore" recipes. Even though I used store-bought shortcuts, this recipe still takes time. But trust me, it's worth the effort. Lasagna is now officially back on my weekend cooking rotation. I suggest roasting the squash and making the ricotta cheese a day or two before hand to make this easier to manage. Or making a double batch and freezing the extra

Lasagna after baking – creamy, decadent and warming

Vegan Butternut Lasagna

Tofu-Butternut Ricotta
  • 1 medium butternut squash, sliced in half and deseeded
  • 3/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 14 - 16 oz extra-firm, organic, non-GMO tofu [Squeeze out extra water gently with your hands]
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 1/2 T dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt [Consider using less if your tomato sauce, below, contains a lot of sodium]
  • Black pepper to taste

Quickie Tomato Sauce
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 5-7 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • Up to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes [optional]
  • 28 oz can tomato puree or sauce
  • 5 baby carrots or 1 whole carrot, cut into a few pieces
  • 2 T dried Italian seasonings of your choice [eg, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme]
  • 3/4 to 1 cup vegetable broth, divided [I recommend Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base
Other Ingredients
  • 1 box lasagna noodles, preferably no-boil 
  • 1 to 2 cups Daiya Mozzarella Shreds, or your favorite vegan mozzarella
  • 12-ounce bag of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles, or your favorite alternative
Serves 8 hungry people or 10 bird-like eaters

Yes, it's plant-based

Make tofu-butternut ricotta: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking oil, Lay 2 halves of squash on sheet orange side down and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until soft, Let cool, then use a spoon to scoop out the squash into a large glass bowl. Add remaining ingredients, then using a heavy fork, crumble everything together. Set aside. 

Lower oven to 375 degrees.

Make quickie tomato sauce: Heat oil in a large sauce pan. Add onion, garlic and pepper flakes, if using, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes, Add remaining ingredients and about 1/2 of the broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. Add remaining broth as needed. Test thickness and flavor; adjust seasonings. Cook up to another 30 minutes, covered until sauce is relatively smooth. [Eat the carrots: they're the cook's reward.]

Assemble lasagna: Spray a 9 x 13 lasagna pan with oil. Ladle some sauce on the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of noodles on top, followed by a sprinkling of crumbles. Spread some of the tofu-butternut ricotta atop this, then seal it with another layer of noodles: sauce/noodles/crumbles/tofu ricotta. Repeat this process until all ingredients are used up, ending with a layer of noodles, and leaving enough sauce to cover the top. Sprinkle with vegan mozzarella, cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Buon appetito!