Banza! It’s Pasta!

I have been hearing about this new pasta craze on social media and I was curious to give it a try. Since the pasta is sold at Costco, I only had the option of a large box. I held my breath and gently tossed the box in my cart, hoping that I didn’t commit to pasta we would not like. To my delight, we really enjoyed the flavor! I was also pleased with the high fiber and protein in the nutritional values. The best part for me was that it was a gluten free pasta that did not fall apart when cooked or reheated. Many rice based pastas do not last well as leftovers. They often get crunchy and/or fall apart.

box with sealpackage of pasta

Overall Grade: A

Product: Banza Pasta, Rotini Shapped

Pros:

  • This product is becoming widely available in stores across the US.
  • The pasta has a delicious taste. The flavor and texture seem very close to wheat pasta.
  • It is certified gluten free and GMO-free.
  • It contains only four ingredients and they are all things that I was familiar with – no funky ingredients.
  • A serving has a whopping 14g of protein and 8g of fiber! Wowsa!

Cons:

  • It is over $4 a box (if you look at the smaller individual boxes). Wheat pasta can be purchased for under a dollar. It doesn’t have the same nutrition, but if we want people to switch to healthier products, we need to make them more affordable.
  • There are two serving sizes on the box, 2oz and 3.4oz. The 3.4oz serving is 340 calories!! I know this is equivalent to wheat pasta, but I wish it were lower calories. If you are not calorie-obsessed like I am right now, then please ignore this con.
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Kite Hill Mushroom Ricotta Ravioli is a Pirate’s Treasure – MoFo Day 2

Happy Vegan MoFo Day 2! Today we have a special guest blog post for you! Enjoy mates!

Overall Grade: A

 

Ahoy there you landlubbers, Veganswashbuckler here, back for another Vegan cuisine review.  I’ve been out to sea, and it’s good to be back on dry land; while seaweed is delicious and nutritious, and staves away the Scurvy, your captain was getting pretty sick of it.

While sailing the seven seas and plundering the shores of the carcass eaters and fighting the trawlers and whalers, your first mate made a stop by Italy to try out a new, glutiny delight from the almond cheese experts at Kite Hill: their mushroom ricotta ravioli.  A fine meal it was, and it reminded me of what it was like to be a miserable baby cow milk munching scalawag, without all of the feelings of guilt and complicity.

kite-hill-rav-seal

These ravioli are jumbo sized, though 10 in the pack may have left a hungry pirate like me a little unsatisfied.  These are a gourmet treat, mateys, and make sure you bring along a nice side of veggies if you’re planning to share.

As far as taste, I’d say these nuggets were mighty authentic, with a delicate, cheesy filling that was mighty pleasing to me palate.  And for all of my gluten-free first mates, I beseech the good gentlemen and gentlewomen at Kite Hill to try out a version without the wheat.  And if you could do it without raising the price, I won’t make ye walk the plank.  These pockets of pasta bliss will please any Vegan or non-Vegan you may know, and for all the non-Vegans out there, stop lining the pockets of the animal torturers, or I’ll make ye swim with the fishes!  With fine options such as this, no need for you to bellyache about not being able to live without meat.  If your friend the Veganswashbuckler can do it, then shut yer mouth unless yer filling her with cruelty free sustenance.

If you’re wondering how your favorite Vegan pirate had his ravioli, my chef prepared it with an Earth Balance margarine sauce that included mixed mushrooms, spinach, garlic, and red pepper flakes, with a sprinkle of salt, nutritional yeast, dried oregano, and dried sage.  It was enough to make Mario Batali, Giada de Laurentiis, and Chef Boyardee reformed Vegans!  Believe me when I tell you, Chef Boyardee would be pleased to know he’d never have to eat beefaroni again.

Arr!

kitehillplatedravioli

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Adjust Your Eyes, Another Mac n Cheese Review

Yep, you read the title correctly. I bring to you another vegan mac n cheese review. I think we could start our own blog about vegan mac n cheeses. The market is starting to get a little saturated with vegan mac n cheeses. I’d like to say this is a good thing. I’d like to jump for joy and say that you could go into any grocery store in anytown, U.S.A. and get a good box. However, that isn’t the case. Daiya, one of the best, is making its way into mainstream stores like Kroger. That just isn’t good enough. When Food Lion starts carrying mac n cheese that is vegan, I’ll officially jump for joy.

Namaste mac n cheese box

The other issue is the quality of the mac n cheeses. So far the good ones are Daiya, Earth Balance and Pastariso. Then, there are the ones that I’d rather not eat like So Delicious, Annie’s and now Namaste. I found the Namaste Say Cheez box at a small specialty store and I was excited because I had remembered liking the products that I’ve tried in the past. We decided to make it one day for lunch on a weekend and as I was making it, I gave it a taste. The product didn’t taste all that edible, so we added cut up tomato, spinach and hot sauce to help it “go down”. It did not taste cheesy at all. It looks like mac n cheese, but it didn’t taste anything like I was hoping. I noticed the product was made with rice milk and if you have a lot of allergies, this might be the mac n cheese for you. However, in terms of vegan and gluten free mac n cheeses, I’d save my money and try another brand.

 

Mac N Cheezey, Oh! So Pleasey

In the past year there has been a welcome influx of vegan mac n cheese options. That’s a-okay by me, I am always up for pasta with vegan cheese sauce. My last post about mac n cheese was a negative one. Today, I have one that is delicious to share with you. Say hello to Gluten Free Cheddar Mac & Cheese made by Earth Balance.

Earth Balance Mac N Cheese boxOne of the things many things that I enjoyed about this product was the shape and taste of the pasta. The shape reminded me of the non-vegan popular counterpart from my childhood. It might be silly, but it is what I’m looking for in a vegan mac n cheese. I want to be drawn back to summer days of my childhood eating mac n cheese at my best friends house. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the sauce. It had a cheesy taste and a nice orange color, just like you would expect from a boxed mac n cheese. I can envision kids enjoying this product just as much as the popular non-vegan brand. The bonus with the Earth Balance one is no cruelty or chemicals!

The only drawback is that I had to order this online because I couldn’t find the gluten free one in stores near me. Hooray for Amazon Prime!

 

Totally Grossed Out, A Mac N Cheese Adventure

If you have been following our blog, you probably think we like just about everything since we have provided all positive reviews so far. To keep it real, I am posting a review today about two products that are sub-par in my opinion. Let me preface this blog by saying that I am not a picky person. I like just about everything. Even the things that I don’t love, I eat. I am not the biggest fan of watermelon, sweet potatoes, pudding textures, or yogurts- but I eat them all (vegan of course!). We actually eat sweet potatoes quite a bit in the fall and I have started to like them in savory form. Maybe I should take them off my “not the biggest fan of” list then! Even with this list, I can usually choke something down if I don’t like it. I can even do this with a smile! I also married someone who likes just about everything. His only real dislike is asparagus, but we eat it often because he is like me in that regard.

Even as I post this review, I have to note that I ate all of each of the products in this review (not in one sitting, of course) because I hate wasting food. I always hear in my head “there are starving kids in X who would appreciate your food” spoken in a mothers voice. I clean my plate always and save leftovers for later. We don’t like to throw food away. It seems like a sin to me! To save you from having the need to throw away food, I must tell you about two products that are better left on the shelf.

Enter Annie’s vegan and gluten free elbows and creamy sauce and So Delicious cheddar mac n cheese. I was extremely excited to try both products and had high hopes. Those expectations were quickly brought down when I hate the first few bites of each. I really wanted to like them. I wanted more choices when I went to the grocery store. I wanted to be able to recommend these products, but I can’t.

Let’s start with Annie’s. The recipe has pumpkin in it so I thought it would be a creamy pumpkin goodness. Boy! I was wrong! It tasted like a cross between chemicals and wasabi. I must note that John tasted wasabi, I don’t know what I tasted after the chemicals. I even tried my hot sauce test where pour a bunch of hot sauce on something to make it edible. Fail! I tasted the chemicals above the hot sauce.

Annie's elbows and creamy sauce GFThen a few weeks later after I had recovered from the Annie’s mess, I tried So Delicious cheddar. It was so weird! It didn’t tasted like cheddar at all. It actually had a metallic taste to it and it left a horrible taste on the sides of my tongue. I also tried the hot sauce test and it failed. The metallic taste came through hot sauce. I put the remainder in the fridge and decided to try it the next day to see if the flavor would improve. You have probably already guessed that it didn’t.

I must note that I also tried the So Delicious pizza mac n cheese and it wasn’t as bad. I plan to buy it again and do a separate review once I recover from this fiasco. I also plan to review the delicious vegan mac n cheeses on the market. Until then, please go forth and eat good mac n cheese!

Please check out Jennifer’s blog- My Blissful Journey. We are loosely participating in an off season link up where we pick three topics to blog about. I picked a topic not on her list- “New vegan products that I have tried and NOT enjoyed”.

 

 

 

Veganized Family Recipe -or- Beyond Beef Mac – Day 20

When I was growing up, my dad was a student and then a pastor.  With 5 kids in the family, that meant mom had to work and dinner was often a little later than any of us would have liked.  When I was around 10 she started to teach me how to cook.  I liked it right off the bat.  Each weekend I’d learn a dish as  she cooked it.  Then, over time, I knew how to make enough basic meals that I could work into the weeknight rotations and have dinner on the table when she got home.

I don’t remember her ever teaching me this particular dish and I’m hoping I served a vegetable with it (probably green beans), but it was one of my favorites.  We called it beef mac, but you might know it better as beefaroni or chili mac.  Basically,  our version was just a combo of boxed mac and cheese with our sloppy joes.

It’s one of those comfort food dishes that I still want and my sister still asks for every now and again.  I’ve never gotten it “quite right” until the new Daiya Deluxe Style Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac came along.  It’s creamy and cheddary and quite a lot like I remember the famous blue box mac n cheese.  Daiya does have a “taste” in all their products that makes you know it’s Daiya.  It’s in here, so if that taste isn’t something you’re fond of, you may not want to eat it straight like this, but I don’t think you’d notice it mixed with the other things in the Beyond Beef Mac.  I like Daiya’s taste, so this was a hands down winner for me.  It reminds me a lot of the cheddar wedge before they changed the recipe, which was my favorite Daiya ever. By the way, the alfredo is good too, but I like this a little better.

 

Daiya's Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac
Daiya’s Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac

 

Using the Cheezy Mac, combined with one of my favorite products, the Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles, I was able to recreate this old favorite, even to my sister’s satisfaction.

 

beyond Beef Mac
Beyond Beef Mac made with Beyond Meat Crumbles and Daiya Cheddar Cheezy Mac

 

 

Dawn’s Beyond Beef Mac

1. Make a box of Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac according to the package directions.
2. While the macaroni is cooking, brown a bag of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles in a separate pan with a little olive oil (or canola, or sunflower, or whatever you like)

3. When the Cheezy Mac and the Beefy crumbles are cooked completely, mix the crumbles into the Cheezy Mac (still in the pan you cooked the mac in)

4. Add the following and stir:

  • 1/4 cup tomato ketchup
  • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Aminos
  • Several drops liquid smoke
  • 2 Tbsp dried, minced onions
  • 1 tsp prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic

Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve and enjoy.  It’s good at room temperature later too.  Or cold from the refrigerator.

 

Just a few notes: My tastes on the onions and mustard change a bit from day to day.  So start with that and add however much seems right to you.  You can substitute 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire in place of the aminos and liquid smoke.

 

Thanks for letting me share this little part of my family with you!

 

 

Recreating a Restaurant Meal (that I’ve Never Eaten) – Day 6

This meal was not what I had planned.  I had planned on making a Chinese takeout “beef” and broccoli.  But for some odd reason I didn’t look up the recipe before grocery shopping and I was about 3 ingredients short for making the sauce.  It was time to drop back and punt.

Instead of making a meal that I’ve had, I decided to look around for a meal that used ingredients I had and a product I could review for you.

I had a brand new package of Eden Selected Buckwheat Soba.  I put my trusty Google skills to work and found the website for a soba restaurant in NYC called Sobaya.  I perused the menu and found a dish that, when veganized, sounds right up my alley.

First, let me tell you about these noodles.  Don’t get them confused with the $3 soba you can pick up anywhere.  These are 100% buckwheat (and safe for us gluten-freers) so you’re going to pay more.  I don’t spend $9 on them all the time, but they’re a great splurge item when i just have to have them.  They have a classic light, nutty taste of buckwheat without the bitterness that sometimes comes with buckwheat.  When cooked according to the package directions, they are perfectly al dente and didn’t stick together at all.

100% Buckwheat Soba

The dish I found on the Sobaya website is called Kamo Seiro.  It’s served cold and consists of soba, sauteed duck slices and Japanese green onions served in a hot dipping sauce.  I’ve never eaten at this restaurant, I’ve never eaten duck, and I wouldn’t know the difference between a Japanese green onion and a good ol’ NC green onion if my life depended on it.  Obviously all that ignorance meant one thing: I had to make a vegan version of this dish.  I didn’t measure anything, so this isn’t really a recipe, but I can tell you what I did.

Since it’s a cold dish, I got the noodles cooking first so they could cool.  When they came out of the pot, I put them in a colander and ran cold water over it.

Then I started working on the “duck”: I’ve heard that duck is more like beef than anything else, so I went with my frequent beef standby – a portobella mushroom cap.  I sliced the mushroom cap (about 1/8″ thick slices) and put it in a plate of my favorite “beefy” marinade for mushrooms: a mixture of Coconut Aminos (you can use soy sauce/tamari if you’re not allergic or averse to it), liquid smoke to taste, a tiny swirl of maple syrup and as much black pepper as I’m in the mood for that day.

After the mushrooms marinated for 5-10 minutes, I heated up a lightly oiled cast iron griddle pan (a skillet would work too) and laid out the slices on the pan, saving the remaining marinade.  I cooked the mushrooms over medium high heat until they were dark brown and chewy (about 7-8 minutes).  This might be a little longer than you’re used to cooking mushrooms, but it gives it a meatier texture.  I flipped the mushrooms about 4 times during the cooking.  Right before each flip, I brushed on some more marinade. The marinade caramelizes on the mushroom a little more with each add.

I put the finished mushrooms on small plate and stuck them in the freezer to cool for a few minutes while I mixed the sauce and assembled the rest of the dish.

I wanted to bulk it up with extra veggies, so I lined the bowl with some baby kale, topped with the cool soba noodles, placed the mushroom “duck” slices across the top, tossed on some sliced green onions and drizzled on a sauce that was just Sriracha and soy-free Vegenaise.

 

Vegan Kamo Seiro - mushroom "duck" and soba noodles
Vegan Kamo Seiro – mushroom “duck” with soba noodles & green onions

 

After the picture, I poured on more sauce and mixed it all up.  I used the chopsticks for the photo and then thought I’d get out a fork.  Then, I thought…I’m terrible with chopsticks…they should slow me down so I don’t scarf my dinner down like a crazy person.  They didn’t.

All I can say is that it’s a good thing I have some of those noodles left, because I may be eating this again tomorrow.

Quick, Easy and Delicious Mac & Cheese Day 3

Today’s Vegan Mofo theme has me thinking of mac & cheese. I’ve made many vegan ones in my day, both my own recipe and recipes from friends and other bloggers. While I don’t necessarily have a favorite food, mac & cheese would be among the top. When we want a go to meal we make greens and my tried and true recipe. Bonus- it lasts us several meals. I could make the recipe with my eyes closed.

Sometimes, though, you just want something easy. Our world is one of conveniences these days and vegans aren’t left out. Even vegan gluten freers! I’ve seen several options on the shelves and in online stores. A top contender for these choices is Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Flavor Mac & Cheese. There are several mac & cheese products by Earth Balance, but I’ve only tried the gluten free one. I had to order it online and it turned out to be a great purchase.

Earth Balance Mac & CheeseThis treat was delicious and also quick and easy. Score! The cooking instructions reminded me of the popular non-vegan brand that I ate as a kid. Even though it has been many years since I’ve had the popular non-vegan brand, I can say the Earth Balance version was better. It was creamy and didn’t have a chemical aftertaste like the brand of my childhood. Best of all, it’s cruelty free! I think it might be a good thing that I haven’t seen it on the shelves of our grocery stores because I fear I’d buy it too much!

Happy MoFo’ing!