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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Skinnypop White Cheddar Popcorn Cakes

If you live in the United States, Happy 4th of July! Today I wanted to highlight a snack that might be good to serve at your holiday picnic or travels. I came across Skinnypop White Cheddar Popcorn cakes and when I see a vegan white cheddar product, I scoop it up! This was one of my favorite flavors as a vegetarian. As a vegan, I am excited to see more products popping up that are cheddar flavor.

Skinnypop box

Overall Grade: A

Product: Skinnypop White Cheddar Popcorn Cakes

Pros:

  • The white cheddar flavor is spot on, it was the cheesy flavor that I remember from my vegetarian days.
  • Vegan cheddar flavor! I’m always looking for this flavor in a vegan snack!
  • They are 45 calories per cake, making for a light snack.
  • The cakes are made of popcorn, not rice. There is nothing wrong with a ricecake, but this is a bit more exciting!
  • Skinnypop brand products are available in both health food stores and non-health food stores such as Food Lion, Walgreens, Harris Teeter, Walmart, CVS, Lowes Foods, and Kroger.

Cons:

  • The cakes were a little on the firm side, almost stale tasting. I enjoyed it, but my husband was not a fan.
  • There are 12 cakes to a package and two to a plastic sleeve. They don’t last long!

 

 

 

 

The Beyond Burger Goes Beyond Expectations

I have to be honest, I have been excited about this burger since I heard about it a year ago. I have been waiting patiently, or not so patiently, for it to be available in my area. The marketing has wooed me and I have been dreaming of a vegan burger that can draw in omnivores. When I saw this was available at my local whole foods, I became diligent in trying to get my hands on a box or two. It was hard since they were selling like vegan hotcakes. When I got my hands on a package, I decided to make a cheeseburger on a gluten free bun, with onions, vegan mayo, and BBQ sauce. If I would have had pickles in the house, they would have been on top as well.

BB package

I had read reviews that my house would smell of meat when I cooked the burger and that I should be prepared to be disgusted by the look of the burger. Neither of those things happened. My home smelled delicious, but not of meat- it was more like a grilled veggie smell. The pinkness of the burger did not upset me because it still didn’t look like meat to me. I was a bit taken back by all of the oil in the burger and the calorie count. I knew this would only be an occasional treat for me. Fast forward to dinner and my first bite and I loved it! The texture was a bit “meaty”, but not anymore than other veggie burgers that are intended to imitate meat.  It has been decades since I’ve had meat and this reminded me of a good veggie burger. It had an aftertaste of what I remember Boca burgers tasting like, only better. I am very excited for the omnivores in my life to give this a try at their next BBQ. This seems like a great burger for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores.

beyond burger on plateBeyond burger on plate

Overall Grade: A

Product: Beyond Meat, The Beyond Burger

Pros:

  • This burger becoming more available in stores across the country. Right now it is in Whole Foods and Safeways.
  • It is packaged like meat to entice omnivores.
  • It is vegan, gluten free, soy free, and delicious!
  • It has no cholesterol
  • It has 20g of protein!
  • This needs its own bullet point, it is DELICIOUS!
  • It does well on a pan and on the grill.
  • It looks like a burger to entice omnivores.

BB cooking

Cons:

  • It is pricey! Whole foods sells it for almost $6 and there are two patties equaling a quarter of a pound. If we want to entice omnivores, this product needs to be cheaper or comparable to two meat burgers.
  • It is too fattening for me. The amount of grease that came out, was a bit much for me. I don’t mind this food on occasion, but I can’t do this on a regular basis. The calorie count was also a bit high for my tastes.
  • The plastic packaging is a bit much and seems wasteful. The container could be smaller.
  • Most veggie burgers are offered in packages of 4 or 6. Two patties is just odd. We have a family of three, so we have to buy two packages for almost $12!!

BB in package

I’ll Have My Salad with Daiya Ranch

Since going vegan, I have been on a quest to find the best creamy vegan dressings on the market. I have been mostly unimpressed. I recently stumbled upon Daiya Ranch. I decided to buy it after having tried the Cesar dressing and not liking it. The ranch dressing came home with me, without any expectations. One evening, I cracked it open and decided to put some on my salad. I was not sure if I would like it, so I took a little taste. I was pleasantly surprised, loved the dressing! It reminded me of the bottled ranch dressings that I had at my the homes of friends as a kid (my mom always made the homemade version).

bottle with seal of approval

Product: Homestyle Ranch Dairy-Free Dressing, Daiya

Overall Grade: A

Pros:

  • The dressing is very creamy and tastes very close to the dairy based ranch that I grew up on.
  • It is readily available in my area. I have been able to find it in the natural sections of several area grocery stores.
  • I served it to meat and dairy eating family and they didn’t even know it was vegan!
  • It is free of the major allergens.
  • The ingredients are all recognizable items.

Cons:

  • Like the dairy ranches, it is high in fat. 13 grams for one serving!
  • It isn’t easy to pour because it is so thick. I had to water it down a bit with some vinegar.
  • Like many processed vegan foods, this product is pricey at over $4 a bottle. Sometimes, even $5.

Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss Almond Milk Creamer

I have a confession to make, I have a bit of an attachment to coffee. I have a hard time starting my day without it. There was a few years where I swapped a cup of coffee for a green smoothie, but sweet aroma of coffee called me back. When I see a vegan creamer, I try it out because I love knowing my options. I would prefer not to just have a vegan milk, but an actual creamer because it is thicker and creamier than a milk. When I saw that Coffee-mate was coming out with a line of non-dairy creamers, I was intrigued. I prefer my coffee without sugar or sweet creamers, but it is nice for a treat every so often. I have fond memories of drinking coffee-mate flavored creamers when visiting my sister-in-law. It was always a treat for me since we bought unsweetened creamers. Up until recently, the world of vegan creamers was mostly limited to unflavored soy. I was ok staying in that world, but so many options have been popping up that I have been venturing out.

coffee-mate bottle with seal

 

ProductNatural Bliss Almond Milk Creamer by Coffee-Mate

Overall Grade: B+/A-*

Pros:

  • This tastes very similar to coffee-mate dairy creamers, from what I can remember.
  • There are several flavor choices in non dairy: caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, sweet creme
  • They are easy for me to find locally at Target and Kroger.
  • They were comparable in price to other flavored vegan creamers.
  • No gluten, soy, or GMOs.
  • I did not taste an overwhelming almond flavor that I do in almond milk and creamers. I do not prefer an almond milk flavor in coffee, so this was a nice change.
  • Usually almond creamer takes quite a bit of product to lighten my coffee. This creamer lightened it with about the size of a listed serving on the bottle.
  • The creamers were $2.37 on sale at Target. They seemed in line with, if not a little cheaper than other vegan creamers.

coffee-mate and coffee

Cons:

  • I tried the caramel one and it is very sweet. This could only make an appearance in my coffee on occasion. This could be a pro if you like your coffee extra sweet.
  • I didn’t see a plain or unsweetened flavor in stores or on the website. I really wish they come out with that option as I would be more likely to buy it.

 

*I struggled with grading this creamer. If you are looking for it to taste like a sweet creamer, then this gets an A. The sweetness in this creamer was a bit much for me, but I enjoyed the flavor. My grade leans more toward a B for this reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Bakehouse With a Big Flavor

I feel like I have been living in a vegan, gluten free bread desert. The available options on the market have been less than desirable, unless you enjoy munching on cardboard. Some of the major gluten free bread makers refuse to make a bread that is also vegan. Besides a few specialty products, I’ve been skipping sliced bread. Then one day I was introduced to a loaf of bread that gave me hope. This bread was soft, fluffy, and tasted great even without toasting. Let me repeat EVEN WITHOUT TOASTING. Straight out of the bag. If you are doing a little happy dance, I’m right there with you. I was finally able to have a delicious slice of cinnamon toast, grilled cheeze, tempeh ruebans, the possibilities where endless. My desert was turning into a tropical oasis. Only one problem, I had a hard time finding the bread. Then slowly, it started creeping into a few markets somewhat nearby. It still needs to get into more shelves, but in the meantime I’ll keep driving to the locations so I can have bread. If you see this bread, do your little happy dance and then buy as many as you can carry!

LNB Bag
I forgot to take a picture before we devoured most of the bread.

Product: Millet and Chia Loaf by Little Northern Bakehouse

Overall Grade: A++

Pros:

  • This bread is delicious out of the bag. Even if it is frozen, when it thaws it can be eaten as is. Most GF bread has to be toasted to be semi-edible.
  • It doesn’t taste like cardboard. It is fluffy, soft, and flavorful.
  • It comes in three flavors, plus rolls. I have loved all four products.
  • All of the ingredients are things you have heard of! There isn’t anything obscure in the ingredient lists.
  • The bread is non-GMO and certified vegan.
  • They use a certified gluten free facility.
  • The facility that they use is also peanut and tree-nut free.
  • They are soy free as well!

LNB Sandwich

Cons:

  • They need to be in every grocery store! They are not in Whole Foods yet locally, but I am still able to find them.
  • They are priced like other gluten free products. You will most likely pay over $5 a loaf.

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Jerky, An Interesting Concept

I was very excited when I found coconut jerky on a vegan website. I am a huge vegan jerky fan and had to give it a try. I miss jerky as a vegan, but especially as a gluten freer. There is a brand on the market that I can find in local grocery stores, and I like them, but I am always looking for something new to try.

Product: Cocoburg Vegan Coconut Jerky, Original Flavor

Overall Grade: C

Pros:

  • It is a new vegan jerky.
  • The jerky is soy free and gluten free.
  • There are a few flavors to choose from.
  • They have a good chewy texture.

Cons:

  • They come in 1.5 oz bags. The bag did not have many pieces of jerky.
  • The bag is about 5.99 for 1.5 oz. That is a bit pricey! Especially if you have to pay shipping as well.
  • The flavor is odd. I expected them to be chewy, but I didn’t expect such a strong coconut oil flavor. I know the product is made from coconut meat, but I expected them to have more of a jerky flavor.
  • If you are looking for a jerky flavor, this is not your product. It was like eating chewy coconut. That might be your thing, but it was not mine–especially for 5.99 a pop.

 

 

 

 

 

Toasted Coconut Almondmilk, Califa Farms

Happy New Year 2017! We are back and blogging, like we promised! In the spirit of the holidays and cold weather, you might be thinking drinks to warm you up. I know that has been on my mind. I bought the Toasted Coconut Almondmilk with that intention, but found myself a bit disappointed. I grappled with what grade to give to this product and I settled on a C. I can’t give it the Veggie Product Reviews Seal of Approval because it is not good enough for our seal. Read on to see why.

Califa Farms bottle in fridge

Product:Toasted Coconut Almondmilk by Califa Farms

Overall Grade: C

Pros:

  • This product is soy-free, vegan, gluten free, carrageenan-free (for those that care), non-GMO, and BPA-free
  • This product has 45% of your daily needs of calcium, that is more than milk!
  • This is a low calorie drink at only 45 calories per serving
  • It was acceptable as a base to hot chocolate (see the cons to explain)

Cons:

  • This product did not taste good cold or warm on its own. It had a very fake coconut flavor and it was hard to drink. I was only able to drink it as a base to hot chocolate.
  • The beverage is a bit thin and not as thick as other vegan milks.
  • The fake coconut flavor was overbearing. It is all that I could taste when I drank it alone.
  • There is only 6 servings per container. Most other vegan milk brands contain 8 servings per container.
  • With only 6 servings, this milk is expensive.

 

 

 

 

Crab and a Clean Conscience- Gardein Crabless Cakes

Ahoy maidens and mateys!  Veganswashbuckler is back, or you may call me Squashbuckler for short, as me fellow Vegan reviewer Amanda will do.  The crew quite likes it, and I admit it be less of a mouthful than how I was christened.  Just don’t call me late for dinner, especially if Gardein Crabless Cakes be on the menu.  Arr!

These fine morsels deserve the grade of A.

Now, before I became a Vegan pirate, when I was a wee little corpse munching scalawag, methinks I tended to avoid the crab cakes.  I never cared for mayo, and even today I fear the Vegan version.  Nevertheless, if ye like the stuff, by all means check this out, from another of our Vegan reviewers, Dawn.  Nevertheless, blindfold any miserable corpse muncher and give them a taste test, and I dare them to tell me these cakes are crabless, ye scoundrels and crab steaming poltroons!  And, since they already be blindfolded, make them walk the plank unless they reform their ways!

These tender chunks of delight are a treat lightly fried, and they come out crispy on the outside and juicy in the center.  They have the essence of the briny deep, they do, and a fine texture that will leave ye in amazement.  Add these yummy fries as a side, courtesy of another of our Vegan reviewers, Julie, and ye will have yerself a mighty fine repast with little effort.  Tell the chef to have the night off, but to take it easy on the grog and bring yer ship back in one piece.

The only real criticism I have of these nuggets is that they’re a bit tinier than ye think, and they only come ten to a package.  Ye may be left a little unsatisfied, but the flavor is a big winner.

A Chocolate Holiday Treat!

Do you remember those popular chocolate hazelnut truffles? They aren’t vegan. Pretty disappointing, I know. I’ve been longing for a vegan version and finally Sjaak’s has come through.

truffles-seal

Product: Sjaak’s Melk Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

Overall Grade: A+

Pros:

  • These are incredible. They have a smooth milky-chocolate hazelnut taste just like I remember.
  • Organic
  • Gluten free
  • Soy free

Cons:

  • I don’t know if this is a true con, but they don’t have the delicate crunchy shell that I remember the non-vegan version had.
  • Slightly pricey ay 11.99 for a box of 9, but you get what you pay for. These are definitely worth it for a gourmet, nostalgic holiday treat!
  • I wish they were more widely available. I purchased from VeganEssentials.com but I would love to see them in Whole Foods some day!

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