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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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.

Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pizza Crust, Vegan MoFo Day 21

I’m a big fan of pizza.  With the exception of tacos, it’s probably my favorite because it can be made so many different ways and changed to fit the season (hello caramelized onion and sweet potatoes.) But making homemade vegan gluten free crust is a lot of work. Buying it at a pizza place is expensive.  For so long there was nothing in between.  Enter Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pizza crusts.  It’s not the best crust I’ve ever had, but it makes up for that in price and convenience.

 

Product: Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pizza Crust
Grade: B

 

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Pros:

  • Thaw, top, bake.  It’s super easy.
  • It’s inexpensive.  $3.69 for two crusts
  • I don’t have to make homemade crust or leave home for a pizza
  • It’s relatively sturdy while still being soft.
  • Gluten free, no soy ingredients

Cons:

  • If I were reviewing strictly for gluten free folks, I might grade it a little higher. While it’s really good for gluten free crust, I think you can tell that it’s gluten free.  I like things to be gluten free without knowing it.
  • It’s got a coating of flour on it and has a little chalkiness on the outside.
  • Sometimes it’s cracked.  But, that didn’t really cause a problem, I just cut it a little less than evenly

 

Here’s my latest pizza with a little too much Daiya.  I also got a yummy jarred pizza sauce at TJ’s while picking up the crust.

 

 

 

Field Roast Gives Tofurky a Run for Their Treasure- MoFo Day 10

Grade: B+

Ahoy, mateys!  Your favorite Vegan pirate has disembarked again to review another worthy Vegan product.  Today I bring you a Vegan sausage from the good landlubbers at Field Roast, provisioners of other Vegan victuals such as deli slices and Chao cheese.  Tis football season, after all, and it makes a great excuse for my first mates to entertain without resorting to cruel obscenities, such as slaying at least 25 of fowl to provide a mere 50 Buffalo wings.  These links will satisfy any wretched corpse muncher, and if they still want to bellyache to ye, tie them to the mast and leave them for the albatrosses and the gullies!

The particular sausage I’m reviewing today is their smoked apple sage.  For various reasons, I rate it a B+, as I must compare the caliber of this product to that of the other fine provisioners at Tofurky, and I give the edge to Tofurky.  Tofurky be the OGs of mock meat, and any worthies to challenge them have their work cut out for them.

 

smokedapplesage

 

That is what you need to look for in the stores, mateys.  And I must warn ye, if you are a Vegan who shies away from mock meats that are too authentic, then this is not for ye.  I found the flavor of this delicacy quite satisfying after a long voyage with nothing but filthy laddies (and ye may think a sausage would be the last thing I’d want to see after such an arduous journey).  The texture was also very fine, but not quite on a par with whatever Tofurky has concocted for their links.  Just something oddly crumbly to me in these sausages.  One bonus behooves these sausages over the Tofurky, and it be in their packaging.  Without using much extra material, all four links be individually wrapped, so ye need not worry about eating all four within a matter of days.  For my gluten free mates, this product is strictly verboten, me fear; there are other brands that provide gluten free sausages, and keep yer eyes out for land and for these patties when they hit a store near you.

My chef prepared my meal with gluten free penne pasta, imported from the distant shores of Costco, he tells me, though I’m unfamiliar with this part of the seven seas.

 

smokedapplesagemeal

 

In it he added some onions and garlic, a healthy amount of olive oil, a bit of salt, dried sage, and red pepper flakes, and butternut squash with a drizzle of maple syrup to boot.  As ye can see, he sliced the links up on a bias, but he failed and should have added more sausage!  Alas, I’ll keep him around as he’s the best I got, and Polly has taken a liking to him.

Back to the boat, mateys; those shores won’t plunder themselves.  Arr!

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo from Veggie Product Reviews!  It seemed only fitting that today we review a frozen taco.  Yes, a frozen *taco*.  I was going to get another box of Carla Lee’s Nut Balls, and right next door I saw Carla Lee’s Nut Tacos.  I’m easily enticed by anything taco and anything mini, so I picked up a box.  I really wanted to love them. Unfortunately, I just didn’t.

Product: Carla Lee’s Nut Tacos

 

nutTacos

Carla Lee’s Nut Tacos with vegan cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and hot sauce.

 

Overall Grade: C+  These were just ok and probably got the + just because they were so darn cute.  I was also a little annoyed by the fact that I had to use a spoon to push down the filling so there was room for toppings.  This is frozen food, it shouldn’t be that much “work”.  Yes, I know that’s lazy, but when I’m cooking prepared food from the freezer it’s because I’m feeling lazy.

Pros:

  • Small and easy to eat
  • The shells crisped up nicely
  • The shells didn’t crack too badly
  • The tacos were more filling than they look.  Those 4 tiny tacos with the toppings really were enough for dinner for me.
  • I recognize all the ingredients, so no scary stuff

Cons:

  • The filling didn’t get a crisp on it like the nut balls, so even for me it was a little soft
  • They’re a little greasy
  • The shells got super hot (obviously) but by the time they weren’t burning my fingers, the filling wasn’t hot enough
  • The heat level was weird.  It was too hot to be mild, too mild to be hot, too hot with the added hot sauce.  And, I like the flavor of my hot sauce better than the heat here)

Overall, I think the problems I had with the nut tacos could be solved by just selling the taco nut meat as crumbles and letting you cook it on the stove top for your own shells. You’re already doing the toppings anyway.   Or, if they’re really excited about the mini tacos, package the shells to go in the oven and the filling to go on the stove top and let you assemble.

 

 

 

 

 

From the Freezer Case: Carla Lee’s Nut Balls

I finally got around to making zucchini noodles last week and I wanted just the right thing to go with them.  I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Beyond Meat “meatballs”, but I haven’t seen them in stores yet. I did come across these while I was checking for them.

Product: 
Carla Lee’s Nut Balls

 

Carla Lee's Nut Balls #vegan #glutenfree #xgfx

 

Carla Lee's Nut Balls served with Zucchini Noodles and Arugula Pesto #vegprodrev #vegan #glutenfree #xgfx
Carla Lee’s Nut Balls served with Zucchini Noodles and Arugula Pesto

 

 

Overall Grade: B+ I really enjoyed them.  If I were the only consideration, I probably would give them an A.  I knocked it down just a little bit in consideration of our readers who aren’t gluten/soy free like I am.

Pros: 

  • Flavor is savory, but not overpowering to other items on the plate
  • I can pronounce all the ingredients and regularly have them in my kitchen.
  • Gets a nice little crisp on the outside
  • Fewer than 10 minutes from freezer to plate
  • They don’t really require quite as much oil as the directions say.  But do be sure to continue to turn them and not just let them sit on one side for too long.  They’re more likely to stick.

Cons: 

  • A little spendy.  But then I realize that I’m getting 3 servings and they’re natural ingredients and that helps balance this out. (plus, Carla Lee’s website says they give 50% of the net proceeds to feed humanity)
  • The name is a bit misleading. They’re called nut balls, but the first listed ingredient is brown rice.
  • Even though they get a nice crisp on the outside, they’re a little soft.  I foresee this being more of a problem for those of you who eat gluten / soy products.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faux Seafood, A Sophie’s Kitchen Adventure

It’s been a while since we’ve written out reviews. Please forgive us, the reviewers have been up to a lot. Rest assured, we have been testing a lot of products and need to find the time to write them up. Stay tuned for more reviews!

Product: Sophie’s Kitchen- Breaded Vegan Coconut ShrimpBreaded Vegan Coconut Shrimp Box

Vegan Shrimp in a bowl

Overall Grade: C+. I wouldn’t recommend this product to non-vegans and would caution vegans in keeping an open mind before buying or tasting this product. The texture is strange. I don’t remember what shrimp tastes or feels like, but it could also have a strange texture. Either way, this product won’t be a regular on my shopping list.

Pros:

  • It is a breaded seafoodless product. There are not many seafood imitations out there.
  • It is different from the other seafoodless products out there. There are “fish fillets” made by other companies, but this is one of the few products that imitates shrimp.
  • It is easy to cook and doesn’t require anything besides putting the shrimp on a tray in the oven.
  • It is gluten free and soy free.

Cons:

  • It is a seafood imitation product. I think there is a reason there isn’t a lot of faux seafood on the market. Seafood tastes and smells strange to many people and this product has an odd squishy texture.
  • I’ve never had coconut shrimp, but I expected to taste the flavor of coconut. The breading was nice, but I didn’t get much of a coconut taste.
  • It is quite greasy. I prepared it in the toaster oven and didn’t add any oil.
  • In order for it to be tasty, I had to make a vegan mayo based sauce and cover it in the sauce.

 

 

 

 

Like I Need Another Reason to Go to Ikea

I have a problem. I’m slightly addicted to Ikea.  I’ve often said we should have one close by, but I fear if we did my slight addiction would become extreme.

Whenever I’m on the road and am going to be near an Ikea, I try to schedule a stop.  After all, there is so much you can’t through their website (I’m looking at you, cute dishes and throw pillows).

But earlier this year, as if I needed another reason to stop by, Ikea introduced GRÖNSAKSBULLAR, a vegan option in place of their traditional meatballs.  I expected, as in most places that carry faux meat products, to be disappointed by the presence of gluten and soy.  But, no, not here.  In fact, the strength of these veggie balls as that they are just that…a veggie ball.  They aren’t trying to pretend they’re meat.  Their simplicity is their strength.

 

20151004_112802

 

GRÖNSAKSBULLAR has a firm texture without being chewy, and the little chunks of vegetables allow you to taste some of the individual veggie flavors.  The seasoning is Goldilocks savory…not too bland, not too strong…just right.

And get this, they’re less expensive than the traditional meatballs.  In Woodbridge, VA* a plate of 10 with a sauce and a side is $4.49.

The sauce is like a thin sweet potato chili.  It’s good, but not my favorite.  The side is seasonal vegetables.  On this day, that was a mixture of green peas, (slightly dried out) kidney beans, yellow beats, and green beans.  Again, not my favorite, but I ate most of it.  In fact, I’m a beet hater, and these were edible to me.  I guess I should give Ikea a little credit for that. But, let’s face it, I was only there for the GRÖNSAKSBULLAR.

 

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If you go to try them out, make sure to take a thermal bag if you don’t live close by because they’re available in the food market.  A 2 lb+ bag was $7.99 (again, less expensive than the meat option).  The sauce isn’t available for sale.  I’m ok with that.  I’ve tried them at home with barbecue sauce and with yellow mustard.  So far, I like them best all by themselves. The yellow mustard is currently in 2nd place.

Photo Credit: ikea.com

Photo Credit: ikea.com

 

 

Even if you’re not a huge fan of assembling your own furniture or of those adorable little guest towels, you should swing on into Ikea for a little lunch.

Thanks, Ikea for thinking of us!

 

*The Woodbridge, VA cafe will be closed for the next 3 weeks for remodeling.

North Carolina – Indian Fusion

I am a North Carolinian through and through.  I wasn’t born here, but I’ve lived here for most of my life.  I’ve got the accent which gets worse (read: better) when I’m tired.  I’m ok with the hot summers.  I like staying home for the one good snow we might get in the relatively mild winters.  And, there’s nothing quite like southern food.

Smoky, sweet, spicy…it all works. So, for today’s post, I’ve decided to mix a little North Carolina in with a coconut milk curry.  And what’s more southern to soak up some of the liquid than a a little fresh-baked cornbread?

First off, let me tell you a little something about black-eyed peas and collards.  They are the essence of NC cooking and I never liked them growing up.  The real truth is I never ate them.  Although I grew up here, my parents didn’t, so we never had them at home, and I guess I was afraid of them at all the reunions and church potlucks.

In the last couple years, I’ve learned to love the black-eyed pea, but still had a little fear of collards. Until now.  I loved this dish so much that it, and variations of it, will be in my regular rotation from now on.

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I didn’t really measure anything to make this dish because who wants to work that hard for curry? But, I can tell you what I did to give it that NC spin.

First cook some diced red onion in a little oil in a large skillet.  When they are translucent and start to brown, add in some of your favorite mild curry powder  (I used this one) and stir to coat the onions.  It’s better to err on the side of too little curry powder as you can add more later. After about a minute, add the black eyed peas, some small florets of cauliflower and about a cup of water.  Add in a golden broth cube (I used Not Chick’n) and use a fork to break it down into the water.  Once the broth cube is dissolved, add in a can of coconut milk.  And, here’s that little bit of sweet…add in about 1/2 can of pumpkin puree and stir it in with the coconut milk.  Taste the broth to see whether it needs more curry powder or salt and add to taste.  If you need salt, I highly recommend smoked salt.  It adds a little extra something.  But, if you don’t have it, regular salt will work just fine.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and let it simmer until there’s little liquid left (it took mine about 15 minutes).  Add a bunch of collards, chiffonaded and about 1/2 cup of water to thin out the curry and cook the collards.  Use more if you like it thinner.   Serve topped with toasted pecans (more NC), and finely chopped red onions.  Sprinkle on more curry powder/smoked salt as needed.

To keep the NC flavors going, I tested out the Bob’s Red Mill Cornbread Mix.

cornbreadMix

The mix calls for eggs, but I tested it out using “chia-eggs”  (1 Tbsp ground chia to 3 Tbsp water)   I used white chia to affect the color as little as possible.  It has a mild, slightly sweet corn taste, but I like the corn to “jump” out at me a little more.  The flavor was better against the curry (seemed sweeter and more corn flavor) than it was on its own.  It’s a little on the dense side (a lot on the dense side if you like the muffin-y almost cake-like cornbread that you get from some mixes).  Although I typically like room temperature baked goods, this is better warmed up.

Noting that it may be different using actual eggs (which we don’t do here at Veggie Product Reviews), my review is that it’s decent, but nothing to write home about.  I’d rather have my homemade, but it will work when I’m in a hurry.

Until next time, Julie, Amanda and I would like to thank you for spending time with us this Vegan MoFo. We look forward to hearing from you as we review products  throughout the year.