Compassionates Products & Apparel

A local store, Compassionates Product & Apparel, opened recently with a mission to “live with compassion while raising awareness of a vegan lifestyle”. The grand opening was at a local VegFest and I had the pleasure of stopping by the booth. The booth had shirts, bags, stickers, koozies, and mugs available for purchase with words of compassion. After carefully looking through the options, I came away with a mug for my kitchen.  Check it their online shop to see the products offered, more will be added soon. Maybe they will be at your local VegFest.

mug with seal

Product: Compassion, Kindness, Vegan mug by Compassionates Products & Apparel

Overall Grade: A

Pros:

  • The mug has a simple design with effective wording.
  • I like the colors! The inside is red and the outside is black with red lettering. There were other choices as well.
  • The mug is dishwasher and microwave safe.
  • The price was very reasonably priced at $8 (they are now $7 online).
  • This is a vegan owned company.
  • All of the products support a vegan and compassionate message.
  • The products can be ordered online.
  • There is a good variety of designs and products.

Cons:

  • I usually like to have at least one con, but I cannot think of one in this instance.

 

 

 

 

 

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No Whey! Truffles

Those who know me well, know that I am a no presents type of gal for holidays. Every holiday, I remind my husband that I do not want anything. He loves to get me gifts, but I generally return them to the store. He usually bugs me for something that he can get me and I usually have the same answer- nothing. Before Mother’s Day, I knew he was itching to get me something so I sent him an email with information about a sale from No Whey. Sure enough, on Mother’s Day I received a big box of truffles. I rationed them to one per day and had a nice sweet treat for several weeks, until the box was gone. I even offered to share with him, but he said they were mine. I gave him one and enjoyed the rest. If he is reading this, I hope he gets from it that I would accept truffles, or any sweet treat, from No Whey for any holiday!

truffle box

Product: Signature Truffle Collection, No Whey! Foods

Overall Grade: A

Pros:

  • They are made using a vegan milk chocolate and are the closest to dairy milk chocolate that I have had.
  • The truffle flavors were fun. My box came with the following: “milk” fudge, coffee, grand marnier, raspberry, and salted caramel truffles.
  • The truffles were delicious! I enjoyed getting a box with a variety of flavors. I am not usually a fan of white chocolate, but I liked the grand marnier one that was covered in white chocolate.
  • The company is vegan!
  • All of the products are 100% Milk Free, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Gluten Free, Egg Free, Soy Free! Free of the common eight allergens.
  • No Artificial Colors and Flavors Free of the common eight allergens!
  • The company is Kosher.
  • If you sign up for the email list, you are notified of sales and holiday candy.
  • They have a great selection of candy for each holiday. This is helpful when trying to find candy for Easter and Halloween.
  • The pricing for the truffles seems in line with other high-quality truffles.

 salted caramel truffle

Cons:

  • The truffles have to be ordered online. I am able to find one product in a local store (No No’s), but all others need to be ordered online. I have a vegan son and I would like to be able to go out and buy this candy locally for holidays or for an occasional treat.
  • While the truffle price seems to be reasonable, some of the other candies are a bit pricy- especially with shipping. I don’t mind this for special occasions, but I really wish vegan candy was not so expensive. I would like to buy this for my family for all holidays.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

A Snowy Day in North Carolina – Day 26

Let me start out by reminding you what the MoFo theme for today is: It’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift outside your door! What are you going to make using the ingredients you have?

I’ve lived in North Carolina for 4 years. It’s only snowed here a handful of times during that period, but it definitely has happened. And when it does happen here, it’s best to stay home. Most people that live around here aren’t used to driving in the snow, and there aren’t very many snow plows, so it can be dangerous. I’ve never seen an actual snow drift here in NC, but during the previous thirty some years that I spent in Buffalo, NY, I’ve seen more than my share of snow and drifts. Large drifts. Like 8 foot tall drifts.

Here’s what it looked like in December 2001. Several records were set during this storm, including 3 feet of snow within a 24 hour period, and 82 inches within a week.

snow

Luckily, I have a frozen Daiya pizza in my kitchen. I can pop it in the oven, relax, and enjoy the pretty white view outside.

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Daiya has several different varieties of pizza, including supreme (which includes beyond meat crumbles!), mushroom and roasted garlic, fire-roasted veggie, cheese lover’s, and margherita (my personal favorite). The margherita has 2 different types of cheeze – the mozzarella shreds AND round blobs of mozzarella. The crust on these pizzas has improved quite a bit. When the pizzas first came out, the crusts were very thin and easy to burn. They’ve improved their recipe and now they’re thicker and don’t burn so quickly around the edges. If you tried them a while ago, consider giving them another try. Overall, the pizzas are pretty good. If you want to get creative with your toppings, get the cheese pizza and you can add whatever you’d like. Pineapple and jalapeno, anyone? 🙂

Happy MoFo’ing!

Day 18 – Doggie inspiration

For Day 18 of Vegan MoFo, I would like to honor the dog (well, I’d like to honor all of them!) who inspired me to first go veg. In addition, he and his brothers have all given me feedback so that I can write a review of some store bought vegan dog biscuits. As an added bonus, I’m going to share my SUPER simple recipe for homemade dog treats, which I believe are their ultimate favorite.

Back in 2003, I got my first dog, Stitch. I loved him so much and it got me wondering why we ate some animals but loved others. I never liked eating meat as a child anyways. It grossed me out. A short time after meeting Stitch, I decided to go vegetarian. It was an easy decision to make, but not always easy to implement since I didn’t know any other vegetarians. I stuck with it, though. Several years later, I learned about the horrors of factory farming and decided to go vegan.

I know you won’t be able to resist looking at doggie pictures, so here are a few…

Stitch:

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Yes, I named him after the Disney character.

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Oliver:

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Reno:

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Darwin:

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I’ve found several vegan dog treats and the boys seem to love them all. As you can see, Reno was the only one interested in smiling for the photo. The others were too excited about the treats. This proves that dogs don’t need meat to be happy!

 

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One of their favorite store bought treats is peanut butter Buddy Biscuits. There is a regular peanut butter flavor and a grain free peanut butter flavor. They are both vegan! Some of their other favorites include:

Fruitables The crunchy pumpkin-based line includes several flavors that are vegan. They smell yummy, too.

Sammy Snacks I’ve bought the blueberry and the carob flavors and the dogs go crazy for these. When you open the bag, they smell AMAZING!

Darford is another favorite. I have bought the peanut butter flavor and they were a hit.

I should mention that most of the above mentioned treats are not only vegan, but also grain free. This is because one of my dogs is on a grain free diet. If your furbaby is ok with grains, there are more options for you, including one in particular that I’ve spotted at the big box pet stores – Old Mother Hubbard Just Veg’n.

On to the homemade treats! I told you they were easy and I meant it. I use 3 ingredients for them – crisped rice cereal, banana, and peanut butter. I have experimented with adding a bit of canned pumpkin as well, but in the interest of ease, I like to stick with the 3 ingredient recipe.

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2 cups of crisped rice cereal

1 ripe banana

3-4 tbsp of peanut butter

Put the cereal in the food processor and process it into a powder.  Then add the chopped banana and peanut butter and process until it’s a nice, gooey consistency.

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Next, press the mixture into a pan of some sort and then pop it in the fridge. It will harden just a little bit but they will still remain soft and chewy.

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After they’ve chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours, cut them into pieces. Here is the end result:

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Here is my very handsome audience while making these treats:

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Happy Doggie MoFo’ing!

 

Day 16 – Easy Strawberry Shortcake

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Strawberry shortcake is one of my favorite summer dishes (not just late summer, but ALL summer!)

These 3 products make it simple enough for anyone to whip up (no pun intended) this awesome dessert! I was going to save it for the end, but why wait? Here’s what my end result looked like. It tasted pretty fabulous.

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I started out by making the Eat Pastry Gluten-Free Biscuit Mix. The biscuits had a really good flavor, but they were a bit on the crumbly side. For strawberry shortcake, that was not a problem. However, if I had had my heart set on using them for biscuit sandwiches, it would not have met my expectations. I should also mention that I used almond milk in the mix. I wonder if soy milk or a different non-dairy milk would have made a difference. The mix itself was very easy to make. All you need to do is cut in some Earth Balance, add some non-dairy milk, and then bake.

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My next step was the strawberry mixture. I cut up some fresh strawberries, added about 3/4 of a jar of Organic Bionaturae Strawberry Spread, and a few tablespoons of water. The spread sweetened the strawberry mixture and gave it the perfect flavor. The water thinned it out a little bit so that it soaked into the biscuit.

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Last but not least… the whipped ‘cream’. I used Soyatoo! Soy Whip. This is a whippable soy cream that comes in a box. Here is what the product looked like right out of the box.

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After about 2-3 minutes of whipping in my stand mixer, it looked like this!

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The Soy Whip was light, fluffy, and slightly sweet. Perfection! I do want to mention that it’s important to use the whisk attachment. I started out by using the regular stand mixer paddle and it was not whipping up. Once I switched attachments, it was magic.

I layered all three of these together and it was a great success. The strawberry mix soaked into the savory biscuits and the cream was a much anticipated treat!

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Happy MoFo’ing!

Day 10 – Blueberry pancakes!

In honor of Something Blue Day, I made blueberry pancakes.

Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Pancake Mix

I’ve tried several of the gluten free pancake mixes and my favorite is…. drum roll, please… Arrowhead Mills.

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They look good, right? They look and taste like normal pancakes, which is awesome for a gluten free product. Especially when you want some comfort food! Here are some reasons why I like this mix so much:

  1. It has a touch of cinnamon in it. Yes, I could add cinnamon myself but I am lazy in the kitchen and I like that it’s already done for me.
  2. It’s easy to make. Just add a little oil, egg substitute (I used Ener-G egg replacer) and non-dairy milk. Whip it up and dump it in your heated pan.
  3. It’s organic, vegan, gluten free, soy-free, and cheaper than many of the others on the shelf.

This time I went with Earth Balance and Maple Syrup on top. In the past I’ve gotten fancy and made a fruity syrup in the blender using frozen fruit, water and maple syrup. If you’re feeling fancy, give it a try!

Happy MoFo’ing!

 

Day 9 – Retro!

The theme for today is retro.
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My recipe is not very fancy or exciting, but I do think it falls into the retro category. And it was fun! and nostalgic.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve eaten Jello. When it comes to desserts, I usually favor rich and decadent, as opposed to fruity and sugary. Despite that, I thought it would be fun to give the vegan BaKol Natural Foods JEL a try.

First of all, like the well-known gelatin based version, this stuff was VERY easy to make. All you have to do is boil water, pour it into a bowl and mix it with the powder, then stick it in the fridge for a few hours. Piece of cake. I would like to note that when I opened the powder packet, it smelled strongly of sweet cherry goodness.

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I took it out of the fridge 5 hours later. The color was on the lighter side but it DID set. It wasn’t as firm as I remember Jello, but it worked.

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It tasted just as I expected… very sweet and cherry flavored! Here’s a glob of it on my plate:

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Overall, I’d say this is a pretty cool product. No animals products needed to get that familiar jiggly sweetness that we were so found of as children. Also worth noting – the front of the package reminds you that this product is vegan, gluten free, non-GMO, and free of any artificial flavors or colors. Even better!
Happy Retro Day!