Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rocking' the new year with good eats!

Great stuff, vegan edition!

Lightlife Gimme Lean sausage flavor--moist, meaty, without all the fat. Season and pat out a few patties, nuke them, then panfry in a bit of oil, and you have a weekend breakfast taste treat without worries! Widely available in grocery stores.

Earth Balance spread--buttery in taste and texture, with fewer calories (but it's NOT a lowfat food, by any means), and great for baking! The local Giant Food even had them, at a dollar less than a nearby health food store; of course, it's priced lowest at Whole Foods. (Whole Foods even had giant tubs of the stuff recently, for $8, in time for holiday baking.)

The Wizard's vegan worchestershire sauce--a dead ringer in taste for Lea & Perrins, without the anchovies, and available in health food stores. (It's much better than the Annie's brand of this type of sauce, which is surprising, as Annie's usually makes great dressings and sauces.)

Vegenaise vegan mayonnaise--this could give Hellman's a run for its money. Seriously. Creamy, smooth, and rich tasting as all get out, with much less fat. Even my gotta-have-meat relatives happily use this to make tuna sandwiches. Oh, and the lowfat mayonnaise you find in the supermarket, please. Leave that stuff alone--it'll kill 'ya.

Another Lightlife product, this time the veggie pepperoni. It's good, spicy fun, with much less fat (aka grease) than regular pepperoni, and available at Whole Foods.

The old supermarket reliable, Silk soymilk. Widely available in supermarkets, and even Target (where it's much cheaper than even Shopper's Food Warehouse), where it was on sale this past week. The flavors to try are the plain, chocolate, and (during the holiday season), nog, as well as the creamer, if you like that sort of thing. Stay far away from the vanilla and unsweetened varieties, however, as they don't taste right; the vanilla is too sweet, and the unsweetened, not sweet enough. (Dairy milk, although thought of as being a protein product, also contains natural sugar, lactose, which contributes to its taste, so any soymilk totally lacking in sweetener will also be lacking in flavor.)

Another Silk brand product, yogurt. It's smooth, creamy, and the flavored varieties, such as blueberry and strawberry, are fantastic. There are also large tubs of the unflavored variety, which are great for cooking, etc. Widely available in health food stores.

Two Gardenburger products merit special mention--the BBQ riblets, and the herb crusted cutlets. The riblets have a great meaty texture and flavor, and come a sauce that's sweet enough for most folks' liking. (Add a few shakes of hot sauce if the sweetness is over the top for your taste.) The cutlets are a nice change of pace, and are best prepared in two steps: first, nuke them for 60 or so seconds, then finish up in a (preheated) toaster oven at 400 degrees, for 5-7 minutes. Moist, crispy, and tasty all at once.

What, no toaster oven? This is a great, inexpensive, environmentally friendly kitchen appliance to acquire, as it saves mucho energy when cooking for a small household. Why heat up a giant oven when you can heat a smaller one (and in less time)?

A good vegan cheese, you ask--what's that? They exist, but are expensive and tricky to find. My favorite is Sheese, made on a remote Scottish island. I like the smoked cheddar flavor, as well as its texture. Good thing that it's easy to slice into thin slices, and melts. However, I've only been able to procure it locally from Pangea in Rockville, but other online stores sell it as well, so it's an extremely occasional treat.

The vegan cheese from Follow Your Heart (the makers of Vegenaise) is merely OK; it will at least melt for pizza, but easily becomes moldy, as it remains inexplicably moist on the outside. (Perhaps the pack should be frozen after opening, but it's not good enough to bother doing so.) I was even more disappointed with the new, trendy Dr. Cow tree nut cheese. Not only is it pricey, but comes in a tiny container, and tastes like (and has the texture of) a hard miso, if there is such a thing.

I've created my own easy, tasty vegan cheese in a pinch, great for sprinkling over spaghetti, eggplant "parmesan," etc. I simply take a couple handfuls of pine nuts, toast them in a cast iron skillet for a minute, and grind them in a nut grinder. The ground nuts must be stored in the refrigerator, of course, but are tasty enough so that they doesn't last long enough to spoil.

Whole Foods keeps popping up because, although wags often refer to it as Whole Paycheck, its prices on vegetarian foodstuffs is often much cheaper than independent health food stores, and often comparable to prices at food coops, such as Glut. Shocking but true.

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Anyone needing motivation and reason to consider vegetarianism must check out the latest from Audubon magazine, such as the article from local environmental activist Mike Tidwell, The Low-Carbon Diet, and another article in that issue, on the history of vegetarianism.

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More food for thought, in the form of a classic, yet timely song from the Isley Brothers, Harvest for the World.

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