Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Basket Full of Goodies

- The newest food products we've tried!

- Endangered Species Orange Dark Chocolate and Blueberry Dark Chocolate - the orange one was our least favorite we've tried so far for Endangered Species chocolate, but the blueberry one was delicious.

Image- Equal Exchange Organic Mint Chocolate Crunch - sooooo good. Like Andes mints but better for you and for the community (fair trade) and tastes better too! The little crispies all throughout added a nice touch. One of our favorite chocolates now, along with Green and Black 70% Dark Chocolate.

Health Valley Oat Bran Grahams
- now that we are trying to exclude honey (it's very hard with all the products out there that you don't realize have honey in it!), we can't have MiDel Whole Wheat Grahams. Well, we found a perfect replacement - these are really good! As a snack on the go, with nut butter, with bananas, soy ice cream...

Vitamin B 12 Spray, from Pangea
- People who are vegan may not get enough B 12 in their diet. After completing the food insecurity project and determining our nutrition intake, we found that we were low on vitamin B 12, so we are taking this once a week (just spray on your tongue). B 12 is stored in the liver, so it should be fine with just supplementing once a week.

Eden Foods Rice and Caribbean Black Beans - Very convenient and versatile to add other spices and flavors, though it was a little bland on its own. We liked how it was low sodium. There are other variations Eden Foods sells.
Rice and Caribbean Black Beans, Organic

Traditional Medicinals Think O2 Tea and St. John's Good Mood Tea
- We are morning tea drinkers, and to boost our mental performance and positive thinking during stressful school days, we decided to try these teas out. Very tasty, but expensive, and we don't drink the recommended 3-4 servings per day to probably get any medicinal benefit, but it may be helping :)

Barbara's Shredded Oat Squares Cinnamon Crunch
- We love her original oat squares, but this one was disappointing. To sweet for out taste and took a while to soften in milk.

Pearl Soy Milk - slight vanilla flavor, but very tasty on its own or with cereal. This one and Silk Vanilla and Blue Diamond Almond Milk are our top 3 milks!

Whole Soy & Co. Blueberry Soy Yogurt! Ymmm.

Uncle Sam Cereal with Mixed Berries
- Tons of raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries (all freeze-dried)! And didn't expect so much berries because usually cereals that say 'with berries' usually have hardly any.

- This cereal was really good - and unique too with rolled wheat flakes. Just slightly expensive for a small box, but considering all the berries, we ate the cereal with 1/2 of another wheat flake cereal to extend the box.

A huge bag of organic kiwi (cheap too!)

Not pictured above:

From Just Tomatoes, etc, we tried the Just Raspberries and Just Strawberries.

- We love that they are freeze dried with no sugar, oil, or preservatives added. And we just bought their apricots. We really enjoyed these in our cereal for breakfast, but they were good too with almonds and cereal as a trail mix.

Palapa Azul Mango Sorbet with fresh ripe mango slices! So refreshing and healthy!

And finally, Amy's Mexican Tamale Pie and Shepherd's Pie tasted great (though high in sodium)!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Break and Easter

Happy Late Easter!
Another big post, so we'll be splitting it up in parts. First off - spring break and Easter week. Then the next post will be about product reviews again!

Remember how we were doing a food insecurity project over spring break and could only spend a total of $16 each on food for 5 days? It was VERY tough and eye opening. Our meals were very boring; we missed being creative in the kitchen. On a more serious matter, we did not get enough calories in, so we were frequently lethargic and moody. It really made us appreciate food. Without enough energy, it was hard to focus on school work. I would think that one of the consequences of being food insecure is the limited ability to learn and perform well, which leads to a decreased likelihood of getting a quality education. What's even sadder is to think that growing children need even more calories and can't meet those needs on such a limited budget.

After the "spring break" (which wasn't really an enjoyable break at all because we had tons of hw and had to attend to our grandfather's funeral), we splurged on groceries and enjoyed being back in the kitchen.

We tried Vegan with a Vengeance's "Big Gigantoid Crunchy PB - Oatmeal Cookies", although we tweaked it to use creamy no-salt added almond butter and added dried cranberries. We also used white whole wheat flour, 1 c. unrefined cane sugar and 1/4 c. agave nectar (instead of a total of 2 cups sugar).

The cranberries were a nice addition, but the end results were way too oily and still too sweet. We tried raw cookie dough frozen, and it was actually yummy except for the oil taste. I think that this recipe was a good base for a chewy cookie, but since there is nut butter, the oil could be reduced.
We had a lot of cabbage (since cabbage is cheap and we bought it for the food insecurity project), so we made a Asian coleslaw with lime, cilantro, peanut sauce, onions, and bell peppers. It was FABULOUS, we couldn't get enough of it. Lime adds such a great elegance to dishes!

How was everyone's Easter?
Easter was a wonderful because we attended a beautiful mass and then went to visit with family. The road trip to our grandparents was absolutely beautiful - the wildflowers (Indian Red Paintbrushes, Bluebonnets, and other purple and yellow flowers) were heavenly to see. We were among fields and fields of flowers. Usually we hate to drive, especially along freeways, but this nice spring drive was an exception!

Our grandparents gave us a nice Easter treat! Instead of the usual candy, which we never cared to eat, they gave us a huge basket of ORGANIC fruits and vegetables! Organic definitely tastes better...we had our first organic cucumber (our HEB grocery store doesn't sell organic cucumbers and other veggies) and it was fabulous.

We made the East Indian Spice Cake from Soy of Cooking, and the cake was perfect for Easter celebration. We used whole grain cornmeal, slightly less ginger and nutmeg, no ground cloves, added 1/3 c. Koslowoski Farms Blueberry All-Fruit Spread(we love the flavor of this fruit spread and also love their apple butter!), and didn't use the 1/3 c. prune puree and 1/3 c. molasses. For icing we mixed powdered sugar, blueberry spread, some blueberry juice, and soymilk. A dense cake, more like a breakfast coffee cake, but the flavors were unique and spiced, and the blueberry spread made it fruity! Serve this with blueberries! This cake and the Fig Cake Newton from this cookbook are awesome, and all the recipes we've tried so far are great.

Hope you all are enjoying spring and basking in the beauty of flowers! And, Happy Late Easter!
- LK Sisters
"Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ....for it is by grace [we] have been saved, through is the gift of God." - Ephesians 2:4,8

Friday, March 7, 2008

A taste of our shopping basket - product reviews

We just want to share with you all of the great foods we got recently during our grocery shopping excursions:
First, we ordered from Pangea some organic vegan candies ("Purefun" brand)! One is a mint variety with spearmints, peppermints, and pepsin flavored mints. The other package is fruit flavors, such as raspberry, tangerine, and lemon. Overall these candies are sooo good! They aren't too sugary where it leaves your teeth feeling rotten, and they are creamy and smooth in flavor. The flavors are each wonderful; even the mints aren't too strong, which we like. It is nice to just pop in a candy piece after a meal. They also sell root beer flavor, which we want to try soon!

Another product we tried for the first time was "Purity" light orange soy milk beverage. It was actually pretty good, like a creamy orange juice. It is very low in calories and sugar; the only drawback is that it has no calcium and says it uses soy extract instead of real soybeans.

The other product in the picture is of Nature's Choice Multigrain Cereal Bars, apple cinnamon flavor. Overall, we love these bars for a nice snack, because they are healthy and not too sweet. All of the flavors are excellent (triple berry, strawberry, blueberry, etc).

At the grocery store (we go to HEB) they had mangos, tangelos, and turnips on sale. We love mangos, and the tangelos and turnips were something we've never had before. We also bought kale, among other produce that isn't shown. For your grocery bills, what is the one food that you spend the most on? We spend over $15 on organic apples, because we each eat an apple a day, so we have to get about 12 apples per week. :)

Other new items that we bought included herbal teas (Mango and Pomegranate flavors, which are good), toothpaste (Anise flavor, which we haven't tried yet, but sounds interesting), hand soap (wonderful lavender smell; Mrs. Meyer's brand), and fruit juice (pineapple-orange-apple flavor; a powerhouse of vitamins/minerals, even 100%B12!).

The other products in the photo aren't new to us, but we just wanted to show you some of the foods we love. We love Almond Breeze Almond milk, Weetabix bran flakes, Hodgson Mill's whole grain pastas, and Maranatha Almond butter.

We also recently tried Lundberg's Brown Rice Cakes, Flax Tamari flavor. Like all of the other flavors (green tea with lemon, sesame tamari...), they are a nice healthy snack. Note: the Cinnamon Toast flavor is deceiving and contains milk, and of course Honey Nut and Buttery Caramel flavors are not vegan.

And, we finally special ordered at our local health food store the Living Harvest Hemp Milk that Veggiegirl raves about. A word to the wise - shake it pretty good. The first time, we got a clear liquid. It is good and very nutty, although very expensive. Our favorites, though, are still Almond Breeze and Silk Light Vanilla Soy milk. But thanks for the product recommendation, Veggiegirl!

We also bought Pearl Original Soy milk, because it was on sale for $.99! It's good. We love to have more than one non-dairy milk on hand to try different kinds in our cereal for breakfast.

On a side note, after going vegan, it was really hard to find good whole wheat sandwich bread that didn't contain honey. One bread we found this week that was vegan was Earthgrain's 100% whole wheat, stone ground. It has a great texture with little wheat berries throughout. All of our good breads we used to buy, like Pepperidge Farm's Whole Grain German Dark Wheat, contain honey. :(

Wow, there sure are a lot of food products out there being developed! It's always nice to try something new.


Testing Testing Continued

Before our product reviews, more tasty meals:

Forgot to mention in the last post, that we also enjoyed spaghetti, with lots of veggies and tofu crumbles. The tofu added a great touch to it and was so well hidden, that omnivores who are still unsure about tofu would love the dish. We used spicy Arrabiatta tomato sauce and whole wheat fettuccine pasta.

We also made yesterday Mango Crisp. We kind of made up our own recipes, but following somewhat the Strawberry-Plum Crisp recipe in Veganomicon. It was pretty tasty, though the mango flavor we love so much actually mellowed out when cooked.

Mango Crisp with Raspberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2 mangoes, diced
3-4 Tb freeze dried raspberries (we used Just Raspberries from Just Tomatoes brand!)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coconut extract (or vanilla extract)
1/4 c. brown sugar

Combine filling ingredients and place in a small baking pan.

~1/8 tsp cardamom
<1/2 c. rolled oats
1/8 c. brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 Tb ground flax meal
1-2 Tb canola oil

Combine topping ingredients except canola oil in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil by the tablespoon while mixing the ingredients until the topping becomes crumbly and doesn't look too dry.

Sprinkle the topping over the mango filling in the pan, and bake for 40 minutes until the filling becomes bubbly. Will need to cover with foil to prevent the topping from burning.

One last food concoction we made - Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dough Hummus! A great twist on the usual hummus. It tasted like cookie dough, but not too sweet. Excellent with lettuce in a pita or as a dip with carrots and apple slices. Some modifications: no applesauce or oil, only 1 Tb agave necatar, an extra tsp of cinnamon, 2 1/2 Tb raisins, 1 1/2 Tb walnuts, and an extra Tb of oats. Next time we are thinking of trying a nut butter cookie dough (minus the cinnamon).

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Testing Testing

It's March already, and we are ready for Spring! Already the flowers are beginning to bloom and the grass is green here. And next week is our Spring Break, but it will be a busy one. We have TONS of catching up to do in our class work and studying for exams and such.

We also are going to complete our Food Insecurity Project in our Community Nutrition class. For 5 consecutive days, we have to plan and eat meals to stay within a budget of $3.28/day (so total $6.56/day for both of us and only $16.40 for grocery shopping for the 5 days). The reason for this project is to experience what people who are on Food Stamps experience and to gain an appreciation for the hardships that food insecure people face. It will be a challenge, but we think it will be a great experience. We have to write a journal on our feelings about it, if we got hungry, our ability to stay within the budget, any frustrations, etc. We'll let you know how it goes!

**Side note - click here to donate food for free

So onto the food - we've done quite a few testings of recipes from various sources - Get Sconed, Veganomicon, Dreena Burton, and other online recipe postings. We've also tested a few new food products.

First off - creamy, sweet, and spiced African Sweet Potato Peanut Stew! Our all-time new favorite soup (along with our Black Beans Soup). We found the recipe online here, and we didn't change it much. Some of our own modifications include: only 3/4 an onion, only 1/4 tsp ground ginger, more cayenne, a no-salt added veg bullion and water instead of vegetable broth, almond butter as the nut butter, and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds in each serving instead of chopped peanuts.

It was quicker and easier to already have precooked the diced sweet potatoes (just cooked them in the microwave a day before). The spices were in the right proportion, except we added more cayenne because we like it spicy! We pureed half of it and let half chunky to give a nice texture. The almond butter made it heavenly, and overall it was creamy and heavenly to eat! Other variations could be to use black beans, cilantro, corn, and mexican spices, or a curry variation with garbanzos. Lots of leftovers to enjoy!

We also tried Get Sconed's Adapted Version of the New Farm Macaroni and Cheez. We used crackers instead of bread crumbs for the topping, and we actually liked lots of them to make the macaroni drier. We wanted to try a creamy mac version just because we haven't had it in years, but mac and cheese was never a favorite dish, and after trying this, we realized that we never really cared much for it. We always liked our mac and cheese dry, and this we really creamy - too creamy with a thick pasty consistency. Next time we want a creamy pasta, we'll do a mushroom cream sauce or make a creamy pasta salad. We served this with kale which made it better.

Today we tested the Veganomicon Spicy Tempeh and Broccoli Rabe, though we had swiss chard and had red quinoa instead of pasta. We've really only had tempeh twice before and we wanted to give it a try again. We'll, we won't make this dish again, but we are eager to use tempeh in a tempeh salad reminescent of chicken salad (see here). As for this meal, fennel is a unique flavor and it was too strong and kind of tasted like sausage flavoring. And tempeh is slightly bitter, but it was better mixing swiss chard with the tempeh and then having a bite of swiss chard with the tempeh to mellow out the flavor.

This week we also tried turnips! We chopped it up and cooked it in the microwave until soft, and then mashed it. The turnips were quite good and easy to make, and even eaten raw it was spicy like radishes. We are eager to try them again, and perhaps in salads.

For part of the week, the weather was sunny and warm - perfect for a Black Bean Taco Salad. Black beans, organic cherry tomatoes, organic romaine lettuce, some sunflower seeds, Guiltless Gourmet Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips, a little salsa, a homemade lime dressing, and homemade guacamole. A perfect meal for Texas summer days. The lime dressing was awesome - we just used fresh lime juice, some garlic, and some cayenne. And the guacamole was awesome and creamy - we used creamy avocadoes, some garlic powder, and some cayenne. We also had corn on the cob, which has been really fresh and sweet even though it's probably not in season.

We briefly went home last Saturday to see Michael Buble in concert with our family (which he sounded just like in his albums, though he was a little too entertaining with some dirty jokes that we did not appreciate)(Naturally 7 also performed and they were awesome - beautiful harmonies, check them out). Anyways, we brought our family some Fresh Blueberry Lemon Oat Squares, recipe from Dreena Burton. Overall it was pretty good, though we should have used a larger square pan, because the bottom crust was thick. Also the crust was a little too gummy, so next time we'll make it thinner and use some oil or something to make it more crispy. And there needs to be more lemon flavor - in the blueberries and the crust.

... So, see tomorrow's post on testing food products - we'll have product reviews of the newest foods we've tried! And check out "Our Original Recipes" on our blog - we've updated the site and now the recipes are posted individually for easy view. Enjoy!

Our favorite Wheat Biscuits but with cinnamon!

- LK