Category Archives: product review

Locavores & “Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet”

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Reading an outstanding piece of literature on vegetarianism, was what made me abandon my carnivorous ways (thank you very much “Eating Animals”. My transition was seamless and complete.

THEN, I started reading appalling books on veganism (hello, “The Kind Diet”) and I banned dairy from my existence as well. That’s it, it’s final. My eating habits were set in stone and I was content.

Enter, the phrase everyone’s sick of-locavore.

Now, I’m a stickler for organic food. I don’t like consuming anything with pesticides in it and I will gladly shell out $7 a pint for USDA-approved strawberries during any season if I have to.  But I prefer the idea of getting everything at my local farmer’s market for three very important reasons:

  1. The prices are significantly lower than Whole Foods, while getting the same quality produce.
  2. The open-air, spacious parking lot available to browse numerous booths is a lot more relaxing than battling other shopping carts down the narrow aisles of Trader Joe’s.
  3. I like forming even briefs relationships with the farmers who were growing my food, and I enjoy learning about the process behind it (farmer’s market attendees are VERY chatty.)

Unfortunately, living in New England means these wonderful markets are only around 6 months out of the year. So recently I’d been thinking about how far my food was traveling to get to my plate, when I was eating mangoes and bananas before I headed out to clean the frost of my car. Something didn’t seem right. It didn’t strike me as biologically, economically, sustainably and morally sound to be eating “organic” food that came from half way across the world and gobbled up insane amounts of fuel before it landed on the supermarket shelf. Could that even be considered fresh? Were organic blueberries for Christmas worth the huge carbon footprint?

“Plenty: Eating Locally on a 100-Mile Diet” tackles all these timely food issues that were plaguing my grocery habits. Published in 2008, this book could easily be pinned as the memoir that sparked this whole locavore trend. Written within a tumultuous year of triumphs and failures, a Canadian couple (Alisa Smith and JB McKinnon) tackle the implications of their seemingly perfect organic diet. They reminded me a lot of Jim and myself-she a mildly neurotic, smart-assed writer who acts completely on her wild emotions; he a calm, head-strong jack-of-all-trades who leads the way in their local expeditions. From foraging for wild herbs and mushrooms, to shucking dozens of ears of corn into the wee hours of a weekend to smuggling goods over the US border, they went to great lengths to maintain their promise to reduce their intake of food that needed a passport to get to their plates.

Amidst constant bickering over who could cook what, where their next meal could possibly come from and how they could possibly live a life without processed flour, comes a poignant story about what food really is. It is life, in its purest form. It’s going beyond throwing imported veggies into a plastic bag at Whole Foods. It’s recognizing where your meal came from, how it got there, and WHO got it there. The raw relationship in this book, amongst its main characters (sometimes driven to the brink of a break-up during an all-night tomato canning session) and between them and the people they bought their food from is what is so refreshing. The idea of knowing the individuals and the work that went into that strawberry jam, those new potatoes or a glorious homegrown wine. It’s not always pretty, but the work and effort that goes into make sure your food is in its purest, freshest state is an unparalleled reward that few get to experience.

And how does this even fit into vegetarianism, you might say? Alisa and JB WERE in fact meat-free up until their 100 mile diet. Not that this local diet would lead me back to carnivorism, but one can have respect for the fact that they chose to increase their meat intake, as organically fed, and humanely-raised animals were readily accessible in their neck of the woods. They went back to eating meat because it was raised the old-fashioned way, the way some of us envisioned our grandparents doing it. I do not support meat-eating, but if people are eating animals, THIS is the way it should be done. And I think the book overall, advocates for vegetarianism as it just makes sense that a local diet would automatically include mostly fruits and vegetables as almost every other food option is imported or processed somehow, and only produce remains untainted.

Real, clean food, regardless of the “organic” label is simple. It doesn’t need bragging rights, a high price tag or even many ingredients added to it to make a delicious meal. It is humble and is proof of hard, honest work. And more importantly it builds a sense of community through the local suppliers, buyers and cooks, all of whom help make the world a better place, one forkful at a time.

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New Daiya Wedges & Chickpea Cutlet Sandwiches

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I have tried some NASTY vegan cheeses in my short time as a vegetarian. SOme contains milkfat (WTF how is that vegan?!), some taste like chalk, some are full of GMOs and soy and some don’t melt at all. And what is a great fake cheese, unless it gets that ooey, gooey consistency.

If you;ve been on the hunt for a great dairy-free cheese, and feel completely hopeless, look no further than Daiya’s new cheese wedges.

I love their shredded version, but it doesn’t work as perfectly as you’d want when it comes to subs, paninis or grilled cheeses. This new breed of Daiya is outstanding and comes in great flavors like Jack, Cheddar and Havarti, and best of all, it melts like a dream! It’s got a melt in your mouth texture pushed me to the brink of giddiness when I first tried it. Warmed up or sliced up onto a cold sub, this imposter cheese is even better than the real deal. Paired up with our chickpea cutlets, made for an unreal mock chicken sandwich.

2 slices ciabatta bread

2 slices Jack Daiya cheese

1 chickpea cutlet

5 slices cucumber or avocado

1/2 cup baby spinach or romaine

1 tsp Dijon mustard

  • Layer each slice of cheese ontop of each slice of bread
  • Place under broiler and let cook for 3-4 minutes or until it begins to bubble and brown
  • Layer toppings on cheese and enjoy!
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BIG NEWS! Vegetarian Times & Thrive Foods

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This has been a HUGE week for us and we have our blog readers to thank for it!

Not only did we win Yumuniverse’s Kale Recipe Contest, but we also became Tasterie’s “Taster of the Week!”. Our Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad took the grand prize in the recipe contest and the prize is AWESOME prepared  ornagic, vegan meals delievered right to your door, by Thrive Foods Direct. Breakfast, lucnh and dinner for the entire week was sent to me, and I am very happy to have a week-long break from cooking! We reecieved chia pudding, oatmeal, granola, salads, lasagna, falafels and so much more.  Tasterie is sending us some vegan snacks, so we’ll let you know how they are when we get them.

And the BIG, BIG news is that our Eggplant & Polenta Sandwiches will be featured in the July issue of Vegetarians Times! This is quite possibly the best news I’ve ever got and I am beyond happy and proud to be making it into the pages of Veg Times. So make sure to go out and pick up an issue when it comes out. And thanks to all of you who keep reading and continually inspire us!

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Just a few of our meals from Thrive Foods Direct!

Book Review: The Kind Diet

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I had waited a LONG time to read “The Kind Diet” by Alicia Silverstone.  Die to popularity, I was stuck on my library’s waiting list for MONTHS to finally snag a copy.  Expectations were high, and I could not put this book down once I started getting into it.  The photographs are gorgeous-rustic and simple, yet visually enticing (I give books a higher grade when they’ve got fabulous pictures).  Alicia’s story is a great one, and I love the message she sends about really, truly understanding where our food comes from, how it affects our world and how diet choices really shape our existence.  Her and I share a lot of the same views-an overly strong passion for recycling, fanatical about organic produce, anal about staying away from pharmaceutical drugs and medicines.  I enjoy the points she sells about not only vegan food, but complete vegan living, which encompasses so many other aspects.  She focuses more on cutting out dairy then she does meat, but I also like that she makes numerous references to breaking the rules every year or so and eating non-vegan food just to prove she’s still human, and to reassure herself that animal products really do wreak havoc on the body.  The book is filled with really poignant facts about wholesome living and both vegetarian and vegan eating.

The downside?  The novel part of the book, where she writes about the science behind why it’s better to eat vegan, is superb and surprisingly very well-written (I wasn’t sure that Cher from “Clueless” would be the most eloquent book composer).  But the recipes…the recipes are another story.  Although some of them are good, nothing really stood out to me.  Nothing grabbed my attention and said “you HAVE to try this!”.  Many of her dishes use a lot of tofu and soy (maybe OK for some-not for us), and feature obscure ingredients I doubt many people have ever even heard of.  She’s very ambitious in her creations, but I felt that most of them were too far of a stretch for your average joe, and especially since the book talks a lot about transitioning into veganism, the recipe were too out there to be considered realistic by people who are just starting out on this diet.

I still highly recommend “The Kind Diet” simply because it’s such a mainstream vegan book and the information given leading up to the recipe portion is outstanding.  Worth the wait at the library, but may not be worth the actual Barnes & Noble purchase for most.

Vegan Cheese: Love it or Leave it?

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I’ve given up dairy milk completely.  I could go without eggs (although Jim’s frittatas make it hard to do so).  And butter replacements are not hard to find.

But cheese?  I’ve mentioned numerous times that cheese is just something I’m not ready to part with it.

But knowing how addictive it can be and how detrimental cheese can be for your health, I’ve made a conscious effort to try and kick the habit.  Cashews and nutritional yeast are great substitutes, but the texture is never quite the same as the ooey gooey mess that originates from the real deal.  Recently though, Arikka wholeheartedly committed to veganism (SO happy that someone has enough will power to do it!) and began testing out the fake cheeses- most of them soy based.

So I figured I’d give it a try.  I’d tried out the Daiya version, which SUCKED because it virtually just turns into liquid unless your baking it on super high heat, which means it’s a no go for pizza, quesadillas and more of my favorite foods that don’t take long to cook.

I had high hopes for the Follow Your Heart brand, as it had a short list of ingredients that I could actually pronounce.  Their blocks of various types of “cheese” range in all sorts of flavors, so I was instantly drawn to the mozzarella version, because the consistency looked and felt somewhat similar to actual cheese.  It also resembles your standard block of tofu, so I had mixed thoughts as I attempted to cook a vegan margherita pizza.  It took MUCH longer to get the cheese to melt, but overall it looked exactly like mozzarella and had a very mild, subtle taste that you almost didn’t notice.  But at least the texture was realistic and it didn’t taste like tofu (or something worse).  Another friend of mine also used the mozzarella in a pasta dish and pulsed it in the food processor, which also, didn’t stand out much in the dish it all.

Great on pizza, OK in pasta but not much else, unfortunately.  I tested out the cheddar in quesadillas, tried some straight up and Arikka attempted to use it in tacos, all of which were an epic fail.  I would suggest putting in extra spices or trying to liven up the flavor a bit, but its dense texture and obviously high temperature gauge makes it difficult to work with.

My advice?  Go vegan and avoid recipes that call for cheese all together.  And if you’re continuing to use the real thing, just use it sparingly.

(margherita pizza- legit cheese or vegan?……OK, it’s vegan)

Totally Bamboo

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When anyone asks “what’s the one thing a great cook needs to invest in?” most people will respond with “a good set of knives”.  And as important as the tools that are used to cut fruits and veggies are, having an excellent cutting board is also crucial.

For years  I used the typical wooden board and didn’t have many discrepancies about using it.  But the bulky board was obnoxiously heavy and was extremely inconvenient to wash considering they are not dishwasher safe.  They were also prone to harboring bacteria as sharp knife blades easily began to sear through the wood and residue from produce AND meat (when I actually ate it!).  And when I pondered how much grime was seeping through the wood, I quickly tossed it.

But replacing it with a plastic one wasn’t suitable either.  Although they are dishwasher safe, the issue of sanitation was also prevalent.  Sharp tools quickly started to tarnish and cut through the board and it began to warp easily.  That one didn’t last long either.

That’s when I discovered Totally Bamboo cutting boards.  Not only are they more eco-friendly, but they absorb less moisture meaning they won’t hold bacteria or soften easily.  They are much sturdier than alternative cutting boards, but bamboo FEELS much lighter, making it easy to transport.  Although they are not dishwasher safe, their smooth finish makes them a cinch to clean, which I love.  They can be a bit pricier, but considering durability and strength they far outlast any other type of board.  And their sleek and unique design make it a much betting look piece of kitchen equipment!