One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jessica Seinfeld's Aloha Chicken Kebabs - VEGANIZED

It seems like every house wife in America is a buzz about Jessica Seinfeld's new cookbook Deceptively Delicious. Celebrity cookbooks aren't really my thing and I've been spending so much time working on my own cookbook that I vowed to take a break from my cookbook buying addiction to just concentrate on my own recipes. But...bored in an airport I ran across this book, thumbed through it and realized that although it is a book for omni's a lot of the recipes can be easily veganized with just a little soy milk or seitan.

The recipe that first caught my eye is for Aloha Chicken Kebabs. I veganized the recipe easily with chicken flavored seitan. The recipe alone lacked that "aloha" flavor I was looking for so I created a sweet pineapple-sweet potato sauce out of the left over puree's I had. The combination is perfect. I also left out the kebab part of this recipe, it really wasn't necessary but if you happen to have some wooden skewers hanging around feel free to add them. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Veganized Aloha "Chicken" Kebabs
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1/4 cup pineapple puree
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 egg equivalent egg replacer ( i used Ener-g)
1 pound chicken flavored seitan (I used the recipe from La Dolce Vegan), cut into strips
1/4 cup canola/olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit)
In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the flaxseed meal. Set aside
In a second wide, shallow bowl, combine the sweet potato and pineapple purees, soy sauce, egg replacer and coconut. Stir to combine and set next to the breadcrumbs.
Dip the seitan into the puree mixture and then roll it in the bread crumbs until completely coated.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with oil.
Add the seitain in a single layer and brown for 3-4 minutes on each side. The breadcrumbs brown quickly so check often.
Remove seitan from the oil and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for an additional 20-30 minutes depending on desired texture.
Alicia's Pineapple-Sweet Potato Sauce
1/2 cup pineapple puree
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1 tablespoon shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup plain soy milk
In a blender or food processor add all ingredients except soy milk until completely combined.
Add soy milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
Either dip the aloha "chicken" into the sauce or drizzle a little sauce over each piece of "chicken"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Verdict On Cheezly

Let's just start with the bottom line. Cheezly is better than Sheese. If you're going to shell out over $7-8 for a faux cheese product I would choose Cheezly over Sheese hands down. Sheese has held the long time advantage of being available in more flavors in the U.S., but the fine folks over in Cheezlyland are starting to catch up. Currently Cheezly is available in mature white cheddar, mozzarella, garlic & herb, nacho and cheddar with faux bacon bits.

I taste tested Cheezly straight out of the package, in a loaded baked potato soup and in cheese enchiladas. By itself it was surprisingly good. The texture is perfect, it's not soggy or wet (like other meltable cheeses) and it is true to the flavor it represents. My omni friend even tried it more than once and he didn't go running for the hills so that's a good sign. In the other two recipes it was definitely good but, the flavor didn't really stand out. Frankly, this had more to do with the flavor of Cheezly I used (mature white cheddar) rather than the product itself. I really wish that the traditional cheddar flavors were available in the U.S. The white cheddar was delicious but it had a very subtle flavor that I wish was a bit more bold. But the white cheddar would go perfect for a panini or even mixed with other faux cheeses in a man & cheese dish or casserole. The mozzarella was dead on and perfect! I'm actually going to order some more and try my hand at making mozzarella sticks.

Not only are the flavors spot on but Cheezly melts like real cheese as well. If you've ever used Follow Your Heart brand melting cheese then I would use the same guidelines with Cheezly when baking - always bake at 450 degrees and give it a couple minutes under the broiler if it doesn't completely melt. In my loaded potato soup, it melted immediately but still left little pieces for me to get a burst of flavor as well, just like real cheese.

So if you're going to shell out $7-8 (plus shipping and handling) I would say go for Cheezly. If you're looking for a more bold cheddar flavor then you might want to stick to Sheese or even Follow Your Heart's cheddar flavor for now until Cheezly's version becomes available in the U.S. But if you know of anyone smuggling cheddar Cheezly across the pond let me know! :)

If you live in the Atlanta /Marietta area Cheezly is available at Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe and online at it is also available at Vegan Essentials.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Restaurant Review: Little Peking Fresno, CA

Growing up in Fresno, CA I always assumed it was one of the most boring places on Earth (which is a pretty fair assumption if you ask around). However, one thing that has never been boring about Fresno is the food. The rich land and agriculture lend to fresh, local and organic produce that is literally the best I've ever tasted. When I think of home I think of Mexican food and my favorite pizza parlors. Now, my second time coming back home as a vegan, I've realized there is more to Fresno than just my old standbys.

After doing some research on I discovered that there are a fair amount of restaurants and bakeries that cater to vegans in the area. Literally, the moment I got off the plane I asked my mom if we could go to Little Peking (7975 N. Cedar Ave, Fresno, CA) because I heard they had vegan orange chicken and I just had to try it (my exact words).

Walking into the restaurant I could tell my mother was a bit wary. It's a humble and simple restaurant with not too many frills. But what they lack in decor they fully make up for in food and service. The extensive vegetarian/vegan menu had over 30 options (some do contain eggs but the staff at Little Peking will help you identify what's what).

The food was extremely inexpensive (my orange chicken dish was only $5.95) and the taste was phenomenal! After having a bite of my veggie orange chicken my mother immediately lost interest in her real sesame chicken and we ended up ordering another veggie orange chicken to-go as well as a vegan version of the sesame chicken my mom had been eating earlier (they were also very flexible about letting us add more veggies instead of steamed rice to our meal at no additional charge).

Later on that night, my hardcore meat & potatoes father had a plate full of the veggie orange chicken and proclaimed it a success as well. So from one vegan and two life long omnivores it can be said, without a doubt, that Little Peking is a must try.
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