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!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yummy Yummy For My Tummy - Amazing Grass/Amazing Meal

As a vegan, it can be a bit of a pain in the butt to travel especially when you have no car, are living out of a hotel room and only have a short stack of take out menus to choose from. Because I tend to find myself in situations like this more often than not, I've grown accustomed to bringing my own food, no matter how long or short the trip. Anything that can be popped in the microwave, only requires hot water to cook or can be easily mixed in with soy milk (which I also bring) or juice fits the bill.

Lately I've been bringing cups of cereal and soy milk for breakfast or the occasional packets of maple and brown sugar oatmeal. But on my most recent trip I just couldn't bring myself to have one more bowl of cereal or oatmeal. In walks Amazing Grass' Amazing Meal. Its nothing more than a little orange packet but its chocked full of greens, protein, fruits and vegetables. Not only that but it is organic, raw, gluten free, soy free and, of course, vegan.

Each packet is 110 calories, packs 10 grams of protein (from rice and hemp), 6 grams of fiber, and is a natural source of a variety of vitamins and minerals. Its hard t believe so much green happy goodness is packed into a little 29 gram packet but its true. For the greens, they blend wheat grass, kale, barley grass and alfalfa. For protein they use rice and hemp. For the fruit and vegetable blend they use acai, carrot, blueberry, goji berry, rose hips, maca and banana as well as flax seed powder. It also contains negligent amounts of digestive enzymes and probiotics.

Amazing Meals comes in chocolate, original and pomegranate mango. It seems like every powder, shake or supplement comes in chocolate so I'm kind of getting sick of it and I didn't want to take a chance on what the "original" flavor was since the list of ingredients didn't seem like it would blend seamless into something my taste buds would enjoy. The appearance of the pomegranate mango flavor intrigued me, and I knew it would take a lot of hard work to make that combination of fruits taste bad together. I enjoyed mine 3 different ways: once stirred into some orange juice, once shaken up with vanilla soy milk or hemp milk as a quick smoothie and once blended into a mango, pineapple, peach smoothie for a little extra nutrient boost. All 3 ways were absolutely divine! I did a little truffle shuffle as I drank it.

Mind you this stuff is a little pricey. With tags like "raw, organic and gluten free" its not surprising that it is. A 10 pack cost me $29.99. And singles are around $2.99 each. In the long run its cheaper and better for you than a lot of the other things available for the morning warrior or the travel mavens like me. It sure beats a bagel and banana and is much more filling. And, when you look at the total cost, is comparably priced to my travel standby of soy milk and cereal cups or oatmeal packets. All in all I'd say if you have a little extra money to spend or if you're on the road and not exactly sure where your next complete meal will be coming from or if its coming at all, I would go for this Amazing Meal. Hands down.

Where to find: Whole Foods has exclusive distribution.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spring Cleaning: Guinea Pig Updates Part 2

Spring cleaning is well under way in the land of Vegan Guinea Pig. The post for Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe and Sweetgrass Salon & Spa are now all spruced up and shiny like a new penny. Now my all time favorite vegan cheese is ready for it's unveiling! Along with an updated review, and a bit of a change of heart, on my one time favorite non dairy yogurt.

Check out the newest updates: The Verdict on Cheezly and The Ricera Retraction (my new review of Ricera yogurt)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring Cleaning: Guinea Pig Updates

I’ve spent the last two weeks decluttering my house, washing baseboards, dusting ceilings fans and doing some good old fashioned spring cleaning while I’m on summer break from classes. My house barely looks the same and I think even the dogs are impressed with their new, less cluttered, cleaner digs. All this cleaning got me thinking that I might need to do a little spring cleaning around ye ole Vegan Guinea Pig Blog. A lot of things have changed since I made my first post a year and a half ago, some items have been discontinued, businesses have moved and I’ve even tried some products for the third or fourth time and had a change of heart on my original review.

It took me 2 weeks to get my house clean from top to bottom so I’m giving myself about a week to get this blog whipped up into tip top shape as well.

First up, check out the updates over at Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe and Sweetgrass Salon & Spa.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vegan Brunch: Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

Ok, I admit it. I bought Veganomicon the day it came out and still haven’t tried one recipe in it yet. I bought it with the best intentions to try at least 3 or 4 recipes but it never happened, as is the case with most of the cookbooks that sit on my shelf now-a-days. I’ve been so wrapped up in working on my own books that I haven’t had much time to branch out and see what else is going on the world of vegan eats. When Isa posted the recipe for Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from her new book Vegan Brunch I promised myself that I would leave my own little vegan culinary cocoon and branch out to try Isa’s latest venture.

True to form, I didn’t make the recipe exactly to the letter but it’s the closest I’ve ever been to the original recipe in a long time. My only change was to take down the panko bread crumbs by ½ cup and I double the roumelade because I like to have a good amount of sauce. I might take down the mustard or use Dijon mustard next time in the roumelade and I'm considering baking the cakes to next time as well, but otherwise I thought it was a perfect recipe.

Make ahead: Make the entire mixture and the remoulade the night before. In the morning, form into cakes and pan fry.

For the cakes:
8 ounces tempeh (I used three grain)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I used Bragg's liquid aminos)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons Vegenaisse
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (stone ground Dijon works, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup very finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs, plus extra for dredging (I used 1 cup)
Optional: 1 finely chopped nori sheet or 1 tablespoon kelp granules (if you like a little fishiness)
Oil for pan frying

For the remoulade:
2 tablespoons Vegenaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (stone ground dijon works, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons capers (try not to get too much brine)

Lemon wedges for serving

First we’re going to steam the tempeh to get the bitterness out and also to infuse some flavor with the soy sauce. Crumble the tempeh into a saucier or small pan in little bits. Add the water, soy sauce, oil and bay leaf. The tempeh won’t be fully submerged, but that’s fine. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let boil for 12 to 15 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated. Stir once during boiling.

Transfer contents to a mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and mash with a fork. Let cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to hasten the cooling process. Make sure the tempeh is barely warm before you proceed, or the cakes may fall apart when you cook them. Add the mayo, mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, chopped bell pepper, spices salt and pepper, and mix well. Add the bread crumbs and nori and use your hands to incorporate.

Once you are ready to form the cakes, preheat a thin layer of oil in a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet (cast iron is great) over medium heat. Pour a few tablespoons of panko into a bowl. Scoop a little less than 1/4 cup batter into your hands and form into a ball. Flatten between your palms and then roll the sides gently with your hands cupped to smooth them. You should have ten 2 1/2 to 3- inch patties. I do them in batches of five. Press them into the panko to lightly coat. They don’t need to be thoroughly covered, just a little bit for some texture.

Fry a batch of five cakes for 4 minutes on one side and flip when dark golden brown. Fry for 2 minutes on the other side and transfer to a paper towel or paper bag to drain. Do your second batch and in the meantime make your remoulade by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vegan Ham aka “Ham Tube”

At first I was afraid…I was petrified. Frankly, the image of a big pink tube of fake ham seems like the stuff of vegan nightmares. I haven’t had any parts of a pig since the 80s so I saw no need to start eating a vegan version two decades later. My omni-boyfriend swore it was delicious after trying a ham & cheese hoagie at Govinda’s To Go and the folks on twitter said it was the best thing since sliced bread. So, after what has now been almost 3 years of resistance to the “ham tube” I finally decided to give it a shot.

Everyone was right! Scary pink tube aside, this stuff is absolutely amazing. Now if you’re a new vegan and still remember what ham taste like I can’t really vouch for whether or not this taste anything like actual swine, because I have no clue. What I do know is that it has a slightly sweet flavor with a wonderful texture that is extremely versatile.

The ham tube, as I affectionately call it, is made by May Wah and can be found at most vegan online retailers. It’s also a great price for the amount of ham tube you get. At Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe it retails for $9.29 and that is for a 2 pound tube! At first I was concerned about how I, as a single person, would be able to work my way through 2 pounds of anything before it went bad. But, as I mentioned before it’s amazingly versatile. So far I’ve used it to make a classic Ham & Cheese Sandwich with vegan American cheese, I country fried it up for a great addition to a breakfast of tofu scramble and banana pancakes, made a Hawaiian pizza (pictured below) with cheezly mozzarella and pineapple, over the weekend I made a breakfast burrito with tofu scramble, vegan pepper jack cheese and pan fried ham tube, and as of this morning made a breakfast sandwich with freshly made biscuits, a vegan egg, vegan American cheese and pan fried ham tube (pictured below).

If you still haven’t tried it and you are a skeptic like I was I highly recommend you order your very own ham tube. Cosmo’s is always having some type of sale so check back with them often and try it for yourself.
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