Gluten Free Bread

So after a month of not posting, today you’re getting a bonanza, a virtual shower of posts!

Going gluten free is challenging.  Sometimes, you just want a sandwich. Peanut butter and jelly, though in my case, without the jelly (eww.) I’d resorted to rice cakes, which is okay, sometimes, but not really satisfying when you want a sandwich.

Then I tried Gluten free bread.  Which is mondo expensive.  And has the taste and the texture of  styrofoam made out of lead, somehow.  Horrendous. Heavy, beyond dense, flavorless, crumbly to the point of idiocy.

Then I found this bread.  Udi’s White Sandwich Bread.

Udi’s is well known for it’s line of gluten free products, and has the gratitude of millions of people because of it. But…

Okay, there’s still problems.  It’s over five dollars a loaf, and the loaf is the smallest loaf I have ever seen in my life.  The bread is three and a half inches square at the highest point.  I actually measured.  And much of the loaf has HUGE holes in the middle.  See? 

That said, there are good points.  The bread is lovely and light, holds together well, and actually tastes rather like homemade bread.  I was able to make sandwiches with it, and even eat the sandwich without it falling apart (if I covered the holes with pickle slices.)

If I had an income that allowed me such extravagant purchases on a regular basis, it would be worth it.  It’s definitely the best gluten free bread I’ve tried yet, by miles.  As I’m an unemployed chronically  ill poor person, I bought two loaves and froze them, and will be using them VERY sparingly, while I search for cheaper homemade recipes.

My next review will be Bob’s Red Mill, which carries many gluten free items and mixes. Watch for it!

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Remember to read those labels!

I have been craving cheese, intently, for several days. Maybe weeks.  That’s what helped cause my little slip last week, in which I actually cooked and ATE one of those horrible powdered mac n cheese in a bowl things that I wouldn’t eat even when I wasn’t vegan.  So today, I decided to try to make some mac n cheese using the almond cheese that I tried and really enjoyed.

One of the hardest things about going non dairy is cheese.  I mean, it’s just so good.  Cheese is warm and melty and smooth and divine, salty and yummy and creamy, and there is just no substitute that works well.  Soy cheese is just gross.  It doesn’t melt, it tastes and smells funny; what’s the point?  Most vegans I talk to online love Daiya cheese, but if you read this post you’ll know my feelings on that.  On the whole, I’d rather go without.  Almond cheese was going to be my savior!  It didn’t stink, it melted, it tasted decent; I was so excited.  Until….

For some reason today I inspected the label more closely.  Yup, you guessed it; casein.  My heart broke.

So I bought two varieties of “Follow Your Heart” cheese, which is soy based.  Mozzarella and pepper jack.  I haven’t tried this brand, which the vegans at Vegweb.com all seem to use for most everything.  I’m going to freeze it so I can grate it, then make a mac and cheese with it, see how it comes out.  The problem of course, is that even if it tastes decent, it’s one expensive bowl of mac n cheese.  I’ll let you know how it comes out.

I am now on the search for a vegan milk chocolate.  It doesn’t really seem that difficult, right?   Simply replace the milk with soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc; there’s tons of options out there.  But there  is a dearth of it around.  I found one today, at Rainbow Bridge.  Very expensive, of course; $3.35 for a three ounce bar.  On the other hand, if it’s really good chocolate, I can eat a square a day and be happy.  So with no further ado, my review. (Yes, it’s 10:00 am, what’s your point?)

Sweet Chocolate Dream is a dairy free, gluten free chocolate bar produced by the Hain Corporation, the makers of Rice Dream, Almond Dream, Soy Dream, etc.  Surprisingly, there’s no rice, almond or soy milk in it.  There is soy, in the form of soy flour.  It looks like milk chocolate, it breaks like milk chocolate, and it even tastes like milk chocolate.  It will definitely work for your worst chocolate cravings.  My only criticism, and it’s pretty minor, is that once it’s gone from your mouth, there’s a, well, not an aftertaste, really, it’s more a lack; a lack of the rich bottom notes of chocolate’s aftertaste.  If that makes any sense to anyone.  It really is pretty minor. The creaminess of chocolate, the sweetness, the way it melts in your mouth; it’s pretty dang good. I did need to consume two squares though, to really do this review justice…

Tonight’s dinner is going to be Sloppy Steves, I think.  Murph has baseball practice; I’m hoping that if I take a nap right now, I’ll be able to go.  The beauty of Sloppy Steves is that they need to simmer for so long; I might even try throwing them in the crockpot this time.  That way we won’t be tempted to do the Taco Bell thing again!  It’s so awesome to find something that everyone in the house really loves.

Review: Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n

I love to cook.  I really enjoy it.  I have so much fun in the kitchen whipping up new tastes for family and friends. I love learning new techniques, trying new foods, even making mistakes.  Cooking is a blast!

Except when it’s not.  For about the last year or so, my participation in cooking for the family has taken a hit.  Only because of the generosity of my family do I cook at all; I cook, leaving the kitchen a disaster, and someone else cleans up.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.  But lately, even that has been too much.  Standing is painful, sometimes even just a few minutes hurts to the point of tears.  I find that I’m not following my diet the way I want to more and more often.  For instance, the other night I couldn’t find any protein in the house besides eggs or peanut butter, both of which I’m eating almost every day for ease.  So I made chicken nuggets.  Which made me feel horrible. Then I ate CHEESE, horrible instant-in-a-bowl macaroni and cheese.  Which made me feel horrible in several ways.

Tonight, the Beloved is off having a well  earned (SO well earned!) “Boy’s night out”, Eric is off with his friends, and I picked Murphy up at baseball practice, giving him a Taco Bell burrito for dinner.  Because I won’t medicate for pain when I’m the lone responsible adult, I was already running around a level 7 for pain when I picked him up.  I sat in the Drive Through trying to figure out what I could eat, and of course, there isn’t much that isn’t slathered with cheese.  The lone vegan item on the menu, a bean burrito al fresco, I’d had last week.  I’m not really a bean fan, and it upset my digestive system for days.  So I came home, thinking, ok, I had eggs for breakfast; what am I going to eat?

Then I found a package of Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n in the freezer.  Whooot!  Something nutritious, quick and vegan!  In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that it was not intended to be frozen; I bought it on sale a while ago and threw it in the freezer til I figured out what I wanted to do with it.

I’m glad I did. It was really easy; just throw the chicken in a skillet in hot oil to brown, add the sauce, and presto!  Done!  I threw in a big handful of spinach with the sauce, and it was done in seconds.  The package says it’s three servings; if I’d had rice to go with it it would have made two good servings.  As it was, I ate the whole package.  450 Calories, 15 grams of fat, no cholesterol or transfat, a whopping 54 grams of protein.  The cost?  I paid $4.99 , which was about the same as Murphy’s burritos.

Now for the important info; how did it taste?  Well, it tasted like mandarin orange chicken.  It was very good.  Not restaurant quality, of course, but very good, enjoyable.  The texture was pretty similar to chicken, being made from seitan mostly.  Sauce was not too salty, not too sweet, and thank goodness, not too peppery.  I find a lot of frozen meals use green pepper to give their dishes more flavor, but it’s not a taste I like.  Verdict?  Excellent.  A quick, easy, nutritious meal that satisfied my tastebuds without violating my diet or my budget.  I’m pretty happy about it.

Gardein as a brand has become a beacon.  I’ve had a few things I wasn’t wild about, but mostly it’s been very good quality and good taste.  I wish I could find it more often, and I wish the price could come down a bit.  It’s not horribly expensive, usually around the price of a premium type frozen dinner.  For those of us under the poverty level though, it’s a “special occasion” purchase.  Ohhh!  I just discovered that on their website, you can print out a coupon for a dollar off.  AWESOME!

More Reviews

Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.  I tried this on whole wheat English muffins this morning.  Pretty good!  Melted like real cream cheese, mostly tasted like it too, though there was a tangy-ness  missing somehow.  Very creamy.  If I didn’t think about it, it passed for real.  I liked it enough to buy it again, though I’d really like to try it as vegan cheesecake a try sometime….

My best beloved has been concerned; what will I eat when the family orders Dominos?  Well, I found the answer.  Amy’s Kitchen Roasted Vegetable pizza; wow.  Wow.  WOW was it good!  I added some extra onion and some Daiya cheese, but I didn’t need to; it was delicious all on it’s own. The crust was a little thicker than I usually like but had great texture, and the roasted veggies on top were amazing.  The pizza cost about $9.00 in my local Von’s, but it’ll be two meals.  For an occasional treat, it’s awesome.

Daiya Cheese.  Can’t say I quite get all the hype.  Yeah, it stretches when it melts. Big whoop.  It doesn’t melt out of shape, it doesn’t brown well, and mostly, it doesn’t taste like cheese.  And I really don’t like the price tag; almost six dollars for a very small package.  I won’t be buying this again.  For years I’d been using Veggie Slices non dairy cheese; it’s priced better, and tastes better.  I think  I’ll just be losing cheese type things most of the time; substitutions just aren’t worth it.

Juicing

I’ve been trying to make a green vegetable juice drink every day.  On our last trip to Costco, I bought an enormous bag of spinach.  You cannot imagine how large this bag was.  It took up an entire shelf in my refrigerator. I thought, no way am I going to use this all up before it goes bad.

Guess what?  I was wrong.

I  just juiced the last of it tonight.  Five days.  Three times juicing and two meals with cooked spinach as the vegetable.  It’s gone.  I can’t believe it!  The juice tonight was gorgeous in color; a  brilliant emerald green.  Four large handfuls of spinach, three large kale leaves, about six baby carrots, an inch of ginger, half a yellow pepper, and half a cucumber.  I’m not wild about the flavor of the pepper; I don’t think I’ll add that again.  I pour the juice into a larger container, and add an equal amount of pineapple juice; it’s delicious!

Part of the reason for juicing is to try and make my body more alkaline.  There’s a school of thought that believes that our body needs to have a slightly alkaline balance, and that when we eat too many acid forming foods, our bodies struggle to maintain the balance, making us tired, sluggish, overweight, and can even lead to cancer, as cancer cells thrive in an acid environment.  Now, do I believe this one hundred percent?  Probably not.  On the other hand, it isn’t difficult to do.  Foods that lead to alkalinity in the body are really healthy foods.  Green leafy vegetables, for the most part.  So I figure it can’t hurt.  Being a google freak, I googled and googled to find more information on which foods are alkaline and which aren’t.  I found a lot of very subjective charts that didn’t always seem to have the same food in the same category.  Finally, I came across this site.   There may be as much bs here as anywhere else, but I like that they quantified it, assigning a number value to each food, giving you some frame of reference.  Look carefully at that chart, and you may notice that most of the things I’ve given up (meat, dairy, coffee) are in the ACID group, along with sugar, alcohol, a lot of grains, and even beans!  I don’t believe I’ll be giving up sugar completely, or alcohol, for that matter (I do love my Sammies) but occasionally, they should be fine.

Tonight’s review is for Lucky Food Pot Stickers.  As the  beloved is out tonight, and I was too sore to spend a ton of time in the kitchen, I had frozen pot stickers for dinner, accompanied by a large glass of green juice. The package states it’s vegetarian, not vegan, but there’s nothing in the ingredients to indicate eggs or dairy.  It may be that the vitamins in the flour aren’t vegan, but quite honestly, I just can’t be that obsessed right now.  The pot stickers were pretty good; the sauce was very good.  Without the sauce, they were pretty humdrum.  But it was a fun, quick meal with enough nutrition for the night. Again, they were fairly pricey; around four and a half dollars, so they can’t be an every night thing.  I may or may not purchase these again; depends on my mood.

In the “I made it myself” category, I have a review for Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles courtesy of The Post Punk Kitchen blog.  They were… YUM.  Despite my problems with my oven, which are legion, these tasted fabulous.  I did overcook them a tad, especially as I really love cookies to be soft and chewy, but they were still awesome.  Chocolatey, sweet, but not too; and a nice kick of heat that really elevates the cookie to something special.  I will definitely be making these again.  Not for a while, however; I had the feeling I might like them, so I doubled the batch, and froze half.  Sometimes, I amaze myself…

I’m thinking tonight I might try a crockpot quinoa cereal for a quick breakfast in the morning.  Could be delish!

Reviews

First, may I praise Costco to the high heavens for the amazing increase in the number (and quality!) of veg*n foods they now carry?  We took a ride down to the Oxnard store on Friday, and I was thrilled to see actual vegan items.  It may just be a case of now I’m looking, so I see… but I don’t think so.  I remember when I was dieting before, Costco carried Morningstar Farms veggie burgers, and that was thrilling; but I don’t ever recall seeing much else.    Humus and vegetarian refried beans, I guess.  This trip there were multiple kinds of things in both the freezer and refrigerated sections; black bean burgers, veggie burgers, falafels, humus, Gardein Crispy fingers, as well as various prepackaged things… it was amazing.  Vegans are, apparently, taking over the world!

So I have a few items I’ve eaten recently to review.

Rice Dream Vanilla – Blech.  I’d rather go without a frozen yummy sweet confection than ever be forced to eat this again.  If you know me, you know what a statement that is!  The texture is off, and what’s worse, the flavor is odd.  It’s so sweet it’s actually cloying.  With so many non dairy frozen treats out there, this one can stay in the freezer case.  Even on sale.

Gardein Sicilian Trio – A decent, quick meal.  The texture of the “chicken” wasn’t as good as some, but certainly edible.  The sauce, as I have found all frozen sauces to be (vegan and non vegan) was too much flavored with green pepper for my tastes, but otherwise was excellent; rich, well seasoned, a bit on the spicy side, which I enjoyed.  The rice was long grain instant rice; the best I’ve ever had frozen, but not comparable to the long cook short grain rices I love.  Still, not bad at all.  Nutritionally, the sodium content of 750mg (31% RDA) is not unreasonable; calories 220 with 21 g protein.  The major drawback is the price; at $4.49 on sale it’s too expensive for frequent consumption.  A nice, quick meal for rushed evenings on occasion.  I’m not sure if I”ll purchase this again for the price.

Gardein Crispy Fingers – the gold mine find at Costco. A huge bag with multiple servings for less than $7 bucks?  Wow.   Wow.  And they’re GOOD.  Amazingly good.  Even the omni’s thought they tasted exactly like chicken.  The texture was fabulous, pulling apart just like chicken, the breading seasoned well.  One caveat, don’t overcook; they do get a bit dried out and hard to chew.  I will definitely be getting these again.

So Delicious Coconut Milk – I am a HUGE supporter of Turtle Mountain products.  However, this didn’t really do it for me.  I did not enjoy it on my cereal, or drinking straight; in fairness, I’m not sure I would enjoy any coconut milk that way.  The only way I’ve used coconut milk previously was in Indian/Thai recipes, and I always used canned.   I’m a little confused about the half gallon milk carton; is it the same as canned?  I believe it has a lower fat content than canned, which is a good thing if you’re using it as a milk replacement, but if you’re looking for flavor and richness it’s a little thin.  I most likely won’t be purchasing this again; luckily, they’ve still got a really tight grip on my wallet through their Purely Decadent Chocolate Obsession which is always, and I mean ALWAYS in my freezer, and their So Delicious Dairy Free Yogurt, and So Delicious Coconut Milk Kefir which I get when I can afford it.   (If you’re listening, Turtle Mountain, how about a sweetened whipped cream kind of thing?  I’ll be watching….)

I think that’s it for tonight.  Tomorrow I’ll work on some of the recipes I’ve been trying. It’s soooo much fun to cook!

Thoughtful, Interesting Day.

I was reminded last night by an offhand comment on VegWeb forums, that honey is an animal derived product, making it unacceptable to most vegans.

This led me to thinking, as I was spinning, that wool was also an animal derived product, and unacceptable to most vegans.

I’ve never really liked labels.  Labels reduce a person to only one aspect of the many faces we all wear every day.  I’ve been saying I’m vegan, thinking that it’s easier than saying I don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs, MSG, HFCS, or chemicals, but sometimes I eat seafood.  A very strict vegan, however, would be very angry that I take that label but wear wool or silk. (Also about the fish, but that’s another story.)  So this has been my question to ponder today. Can I be vegan and still spin wool?

Admittedly, the large wool producers, especially in New Zealand, allow horrific treatment of sheep.  Pink, as a spokesperson for PETA, has a nauseating video out if you’re really interested.  I don’t really want to support that kind of farming.

Most of my wool comes from small family farms. I have bags of wool that I can tell you the name of the sheep that it came from.  I’ve talked on the internet to these people (and one or two in person) and hear how they cry when the lambs are born, and cry when they get sick or die.  I’ve heard how they’ll stay up all night in a cold barn staying with a sick sheep.  These people care about their sheep as animals, not as a profit margin.  In the minds of many vegans, this does not matter; these sheep are just as exploited as their mass produced brethren. But it does matter to me.

I think I can live with myself as a wool spinning vegan.  I will make conscious efforts to make sure that the wool I purchase comes from humane sources (I don’t think I’ll need to buy any for a decade or two anyway!)

In more pleasant happenings, I bought some more of what has become my most favorite treat ever. Turtle  Mountain Purely Decadent Chocolate Obsession. It’s described on the web page as “Chocolate non-dairy frozen dessert with a thick ribbon of chocolate sauce, riddled with crispy chocolate flakes.”  Rich, sweet, creamy chocolate soy cream, with swirls of fudge sauce and paper thin ribbons of crunchy delicate chocolate.  Deep chocolate flavor, with a wonderful texture, and then you come to the fragile little ribbon of chocolate.  It’s so rich that even I only want a normal half cup serving size. So I have that to look forward to tonight.

Another product review; GreeNoodle.  GreeNoodle is ramen like noodles, and yes, they’re green.  They’re made from a “highly nutritious vegetable that was prized by the Egyptians for its health and beauty benefits.” They call the vegetable Moroheiya, and claim  it “is more nutritious than spinach, carrots, or broccoli, in most aspects.”  I had it for dinner tonight.  It comes either as a packet of just noodles, which is two servings, or a single serving of noodles that includes a soup base.  The soup base does not contain MSG, but it does contain sodium caseinate.  It is a VERY high carb food, having 60 grams of carbs in the soup package.  The noodles alone contain 40g. Only 50 of the 320 calories comes from fat, and it contains 8 g of fiber and 8 g of protein.  I threw all caution to the wind and tossed the entire packet of chili paste in; hot hot hot but yum.  The broth was so spicy that once the noodles were gone, I couldn’t drink the broth on it’s own.  Not to waste, I plan to have the pack of noodles only with the remainder of the broth tomorrow for breakfast.  I really enjoyed the flavor of the noodle; even as you cook the noodles on their own, there was a really unique smell, green and sweet, that came from them.  The price of the noodles was really awesome; $1.65 for lunch is a deal!  I will definitely get the noodles again, but I think maybe I’ll use my own broth.

I have now used my market bag every day for four days, and I like it better every time.  The more I use it, the more flexible it becomes.  I had planned on making changes to the pattern next time, but I think after all it may not need it.  I do have a few other ideas to try; but unfortunately, Ben Franklin didn’t have another skein.  ARGH!

Last thing I want to get in today is that I started back on Sparkpeople yesterday.  It’s a lot of work right now; deleting the old foods that I’d entered that I won’t be eating now, entering all the weirdo vegan food I am.  =]  But I do feel reassured; protein is sufficient, and two days in a row, without trying, I hit smack dab in the middle of the range I set as a goal for the major nutrients.  So it’s all good.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work, however temporarily it may be.  Should be an interesting day.