Tofutti, Dump the Hydrogenated Oils Already

I'm failing in my ongoing crusade to get my local Trader Joe's and other grocery stores to carry the healthier non-hydrogenated Tofutti cream cheese (in the yellow container). This is frustrating because the only local store that carries this version of this product is Whole Foods, and they don't always have it in stock either. So we tend to buy three or four containers when the stars are in alignment and WF has it in stock. Personally, I don't understand why this is even an issue. Most of the consumers who purchase "alternative" products do so for health reasons. Shouldn't it follow then that the healthier version of the product would be the better seller? The regular Tofutti contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil (partially hydrogenated oils are BAD!!!!), and it appears to be the same price. And why is Tofutti still making most of their cream cheese alternatives with partially hydrogenated oils anyway? (Must dash off consumer correspondence to Tofutti!!!)

In the past, Jane has even cleaned out a few of the empties and we've brought them in to our local store managers. You'd think that would illustrate our desire for them to carry this product. We've even suggested that Whole Foods is getting business that these other stores would get if they carried the non-hydrogenated Tofutti, which is true to some extent. We don't use WF as our "regular" grocery store. We shop there for specialty items since they have a much more extensive selection of vegan products.

If I sound a little off-balance here, it's just that this is one of those products that really works as a vegan alternative. You can feed it to your omni friends and they'll never know the difference, unless they read the label. Tofutti, it's time to dump the partially hydrogenated oils!


I was recently sent an article on miso by IamQuarry, a Stumble friend.  We love miso.  Jane makes an excellent gravy by whisking miso into vegetable stock.  Yum.  She also makes her own miso soup (not difficult at all), salad dressing (although I prefer our balsamic/dijon dressing), and it's an ingredient in a number of recipes we really enjoy.... So we always have it sitting in the back of the fridge somewhere.

The article I mentioned above, A Little Bit About Miso, on, is just that, a little bit about miso... an introduction.  It's an interesting read if you don't have much experience with miso.  Even if you do there are a few tips that might be of value.  I particularly like the suggestion to use miso as a glaze to broil vegetables:

There are a bunch of ways of doing vegetables, commonly called dengaku. The usual is a thin Asian eggplant, which you cut lengthwise in half (and sometimes across, depending on size) after washing and cutting off the stem. Then you skewer the halves on bamboo forks. Broil the eggplant, cut-side down, for a minute or so until barely getting saggy. Turn them over, spread with the miso paste, and broil about the same amount of time. Serve hot. You can also do firm tofu this way (NOT the soft, silky stuff I talk about in that blog entry, which will fall to bits instantly!). One note, though: Don't worry about the bamboo forks, which are a pain in the butt as well as hard to find, in my experience. Just do them in the broiler on a sheet of oiled aluminum foil and move them around with tongs.

We've tried red, white, and yellow miso.  We tend to lean towards red or yellow miso these days.  The red miso has the stronger flavor of the three; we find the white miso is a little too mild, although it works nicely in dressing.

You can find miso in the refrigerated section at your natural foods store or asian market.  If you're lucky you can even find it in your grocery store, near the tofu...  Miso is a "living" food, full of active cultures, enzymes and micronutrients, so once you get it home you should be keep your miso in the  refrigerator.  Use a clean spoon when removing some from the container to avoid contamination.  The miso will have an expiration date stamped on the tub, it keeps for months!  Oh, and don't overcook/boil your miso.  You don't want to "kill" the beneficial properties.

If you're looking for more in depth information on miso (inlcuding nutritional information) World's Healthiest Foods has a good write up, as does Wikipedia.

Milk And Cereal The Vegan Way

Best Soy Milk for CerealIf you've been reading this blog for awhile, one of the things you've heard me complaining about is that we haven't found a cow's milk replacement that Jane or I have been happy to eat with cereal. For all other purposes, we're rather happy with the homemade almond milk, and we're huge fans of Silk Light Chocolate Milk. But a palatable milk for cereal has remained elusive. A number of you have suggested your favorites, and we've tried most of them. But taste is subjective, and we hadn't really found anything we cared for, until about three weeks ago. And the winner is... WestSoy Non-Fat Plain. Now we've been vegan for a year, so we're not sure if we've simply forgotten what cow's milk tasted like or if this is a passable facsimile, but it tastes almost exactly as we remember non-fat cow's milk to taste, and it's good in cereal.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the casein/morphine connection, and the addictive nature of milk and cheese and Elaine suggested WestSoy non-fat plain soy milk (comment #7). Woo hoo! Thank you, Elaine. With that suggestion you've given us a very viable option for cereal. I don't know if you've been able to feel the love, but we've been walking around our house thanking you out loud!

Jane’s Addiction

Jane is an addict. There I've said it. She's not in denial of her habit, and they do say that admitting you have a problem is the first step down the road to a cure. But I'm not sure that she's seeking a cure! So what is she addicted to? SnackSalad's Snappea Crisps.

The package is $1.49 at our local Trader Joe's. They also sell them at Whole Foods. Every week we buy two packages. At 3.3 ounces, the packages aren't huge. Supposedly they're 3.3 servings for the entire bag. Jane has been known to devour an entire bag in one sitting. At 500 calories for the whole bag, she's not beating herself up. Of course, that's not to say that either one of us would advocate eating an entire bag in one sitting, I'm just saying you won't have blown your entire day's allotment of calories if you do. And if you're eating a 2,000 calorie per day diet, you're still way under the suggested 45 grams of fat (there are 26.4grams of fat in the bag). Now, they're certainly not as good for you as eating an apple, but they aren't quite as bad as potato chips. So, if you're jonesing for a new vice... we highly recommend them. If you're trying to eat well, you should probably go for that apple instead!

Note to our readers: The Caesar variety is made with milk, so if you're going to try these (and are looking for a vegan snack), make sure to get the "Original" flavor, and don't blame us when your craving your next fix!

Trader Joe’s Chicken-Less Strips

Hi everyone. It's Jane writing tonight. Lane and I realized that he's hogging all the spotlight, so tonight I'm getting the byline. To tell the truth, we often collaborate on these posts. I tend to spend time in the morning researching what we'll write about (time permitting), and put together an outline, and then Lane will flesh it out.

2008 03 - TJs ChickenLess StripsThings were hectic around here today, so I just threw something together for dinner. As I rummaged around the fridge I found the Trader Joe's Chicken-less Strips I'd purchased in the recent past (sorry, the box got trashed, so no image). There are always onions on hand in our house, and I had asparagus spears and orange pepper. Perfect. I could make a dinner out of that. Plus we always have salad with any dinner I make.

I chopped the veggies, added a little olive oil to the pan, and sauteed my onions. When they were translucent I threw in the peppers, and after they'd cooked together for a bit in went the chicken-less strips and the asparagus. For some reason (could it be that I didn't read the package?), I thought the strips were seasoned. Imagine my surprise when I tasted the concoction brewing in my frying pan. It definitely needed something. And I had moments until everything was done. Thankfully, my pantry is fully stocked. I threw in a few pinches of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and about a half teaspoon of ground ginger. It came together quite well.

Lane and I would definitely recommend this product. It has good mouth feel and seems to be very versatile. Best of all, it cooks up in moments. It took me under 15 minutes to throw tonight's dinner together. Next time I think I might try throwing the chicken-less strips in a light broth, or even pasta.

These strips might even compete with the prepared Gardein chicken products we get at Whole Foods, specifically the Vegan Chicken Sonoma Salad and Vegan Chicken Curry Salad. The "chicken" in the salads is cubed, and this "chicken" is sliced, but otherwise, the taste and texture seem to be the same to us. Since Gardein doesn't advertise where their products are sold, I'm wondering if this is a private label version packaged for Trader Joe's? Anyway, we'll be keeping this stuff on hand.

Gardein Faux Meats – Vegans Love Them But Can They Really Fool Omnis?

Jane and I have tried the Vegan Chicken Sonoma Salad and Vegan Chicken Curry Salad from Whole Foods. The vegan chicken is actually Gardein Chicken, produced by Garden Protein International (thanks for pointing us in that direction Stephanie). We were quite impressed with the taste and texture of the vegan chicken and commented to each other that we thought meat-eaters would find this product equally palatable.

However, it looks like we may have been wrong about that. The National Post, a Canadian publication, conducted an informal, blind taste-test with four of their employees. The employees were fed Caesar Chicken Salad. One version was prepared using President's Choice Gardein Chicken. The second version was prepared with Lilydale Seasoned Sliced Chicken Breasts (real chicken). In all four instances, the employees seemed to have an issue with the Gardein product. Only one of the panelists liked it, but still complained about the "greyness" of the product.

My favorite comment:

Laura I feel like I put my life on the line by ingesting the grey matter that was the "chicken" of Salad No. 1. Is this what you make all the interns do?

Isn't that what interns are for?

Of course, this is a miniscule, and statistically insignificant survey. But it does make me wonder... Do Jane and I like these products because we've forgotten how "real" meat tastes? Perhaps. Regardless, we know we like the product and that's all that matters to us! Well, that and the fact that others like it enough that it continues to sell.

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable Biryani Trader Joe\'sJane was planning on making this recipe for dinner tonight. It's an Indian dish that looks rather intriguing. We have all the ingredients on hand and so I was looking forward to a new and (hopefully) delicious meal. Alas, it was not to be.

It was gardening weather out there today, which means that we spent a good portion of the late morning/early afternoon working. OK, weeding. It's time to start working on getting the vegetable beds ready. Living in the Los Angeles area, and not being billionaires, we don't have a huge plot of land to "farm." Typically I plant tomatoes, peppers and sometimes zucchini or blue beans, and once (very unsuccessfully) acorn squash. We also have a lemon tree which seems to be productive every 18 months or so. And Jane keeps an herb garden which is usually comprised of the standards: basil, dill, thyme, mint, and of course, the ubiquitous rosemary. So even though we don't have a farm, there is a reasonable percentage of our property devoted to raising produce. Unfortunately, we tend to be a little lazy once football season starts. So there is always a good deal of work to be done at the beginning of the gardening season.

Vegetable Biryani w Tofu After all that hard work we had some hummus and veggies for lunch. But, when it came time to think about dinner, neither of us felt like getting dressed enough to go out, and Jane didn't have the energy to try a new recipe. Instead we had Trader Joe's Vegetable Biryani with tofu, and a green salad. The Biryani was great, light and fluffy. I'm not sure how it would compare to home-made biryani, but we both loved it. Jane cooked some tofu and threw it in with the rice. It was a super-quick, super-easy dish, absolutely perfect for those nights when you come too tired to even think about what's for dinner.

It’s Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

Tofu ScrambleIn my bachelor days, I frequently had breakfast for dinner; specifically a bowl of Cheerios and milk. Often that was because I would come home late and was too tired to think about preparing a meal. But there is something comforting about having breakfast for dinner.

Since we've been vegan, breakfast isn't what it used to be. Cereal and soy-milk isn't the same as cereal and cow's milk... but we don't drink cow's milk anymore. I typically have a smoothie with protein powder for breakfast and Jane will forage... I've tried to make waffles, but so far I haven't found a recipe that works for us.

And then there's the tofu scramble. It's not eggs, but that's OK. It's really good. We usually have a few slices of Fakin Bacon, a bagel with a schmear (vegan cream cheese of course), tomato or avocado slices, and a green salad. What more could you want? Tasty, nutritious, and comfort food! It's not just for breakfast at our house.

It’s Tex/Mexican for Dinner Tonight

Tonight we had bean burritos with home-made guacamole and Tofutti Sour Cream. Yum. Jane puts black beans, an onion and a few drops of liquid smoke in the food processor, and voilia, vegan "refried" beans. It's a pretty quick and easy meal for her to get together, and we both really enjoy it. She always uses whole wheat tortillas too, so we feel good about our healthy "fast food."

Tonights version had a little brown rice, some diced tomatoes and a healthy dollop of Cholula brand Hot Sauce, which we get at Costco, of all places. And, as usual, the tortillas were accompanied by a large green salad. Dinner was filling and quite satisfying. Thanks Jane!

She Let Me Cook

Jane wasn't feeling all that energetic yesterday, and so she let me in the kitchen. It's been cold and drab and wintry here in Los Angeles, and so comfort food was on my mind. What could I make?

  • Scrambled eggs with dill, um... not vegan.
  • Spaghetti with ground turkey meat sauce, um... not vegan.
  • Grilled chicken thighs - too cold to BBQ, not enough time to marinate the chix, and um... not vegan.

Suddenly I had a newfound appreciation for the challenges Jane faces on a daily basis. When you've been cooking one way for over 20 years, it's a bit of a challenge to come up with new meals when you're under the gun.

Then it came to me -- a meal my roommates and I used to cook up in NY in my twenties, "Spaghetti mit Peas."  The only problem with that is that neither Jane nor I had any idea where the original recipe was, and my friend Rich didn't respond to my email. So I decided to wing it; I'd made the recipe often enough in my life and I knew what ingredients were involved, I just didn't remember exact proportions.

Dinner was exactly as expected, a little heavy on the carbs, but warm and filling and comforting. Of course, we had salad with that.

After we finished eating my computer beeped at me, signifying mail had arrived. Looks like I remembered the recipe exactly! Including the "farts to follow, not date food" warning in the last line!