Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Say Cheese!

I used to say that the main reason I could never become vegan was my love of cheese.  I honestly still miss it some days, but it is easier to manage now that I've discovered some decent vegan cheeses.

My first experience with vegan cheese was the Go Veggie! line of sliced cheeses. Actually, I should clarify that I didn't realize that there was a vegan line that was separate from their simply dairy-free line so I'm honestly not sure which I actually ate.  I did manage to eat the slices - buried in a salad sandwich - but I was not at all excited by them.

Next time I went to the store, I noticed Chao Slices. *insert the sound of a heavenly choir singing* My, my!  What a difference!  I can eat it plain and enjoy it!  My meat-eating boyfriend ate some not realizing that it was vegan and was utterly floored that it wasn't a dairy cheese.  It is divine, people. No lie.

I decided to try to find a shredded product for pizza.  Now, I do eat pizza sans cheese and it is alright but I have to admit that I miss the cheese sometimes and would like to have an option.  I recalled my experience with the Go Veggie brand so I decided to look for something else.  Unfortunately, my local store only sold the Go Veggie shreds.  I was aware that people in my vegan Facebook group had mentioned Daiya cheese so I set out to find it.  It is not sold in the small city 8 miles south of me but it is sold just over the county line in a store about 30 minutes from my house.

I'm so glad I made the trip. It is fantastic.  I like it on pizza, melted on potatoes, etc.  It is wonderful.

So!  There you have it!  These are my favorite vegan cheeses.  I'm limited by my location and what is available around here but I'm happy that I have these cheese-substitutes to eat.

What are your favorites?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Day Off

Today is an "off day" on this blog. There will be a new post tomorrow.

I do have a new post on my other blog today that can be found here.

See you back here tomorrow!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Chips are Down

I'm a salty snack freak and one of my favorite snacks are potato chips.  I know they aren't healthy - don't bother to tell me.  I will continue to eat them.  In moderation.

Two local chip companies make chips that I especially enjoy but, as a newly minted vegan, I wasn't sure which of their flavors were vegan. Yes, I could always safely choose the original salted chips as both companies use vegetable oil instead of lard, but I like different flavors! Many products of this kind contain "natural flavors" which could be from animal products.

So, with this in mind, I decided to try to find out which of their products I can consume.

I began with Utz Chips.  First I visited their website to see if they had nutritional information there that might help me.  Their FAQ on nutritional information is educational if you are interested in avoiding peanuts or gluten or if you follow a kosher diet.  I did not see anything about which items were vegan, however.  So, I decided to contact them via email to see if I could find out more.

I sent a simple question: Can you tell me which of your chips are vegan?  I was only interested in their chips, not the rest of their snack food line so I thought I'd be more specific.

A couple days later, I received this response:
"While this is not a certification that we advertise most of our products are Kosher certified which means they would be free from any animal derived ingredients. I have included a link below that lists all of our products that are Kosher. Have a good day!"

I thought I was already familiar with what is required for Kosher certification and I'm aware that there are Kosher hot dogs -which I presume contain meat - but I thought I'd investigate.  Wikipedia informs me that there are, in fact, Kosher animal products so I was right.  Kosher products are definitely NOT all vegan.

I wrote back to the customer service rep explaining that vegan is not equal to Kosher but received no response.  I plan to try calling next but I've not yet taken the time to do so. I'll update this post when I do.

The second chip company I contacted was One Potato Two Potato.
I contacted the company using the form on their website and received a quick response with a list of their vegan products! Success!

For the record, these flavors are vegan:
Naked Sea Salt
Plain Jaynes (sweet potato)
Root Fusion
Seaside Salt'n Vinegar
Sgt. Pepper & Capt. Sea Salt

Sadly, my favorite flavor, Savannah Sweet Onion, is not on the list nor is the Hawaiian BBQ. I have to wonder if they contain cane sugar and that's why they aren't considered vegan.

Side note: I've learned that some vegans don't consider cane sugar vegan and some do. Apparently bone char is used in the processing of most cane sugar. You learn something new everyday....

[Update:  I've since noticed that the vegan chip flavors are labeled vegan on their pages.  It is possible that they were labeled all this time but I hadn't noticed the first time I looked. Regardless, they are now labeled.]

I was pleased to have the success I did and will try to remember to contact the Utz company to see if I can educate them AND get the information I need so I know if I can continue to consume their chips.  Ultimately, my goal is to get them to list their vegan varieties on their Web page, if possible. I'll update this post if I get any further information.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vegan Pumpkin Pie!

I want to be able to share recipes that I've tried but I don't want to duplicate them here if I found them online as that seems like it is cheating.  (and possibly contrary to copyright laws)

I decided that I will link to the recipe but not post it here.  I will still talk about it, what I liked, what I didn't, etc and what I may had done that altered from the original recipe.

This week was Thanksgiving and I made a vegan pumpkin pie to take to the family meal.  I looked online for one that sounded reasonable (easy and didn't contain ingredients I don't usually have or that are difficult to find) and tasty.  I chose this one:

Easy Vegan Pumpkin Pie from It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken

I really enjoyed this pie and will make it again.  Additionally, meat-eaters in my family also enjoyed the pie so win-win!  (or not if you want it all to yourself)

I also like that I could just dump all the ingredients into my blender, mix and pour into the pie crust. You can't get any easier.   I like easy.

I used some of the pumpkin from the volunteer pumpkins that came up in our garden this year so I didn't have to buy any.  You can use canned pumpkin but I really prefer fresh, myself.

The pie crust I used was my mother's oil pastry crust - modified to be vegan.  I will post this recipe:

Oil Pastry

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 TBSP milk (I used unsweetened, unflavored almond milk instead of dairy milk and it worked up just fine.)

Mix flour and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.  Mix oil and milk in a small bowl.  Add liquid to the flour mixture and stir.

Makes 1 2-crust pie* (roll out between wax paper) or two 1-crust pies.
*I use a full recipe for a deep dish pie plate.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Hospital Food

Last month had a short stay in a local hospital following an operation.  

[Note:  I've decided not to mention which hospital because I feel that the problems I encountered are being addressed and things might be better in the future.]

Since I was there from early morning until late afternoon, I was asked to order breakfast - and later, lunch.  This involved calling a number and telling the woman who answered what I wished to eat from the menu.

Breakfast was no big problem as I was told that I could only order clear liquids.  I ordered coffee, apple juice and vegetable broth.

Lunch posed a more difficult problem.  I no longer was limited to clear liquids but I had to try to find something somewhat filling but also vegan.  I noted that gluten-free items were marked on the menu but not vegan. I asked the woman on the phone if the veggie burger was vegan.

"What's that?", she asked.

I sighed. I wasn't feeling very well and really didn't feel like this conversation. I told her that it's like vegetarian but we don't eat any other animal products - like dairy products or eggs.

"Oh", she said, "I don't know".
Oh.  I see - she doesn't know and doesn't feel compelled to find out.  I was irritated.

I went with a salad. Italian dressing on the side since she wasn't sure if it was creamy Italian or not.

The salad was rather pitiful.  Mostly iceberg lettuce with some carrots, a few strands of onion and a couple pale tomato wedges.  Still I was sticking to my diet so I felt good about that.

When I arrived home later, I posted about my experience on Facebook in a vegan group I am a member of.  I was asked which hospital and told that their veggie burger WAS actually vegan.  The person who told me this worked higher up in the same medical group and was in a position to address the issue as part of his duties. He assured me that the employees will be informed about what vegan means and on which items fit that description. He also mentioned that he had suggested that vegan items be labeled on the menu but was told it wasn't necessary. He said he would bring it up again.

So, even though my experience was not ideal, I'm pleased that the issues will be addressed so if I need to be admitted there again, I will have a better experience.

Look at that.  I just became a vegan and I'm already promoting change. Not too shabby!