Sunday, December 14, 2014

Go Veggie! Cheese Review

Since Jay and I primarily eat a plant-based diet, we rarely purchase any meat or dairy products at the grocery store.  I cook with lots of vegetables, beans, whole grains, and spices and try to avoid buying a lot of vegan "meat" and "cheese" substitutes.

That being said, some of my favorite meals just wouldn't be the same without the addition of some melty, stretchy cheese.  (Cheeseless pizza?  No thank you.)  For those situations, I usually turn to Daiya as a satisfying cheese substitute.  It is one of the few options at our local Sprouts that is plant-based and completely dairy free.

Some nice people at the Go Veggie! company noticed our affinity for Daiya on the blog and recently offered to send us some of their products to try out and compare.  I had always noticed the Go Veggie! shreds next to the Daiya on the grocery store shelf, but I never purchased them because they were only lactose free and not dairy free.

As it turns out, Go Veggie! has an entire vegan line that I never knew existed.  There are shreds, cream cheeses, singles, and even a parmesan-style topping.

I accepted their offer to try out the products and was so excited when my big box of samples arrived!
I immediately checked everything out and was glad to see that I recognized the majority of the plant-based ingredients (things like coconut oil and pea protein).

When I started cooking with the Go Veggie! cheeses, one of the first things I noticed was how much better it melted than Daiya.

I used the Mexican shreds on this loaded sweet potato, and it oozed its way through all the veggies.
The mozzarella shreds were delicious on this pizza.  It's a bit hard to see the cheese, but if you look at the edges you can really get an idea of how melty it was.  The flavor was amazing!
My favorite was when I used the Mexican shreds on my spaghetti squash enchiladas (made for the second week in a row).
Look at that cheese dripping over the side!
I also added the shreds to a big taco salad and a bowl of rice and beans.  I usually wouldn't eat any cheese with these meals, but I enjoyed the extra flavor.
The cream cheese spread wasn't quite as thick as real cream cheese but still had a great texture and flavor.  Jay said this kind tasted like strawberry ice cream on his bagel.  
I forgot to snap a picture, but we tried some of the singles at lunch yesterday and they were very comparable to real cheese singles.  I haven't had a cheese single in ages and probably wouldn't buy these on a regular basis, but they would be great for kids or sandwich lovers.

I have really enjoyed the Go Veggie! products so far, and I'm looking forward to using the cheeses in future recipes.

As for the downsides...I wish this vegan line was more widely available.  It looks like some of the vegan varieties can be found at Natural Grocers and Whole Foods, but unfortunately not at Sprouts or any of the big box stores.

Also, you do have to be sure to read the Go Veggie! labels carefully, especially if there are certain ingredients or allergens you are trying to avoid.  As I mentioned before, not all of the Go Veggie! products are dairy free, and even within the dairy free line some products contain soy and some do not.

I'm happy to have new tasty options when it comes to dairy-free cheeses, but I plan to continue using these types of products in moderation.  Just because something claims to be "plant-based" doesn't mean it is automatically great for you.  Any brand cheese substitute is still processed and contains a lot of oils, so I wouldn't go too crazy even if they are delicious.

With that in mind, for those occasions when a pizza or nacho craving strikes, Go Veggie! cheese will be a great asset to have in my refrigerator!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Black Bean Enchilada Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

I like the idea of spaghetti squash, but I don't always like the reality of it.  Replacing actual noodles with a healthier, noodle-like vegetable seems smart, but I've come to realize that the squash just won't taste the same as real noodles (no matter how badly I want it to).  I also find it a big pain to scrape all the "pasta" out of the squash after it's cooked, and I usually end up burning myself at some point in the process. 

That being said, I really love all other kinds of squash and wasn't ready to give up on spaghetti squash all together.  I wanted to prepare it in a way that would be easy (no scraping) and wouldn't depend on the squash trying to taste like something it wasn't.  Since it's hard to go wrong with roasted vegetables + beans + melty cheese, I thought it might work well to roast the squash and then stuff it with an enchilada-style mixture.

This turned out to be a very wise idea.  

Aside from being delicious, this recipe is great because it involves zero chopping, takes only about 10 minutes of hands on time, and is full of healthy vegetables hidden beneath the cheesy goodness.  This is definitely how I will be preparing spaghetti squash from now on. 
Black Bean Enchilada Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Serves: 2 (very large servings)
Total time: 1 hour
Hands-on time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
1 spaghetti squash, cut in half and seeded
1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
1 cup enchilada sauce 
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup black beans
1/2 cup corn 
1 cup shredded cheese (non-dairy or regular, divided)
Optional toppings: diced avocado, cilantro, salsa, etc. 
 
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
2. Brush the inside of the spaghetti squash with oil and season with a pinch of salt. 
3. Place on baking sheet and roast, skin side up, until tender (30-45 minutes). 
4. Meanwhile, mix the black beans, corn, rice, enchilada sauce, and 1/2 cup cheese in a large bowl. 
5. Once the squash is done, divide the enchilada mixture between the two squash halves and top with remaining cheese. 
6. Return the squash to the oven for 10 minutes at 400, just to make sure everything is warm.  Then, crank the heat up and broil until the cheese turns a light golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
7. Garnish and eat! 
 I highly recommend topping the squash with avocado...it gave the dish a creamy texture that really took it to the next level.  No one would have ever guessed this was completely vegan. 

Just look at all of that cheesy, stringy goodness. 

Until next time!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving are are getting a little extra rest and relaxation over this holiday weekend.

I started my break off with some sort of flu-like sickness, so things have been pretty low-key around here.  My fever was really high last Tuesday and Wednesday, to the point where I wasn't even sure I would be able to partake in Thanksgiving festivities.  Fortunately, things got a lot better throughout the day on Thursday.  I rested up and watched the National Dog Show with Wendy.
A few hours later, I was ready to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at my grandma's.
It was requested that I bring my Brussels sprouts dish from last year.  I followed the same recipe but used pecans instead of walnuts. 

One of my favorite veggies!
Of course, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without an extensive spread of pies.  My cousin and aunt are expert bakers and always create the most amazing desserts.
We continued celebrating last night with Jay's family.  Since we had already had our share of traditional Thanksgiving food, Jay's sister made spaghetti complete with homemade vegan meatballs.  It was perfect after such a heavy dinner the night before.  We ended the night with some competitive ping-pong and board game playing.  Settlers of Catan is our favorite - it is really nerdy but always a good time.  
My mom and I did make it out for our annual Black Friday shopping adventure, although it was a little toned down compared with past years (especially last year's craziness that happened at Kohl's!).  We still had luck finding some good deals.  I got quite a few smaller gifts that I often leave until the last minute, so I was happy to have that accomplished. 

Not sure what else is on the agenda for the next two days.  I feel like I have a lot of catch-up to do after being sick.  I hope to pop back in with a squash recipe and maybe some Christmas decorations in the next few days.  

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Things I'm Loving Lately {November Edition}

A few things I've been loving this fall!

1. Luna & Larry's Organic Coconut Bliss Ice Cream
The best non-dairy ice cream I have ever tried.  Soy free, dairy free, gluten free, and not too sugary.  This flavor was delicious, and I loved the real cacoa nibs scattered throughout.  Superfood bonus!

2. Diana's Bananas Banana Babies
Another dessert - I guess I have had a sweet tooth lately.  My grandpa introduced me to these last summer when Jay and I were in Florida.  I recently bought a box at our local Natural Grocers, and they are still as amazing as I remember.  I like that these treats are primarily made of fresh fruit dipped in just a little bit of high quality dark chocolate.  It may not be the healthiest thing you can eat, but it is a pretty good option as far as desserts go. 

3. Archer Farms Simmer Sauces
When I don't have much time to cook dinner, one of my favorite tricks is to doctor up a pre-made sauce with extra veggies and protein.  Target has a great selection of Indian and Thai inspired simmer sauces made from real ingredients and healthy spices. 
I added some garlic, ginger, broccoli, spinach, and simple roasted tofu to this Panang Ginger Curry sauce last night.  It was easy and delicious served on top of brown rice. 

4. Sofritas Organic Tofu at Chipotle
I am a regular at Chipotle.  Up until recently, I have always ordered the exact same veggie burrito bowl loaded with all the salsas and guacamole.  As much as I love my usual, I was really excited to see a new addition to the menu a couple weekends ago when I was in Dallas with my mom.  The "Sofritas" shredded organic tofu is braised with chipotle chilies, roasted poblanos, and spices.  My mom and I both agreed that it was so flavorful and tasted a lot like meat, only better!  I hope they are offering this at my local Chipotle, because I would definitely order it again. 

5. Target + TOMS
I love Target and I love TOMS, so I was really excited to see them combined.  All of the stuff is so cute, and for every gift you buy, they give shoes, a blanket, or a meal to someone in need.  I especially love the throws and this candle - it would make a great Christmas present!  ;)

Just a week until Thanksgiving!  Our Christmas cards have already been ordered, and I am looking forward to the official kick-off of the holiday season.  

See you soon!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Creamy Avocado Kale Pasta

My Bachelor watching group is a huge fan of this simple avocado cream pasta sauce recipe.  We've doctored it up all sorts of ways, including using basil instead of parsley, adding white beans, etc.  It has never failed us.

Seeing as there hasn't been a Bachelor season in a while, I was really missing this pasta.  (Not to mention seeing Zenie and Ashleigh on a weekly basis!)

I pulled out the old recipe the other night and put a bit of a new spin on it.  It turned out so creamy and delicious, I literally licked the plate (and the pan and the food processor).  Avocado + kale is the best combination.
Lemony Avocado Kale Pasta
Serves: 2
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1/2 box whole wheat spaghetti
1 lemon
1 avocado, halved and pitted
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Plenty of salt and fresh-ground pepper

Directions:
1. Bring salted water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta and cook until al dente. 

2. While the water heats up, make your sauce by combining one clove of garlic, juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, avocado, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a food processor. 

3.  As the pasta is cooking, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add in 1 clove of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Saute until fragrant. 

4. Add your kale and the juice of the other half of lemon.  Saute for a few more minutes, until kale is soft.
5. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer.  Toss thoroughly with the avocado sauce and kale.  Garnish with additional pepper, fresh Parmesan, fresh basil, etc.
Note: this pasta is REALLY lemony.  If lemon isn't your thing, it's probably not for you.  Also, it would be great with some white beans or grilled chicken mixed in for added protein.  

Stay warm out there!