Tag Archives: Daiya

Notes from Vegfest 2012

25 Mar

This weekend was Vegfest in Seattle, run by the Vegetarians of Washington. After a daunting-yet-fast-moving line, Jud and I made it in this afternoon, eating our way through the huge exhibition hall at Seattle Center. For a pair of crowd-hating introverts, Vegfest can be something to endure as much as enjoy, but it’s such an unmatched way to try new products that we persevered again this year.

Having just been to the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, I confess feeling a little smug at how favorably Seattle’s Vegfest compares. Far more vendors, better organization of exhibition space to handle the insane numbers of people that both events attracted, and much better organization of the admissions process (I never found out why there was such a delay to get started in NY, but it was very irritating, especially to the people who had paid a bunch extra for VIP tickets that should have gotten them right in). I enjoyed the NYC festival, but I really do have to tip my hat to the Vegetarians of Washington for our spectacular local event.

Even though they upped the admission price this year to $8, it’s still a steal for all the tastes, take-with-you samples, coupons, and access to discounted products that you get. There’s a rest area for people needing a seat away from the sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, a nursing area, a well-stocked book table, and of course row after row of booths with volunteers sampling all kinds of food and beverages.

New things I tried that were notable:

  • Wayfare “Pig Out” bacony bits. Crunchy, smoky, just the right amount of salty. I could definitely see dumping these on salads, baked potatoes, soups, and my outstretched hand. They don’t taste just like bacon, and I think in this case that’s a good thing. They taste remarkably natural, and like they just took all the best elements of bacon and left the rest. Unfortunately, they’re currently available only by mail order. I hope that changes soon! I’d love to pick some up at Sidecar.
  • Heidi Ho Organics nut-based cheezes. I had previously tried and liked the Smoked Gouda flavor, but today I had the chance to try the Monterey Jack and Chipotle Cheddar flavors. Soy-free and gluten-free, these hazelnut-based cheezes are much less processed than some of the more famous ones, like Daiya or Follow Your Heart. On the plus side, they’re…well, less processed, which many people appreciate as its own virtue. On the potential downside, they would not fool anyone trying to imagine they’re eating dairy cheese (some might consider that a plus, also!). They taste and act similar to cheezes you might make out of The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook (which I highly recommend), so you can get some softening/slight melting, but you won’t get the gooeyness that Daiya is famous for. I find that the Jack and Gouda flavors especially have a pretty strong mustard flavor to them. On a sandwich, I think I’d be quite happy with that. On crackers or in a baked recipe I might prefer something without such a pronounced mustard note. The Portland-based company is working on expanding distribution to Seattle.
  • Speaking of Daiya, I tried one of their new Daiya wedges, in the Jalapeno-Garlic Havarti flavor. The texture was creamy and soft, and the flavor was really excellent: some sharp notes balanced with smoother, richer flavors. Maybe it was just the piece I got, but I didn’t notice any of the heat that I would have expected from the Jalapeno (but I prefer it that way). This is one of a very few vegan cheeses I’ve tried that I would eat straight up on crackers. In fact, when I smooshed it onto the caraway-flavored Mary’s Gone Crackers I had picked up across the aisle, it was really a perfect match.
  • I was really excited to try the GardenBar, after reading about it recently via Grant Butler. I have eaten an awful lot of bars in my decade and a half as a vegan, and after all the Clif bars, Lara bars, Odwalla, etc. etc. etc. I have longed for something not sweet. When traveling or hiking I tend to go through a lot of these things, and at some point you are just done with eating sweet food and might like an option other than nuts or sesame sticks–especially when you really are stuck eating one instead of an actual meal. All of which to say…I wanted to like these more than I did. I love the premise, but I felt a little cheated when I found that they are sweetened also. So yes, they’re savory, but savory kind of like teriyaki is: you feel like you’re getting a solid dose of sweetness also. I wouldn’t say I disliked them, and I would like to give each flavor a more thorough try than I got from the little bites today. Honestly, overall I’d say I preferred the Sheffa bars I tried in NYC. Those truly are not sweet at all, and the rosemary flavor in particular was really good. On the other hand, the Sheffa bars are crisp-dry, which makes them messy as they crumble when you eat them, whereas the GardenBars hold together nicely. GardenBars also include actual vegetables, rather than just the legume-grain combo of Sheffas. What I’m hoping is that this is the new fad in convenience foods, and that we’ll see many more varieties of savory snack bars to fill this sadly neglected niche.
  • Mom’s Vegan Kitchen French Toast Mix. I had never heard of this company, but they were sampling the French Toast Mix, and I was very impressed. The batter seemed to do just the right job of flavoring the bread and making a good crust on it as it fried. I see now that the product is gluten free, so if you wanted to use gluten-free bread for your toast this wouldn’t get in your way. Locally, it’s carried at the usual suspects (Karmavore, Sidecar, Oly Vegan, Food Fight, among others), so it’s easy to find. They also make biscuit mix and pancake/waffle mix, which I’d be glad to try also.
  • I finally tried a Field Roast frankfurter, which has been available for several months now. They’re good! Firmer in texture than most vegan franks, but not as firm and smoother in texture (as you’d hope) than the rest of Field Roast’s line of grain meats. Flavor was good, and it hit the spot with some mustard on a bun. They’re significantly more expensive than most vegan dogs, but they’re also a little larger than many and definitely a nicer product. If you’re a hot dog fan, these are probably worth a splurge.

I also got to re-sample quite a few old favorites, like Coconut Bliss, Sunbutter, Biscoff Spread and Mighty-O Donuts.

Did you go to Vegfest this year (or to Portland’s Better Living Show, which also happened this weekend)? What products were your favorites? Anything you are glad to know you don’t want to bother buying?

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

29 Oct

A couple weeks ago PCC tweeted this recipe from the Detroit Free Press for “Enchiladas Calabaza.”

Here’s my tweaked and veganized version of it, which turned out great. It made a lot (the original recipe calls for WAY more squash than you’ll need. I’ve scaled it down here, but you’ll still have enough for lots of servings). Feed a crowd or freeze individual portions for quick lunches and dinners later. I used canned sauce but made the tortillas from scratch. The recipe could easily be gluten- and soy-free with the right sauce.

Makes: about 22 small enchiladas

Filling

3-4 pounds butternut or favorite winter squash
3-4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 cups diced onions
1 cup sliced green onions
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt

Cashew Cream
(I have always hated cream cheese, so this is the sub I used rather than a more direct vegan replacement for the cream cheese. If you like it, feel free to use 8 oz. of your favorite brand of vegan cream cheese instead.)

1 cup raw cashew pieces
1 cup cold water
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt, or more to taste

22 corn tortillas (4 to 5 inches in diameter)

14 oz. can red enchilada sauce (Be sure to check ingredients, as not all commercial sauces are vegetarian. This amount made for minimally saucy enchiladas, which I liked because it let the flavor of the filling really come through. If you want them saucier, you might want as much as double this.)

Equivalent of one package Daiya cheese (we used a combination of cheddar and pepperjack flavors.)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the filling: Peel and seed the squash. Cut squash flesh into 1-inch pieces and spread the pieces out on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil and toss to coat.

Bake about 30-45 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from oven (leave oven on) and transfer squash to a large bowl. Mash up the squash a bit, then set aside.


Roasted squash cubes, ready to go. In the background, purple cauliflower for a side and chopped green onion for filling and garnish.

While the squash is roasting, blend the cashew cream ingredients together into a smooth, thick cream. You can save a bit of loud blending time by doing a quick grind first for 30 seconds or so, then letting the tiny cashew pieces soak in the liquid until the squash is nearly ready before blending the rest of the way to a silky consistency.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sauté the diced onions. When soft and nearly transparent, add the spices and sauté for 5 more minutes.


Onions and spices, smelling fantastic.

Remove from the heat and stir in the mashed squash, green onions (reserve a few for garnish), and cashew cream.


Filling is a just few stirs away from being ready to go.

Pour a thin layer of sauce in a large, shallow baking pan (a lasagna pan works well). Freshly made tortillas will be ready to go, but if using store-bought ones, steam or microwave them to soften so they don’t split when you roll them. Place about 1/4 cup (more if using larger tortillas) of squash filling in the center of the tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in a lightly oiled baking dish.

Pour sauce evenly over enchiladas. Bake 30 minutes, until just starting to brown on the edges. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake ten more minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve.

We went a little crazy with the sides, but they were all great! From the left, there’s purple-cabbage slaw with sriracha-Vegenaise dressing and orange slices, garlicky black beans spiked with Flameboy XXX hot sauce (which has a nice smoky note in it) and topped with counter-ripened tomato (amazingly juicy and flavorful!) from a neighbor’s yard, and roasted cauliflower with chipotle-flavor Yumm! sauce. Both sauces are made by Oregon companies and highly recommended if you can get them!

Autumn White Lasagna

2 Oct

What with all the autumnal weather and winter squashes on sale, it seems high time for lots of warm, filling, comforting food. I said “acorn squash”; Jud said “lasagna?” and we were off.


Served with Jud’s signature roasted-beet salad with fresh dill.

The lasagna turned out great, and it’s a recipe that would be easy to make soy free and/or commercial-cheez free, if needed or preferred.

Autumn White Lasagna
Makes a 9″x13″ pan, easily serving six

12 lasagna noodles, precooked (I wouldn’t recommend the no-boil ones for this recipe since the dish might turn out dry. Bonus if you can find whole-wheat noodles)
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. oil
pinch of salt
2-1/2 lbs. winter squash, peeled and roasted until very tender (cutting in pieces first will speed up this process and help avoid excess moisture in the finished product, but if you have precooked squash or want to just throw the thing whole into the oven to peel and seed once cooked, go for it.)
1 lb. chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1/3 cup Earth Balance or oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh garlic
1/2 cup flour
3 cups unsweetened soy or other milk (important to use unsweetened here, since the other ingredients are already fairly sweet)
dash nutmeg
salt to taste
1 tsp. dried whole thyme (or rubbed sage, or a mixture of two)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1-2 tsp. garlic salt
2 Tbsp. lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 package Daiya mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400. Combine cauliflower, onion and oil and pinch of salt in a shallow pan and roast until tender and starting to brown. We roasted the squash at the same time. Stir once or twice during cooking. When done, reduce oven temp to 350.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the béchamel sauce. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, sauté the garlic in the margarine or oil 1-2 minutes, not allowing the garlic to color. Add the flour and stir well, cooking mixture while stirring until the color deepens slightly to a light golden brown. Quickly whisk in the soy milk and continue whisking to smooth out any lumps while the sauce thickens. Add the nutmeg and a dash of salt, then check seasoning. Cook until sauce is the consistency of heavy cream.

When the squash is ready, mash it coarsely together with the spinach, thyme, pepper, garlic salt and lemon juice or vinegar. Check seasonings and adjust as needed.

To assemble, pour a couple tablespoons of béchamel into the bottom of the pan and spread thinly to coat. Lay down a layer of noodles (three fit perfectly for us, but trim noodles as needed to fit), then carefully spread on 1/3 of the squash mixture followed with 1/3 of the cauliflower and onions.

Top with 1/4 of the sauce, drizzled on as evenly as you can. Lightly sprinkle with 1/4 of the mozzarella.

Repeat with two more layers of noodles, vegetables, sauce and cheese. Top with a final layer of noodles, thinly coated with sauce and sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

Bake 45 minutes at 350, or until bubbling around all the edges and just starting to brown on top. A glass baking pan will make it easier to see when it’s done.


Rich, velvety, vegetable-filled lasagna.

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