September 28, 2011

Almond Milk Taste Test

All the almond milks I tasted were unsweetened plain almond milk, except for Trader Joe's which was unsweetened vanilla (they didn't carry plain). Trader Joe's milk is not pictured because I tried it before starting this blog and never bought it again.

Trader Joe's Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
I found Trader Joe's brand of almond milk in their refrigerated section in a half gallon carton that was cheaper than the brand names, so I got it. The flavor was okay. The texture was much thicker than I have ever had with any nondairy milk, but not creamy - it tasted artificially thick, almost slimy. I couldn't believe that a nut milk would produce such a weird texture, and upon checking the ingredients I was worried to see a lot of ingredients that I didn't recognize and looked like they came out of a chemistry book. The milk was white and somewhat transluscent like murky water, but I don't remember seeing any particles floating around.

Pacific Natural Foods Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk, organic
The milk came in a quart size asceptic box. The flavor was okay, but it tasted a little watered down. The texture was less slimy than the Trader Joe's, but still watery and not really much like a milk. It wasn't creamy and rich. If you look at the individual picture below, you can actually see particles suspended in the liquid. The milk was beige, with obvious particles, and slightly translucent, like murky water.
365 Whole Foods brand Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk, organic
I picked up the quart size asceptic box but the milk is also available in half-gallon refrigerated cartons. The flavor was similar to Pacific Natural Foods, that slightly watered-down almond flavor. The texture was a slight improvement over Pacific Natural Foods, but again if you look at the close-up picture you see particles suspended in the liquid. The milk was off-white/slightly beige, with small visible particles, and slightly translucent, like murky water.
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk
Like the 365 Whole Foods brand, this milk also comes in asceptic boxes and refrigerated cartons. I have tried both and they taste exactly the same, the only difference is that the refrigerated half-gallon carton is a better deal. The almond flavor is comparable to the other three brands above, but the texture is on a whole other level. The milk is smooth, creamy, and rich, like I expect a milk to be. The texture brings the almond flavor to a height beyond that of the other brands I tried. The smoothness and creaminess of the milk helps deliver the flavor nicely in your mouth. The milk was white and opaque with no particles.

Clockwise from top: 365 Whole Foods brand organic (top, center), Pacific Natural Foods organic (bottom right), Blue Diamond Almond Breeze (bottom left). Compare the colors:

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze:

365 Whole Foods (notice the suspended flecks):

Pacific Natural Foods (notice the greater amount of suspended particles):

My favorite out of all the brands is Almond Breeze. I have also tried their other flavors such as sweetened plain, sweetened and unsweetened vanilla, and sweetened and unsweetened chocolate, and they are all delicious.
What is your favorite almond milk or other plant-based milk? What are important elements of a milk to you?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 19, 2011

Figs in Almond Milk

Figs were on sale so I jumped on it. I haven't had figs in a year, so this was a real treat.

I cut the figs into bite-size pieces (fourths or sixths, depending on the size of the fig) and poured Almond Breeze plain almond milk over them. It was so yummy and satisfying. The almond milk brought out the flavor and sweetness in the figs.

What fruits do you love?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 16, 2011

Cold Green Soup

Spawned off of Dara Dubinet's "one true thing" soup:

Into my Magic Bullet blender, I pushed a couple handfuls of spinach, one peeled lime, several sprigs of fresh dill, several sprigs of cilantro, garlic powder, salt, and just enough water to get the blender going (I also had to shake it a bit to get it started). When blended, the cup had a lot more space because the spinach leaves had decreased in volume due to being blended, so I opened the cup and added more spinach. I kept doing this until, when blended, the mixture was thick and almost filled the cup (by the end I was able to put in several handfuls of spinach, it's amazing how small it all gets when blended!). At the end I added half an avocado and blended one more time until thick and creamy. I topped the soup with nutritional yeast and homemade lentil sprouts. It was delicious, thick, creamy, and filling.

Do you enjoy soup in the summer? What types do you like?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 14, 2011

Beets and Beans Salad

(Still no cooking gas!!)

Easy salad, comes together in 10 minutes or less. The hardest part is grating the carrots and beetroot, which took me all of 5 minutes. Just combine the following ingredients in a big bowl:
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • one beet root, shredded (tip: if you got the beets with their greens attached, leave a couple inches of stem on the root when you cut away the greens, so you have something to hold on to when you grate the root)
  • 2 cups beans (I used white great northern beans)
  • small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar, or you can use white or brown sugar but you'd probably have to let the salad rest before serving
  • salt to taste
Beet root with stems attached as a handle for grating:

Final product:

What are some of your favorite cold salads?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 12, 2011

Vegan Bacon, Goodness Gracious!

I always see Lightlife's Smart Bacon at Whole Foods but have refrained from buying it.

(Picture from

I don't know why I've been putting it off. Maybe it was the price, or maybe it was the fear of being sorely let down. In the meantime, since becoming vegan I have made tempeh bacon a couple of times. It came out good enough to hit the smoky-salty spot, but was no contender for the "real" thing, especially in terms of texture.

Last weekend, I finally gave in and tried the packaged stuff (encouraged, of course, by a $1 coupon on the Lightlife website). When I first opened the package, I was disappointed. The bacon looked, smelled, and felt really fake. The instructions say to lightly spray a pan with oil/cooking spray and fry the strips for only a few minutes, flipping halfway through. But I am a maaajor crunchophile. My bacon always needed to be crunchy, and by that I mean that it had to crumble to pieces when crushed in my hand. Some people would have called that "burned" but I called it "perfect." So with these Lightlife strips, I fried the crap out of them, in a few tablespoons of olive oil. I fried them for about 10 minutes, at least. After a couple of minutes, they curl up all crazy and you think they're going to stay like that, but when you flip them and they start to warm up on the other side and you coax them a little with the spatula, they flatten right back out again. This is what they looked like when they were almost finished cooking:

By the time I took them out of the pan, they had shrunk (like real bacon) and when I picked them up on the spatula, the half of the strip that extended over the edge did not flop and hang, it stayed straight and solid, nice and crunchy looking. And then I tasted it.

Oh. Em. Gee.

It was so good that I actually started laughing when I tried it. It tastes just like the bacon I remember, smoky and salty. The texture was slightly tougher than animal bacon because it is leaner. I think the texture is very similar to a turkey bacon.

This bacon is also omni-approved. The response was something like, "I can tell it's not the real thing, but it's really close."

I made a BLT, putting it on whole grain bread with Vegenaise, tomato, and lettuce. It was absolutely sinful. And then I enjoyed the rest of the strips all by themselves. Yeah, I'm a beast.

With these veggie bacon strips available, I am sure that I will never miss animal bacon ever again. The Lightlife bacon strips are WELL worth the splurge.

Do you ever treat yourself to veggie meats? What is your favorite?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 6, 2011

Quick Gazpacho

I filled my Magic Bullet blender to the top with heirloom grape tomatoes, added a few sprigs of cilantro, juice of one lemon, a dash of salt, and just enough water to get the blending going. I poured the cold soup into a bowl and topped with nutritional yeast.

It doesn't look red like a gazpacho should, because half of the tomatoes were yellow.

Do you like any chilled soups? What kinds?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 2, 2011

Kale and White Beans

This dish is protein packed, nutritious, and tastes sooo good! The broth reminded me of white clam sauce. This dish would be even better if garnished with fresh parsley.

If you can, try to cook the beans from scratch. A pound of great northern beans cost me $1.59 and made me about 5 cans' worth of cooked beans.

Kale and White Beans

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 bunches kale, leaves only, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used vermouth)
  • 1 bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup warm water (I used a large Knorr vegetable bouillon cube), or 1 cup broth
  • 3 cups cooked white beans
  • 4 Tablespoons butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste (I didn't end up having to add salt because the bouillon was salty enough)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • In a large pot on medium heat, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic for just a minute or two until fragrant and the onion is just beginning to get translucent.
  • Add the chopped kale, wine, and broth. Cover the pot and cook until the kale becomes tender, about 10-15 minutes. Stir about halfway through.
  • Add the beans, butter, basil/parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir, cover again and cook until the beans are warmed through, a few minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, add lemon juice, stir thoroughly, and serve.

What's your favorite combination of beans and greens?

Vegan on a Shoestring