Monday, June 30, 2008

Summertime Vegan Ice Cream Reviews

I was savoring the cold, air conditioned frozen foods section of my local health food store recently, attempting to escape the summer heat and humidity while picking up some dinner. I usually try to ignore the ice cream section. It's just too expensive, I reason, to buy vegan ice cream when I can just make it at home. Well, the heat got the best of me. I couldn't imagine myself making ice cream in my non-air conditioned kitchen after working all day, and I honestly would have been happy just having ice cream for dinner that night. So I splurged and picked up some Organic Rice Divine , Temptation, and Purely Decadent flavors I hadn't tried before. It was possibly the best decision I'd made all day.

Organic Rive Divine Mudd Pie
OK, so before I start talking about the ice cream, I just want to establish that coffee is one of my favorite things in life. Especially organic, fair trade, freshly brewed coffee with some Silk creamer in it. I bought this not really knowing what Mudd Pie flavor was. I thought it sounded fun and promising, and there was some chocolate fudge going through it in the picture, so I thought it couldn't be bad. Well. It is probably one of my new favorite flavors of ice cream ever. Mudd Pie is coffee flavored ice cream with chocolate fudge and bits of chocolate cookie and almond in it. If my favorite cup of morning coffee was magically turned into ice cream, that would be the base of this flavor. It was creamy and sweet, but not too sweet. Though it is made with rice milk instead of soy milk, it didn't have that any rice milk flavor to it. The creamy, thick texture was enhanced with the crunch of the cookie and almond. It reminded me of the coffee royale (coffee ice cream with fudge through it) ice cream cones I had as a kid. Yes, I even loved coffee ice cream when I was twelve.

I noticed a flavor of Organic Rice Divine that I hadn't seen before. It's not even listed on their website yet. It does exist, though! Of course, the one flavor I didn't photograph before eating is the one I can't find anywhere on-line.

I'd never tried Key Lime ice cream before, so I picked it up. The lime was so zesty and perfect with its cold creaminess that it made me almost forget how unbelievably humid it was outside. Plus, it had bits of pie crust in it! Eating it was fun, but after I was done eating the pint (yes, I ate the whole thing, though not the same day I ate the Mudd Pie!), my mouth felt weird, like it was slightly freezer burned. It was as if the lime was too acidic and the ice cream itself was too sweet. It would definitely be perfect if it came with more pie crust bits to balance out the overwhelming lime, or if I had just scooped some of it (not all of it!) into a cone. The next time I get it, I'll do just that. I also noticed on the Turtle Mountain website that there is now a Purely Decadent Key Lime Pie. I'll have to check that out soon.

Purely Decadent Blueberry Cheesecake
This was another winner. I am a huge fan of blueberries, so I couldn't really lose with this. Purely Decadent Blueberry Cheesecake is blueberry ice cream swirled with cheesecake ice cream, with bits of pie crust throughout. Inside the blueberry ice cream sections are frozen blueberries (my favorite part). The pie crust bits were huge and hard, but fun to eat! I really like this flavor and will definitely get it again.

Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Mint Chip
Wow. Light and airy, mint-chocolate creaminess. I intially thought it would be weird to mix coconut with mint and chocolate, but it wasn't coconut-y at all. It was like the coconut milk just became the base for the thickness, but didn't add any of the flavor. Instead, the flavor came from the perfect balance of mint and swirls of chocolate. I love that there were barely any ingredients in it: organic coconut milk, organic agave, chocolate flakes, mint flavor, and not much else.

Yum. This was a pleasant suprise. The peach was delightful. The cobbler chunks were fun and perfectly spiced. It was really refreshing, not too sweet. Perfect for those days when you just want something sweet and fruity. I'll definitely get it again!

My vegan ice cream adventures were delicious and a bit extravagant. These little frozen gems aint cheap. One of my favorite ice creams from the past two weeks of summer is one that I made myself! Once again, my cheap and easy and just as delicious and totally vegan ice cream recipe that doesn't even require and ice cream maker:
  • Frozen banana chunks
  • Frozen strawberries
  • Some Silk
Put all ingredients in blender. Blend all ingredients until creamy. Pour into cup. Scoop out with spoon and marvel at the deliciousness of simplicity.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jersey Shore Beach Walk and SCUBA!

Here are some horseshoe crabs I saw on a recent beach walk in NJ. They are so cool and docile! Their prehistoric look gives away the fact that they've been on Earth for something like 500 million years!

I've been super busy lately...I'm in the process of getting SCUBA certified! I have to complete four open water dives after I complete my pool work and written tests. I'll probably do my dives in the Shark River, which is thankfully named for the fossilized shark teeth found there.
Now that I'm learning to dive, I keep daydreaming about all of the places I'd like to go to. I just read an article about diving near the Maya Reef off the coast of the Yucatan in Mexico. It sounds so cool! Apparently it's the second largest reef after The Great Barrier Reef of Australia (where I'm hopefully going next summer). The Yucatan also has Mayan ruins like Tulum, right on the beach. Thanks to The Urban Vegan's posts about Playa del Carmen, I know it's definitely possible to eat well as a vegan traveling in the Yucatan. I'm definitely looking into it!
On a different note, I have delicious vegan ice cream reviews coming soon...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

What to do when you've got a sink full of pans, bowls, dishes, spoons, and such after creating an amazing vegan feast? I use a vegan, earth friendly soap to clean it up! Earth Friendly Products' Ultra Dishmate is concentrated, so you don't have to use a lot, and it lasts a long time. I like it because it smells so good, it's effective, and it's soft on my hands, which is good because I usually wait until my sink is full and there's a lot to wash.
I just found Natural Value kitchen sponges for about a dollar. They are made with 50% post-consumer recycled materials and really look and act like any other non-recycled sponge.

For laundry, I like Seventh Generation products. Their "Delicate Care" detergent works just as well as Woolite, but it's so much better for the environment!This laundry detergent powder is very light, yet as effective as any other detergent I've ever tried. As I was seraching for pictures of their products, I found this interesting tidbit: Sounds good to me!
For the bathroom, I like Mrs. Meyer's Surface Scrub because it works so well and it smells SO good (I've only tried geranium, but I know there's also basil and lemon verbena scents). I've also tried the geranium toilet bowl cleaner, which works really well. Seventh Generation Emerald Cypress and Fir Toilet Bowl Cleaner also works well. There are a bunch of economical and eco-friendly cleaning products out there that are not only better for the environment, but better for your health!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Eggplant Parmesan

I bought a delicious, organic eggplant from my local health food store and decided to follow a recipe in The Veggie Works Vegan Cookbook to create vegan eggplant parm. I had all the ingredients I needed: eggplant sliced into thin circles, soy milk, bread crumbs, olive oil, tomato sauce, salt, and vegan mozzarella and parmesan. The first thing I did was let the eggplant slices sit with salt on them for about 20 minutes. Then, I coated each slice with flour, then dipped them into soy milk, and finally the bread crumbs. I fried each of the coated slices, then arranged them in a casserole dish with layers of tomato sauce in between. On the top, I added slices of Follow Your Heart vegan cheese and a generous sprinkling of vegan parmesan.Here's the result, right out of the oven. I found that the cheese a put in between the eggplant melted up really nicely, but I can't say the same for the cheese I put on top. It looks kind of weird, but it was good!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blueberry Banana Walnut Muffins and a Banana Blueberry Smoothie

When I have bananas that are getting a little soft and spotty, I like to put them in one of two places. Sometimes I like to chop them up and freeze them, then throw them into the blender with all sorts of combinations of frozen fruit. Here is my latest frozen banana concoction (frozen blueberries, frozen banana, and soy milk):

The result is thick and creamy, like super healthy, delicious, raw ice cream. Frozen banana smoothies are also insanely good with peanut butter and chocolate.

Other times, I put them into muffins. I follow the recipe in How it all Vegan, combining 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar (I like Florida Crystals), En-R-G egg replacer (equal to 2 eggs), 1/4 cup canola oil, 3/4 cup soy milk with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar added to it, and 1 1/2 cups of fruit or nuts. In this case, I added 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries, and 1/2 cup banana pieces.

After scooping the batter into a prepared cupcake/muffin tin with an ice cream scooper (I spray the little compartments with canola oil spray), I bake them at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.I let them cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, then I take them out and let them rest a bit before eating them. They last for about 5 days, but are best straight out of the oven. Yum!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Jersey Devil!

My recently discovered favorite breakfast treat is super filling and semi-nostalgic. This is a vegan version of a New Jersey classic: a fried egg, porkroll, and cheese sandwich on a hard roll. Kaya's Kitchen, the creators of The Jersey Devil and my favorite vegan restaurant in the whole world, is located in Belmar, NJ. Kaya's Kitchen has a seasonal breakfast menu that includes pancakes, waffles, french toast, all sorts of tofu scramble, breakfast burritos, and the unforgettable Jersey Devil. This vegan breakfast feast consists of fried tofu (the "egg"), veggie ham (the porkroll), and vegan cheese. The hard rolls are locally made by an area bakery. It's admittedly not the healthiest way to start the day, but it is SO DELICIOUS!!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

I love Dr. Bronner's soaps! They leave my skin feeling really soft, they're super effective, and they're made from vegan and organic ingredients like coconut, hemp, jojoba, and olive oils. Even the packaging is made from 100% post-consumer waste! I usually find Dr. Bronner's products at health food stores, and they last forever since they're really concentrated. I've tried peppermint, almond, and unscented/baby/mild. They also make tea tree, lavender, citrus, eucalytpus, and rose scented, all made with essential oils. If that's not enough, they're also fair trade! I just used my almond Dr. Bronner's soap to take out a stain from a shirt, and it worked beautifully.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Kitchen Herb Garden

I have a small kitchen herb garden with basil, thyme, lavender, oregano, and rosemary. As long as you're generous with the water every few days and have a sunny spot for them, they're pretty happy and abundant. There is nothing like eating your very own organic plants. I use them to season things like stuffed shells (the fresh basil takes them from good to stupendous!), pizza, mashed potatoes, and various otherwise plain and ordinary meals. The lavender is mostly around just because it smells so good, but I recently had a very interesting lavender lemonade at Teany in Manahattan, so maybe I'll try to make that at home this summer. Here is the basil in action:

In preparation for some pesto (I add toasted pine nuts, olive oil, salt, and sometimes nutritional yeast): I put pesto on pizza:Yum!