Monday, October 13, 2014

Vegan Artisanal Cheese Tasting: Kite Hill

One of the hardest things that I have heard people say about going vegan is giving up cheese. I can attest to that feeling. One of the reasons it took me longer to come to veganism from vegetarianism was cheese. I made the transition to vegan once I could no longer refute the evidence about how dairy cows and calves are treated. I had to stop ignoring the facts. My body was also kicking me into it because I am lactose intolerant and eating cheese was an assault on my entire body. I gave into my conscious and body and went vegan. The end result was that I felt good and was exposed to a world of vegan cheeses to satisfy my want of eating cheese. 

What I discovered were spreads, shreds, slices, cream cheeses and more. Most of these were every day cheeses like cheddar, jack, and mozzarella flavors. I have not run into very many specialty vegan cheeses until recently. The Durham Whole Foods was looking for local bloggers to taste Kit Hill artisanal nut milk based cheeses. I happily contacted them agreeing to get a sample of the product, taste it, and blog about it. What a hard job! ;-)

I was given a sample of the soft ripened cheese from the store. I noticed that they also carried soft fresh original and decided to buy that one to taste and compare. The website indicates that they have two other varieties, but I did not see it at Whole Foods. The two products that they do carry were located in the specialty cheese section with dairy cheeses. I did not realize this and first went to the produce section with tofu and tempeh. Then I went to the section of the store that carries the spreads and shreds. I wonder if the location of the cheese will harm the sales. As a vegan, I would never walk up to the cheese counter and look around for a vegan product. I think if this cheese is going to be viable product at Whole Foods, they need to let customers know that the vegan cheese is among the non-vegan cheeses. Otherwise, I am concerned vegans and dairy freers will never locate the product. 

One of the first things that I noticed about the package is the few ingredients that it contains. It is a list of around 4 ingredients focusing mostly on nuts and enzymes. This product is dairy free, soy free and gluten free (well, at least the ingredients do not indicate soy and gluten ingredients). I really like that this product has so few ingredients. While I love vegan cheese, many of my favorites have more ingredients than I care to consume. 

The soft ripened cheese is like a brie, while the soft fresh original is like a basket cheese. I am pleased that I bought both kinds because they are different. The soft ripened cheese has a casing around it like a brie does. I am not a cheese connoisseur and I ate the casing with the cheese, so if that is not the way to consume a soft ripened cheese, then whoops! I enjoyed the flavor of this cheese, but was not a huge fan of the flavor of the casing. The casing has a strange aftertaste. However, I think it it was served with a jam, fruit, or agave nectar then I think the casing taste would be quieted. I also know that brie is often baked and I wonder how this would turn out baked. 

The soft fresh original was perfect the way it is. I would not change a thing about it and really enjoyed the flavor on a cracker. I am not sure how else it could be served, but I could also see it pairing well with fruits, jams or agave nectar. One of the notable things about both products is that they were delicious at room temperature. Many of the current vegan cheeses out there are only good when warmed up. I am not sure how these cheeses fare warmed up, but room temperature or cold they are delightful. 

The verdict on both is that I see myself buying these for parties or holiday gatherings often. The prices on both were a bit steep (9.99 and 10.99), so I cannot justify them for every day consumption. However, I see them being a wonderful addition to any party, gathering, celebration, or as a treat. I also plan to experiment with the soft ripened to bake it and serve it drizzled with agave nectar. 

If you are in your local Triangle Whole Foods, look for these cheeses. If you do not see them, ask. They are worth a try! 


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sweets Galore

I have been mostly slack about posting this season of MoFo. We have been cooking up a storm and eating a lot, but I have not been posting as I should. At least I have been eating though, right? 

While the nauseation is mostly gone, I have developed other unpleasant symptoms. I have a pain in my right side under my ribs. The midwifes/nurses have several theories of what it could be and I'm trying different solutions. What seems the most likely now is that it is reflux. I tried taking tums last night and threw up. This is the second time during my pregnancy that I have thrown up after tums. While they might not be the reason I threw up I can't help but think my body is rejecting them. So I am on to other solutions, mostly natural. 

My side rant here is to share something about myself. Before pregnancy one of my biggest fears (besides spiders) was throwing up. My fear skyrocketed during the time when I was sick before my Celiac diagnosis. I had a 12 year long streak of not throwing up. I'd be nauseated for hours after a gluten attack and prevented myself from throwing up each time. It was pure misery. When my nauseation set in for pregnancy, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was going to throw up. And throw up, I did! While it still isn't a fun activity for me, I allow myself to do the dirty deed if my body requires is. All of this was so say that my future little vegan one has changed me. This change I feel is for the better. I did not want to go through life being afraid of throwing up. I still get nervous when I am nauseated in public, but I have been dealing with it better than before. 

Now that I have gotten the grossness out of the way, I wish to share sweets with you all. I think I have mentioned that my love of sweets has upped since becoming pregnant. I do not eat them all of the time, but I eat them more often than I did before. In moderation, they are not horrible for me. In addition, they are vegan and gluten free, so they can't be horrible- right? 

For my Mom's birthday, I made a sponge cake with a pudding/creme, jelly, and strawberry topping. I found the recipe on another MoFo post and started salivating at the picture. My Mom likes all desserts, so I felt it was a good experiment to try for her. The cake was moist and spongy like what I remember of a sponge cake. I really liked the topping as well. The pudding was easy to make and is a recipe I will keep on hand for other uses. 

The next creation that I decided to whip up was a request from a special friend's birthday. She wanted a vanilla cupcake with a coffee buttercream frosting. I pulled out my Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for the gluten freedom cupcake recipe and made a vanilla cupcake with some coffee extract. The icing was a buttercream frosting flavored with coffee granules. I was impressed with both the cake and the icing. A non vegan tasted them and requested the recipe. I think she was surprised how good something vegan and gluten free could be. 


Those of you that have read my blog posts this MoFo have seen my asking, begging and longing for scones! After much hinting from me, John decided to make a delicious chocolate orange scone with an orange glaze that we found posted on Facebook by an animal sanctuary we follow. John got out the ingredients and the recipe and got to work! The scones were absolutely amazing! They were rich and chocolatey with a lovely hint of orange. I enjoyed them as a snack with a smear of vegan butter. I think I could eat these scones for every meal! I'm thankful to have such a caring husband and father of the future vegan little one.
The last sweet I will share is a chocolate cake with blueberry icing and blueberries in between the layers. This wonderful cake was made by Joie de Vegan for a birthday party of a special three year old. His parents were so kind to get a cake that we could eat. It was so beautiful that people lined up to try a slice and found it amazing. I had to agree with their assessment. The blueberry icing and the pops of blueberries in between the layers set this cake apart from others I have tried. 
Hopefully your taste buds have been tantalized enough to go make yourself a vegan and gluten free treat of your own.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pasta Vegan Alla Puttanesca

We are over halfway through Vegan MoFo 2014 and I have not been as diligent as usual about posting. Every other MoFo that I have participated in, I have done at least 20 posts. I know I will not make that this year. I am not beating myself up about it. I realize that my expectations are a bit different this year.


I have been cooking more than normal since the pregnancy now that food is becoming more appealing to me. I am starting to look forward to some meal times and I am having to remind myself less and less to eat. Mealtimes are becoming less of a chore for me. They are not up to where they were before, where I looked forward to the next one, but I am no longer dreading what I will eat next. I am also not having to worry about sickness as much. I still feel nauseated at times, but not the every minute deal like I felt before. New challenges have sprung up- such as every night I feel a pain in my right rib. I think it is my stomach being pushed into my ribs, but I am not for sure. I know my organs are shifting around to make room for the future little vegan one, but I just don't know where they are being pushed.
It is still warm here, in the 80's and our produce box through our CSA is flourishing. I am happy that we are still getting pints of cherry and sungold tomatoes. We are also getting larger varieties of tomatoes. They are amazing, as usual. One night when I looked at the pint of sungolds, I thought puttanesca. Lucky for me, we had kalamata olives in the fridge.  I had everything I needed to make a simple puttanesca dinner. 

I am not an expert on the original as it contains ingredients that I do not consume. However, as a note of substitution, I used pepperocini instead of anchovies for a mildly spicy bite. The other change was that I used sungold tomatoes instead of roma or other red tomatoes. Sungolds are orange and a bit sweeter.

Pasta Puttanesca

- 12oz gluten free pasta
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped 
- pint of your favorite tomatoes, chopped
- 3 or 4 pepperocini- chopped 
- Olive oil
- Ground pepper

Cook the pasta according to the directions. Meanwhile, place the olives and garlic in a bowl and use a pestle to grind the two together to make a paste. If you don't have a pestle, chop both the garlic and olives small- set aside. 

In a medium pan, heat a little olive oil and add the tomatoes. When simmering, add the garlic and olive mixture and pepperocini and continue to simmer. You can cook this for as little or as long as you like. I like to have the tomatoes break down a little bit and I cook for about 15 minutes. Add ground pepper to taste.
When the pasta is done add a little more olive oil to the pasta so that it doesn't stick. Then add the sauce and serve. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Just Desserts

I have not been as diligent this year about posting as I have in years past. I am a little behind this week. I decided that I have enough to worry about, so I will post when I can. I might not meet the 20 posts, but I am not too concerned about that. 

My pleads and ribs last week finally prompted John to make the scones I've been begging him to make. Last Friday night he came home with the ingredients for the scones. Of course, I had to text him to tell them what we needed. He gave me the option of making scones or cinnamon buns. I want the cinnamon buns, but I think the level of baking might require 20 questions from him. Let's face it, I'm pregnant and tired- I sometimes just want dessert to appear without being involved. Call me crazy, but I'm making a life here! 

He produced an after dinner treat of scones for us and they delivered! He adapted a recipe from the Gluten Free Bible to be vegan. The recipe called for yogurt and John used soy yogurt. The end product was a success! They were dense and sweet, just like a scone should be. They reminded me of our time during college of studying abroad in Scotland. I remember in particular a breakfast place we went to where we enjoyed tea and scones. At the time we were vegetarian, not vegan, and had a breakfast of eggs, hash browns, tomatoes, and beans. We sat in a seat by the window and go to enjoy the view of a downtown Sterling street. That time will always be special to me. It was in 2000 and we were just starting off in our relationship as more than friends. 

Thank you John for taking care of me and my dessert wants these days. I will take any other sweets you want to throw my way!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Down Home Cooking Take Two

During MoFo 2011, I created three dishes to imitate a favorite meal a mostly vegan restaurant in Asheville, NC. The place is called Rosetta's Kitchen and since my original blog post, the restaurant has created a gluten free version. The meal is just amazing and when we visit, we usually get the dish at at least one meal. We were in Asheville last fall and got the vegan gluten free version. While I loved it, I started to realize that mine is actually better. Don't get me wrong, their version is amazing, but I like mine a little better. It could be since I put so much work into creating the dish- by tasting and re-tasting. Although, I will admit that it is nicer to have someone else make this meal for me. 

During one of my more motivated days during this pregnancy, I decided to make this meal and surprise John. When pregnant, this meal feels like a lot of work. I was warn out after I made it and to top it off, we had a friend stop by to pick up something right as it was finished. We all talked for an hour, so by the time we got to the meal, I was overly hungry and the food was cold. The meal still delivered! And protein content is very high in this meal, making it a perfect candidate for a vegan pregnant woman and her future little vegan one

I made a couple of changes to the original. The first change was that I made a raw kale salad with red bell peppers from our CSA produce box. The dressing consisted of raw lemon, a splash of tamari, and flax oil. The other change that I made, was that I added a little soy creamer and more than the 3 tablespoon of vegan sour cream. I wanted rich and creamy mashed potatoes! The originals are rich, but I wanted something a little richer. 


As the weather gets colder, I see this dish making an appearance again. Maybe John will even make it, but I won't be holding my breath. I'm still waiting on the cinnamon buns he has been promising me. Hint, hint. Ok, how many times can I keep hinting on my blog about items that I want? Let's see how long it takes to get them or scones. Anyone want to bet take bets?  I mean, sure, he is doing a lot- but I'm incubating a life and I'd like a cinnamon bun. Is a vegan, gluten free cinnamon bun too much to ask for? Or what about a scone? Maybe it is!

Scones, cinnamon buns or not- I still love him to pieces! And he is being a loving and supporting husband- but I still want a cinnamon bun!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Loaded Hash Browns

As I have mentioned in previous posts, eating has been a challenge in my pregnancy. Many times, I have just been eating to nourish myself and the baby. John has had to be the gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, reminder to me that I have to eat. I learned the hard way that not eating can bring on nausea. One of the hardest things for me to learn how to do was to eat through the feeling of nausea. In the past, when I would be nauseated my impulse would be not to eat. When you are pregnant, you have to eat as you have another life to nourish. 

To help make this all easier for me, John has been cooking a lot more than before. Sometimes he asks me what I want and others he makes something and sets it in front of me to see if I could stomach the meal. The tactic turned out to be smart. I do not always know what I want or could stomach until it was put down in front of me. John knew my aversions each week and was respectful of them. 

One of his creations turned out to be a hit with me- loaded hash browns. Potatoes have been one of the few items that have been more appealing than other foods. I think it is the starch that helps settle my stomach. I have always been a huge fan of hash browns, but we usually have made them as side dish. John made them into a main dish by adding different combinations of veggies and proteins. He has added tomatoes from our produce box or garden, spinach, tofu, tempeh, pepperocini, salsa, carrots, vegan cheese, and other items from our refrigerator.

He has repeated this dish for me several times, often with a salad on the side. I smother mine with ketchup. I know, I know, it isn't a nutritious food- but I like it and it isn't too bad of a splurge for a pregnant woman. 

Thank you to John for caring for me and the future little vegan one. The one thing that I can say for sure is that I would not be able to do this without your love and care. Future little vegan one is lucky to have a caring father, like you! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Peanut, Pretzels and Party!

I already told the story of how I told John I was pregnant the day before he left for Turkey on a business trip. That whole week, I was by myself and this fresh news. I do not remember a lot of that week, other than the visit to my primary care physician. I do remember that I was not sick yet and was still interested in eating and cooking. That same week, I had one of my bi-annual clothing and accessory swaps with friends. As I was only five weeks when I had the swap, I was still keeping the news quiet. 

I thought it would be hard for me to keep silent, but I had no problem. I was not ready to start sharing because it was still so new to me and I had not had time to fully process it all. One friend knew, however, because she guessed based on my questions "for a friend". She also did a great job of keeping my news secret. There were even some kid items and maternity clothing that she helped me snatch up without anyone noticing. From the swap I came away with two maternity tops, a toy for baby, and two pairs of toddler/baby jeans. 

It was nice to be able to prep and plan for the party as my life still felt normal. Currently, I'd have a hard time making food, cleaning, and prepping all by myself. The next swap will have some serious modifications. The food that I made for that night turned out well and my friends make wonderful dishes to add to the food and festivities. One of the best of the dishes I made that night were peanut butter pretzel truffles by Minimalist Baker. The truffles took a little time, but the effort level and the number of ingredients was not at all daunting. The recipe is pretty simple for truffles, but the flavor is complex. They were a serious hit that night! 


Since I haven't had a lot of motivation to cook, I have not made these again. As soon as I get my baking/cooking motivation back, I will make these beauties! I would hint to John to make them, but I have already hinted at several other things that I'd like that he has not made (scones, cake, cinnamon buns, etc). I am not complaining, because he has been making dinner most nights....but sometimes a pregnant lady just wants her partner to make her some sweets. 

Ok, so maybe it was a hint! ;-)