Friday, May 23, 2014

Yellow Bird Sauce Habanero Condiment

I really need to start blogging a series of recaps of my recent trip to Texas; what better place to ease in than with my new favorite hot sauce?  Meet Yellow Bird Sauce Habanero Condiment!

Here I was, wandering around the Wheatsville co-op...

full-disclosure, it was the other wheatsville co-op

When I came upon this:

The ingredients were unique and especially appealing.

Let's face it, that bird was too.

I was tired and full so I couldn't bring myself to taste the samples provided, but I still wanted to "Be the bird" (if you read about the bird, it turns out that I already am).  So, I bought the huge bottle in the hopes that it would be great.

An interesting factoid is that I'd already walked through an entire hot sauce shop in Austin, not found anything enticing (besides a non-vegan Maker's Mark hot sauce), and left mind-bogglingly empty-handed.  It was a travesty; I like to find new hot sauces on vacation.

So I was especially glad that Yellow Bird was part of my first Wheatsville haul!

yep, those are veeps!

I wrapped it ever so carefully, brought it home in my suitcase, and tried it on an otherwise unimpressive post-vacation meal: an Amy's samosa burrito over rice and peas.

And you know what?  That was the best Amy's burrito I've ever had.  Score!

no offense to Amy's burritos

Next I tried it in butternut squash soup, wherein it blended in seamlessly- both in color and texture.

After that I was just squirting it on everything.  Potatoes and onions:

Brussels sprouts...


It's no wonder it only took me 3 days to consume a significant portion of the bottle; I obviously need to simma.

I highly recommend that you go get some, but note: unlike most hot sauces, Yellow Bird has to be refrigerated after opening.


Be the bird.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Vegan Dressings and Sauces from Terrapin Ridge Farms

Terrapin Ridge Farms was kind enough to send me a generous sampling of their vegan products; it took me some time to figure out the best way to compare them equitably.

Terrapin Ridge Farms is not a vegan company, but they carry many vegan products: all of which are clearly marked "vegan."

I decided that since they were all intended for marinade and/or cooking, I'd use them each in an identical preparation and have a one-plate showdown.  I let equal pieces of tofu marinate for the same amount of time.


Then, I placed them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

For the record, I took great care to keep the tofu and bottles in the same order as their corresponding tofu slices so that I'd remember which was which.  I didn't want to resort to signage, because that would have been crazy.

I baked the tofu for 50 minutes at 350 degrees, flipping once.

While the tofu was baking, I prepared sauteed kale with each of the marinades: separately.  Once the tofu was finished, I served it atop its coordinating kale with brown rice.

Everything smelled so delicious; even 89 couldn't resist.

I started with the toasted sesame and ginger vinaigrette because I don't love ginger and I didn't expect to like it.  To my surprise, it was extremely pleasant and subtle as a tofu marinade, but a bit too strong overall on the sauteed kale.

The garlic & herb vinaigrette was also light, albeit boasting a little more punctuated flavor than the sesame ginger; it too was surprisingly strong on the kale.

I'd been looking forward to the dijon mustard vinaigrette the most, because sometimes often I'm lazy and don't feel like making my own.  It was rather plain on the tofu, but extremely pleasant on the sauteed kale.

Finally, the roasted pineapple habanero sauce was YUM.  Seriously, that's what my notes said (yes; I take notes).  It was sweet with a hint of spiciness (do be aware that I have a high tolerance for heat) and just great on everything: definitely my favorite of the four.

The taste test was an overall success, but I had a lot of sauce left I wasn't done yet.

I couldn't resist making a raw kale salad with the dijon mustard vinaigrette.  Surprisingly, I didn't love it.  And I generally love dijon kale.


However, as a dip for raw veggies it was terrific.

So then I was planning on trying all of the other flavors as dips (after all, they were all marked "dipping sauce"), but when I found myself with an overload of quinoa I decided to toss some, warmed, with each of the three remaining flavors.  Really great!  

I knew I was onto something, so my final masterpiece was a bowl of warm roasted veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, and fennel), baked tofu, and quinoa over fresh arugula, tossed with Terrapin Ridge Farms dressing.  I started with my favorite flavor, the roasted pineapple habanero sauce, but took a turn with all of them to equally fantastic result. I even served some to family who not only loved it, but praised my "cooking."  When you don't have time to marinate or make your own sauces, Terrapin Ridge Farms will not only satisfy, but impress.

I highly recommend these sauces, but I do have one curiosity about the Terrapin Ridge Farms products: although they're clearly marked "vegan" (thank you!), the suggestions for use that are listed on both the website and the bottles are mostly non-vegan.  I realize that this issue isn't singular to Terrapin Ridge Farms, but it's piqued my curiosity.

In contrast, I'm finding that some other companies' vegan products are actively being marketed as "allergen-friendly," "plant-based," or some other confusing euphemism- particularly given that these companies usually have a solely vegan line of products.

Since there is definitely purposeful distancing going on, I really appreciate that Terrapin Ridge Farms is clear with their labeling.  Vegans may be a built-in consumer, but I've walked by many products because I wasn't familiar with them as being vegan and didn't expect them to be; one little V goes a very long way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mother's Day Win

On the Friday before Mother's Day weekend was about to begin, I received a phone call from my dad, "Prickly pear ice cream: yes or no?  Tell me quick; we're on line."  Where else?  Vegan Treats.


I countered, "Tell mom to try it," but then I heard her respond from the background with an unequivocal, "No."  The difference between she and I is that although neither of us was familiar with prickly pear, I knew what another master purveyor of ice cream has taught me: that such things are just a $4 gamble.  So, I confidently responded, "twist...with sprinkles."  An hour+ later, this showed up at my door and it was divine.  Fresh and summery: a subtle and pleasant berry mixed with Tahitian vanilla bean with rainbow sprinkles; I now not only know what prickly pear is, but I like it.

But that wasn't all they got.  For "breakfast" on the following day, I was invited over for donuts galoreBanana cream pie, cannoli cream-filled fasnacht, raspberry jelly, Boston Creme, and glazed chocolate with sprinkles.

Also, a linzer-tart!!!  So soft and authentic I almost ate the whole thing myself and it was the size of my head.

And then it was Mother's Day.  Here's 89 checking out VM's gift.

Even thought the balloon lit up (that's the red dot at the top which you can't tell is blinking), she was unimpressed.

Not having anticipated the previous days' sweets, I'd already planned to make samoa fronch toast, inspired by this recipe from Vegan Richa- subbing French toast because VM prefers it to pancakes.  Behold the breakfast samoa: PPK Fronch toast, home-toasted coconut, chocolate chips, and salted caramel sauce from Sweet Ritual (more on that later) via Rabbit Food Grocery.

Oh yeah, and whipped cream.

Up close and personal.

And, of course, the stalker.

After brunch I went to my parents' house for the day and, after dinner, VM pulled out even more Vegan Treats.  For starters, there was this amazing flower pot cake.

Amongst its (non-edible) contemporaries:

Inside was a chocolate layer cake with oreo cream to compliment the cookie crumb "dirt" on top. 

Then, a berry marscapone tart with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

I don't really like fruity desserts, but I was a big fan of marscapone cheesecake before I was vegan, so I had to try it.  Not only was it dreamily creamy and light, but who can be mad at such perfect berries (and is this what produce is like in Pennsylvania?)?

Eventually I rolled myself home to lay like a sloth with this gal...

who, for the record, really liked the prickly pear ice cream as well.

Hoping everyone else enjoyed their Mom's day.

I'm glad mine did!