Just Trolling

Horror is not my first genre of choice nor area of expertise. For that, you should really be following Video Creep, videographer, comedian, and horror professional. With his guidance, I’ve picked out the perfect entertainment for your Halloween evening: Troll 2.

What is Troll 2 about?

Described by some as the “best worst movie” and “most disrespected horror films in recent history,” Troll 2 is not going to keep you awake at night. It’s not even going to make you remotely uneasy. The basic premise is laughable right from the start, seeing as there are no trolls to be found during the entire 95-minute runtime, only goblins. It’s also worth noting that it has nothing to do with the preceding movie, Troll, which has only marginally better reviews.

Without spoiling anything, one of the key features is green goop being offered at every meal, which no one seems to find suspicious. Unfortunately, just one bite will turn people into their own sort of human sludge, which is then fed to the hungry goblins.

Naturally, it’s the food element that I find most captivating. Between the implausible story line and iconic acting, the goblin goop is a standout success in terms of execution. I didn’t pity the people that were dumb enough to miss all the warning signs and thoughtlessly indulge in their own demise. Quite the contrary, I envied the goblins; I’ll have what they’re having.

Join me in feeding your inner goblin with the finest human goo that plant-based ingredients have to offer. It’s every bit as nutritious as dissolved people, but without all the fat and gristle! Besides, no one has time for that kind of messy cleanup. Save yourself the hassle of ensnaring and poisoning your own middle class nuclear family, and let’s pull out the blender instead, shall we?

A base of frozen mango and banana creates a naturally sweet, creamy, and subtly tropical foundation for some bright spices. Turmeric adds a bold sunny yellow hue that harmonizes brilliantly with ginger and cinnamon. The real crowning jewel is the swirl of green goo, of course. This comes in the form of fluid gel made from green juice and agar.

What is a fluid gel?

Despite the fancy molecular gastronomy term, it’s really a very simple concept: Set any fluid with a thickener, then blend it to break down the structure into a substance that straddles the line between liquid and solid, AKA, goo.

What’s the best green juice?

You can make your own green juice from scratch, or buy bottled green juice at the grocery store. I’d suggest going with the latter for the sake of simplicity. A subtly sweet blend with a mix of fruits and vegetables is my preference here to pair with the smoothie itself, particularly if pineapple is involved. Top mainstream brands include:

At the heart of it, Troll 2 is a movie made for the plant-based crowd. The goblins were vegetarian, after all, so the only way they could enjoy their human feasts was by turning them into inert substance. Let’s raise a glass to these visionaries that were ahead of their time. Cheers, and Happy Halloween!

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Bubbling Over Boba

Shooting through fat straws everywhere, the bubbles found in many refreshing iced drinks this year aren’t merely effervescent, but tangible spheres that you can chew. Known interchangeably as bubble tea, pearl tea, and boba tea, this Taiwanese import has even more flavors than names. Different varieties of tea are only the tip of the iceberg; additional fruit, milk, herb, and spice possibilities are endless. The unlikely textural contrast between milky liquid and toothsome tapioca makes for an irresistible treat, no matter the temperature outside.

Despite their proliferation, trips to Chinatown often end in disappointment. Most commercial offerings are prepared from powdered mixes with milk powder built in, with few options on tap. Luckily, it’s a snap to bypass all the questionable chemicals when you make your own boba-licious brew! Starting with more readily available clear tapioca pearls, the texture is slightly softer, but the experience is just as sweet and satisfying. Get ready for some serious refreshment; it will be hard to stop whipping up bubbling up once you start.

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Tapping into Tepache

When it comes to probiotics, it’s easy to go with your gut. There’s no need to take supplements to reap the benefits of all that good bacteria when there are hundreds of delicious options that pack an even bigger punch. Long touted as a healthier alternative to soda, kombucha has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity, raising the profile of many other natural probiotic beverages along with it. Kefir, apple cider vinegar, yogurt drinks, and even straight pickle or kimchi juice are on tap all around the world, crossing cultural boundaries and blending with modern tastes. Despite that, there’s one contender that has remained largely unknown… Until now.

What is tepache?

Tepache is the Mexican equivalent that predates colonial times. Fermented pineapple is the base, lending a sweet and tangy flavor without any added sugar. The best example I can think of is Big Easy Tepache for the time-honored techniques that deliver a refreshing experience bolstered with serious gut health benefits.

Like juice-based agua frescas, the flavors are limitless when it comes to tepache. The Original, a pure, clean study of pineapple vitality is a good place to start, demonstrating how versatile that gently effervescent base can be. Cocktails or mocktails come alive, quite literally, with billions of natural non-dairy probiotic cultures sparkling in the sun. Mango Mandarin, Strawberry Hibiscus, and Prickly Pear Lime add splashes of color to the tropical lineup in totally crushable cans.

Is tepache sweet?

If you crave bubbles with a bit of sweetness like me, you’ll want to stock your fridge for summer. Tepache has typical soft drinks beat by a mile; does your cola come with 7 grams of fiber and just 45 calories a pop? No, I didn’t think so.

Beyond the convenient aluminum can, tepache is also a prime source of recipe inspiration.

Just for starters, you could…

  • Blend it into fruit smoothies and acai bowls
  • Use it as marinade for tofu, tempeh, or seitan
  • Mix it into dressings for salads
  • Simmer baked beans for your next sensational BBQ side
  • Soak overnight oats or chia pudding

Don’t worry if you’ve been turned off by the harsh acidity of other similar probiotic drinks. Big Easy Tepache is certified toddler tested and approved, according to the founders’ own tiny Chief Taste Tester. Take it easy; tepache is for everyone.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and Big Easy Bucha. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Green Evolution

Green milk is a symbolically loaded concept. As a kid, it was an indicator of St. Patrick’s Day, offering an artificially festive hue to the same old swill peddled by overworked cafeteria staff everyday. To those in the Star Wars fandom or Disneyland devotes, it’s a novelty drink paying homage to the supposedly nutritious green-colored milk produced by female thala-sirens. In reality, that manifests as a non-dairy frozen beverage with tropical citrus notes.

Neither of these are the green milk that I have in mind. I can clearly remember my first encounter as a new resident of San Francisco when it stopped me in my tracks. Scrambling to find a reasonable meal between classes, I had just stepped off a sweaty, overcrowded BART ride and into the attached basement food court of the Westfield Mall. There, front and center, was the most magical elixir my young eyes had laid eyes on.

Pale pistachio in color, pouring as smooth and rich as liquid silk, every sip was like a hit of pure dopamine. Sweet but not sugary, creamy but not cloying, subtly seasoned but far from bland, it sang with the floral flavor of vanilla while silently packing in the potent nutrition of dark leafy greens. For a brief moment in time it was also offered in soft serve form which allowed additional toppings like sea salt, almond butter, and fresh raspberries (my personal favorite combination) to further enhance the experience.

While the former green milks still exist in this world, my previous Brazil nut-based green milk does not. Even more infuriating is the fact that nothing else even comes close to it. How hard is it to blend up greens and dates in that same ratio to make it taste like melted ice cream?

Not hard at all, especially if you do it yourself. Eight years later, it’s now abundantly clear that my beloved green milk is not coming back to Pressed Juicery, no matter how hard I beg and plead. Maybe it’s for the best; making my own yields bigger batches for MUCH less money, available any time the craving strikes. It’s also a snap to give it a spin in the ice cream machine for a secretly healthy frozen dessert.

What makes green milk so great?

Aside from the irresistible flavor, this unique blend of whole, plant-based ingredients has a whole lot of health benefits to offer:

  • Brazil nuts are particularly rich in selenium, providing well over the daily recommended value for adults in just one nut alone!
  • Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are noted for their high iron, folate, calcium, and Vitamin C content, among many others key nutrients.
  • Dates are one of the best natural sweeteners around, boasting a low glycemic index, which makes them less likely to spike blood sugar levels in those who are sensitive.

Tips for success

If you’ve made nut milk from scratch before, you already know the drill. It’s easy to get excellent results without even trying, but there are a few tricks to making your best blend ever:

  • Soak the nuts overnight, whether you have a high-speed blender or not. You can skip this step to speed through the recipe, but it helps ensure a smoother texture while also making the nutrients more easily absorbed in your body.
  • Use a nut milk bag to strain the mixture. There’s nothing wrong with forgoing this procedure entirely to reap the full benefits of all that fiber, but it will create a thicker, grittier texture. A wire strainer lined with cheesecloth can also work for a more DIY rig.
  • Chill thoroughly for the best flavor. If you’re in a hurry, you can let it stand in the freezer for a bit to cool down quickly and/or serve over ice.

This drink will change your understanding of green milk forever. You might want to start buying Brazil nuts in bulk.

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Nog-Off, 2021

Eggnog is to Christmas what pumpkin spice is to autumn; the flavor that embodies a moment in time, lingering as a taste memory inextricably linked to merriment, lingering with sweet resonance long after the cup has been drained. Originating sometime around the Middle Ages, it was an opulent indicator of wealth, being so laden with expensive spices, sugar, and rich dairy products. Today, as the popularity of eggnog continues to rise, it’s become a widely available indulgence for everyone to enjoy. Greater demand means more options, which follow perfectly in step with an explosive profusion in eggless, milkless nogs.

Oat milk has forever changed the dairy-free landscape which means that this year, we have more vegan options than ever to raise a glass with. Clearly, we’re due for another Nog-Off.

For this fiercely festive showdown between heavyweights, we have fourteen contenders in the ring. Both the bottom and top selections from the previous round have bowed out, setting the scene for a fierce battle on a level playing field.

I soon found myself drowning in a sea of nog. Mercifully, there are no complete losers in this game, and I wouldn’t be upset to have any of these cartons in my fridge again. Different situations call for different drinks, however, so I thought it would be best to break it down accordingly.

Probably the Same Product: Natural By Nature Oat Nog and Sprouts Oatmilk Nog. I noticed after judging, they both had the same lurid yellow color which was notable by itself. Flipping them over to compare labels, the nutritional facts matched exactly, as did the ingredients. Oops. The only difference? Sprouts’ costs $1.50 less.

Most Like Coffee Creamer: Milkadamia Veggnog. The only commercial macadamia nut nog in existence, it’s exceptionally smooth and rich but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was drinking French Vanilla coffee creamer. There’s not a hint of spices nor eggy flavor to speak of. You could doctor them with an extra pinch of nutmeg for an instant fix, but they’re not winning awards straight out of the container. Strikingly, I found this more suitable than the actual coffee creamer made by Nutpods, which is unsweetened and flat out bland.

Most Natural: Fronks Vegan Eggnog. If you want every ingredient to count, you can absolutely taste it in this blend of whole foods. Cashews, almonds, and dates are the foundation, lightly kissed by a touch of cinnamon and cardamom, for a more nuanced spice blend. It tastes pure and fresh because it is! Made by hand in small batches for local distribution, it’s the closest you can get to homemade without pulling out a blender.

Best for Sipping Solo: Califia Holiday Nog Almondmilk. Light but not watery, rich yet low in calories, I could drink this one all day long without any trouble. Thank goodness it also happens to come in the largest bottle of all, with a total of twelve half-cup servings.

Best with Booze: Chobani Oat Nog. Coming from a long line of oat milks and creamers, it should come as no surprise that this thick oat blend is perfectly engineered to balance out the bold, sometimes harsh edge of rum, bourbon, or brandy without tasting watered down. Also, it has a notable malted, toasted, earthy flavor that would harmonize beautifully with additional spirits.

Most innovative: Good Karma Holiday Nog. Allergens, who? Made with cold-pressed organic flax, this is the nog for everyone. No nuts, no soy, no funny business. While it doesn’t carry the same weight as genuine eggnog, for that same reason, it’s exceptionally drinkable and even refreshing.

Best for Baking: So Delicious Coconut Milk Holiday Nog. The last remaining coconut option on the list, this nog has a powerful, candy-like sweetness that puts it squarely in dessert territory. Strong seasonings ensure that it won’t just fall into the background like any other non-dairy milk if employed to make festive cupcakes, cheesecakes, and more.

Best on a Budget: Trader Joe’s O’Nog. The most affordable option on this list, one generous quart will only set you back $2.99. Every dollar counts when budgeting for holiday gifts, and the most expensive option on this list, by contrast, will set you back $12.99 for a pint.

Best for Most People: Good & Gather Oatmilk Holiday Nog. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if there was only one nog I could celebrate the holidays with, to take back home to my family and impress the widest range of palates, after much deliberation, I think it has to be… The Target house brand. I’m still struggling with such a shocking outcome. It’s not the best of all categories, as is made clear above, but those mad food scientists managed to hit the ideal balance that could appeal to the widest audience. Spiced gently, sweet but not sugary, rich but not cloying, it stands out by virtue of… Not standing out.

It’s both a relief and a disappointment that there’s no clear winner, standing tall above all the noise. I wish it was such an easy judgement, but that means it’s hard to go wrong. Where ever you are, whatever you have access to, you can pour yourself a glass of holiday cheer. Isn’t that the real meaning of a Nog-Off?

When all else fails, don’t forget, it’s not so hard to make your own from scratch, too.

What is your personal favorite here? Is there a local specialty in your neck of the woods that would have swept the floor with these national brands? Leave me a comment, and maybe next year, they’ll make it into the rematch!