Feta Accompli

Feta, the stuff of myth and legend, has been a hot commodity since Byzantine Greece, first appearing in written record in Homer’s Odyssey. Loosely described as curdled sheep’s milk, it was the Cyclops that began what could be considered the first cottage industry business out of his cave.

Not to discount the early efforts of an innovative entrepreneur, I just can’t help but think it’s high time to stop following the herd. Over 6,000 years later, we ought to collectively crawl out from under that rock and start a new narrative for feta. No more sheep, no more strife.

Celebrating a robust 50-year heritage, Follow Your Heart may not have quite the same storied lineage, but they’re certainly out there making history. Introducing the very first dairy-free crumbled feta on the modern market, the “alternative” is one so good, it’s really impossible to justify traditional methods.

Firm, squeaky curds, briny and and slightly sour, like buttery unsweetened yogurt, they’re good enough to Greek out about. Each package contains diverse proportions of gleaming white morsels, ranging from nuggets the size of marbles to tiny specks akin to sea salt or coarsely ground pepper. This varied consistency is ideal for most applications; the smaller pieces evenly coat the vegetables, grains, or proteins in the mix, while the heftier chunks stand out for bold bites of concentrated cheesy flavor.

It’s a good thing there’s such a wide range of particle sizes, including such a fine spray that defies roving fingers, because it would otherwise be too tempting to simply eat out of hand.

This feta was born to be used in recipes, and not just salads, either. Blending Greek origins with Italian inspiration, it’s right at home in pillowy soft planks of fresh baked focaccia. Here, it gets mixed into the dough itself to infuse that distinctive umami flavor throughout, with more sprinkled directly on top for an irresistible browned surface. Nothing more is needed to dress up such a simple but bold bread, though it would be pretty incredible sliced in half and filled with your favorite sandwich fixings.

Soft, tender, and buttery slabs of flat bread would be hard enough to resist, but when each slice has morsels of compellingly salty feta embedded into every bite, no amount of willpower stands a chance. Give in and take a big bite; as your teeth sink into the crisp, caramelized crust, pushing past toasted garlic and aromatic herbs, you’ll wonder why you don’t bake bread everyday. That is, until you polish off a pan in record time, perhaps. It might be dangerous to make a regular habit. The feta is both the cherry on top, and part of the essential foundation. No other cheese will do, and certainly not one made from conventional dairy.

Follow your heart, mind, and stomach to a better feta. This will go down in history as yet another innovation that makes milk moot.

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Cutting Edge Cuisine

Let’s cut to the chase: Ceramic knives don’t get the respect, or the place of honor on the cutting board, that they deserve.

Ceramic may sound like a delicate, impractically fragile material to make strong, sturdy kitchen implements from, but it’s different from the dainty plates and coffee cups sitting in the cabinet. My top recommendation, Vos Knife, uses zirconium oxide, which is even harder than stainless steel or carbon steel. It’s more likely that your vegetables will shatter than the blade here.

Light as a feather, ceramic knives glide through fresh produce like a breeze, making them ideal for precision cuts, garnishes, and fine dices. The sharp edges, combined with such easy handling gives the user complete control. No more squished tomatoes or ragged, stringy celery. Instead, imagine slices of crisp apples so paper-thin that you could read through them. If you’re just getting started in the kitchen, they’re ideal for practicing knife skills.

Low-maintenance and long-lasting, ceramic knives retain a razor-sharp edge considerably longer than metal knives, which means they rarely need to be sharpened. As an added benefit, they’re almost impervious to stains and odors. Go ahead, chop those onions with abandon! Butcher your bloodiest red beets! It may look like a horror scene in the kitchen, but you won’t shed any tears over it.

The Vos Ceramic Knife in particular has a specially designed ergonomic grip, fitting like a glove in hands both big and small. The same can be said for all of their colorful, practical equipment. The ceramic peeler especially, as part of the 7-piece utility set, has quickly become an indispensable staple in my tool kit. Effortless zucchini ribbons, without busting out the bulky spiralizer? Sign me up!

Or, in this case, how about sweet potato fettuccine in a creamy melted onion sauce? Thin shavings of onion caramelize and seem to dissolve away into a rich cloak that fits the tender strands of spuds like a glove. This is where the chef’s knife really shines, making easy work on those onions without any tears. A sharp knife will damage fewer cells in the onion, thereby releasing less of the irritating oxalic acid into the air. Goggles, chewing gum, lighting candles, and other folk remedies can’t compare; the truth hurts, but that’s nothing to cry over.

Further expediting the caramelization process is a tiny pinch of baking soda. It’s the secret ingredient that softens, browns, and breaks down the onions in a fraction of the time.

Though simple in concept and effortless to prepare, the complex flavors could have anyone fooled. You could keep it straightforward and serve this dish as a side, or dress it up with crispy sauteed tempeh and toasted pecans for a dynamite main entree. If you just start with the right tools, half the work is already done.

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Land of Plenty

Have you ever tasted arugula so crisp, so impeccably fresh, that it could only be described as “juicy”? Voracious salad eater that I am, I was sure I had exhausted every variant of leafy fodder available on the market, until I forked into the baby greens from Plenty.

Before this moment, brand name vegetables or plain packaged produce in general always seemed like a marketing gimmick to me. Wasn’t this the same stuff you could buy in bulk, now dressed up with designer graphics and enhanced pricing to match? Granted, that’s exactly what drew my attention when I first spotted these shapely clam shell boxes, but the quality far exceeds shallow aesthetics.

Vertically grown indoors, using 99% less land and 95% less water than conventional methods, without any pesticides, they’re as sustainable as they are genuinely flavorful. In short, Plenty is making the tastier choice the one that’s more affordable, accessible, and eco-friendly, too. It’s hard to explain how revolutionary this is without it coming off as a sales pitch, but trust me, these aren’t empty promises coming from a far removed PR mill! It’s rare to find a company that really lives up to such high standards without sacrificing in one department or another, which is why I’m proud to partner with them to spread the love of all things leafy, well beyond the salad bowl.

If you struggle to get your greens in, you’re not alone. Raw roughage may be difficult to digest, both literally and figuratively, for the pickiest eaters, but there’s more than one way to get your daily dose.

Believe it or not, even children will beg for a second helping of this verdant Matcha Milkshake, infused with velvety baby kale. Harmonizing with the natural, satisfying bitter edge of ceremonial matcha powder, the concentrated, zero glycemic sweetness of stevia balances out the blend without refined sugars. Cashews are the magical ingredient that makes everything rich and creamy, no milk nor cream needed. This recipe is based on my formula for cashew milkshakes in Real Food, Really Fast, infusing the decadent drink with a virtuous serving of vitamins A, C, and K. To fool a kale critic, you can easily explain the color with the green tea addition.

For those who like a bit of spice in their life, that bold baby arugula has just the right subtle peppery twist, further accentuated by the warm breath of fresh jalapenos in a steamy bowlful of Pozole Very Verde. Tangling amongst tender bites of hominy and pinto beans, this nontraditional broth comes together in mere minutes, bearing the rich flavors of a long-simmered stew. You could very well double up on the leafy quotient, since it melts down so effortlessly into the piquant brew.

When the heat is on and you’re trying to keep your cool, though, I’ve got the perfect all-purpose, all-day kind of meal for you. Avocado toast, the ubiquitous millennial favorite, but with a heartier bite than your basic bread. Meaty portobello slices turn into a shockingly convincing alternative to bacon, crisp and savory, redolent of the earthy, smoky notes you’d expect from cured pork, but made from plants. Refreshing crispy lettuce cradles thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes in a tender embrace typically reserved for starcrossed lovers. Part open-faced sandwich, part tartine, you get more of the good stuff with this BLT Avocado Toast and less carb-heavy filler.

Cheap, greasy Chinese takeout does tempt even the most disciplined healthy foodies, but you can beat those eateries at their own game. Skip the deep frying for this flash-in-the-pan Salt & Pepper Tofu Stir Fry, dazzling with whole peppercorns, including the mouth-numbing Sichuan variety. The more timid of tastes might want to pick around those powerful flavor grenades, though I think those intermittent fiery bites add to the overall experience. As if designed with exactly this dish in mind, the diverse mizuna mix can withstand the blaze, folded in at the very last minute to tenderize the baby bok choy without making any of the more delicate leaves go limp. Switch up the protein with seitan, soy curls, or even tempeh if you’d like to branch out beyond predictable bean curd.

For my final trick, watch as I turn three full boxes of leafy love into one glorious grand finale, wrapped up in flaky phyllo like an edible present. Inspired by layered spanakopita, spinach need not apply for the job in this Arugula Spanakopita Strudel. Baby arugula melts down to an almost buttery filling infused with fresh herbs and plenty of garlic. Downright buttery and stunningly cheesy, you’ve never had greens that taste quite so decadent before. Even the Greek Gods would bow down to this contemporary twist on the classic pie.

Getting hungry yet? Ready to go green? Find Plenty greens at a Bay Area store near you by checking the product locator, and start making space in your fridge. While those shapely boxes contain an incredible volume of green goodness, you’ll quickly find yourself craving more.

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

Ten Out of Ten for Kanten

Instant noodles, sustenance and comfort to eaters of all ages and walks of life across the globe, will always have a place in my heart, not to mention my pantry. There’s more on those shelves than just cheap wheat bricks, though. Innovative, imaginative new takes on the old standby have flourished in ways that Momofuku Ando could have never dreamed back in 1958 when he invented the first entry to the now vast field.

In a world where cauliflower can be rice and sweet potatoes can be toast, why can’t seaweed be noodles? That’s the idea behind OhSo Tasty, pairing flavorful soup bases with quick-cooking kanten.

The term “kanten” is generally interchangeable with agar; the biggest differences are usually regarding the degree of processing. Long story short, it’s a dried, edible seaweed, typically found in Japanese cuisine, especially as a thickening or gelling agent. More than just a gelatin substitute when powdered, the less refined kanten threads can be cooked and eaten like noodles, which is exactly what OhSo Tasty has done. This format is composed of approximately 80% fiber, and has no taste nor odor like the fishier competition, shirataki. Plus, unlike animal-based gelatin, it won’t melt at higher temperatures, so there’s no risk of accidental overcooking.

Sealed in compact cups reminiscent of conventional ramen, these powerhouse packages are a far cry from those gut-busting sodium bombs. Truly instant, you’re just one minute from mealtime after opening the lid. The “new-dles” quickly soften in hot water, becoming tender and springy while retaining a satisfying bite.

As a miso maniac, the Miso Delicious Soup is the flavor that first drew me in. Absolutely packed with goodies, there isn’t a single watery spoonful to be had here. Tons of wakame, scallions, and tofu cubes make a splash in this comforting brew, alongside the headlining kanten noodles. It’s richly flavorful with a wallop of umami, thanks to the crafty addition of shiitake mushroom powder. This enhances the dashi broth much like bonito flakes would in traditional preparations, without resorting to such fishy ingredients. The overall effect is a taste of restaurant-quality miso, without the takeout price tag.

Sizzlin’ Sesame Soup doesn’t mince words, living up to the title with a definite spicy kick! It’s a nice gentle burn that builds with every subsequent sip, rounded out nicely by the warm, nutty broth. A stunning array of vegetables, sweet corn, diced carrots, and verdant spinach, swim freely between the kanten strands.

OhSo Tasty is available in six different flavors all told, five of which are vegan: Flamin’ Tomato Soup, Miso Delicious Soup, Sizzlin’ Sesame Soup, Soy Satisfying, and VaVa Veggie Soup. Available online for nationwide shipping, there’s never been a better time, or way, to stock your pantry with oodles of healthy noodles.

This review was made possible as a collaboration with OhSo Tasty. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Expo West Exposé

Natural Products Expo West is like Christmas for food professionals and obsessives alike, bearing wilder, bolder, and more brilliant new products than one could have dreamed possible just the previous year. Science has come to meet the art of cooking, marketing, and cravings all at once, giving us more than mere eye candy to look forward to. It would be impossible to share everything that caught my eye for this round, but a few bold trends definitely emerged from the pack.

Beans are the New Rice: It’s no longer enough to have certified gluten-free whole grains anymore. Transforming legumes into higher protein alternatives is the latest and greatest side dish to grace the dinner plate, offering a range of nutritional and culinary advantages over plain starches. Made much like their gluten-free pastas, Banza features garbanzo beans, while Pedon uses an assortment of peas, lentils, and chickpeas to make their colorful new options. Seapoint Farms has taken a different approach with their Riced Edamame, simply chopping it into a coarse meal, it much like you would expect from cauliflower “rice.”

Meat Your Maker: If it bleeds, it leads. Such is true of journalism and the race to create increasingly authentic facsimiles for meatier, beefier burger patties. Impossible Burger set the trend, but the exciting rumor I picked up on here was that it would be coming to grocery stores soon, rather than being available only as a finished entree in select restaurants. Beyond is keeping up with the race quite admirably, unveiling a ground beef made of the same stuff as its famous patties. Mega brands MorningStar and Lightlife have entered the ring as well, but a standout in this fight for me was Sweet Earth, offering a stunningly “authentic” experience with superlative texture in their new Awesome Burger. Danish import Naturli’ Foods is looking to take the US by storm with its line of Minced fresh grounds, based on peas, while Good & Green stands out in the field by slicing unimaginably accurate renditions of prosciutto and carpaccio out of humble beans.

 

More Fish in the Sea: At last, what I’ve long regarded as the final frontier of veganism, seafood alternatives are reeling in accolades across the board. Good Catch is swimming upstream through the guppies and tadpoles, presenting a soy and pea protein blend that might just taste more like tuna than the fish itself. Category veterans Loma Linda, Worthington, Vegetarian Plus are all staying afloat admirably through this sea of change, with their Tuno, Plant-Powered Vegan Tuna, and Vegan Tuna Rolls, respectively. Sophie’s Kitchen continues to offer the only alternative Smoked Salmon for sale, in addition to their fishless lineup of faux shrimp, scallops, crab cakes, and fillets. Going where few frozen foods have before, Sol Cuisine is slinging a Lemon Dill Salm’n Burger that’s ready to grill and thrill.

Better Butter: Bake, melt, and schmear to your heart’s delight, because there have never been so many superlative spreads. Miyoko’s has been the leader of the pack but now faces stiff competition from New Barn, Milkadamia, Naturli’, Medlee, Wild Brine, Wayfare, FabaButter, and Riot Eats. Whether you’re seeking something soy-free, nut-free, palm oil-free, cultured, or seasoned, you’ll suddenly find a rich range of choices.

Knee-Jerk Reaction: The question is no longer “Will it blend?” but “Will it jerky?” It seems like the answer from retailers is a resounding: “YES!” Plant-based jerky is popping up in a variety of savory flavors, most notably on a more diverse range of chewy proteins, fruits, and vegetables than ever. For high-protein savory snacks, Upton’s is slinging seitan Jerky Bites in tropical flavors, Unisoy and Myrte Greens keep it classic with soybean-based Vegan Jerky. No Evil Foods will soon be expanding their range of refrigerated wheat meats to include some shelf-stable jerky snacks with unconventional seasonings such as Pastrami and Al Pastor, among others. Taking the “plant based” concept to the next level, Wild Joy Goods is crafting Banana Jerky from- you guessed it- good old bananas, while Cocoburg favors coconut strips, and Pan’s Mushroom Jerky packs an umami punch with soft and chewy shiitake slices.

Ditching Dairy: Big brands are now looking for milk money by different means. Nestle has rocked the baking world by unveiling Simply Delicious White Chocolate Morsels, which are free of the top 8 allergens, making them the very first vegan option on the mainstream market. Reddi Wip has begun embracing coconuts and almonds as fluffy whipped dessert topping to fill their iconic aerosol cans. Following suit, Coffee Mate has expanded their line of Simply Natural creamers to include these two top picks, along with a creamy oat milk option. Presenting one of the only options for non-dairy kefir, Lifeway has unleashed Plantiful, pea-based probiotic beverages. Arctic Zero is not just offering dairy-free options, but has converted its entire line of light frozen desserts from a whey to pea protein base.

1, 2, 3, CBD: This is not a passing trend, this is an all-out takeover of the traditional food, beverage, and cosmetics industry. Anything and everything is being infused with CBD now, from the predictable gummies and tonics to cakes, teas, air fresheners, dog biscuits, and beyond; there are genuinely too many products and brands to list. Brace yourself for (but also, chill out about) the CBD inundation.

Have you seen any of these edible innovations on store shelves yet? What are you most excited about? It’s a brave new world out there for vegan eaters, allergy suffers, and gastronomes alike.

Vital Hit

No one could ever accuse the preeminent pioneer in blending technology, Vitamix, of being too limited in its scope, and yet the industry leader continues to innovate with cutting edge adaptions to the original. Seemingly out of left field, the Vitamix Aer Disk Container has landed to pulverize the competition in an entirely different way. The famously razor-sharp blades are replaced here by a perforated disk, designed not to chop and puree, but to whip, foam, muddle, and emulsify. Rigorously testing out each prime function with unscientific glee, my 10-year old classic 5200 base felt like a brand new toy all over again.

No need to lug out the stand mixer anymore to put a fancy finishing touch on your desserts. Instantly churn out whipped coconut cream, fresh and fluffy, firm enough to stand at attention in high peaks, with just the flip of a switch. That said, my greatest disappointment in this trial was in an attempt to make meringue; even the thickest aquafaba refused to do more than bubble and foment from the agitation. There is clearly a trick to this whip, but I haven’t unlocked all the secrets yet.

Cold foam is all the rage these days thanks to the relentless marketing push from Starbucks, who now whip it up in a variety of flavors. The thing is, they don’t offer a dairy-free option! As with making lattes, different brands can create very different results, but a bubbly beverage takes just a flip of the switch, no matter your “milk.” Start with at least 1/2 cup of steamed liquid, fully covering the disc, for most effective frothing. Compared to a dinky handheld electric whisk, this matrix of trapped air bubbles is much denser, consistent, and long-lasting.

Muddling is really not my style, as I rarely drink, let alone create cocktails, and let’s not even start with the alternate meaning of the word that alludes to my typically jumbled, disorganized state of mind. However, I quickly found that there’s much more to the concept than just mojitos and caipirinhas. Lemonade made with whole citrus means no zesting, no juicing, no waste and no mess. This trick works for plain old, straight-up fresh orange juice, too. Equal parts lifesaver and party starter when summer rolls around, you can even pop a handful of ice cubes in there to instantly chill your brew without crushing or diluting while you’re at it. It’s a nifty trick designed to wow a crowd, since it works best when you start with at least 1 1/2 – 2 cups of liquid to keep the citrus slices moving.

Water and oil, sworn elementary enemies, would never be caught dead mingling in public, let alone wrap each other up in a full, cohesive embrace. It takes considerable force to smooth things over in a proper vinaigrette, hollandaise, or mayonnaise, with every additional drop threatening to break this uneasy truce. Just call VitaMix a seasoned peacemaker because the Aer has some impressive diplomacy skills. While the standard canister can ace this test as well, I was genuinely surprised to find more consistent results with the risk of over-processing safely out of the picture. Notice that the herbs and spices remain fully intact in the mix despite the merciless blending, allowing each component to shine more brightly within the harmonized liquid mix. Joining balsamic with EVOO harmoniously, till dinner do they part, my dressing game has never been smoother.

Compatible with all full-size (Classic and Smart System) Vitamix blenders, there’s officially nothing this indispensable tool can’t whip into shape. Like any other Vitamix attachment, the Aer Disk Container can clean itself in 30 – 60 seconds with just a drop of dish soap and a quick bliz, no disassembly required. If that’s not a gift that keeps on giving, I don’t know what is.

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