Review: Kite Hill Artisan Almond Milk Product (formerly White Alder)

15 Feb

I read about Kite Hill’s new vegan cheeses well over a year ago and have been on the lookout for them ever since. They’re made by Tal Ronnen, the renowned celebrity chef who has made vegan meals all over the world. Whole Foods has an exclusive deal with Kite Hill, so if you don’t have one nearby you’re out of luck. I’ve looked at Whole Foods in the Chicago area, but never had any luck. I realize now I probably have been looking in the wrong section every time we’ve been there. Our other closest Whole Foods is in St. Louis, Missouri. We took a Valentine’s Day trip to St Louis this weekend and I made a point of stopping before we left for home.

We found the three Kite Hill cheeses after asking an employee who originally told us they were out. They were located in the cheese case, but we also found them lumped with the vegan cheeses. I’ve missed brie since going vegan more than any cheese; I’ve honestly had dreams about eating it again. I knew I wanted to try the White Alder flavor since I first read about them.

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It’s no longer called White Alder, instead it’s labeled as “Artisan Almond Milk Product.” The price tag at St. Louis Whole Foods was $9.99 for a 4 ounce wheel. I was expecting $14.99, so that was a surprise, but it’s definitely still steep when 4 ounces of dairy brie is around $5.

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The ingredients are simply almond milk, salt, enzymes, and cultures. I definitely appreciate that the entire container is less than 300 calories, as I probably could polish it off in one sitting.

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Upon opening the package, I was struck by how realistic the rind is. Kite Hill using the same aging process with their cheese as dairy cheese makers, which explains how they achieve such a similar product. It even had that strong brie odor.

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The inside is creamy, albeit more opaque than I remember dairy brie being. I was impressed with my first bite; however it went downhill from there. The rind is very loose from the soft interior and each slice kind of falls apart into rind and inner piece. It definitely has a similar mouthfeel, but it left a tingling in my mouth that I couldn’t get past. I don’t have an allergy to almonds and I can’t imagine why the cultures would cause this, but I could only eat about two pieces before it bothered me too much. My husband also ate a bite, but he had never had aged cheese before going dairy free. He ate one bite, declared it tasted like really bad feta, and gave me the rest of his piece.

My overall impression is that it’s an interesting product and was worth the try. If I were trying to impress my omnivore friends I would include it on a cheese plate or perhaps bake it in a crust with raspberry preserves. I think it’s a good marketing move to maintain the exclusivity with Whole Foods, as they can keep the price high without competition, but I also feel the price is something only dairy free people would be willing to pay. If the price point was dropped to about $7 I feel it would be reasonable to splurge on something like this every once in a while, but I doubt I will purchase it in the future, especially with the unpleasant reaction I had.  As much as I miss brie, I think I’ll have to finally attempt Miyoko Schinner’s recipe or go without.

Review: Chao Vegan Cheese

19 Jan

Like most people in the world, one of my favorite foods preveganism was cheese. I was born just south of the Wisconsin border and grew up with 3 cheese factories within 20 minutes of my house. I can’t tell you how much cheese I’ve eaten, especially during the cheese free – for – all that was the Atkins diet.

However, I’m more informed now, and as much as I miss it, cheese is no longer a part of my diet. I’m a pretty big fan of Daiya, especially in melted applications, like macaroni and cheese, but there’s really no good cold cheese substitute.

The Chao Slices by Field Roast were supposed to be a game changer. I read multiple reviews on them months before we even had the chance to try them and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. I messaged my local health food store on Facebook asking when they would start carrying them, and I got a reply a day later informing me they’d have them in January 2015. One of the perks of talking with small local owners! They posted on Facebook today that they were finally in, so we of course made a trip there.

Field Roast is known for their amazing vegan meats and deli slices but I think they’re going to be taking a piece of the vegan cheese market. They make the Chao slices in Creamy Original, Coconut Herb, and Tomato Cayenne. I was only able to purchase the Creamy Original, but after trying it, I’d love to taste their other flavors.

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There’s about 10 slices in a package, and they’re not individually wrapped like Kraft slices or separated by paper, like Daiya.  The block of slices is about the same size as a Daiya wedge (7.0 ounces as opposed to 7.8 ounces.) The ingredients are all things I can recognize, which I like.

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Straight from the package they have a strong cheesy odor, like unwrapping a tube of string cheese or a block of mozzarella. The slices are firm enough to peel apart, but not so firm that they bend or crumble. The first bite was like a hint of swiss, provolone, and butter. As I continued to eat, I kept saying how buttery it tasted. I’m not sure if that’s the coconut oil or the fermented tofu, but I really enjoyed it.

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I was worried that I would only like them raw, and that they wouldn’t melt well, but of course Field Roast wouldn’t let me down. I tried a piece on reheated lasagna and it melted perfectly.

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It still seems like it’s slightly solid, it doesn’t turn into a runny gelatinous mess like dairy cheese does but I didn’t try it at a high temperature, so it could be much more susceptible to melting.

My only dislike about the Chao Slices so far is the price. Field Roast products tend to be a little pricier than competitors, because their quality is higher, but I felt that almost double the price of their closest competition in the vegan cheese market was a bit steep. I definitely wouldn’t be purchasing it on a regular basis at the price point it was at. I don’t think it would encourage people who are trying to eat dairy free to purchase a new product at such a high price.

Overall, we really enjoyed the Creamy Original slices and would recommend them over most other vegan cheeses.

Sweet and Sour Seitan

3 Jan

One of my favorite meal growing up was sweet and sour meatballs. My mom used a recipe from the original orange Betty Crocker (you know the one, your mom had it too.) I love adapting old recipes, so here’s my version.

I use seitan instead of meatballs, but you could easily substitute tofu. Feel free to add different veggies, but the pineapple is essential.

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Welcome to My Pantry

20 Dec

I just wanted to give you guys a look into how my food is normally stored and organized. I love when other bloggers do these posts; I like getting a peek into other people’s lives! When we were looking at houses I always “checked out the size” of other people’s fridges and pantries. Maybe I’m just weird, but I love seeing how other people eat.

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This is our fridge on a normal day: drinks on the top shelf, leftovers and bread, and vegetables and fruit on the bottom. No need for a meat drawer here. And yes, that is breastmilk, there’s usually a bit of that around as I’m exclusively breastfeeding still.

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A different day in my fridge, but similar set up. You can see we eat a lot of leftovers here! Also, two different pans of enchiladas.

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Condiments are in the door, bouillon and butter on top and all the asian condiments on bottom, everything else is just a mish-mash.

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The pantry is usually pretty messy, this is relatively organized. We normally have more cereal, because my husband eats a giant bowl for breakfast every morning, but I haven’t had a good deal in a few weeks. Cans and jars and pasta are in the bottom right, snacks and coffee are above it. The left side is dry goods (flours, sugar, beans, rice) on top, lower is breakfast and a few dry goods not in jars yet.

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This is the cupboard above my stove. Apparently my kitchen was green at one point in time, but no one repainted in the cabinets. I keep most of my liquids up here-oil, balsamic vinegar,
liquid smoke, etc. Also, salt and pepper.

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Spices are in a drawer next to the stove. Definitely can tell we shop at Aldi by this one!

So that’s it! I spared you the freezer, but it’s mostly breastmilk and frozen fruits and veggies. I also have a pantry cupboard with “extras”-things like soy sauce, salsa, and anything I’ve gotten while couponing.

Does this look anything like your kitchen? Or is mine way messier?

Blueberry Muffins

16 Dec

When Ken and I first started dating, we took a trip to a blueberry farm in Illinois. We spent hours picking (and mostly eating) berries, until I got tired and lost our group. I ended up trying to call him multiple times from a stranger’s cell phone and surprisingly there’s very little cell reception on a blueberry farm in the middle of nowhere. After waiting awkwardly on a bench for an hour, we finally found each other, and we left that farm with a cooler full of blueberries. Most were frozen and eventually made their way into loaves of banana bread, but some turned into these excellent muffins.

I made a huge batch of these  to freeze before having my baby, so feel free to do the same. You can even substitute chocolate chips for the blueberries and pretend like it’s a healthy breakfast. I promise not to tell.

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Ingredients:
• 1 ½ cups white flour
• ½ cup white sugar
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 2 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp salt
• 1/3 cup vanilla alternative milk
• 1/3 cup vegetable/canola oil
• 1 mashed banana
• 1 cup frozen blueberries

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix together dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in wet ingredients. Stir well to combine.
2. Add blueberries and pour into a greased or lined muffin tin.
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Mushroom and Onion Risotto

13 Dec

A while ago I challenged The Friendly Fig to face her fear of making risotto, and I would do the same. It’s been over a month now, and I finally figured it was time to attempt a recipe. I’m so glad I did!

This was delicious and creamy and wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I discovered the trick to making risotto is not leaving the stove for very long, but it didn’t require the constant stirring that I had been previously afraid of. I added a little almond milk and nutritional yeast to give it a flavor boost that dairy would normally give. I served this with a batch of chickpea cutlets, another Post Punk Kitchen recipe.

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Spanakorizo

6 Dec

When we visit my husband’s family, we often go out to dinner at a restaurant called Greek Islands. One of my favorite sides there is the spanakorizo, which translates to spinach rice. This can be made with or without the tomatoes, either way is delicious.

This dish is much better with fresh dill; use it if you have it. My dill plant didn’t last the summer, unfortunately. We like to serve this with a squeeze of lemon,  a little olive oil, and some fresh pita bread.

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