This is the place to get all our reviews of books, products, restaurants, and other vegan goodies. Our reviews are a bit different than most other vegan reviews. They are upfront, honest, and we don’t give a free pass to anything simply because it is vegan. Whatever we review has to stand on its own. To get a high rating, the reviewed item has to genuinely be a cut above the rest. We feel you are better served with an honest opinion from us and we hope you agree.
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Coconut Milk Iced Coffee
Approx $2.49 retail
Chocolate, creamy perfection, Cococcino is the coconut coffee beverage that has changed how I feel about Starbucks. Let me explain. I used to be a Starbucks consumer. I wanted a sweet chocolate coffee drink? I would run in for a mocha. But then, I spotted these in the store. I thought, “That will be great for my new reviews!” I was not at all prepared for how much I loved it.
Imagine a cross between a melted chocolate milkshake and a traditional mocha. This drink is chocolate at its finest with a slight hint of coffee. It has a tinge of malt to give it a complexity and richness. The aftertaste is pleasant with a bit more of a coffee presence than the initial mouthful which is all chocolate. I love this effect.
I have had this blended with ice, served over rice, and strait but refrigerated. I love it best when it is strait but refrigerated. That is when it is the most intense. I like intense.
These are perfect to grab and go. I through them in my lunchbox, through them in the purse and it’s there for you when you want it. While $2.49 might seem a bit pricy, when you compare it to a Starbucks drink for about $4.50, it isn’t a bad value. Also, Starbucks only offers soy. This is coconut based so if soy is not an option for you.
I love these and cannot get enough. It’s a great treat, so needless to say, this product is highly recommended.
Yesterday, while shopping at Trader Joes, Jason and I spotted a new product, Trader Joes potato chips with South American style seasoning. I wanted nothing more than to keep you, our readership informed, so with an air of great sacrifice I grabbed a bag to review. And if you think it was like that, and not a pregnant lady grabbing chips and laughing manically, then I have a great bridge buying opportunity in New York….
A lot of Trader Joes products are surprisingly good. This product was freaking absolutely amazing. The chips are thin and light, almost disappearing in your mouth at first bite. The flavor has a bright smoke flavor with a hint of herbs and a background of chili. There is almost no heat to these chips- most of the flavor comes from smoked paprika.
I could not believe how much I loved these chips. They were amazing and I was floored. The price is what seals the deal for me – 10 oz of chips for $2.29. These would be perfect paired with a savory sandwich or burger. Bring these to a picnic or BBQ and prepare to be bombed with questions about where you got these modern wonders.
Highly, highly recommended.
Now that I am pregnant, having a cocktail or drink is 100% not an option. But, sometimes I still enjoy having something special to drink while I relax. In my pre-baby days, I really loved hard apple cider. When I saw this, I checked the label – this had no artificial color or flavor (score) and all natural ingredients (double score!).
The soda poured into my glass with a foam head not unlike a fine beer on tap. That caught my attention but it was the first sip that stole my heart. The flavor was resplendent of apples, with a mellow blend of spice. The words that kept coming to mind were crisp, smooth, mellow and delicious. I sipped at this soda, savoring every drop. I was so sad when I drank it all!
I bought mine at World Market for $1.99. Sadly, I have not seen these at many stores in my area, but if you can track this down, it is a perfect non-alcoholic alternative drink for fall. Still, while it does have fall flavors I would happily drink this any time of the year. If you see this, grab it! You will in no way be disappointed!
This Book Makes Me Hungry!!
When I received Choosing Raw, I was excited. I have a pretty extensive raw foods library but I love new books. This one blew me away and immediately went to the part of my bookshelf that stands for ‘don’t ignore’. That’s because looking through this book, I got hungry! There are several recipes I looked at with a thought of ‘good idea’ or ‘novel twist’ or ‘I didn’t think of that’. That is very rare for cookbooks and I. VERY RARE. I’ll get back to the recipes in a moment, because there are several other great features of this book.
Think of this book as part cookbook, part ‘why to include more raw food’ primer. The recipes don’t start until page 98. Before that, those pages are jam packed with great information. Hamshaw’s background as a vegan, a raw food explorer, and nutritionist shows. She breaks down why the information on why it is great to include more raw foods in your diet, which is pretty standard for raw books. Then, she does something I love and respect – she states that 100% raw is not for everyone, including her. This has been my experience. My body loves a 50/50% blend of raw and cooked. She even tackles and breaks apart enzyme theory in a totally great, easy to understand way (p.43 if you want to skip right there). I learned a lot by reading this book. Considering how long I have been vegan and what I do for a living that is an accomplishment.
I will say I think this book is perfect for those curious about raw foods and want more information and basic recipes. There are great sections on stocking your pantry and what equipment you will need. Some of the recipes also offer both cooked and fresh options such as the Zucchini Ranch Chips (p.119). Many others are just cooked or just raw.
So if you are 100% raw, some of the recipes in the book will not suit you!
I felt the need to break that sentence out because while I bridge both worlds with my meals and so do many others, some people are 100% raw and see cooked vegan food the same way that vegans see animal products.
Overall, looking at the information, recipes, and format, I am very happy to have this in my library. I can also think of three people that would love to have this as a gift. So if you are vegan and curious about how to incorporate more raw food, this is a perfect book for you.
Review by Madelyn Pryor
A Beautiful, Delicious Global Adventure
The moment I received Bryant Terry’s new tome, Afro-Vegan I tore into it. Not literally, but I did read a good chunk of it in one sitting. Since then, I have revisited this book, made a few of the recipes and my conclusion is this – “Damn, I am glad I have this book”. I rarely feel that way about cookbooks so this was a nice surprise.
Afro-Vegan combines so many of my favorite things it is no surprise I love it. This was written as food activism. After a internet search revealed that any type of African American bean recipe did not make it into the top ten results after typing “African American beans”, Terry decided to start this project. It was also written as a way to highlight African and African-American food. These are some of my favorite global flavor profiles. How can you not love harissa, berbere, teff, or Ethiopian ANYTHING? This book also has a lot of nice pictures of many of the recipes. I know some will roll their eyes that I include this as a ‘favorite’ but I find the pictures visually stimulating. I also know many people who are bashful about cookbooks that do not include pictures because they want to know what the final product will look like.
So Afro-Vegan has many of my favorite elements, but it also has a wide variety of recipes. The chapters included are
- Spices. Sauces. Heat.
- Okra. Black-Eyed Peas. Watermelon.
- Soups. Stews. Tagines.
- Greens. Squashes. Roots.
- Grits. Grains. Couscous.
- Street Food. Snacks. Small Bites.
- Preserves. Creams. Spreads.
- Biscuits. Smoothies. Porridge.
- Cakes. Treats. Fruit.
- Cold Drinks. Tonics. Cocktails.
As you can see, these are not the normal chapter breakdowns and this is not your normal cookbook. There are song recommendations for the recipes and even some further reading suggestions paired with the recipes. All this makes for a fun and fresh approach.
I really recommend Afro-Vegan. It is a fun, visually bright read that will lead you to try some new cuisines or perhaps it will reintroduce some old favorites. For me, this is a book I will use to insure my daughter is exposed to the foods of the world. Plus, it is full of tasty things for me, too.
Grab a copy and enjoy.
Review by Madelyn Pryor
This week there are three new Trader Joes products that rocked my socks! This is the first one – a stack of 4 exotic spices. The official name is The Spice Route and it retails at my Trader Joes for $6.99. You get 4 containers of spices in cute stacking jars, and you also get a total of 6.17 oz of spice. It is a great deal!
You get Ras el Hanout which is a blend of coriander seed, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin seeds, spearmint, ginger, allspice, long pepper, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, cloves, mace and rose petals. Ras el Hanout is a spice often found in North African cuisine. It smells like heaven.
Zhoug is featured often in Yemini cuisine. It is a combination of coriander leaves, parsley, chili, garlic, cumin, cardamom, and cloves. It is fresh, herbal, spicy, and delicious.
The Pilpelchuma blend is often found in Libyan cuisine. It is a blend of chili, garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, and caraway. A little spicy, a little exotic, I think this would be perfect rubbed on tofu and baked.
I think the price is stellar and this is the perfect addition to summer BBQ season. I cannot wait to get this on some veggies and roast them in packets on the grill, or sprinkled onto tofu and baked, or added into salad dressings, or… or… or! Check your local Trader Joes to see if they are available yet!
A Cool Way to Get Through a Hot Summer
When I first bought my trusty ice cream machine five years ago, I bought Vice Cream. It was different from the other vegan ice cream books on several fronts and taught me a lot about the craft of getting rid of expensive store bought vegan ice cream. Now, it has been re-released as Vegan Ice Cream and I am reminded of why I love this book.
This beautiful little book has over 90 recipes broken into four categories. Those categories are
- Ice Cream
- Raw Ice Cream
Inside these categories are tons of inspirational recipes, including Jalapeno Heaven (p.58), Chai (p.116), Chocolate Pecan (p.32) and even Chocolate Sauce (p.120). There is really something for everyone here. But why grab Vegan Ice Cream instead of another vegan ice cream book?
Everyone has slightly different nutritional needs. The other vegan ice cream books focus on vegan milk bases or coconut milk bases. However, Rodgers focuses on a whole foods approach. Most of his bases are made of organic cashews. When he does have a coconut base, it is the whole coconut, pureed into a house created coconut milk, a process he shares how to recreate. The focus on whole foods also extends to his preferred sweeteners which are either pure maple syrup or dates.
But what really makes this book stand out from the competition is the sheer number of raw foods recipes. Almost half the book is just dedicated to raw ice cream recipes and there are instructions to adapt many of the others to fit this lifestyle. Some of the classic vegan ice cream bases have to be cooked to thicken, so having 100% raw options and so many make this book very valuable to anyone who follows that particular dietary practice, and anyone wishing to feel a little less guilty for that big bite of ice cream they just took.
If you already have Vice Cream, do you need to buy Vegan Ice Cream? That is really up to you. I love the updated layout. It is at once visually stimulating and easy to follow. The photography is modern and breathes life into these recipes as brightly colored photographs do. If you make the decision to purchase this, consider giving your copy of Vice Cream to a friend or a library. You can also donate it to a local health center such as a diabetic support center so those starting a healthy journey can be inspired.
Review by Chef Madelyn Pryor
It’s a Vegan Party and You’re Invited!!!
When I first became vegan, it was for health reasons. I was very unhealthy and a vegan diet fixed EVERYTHING! Then, in the process of looking for other vegans online, I found out about factory farming. So many tears!! My brain couldn’t cope. I am not alone. When I told others I was vegan they said, “Just don’t show me those horrible pictures!” Still, I wanted to share my new lifestyle with others. I started baking them great vegan desserts. Everyone was happy and a few people converted!
When I saw Vegan Finger Foods, I was reminded of the above story. Noyes and Steen have created a host of wonderful finger foods that look like little tasty works of art. Potato Puffs with Tapanade (p.43)? Yes, please! The Baked Frittata Minis (p.72) are just plain cute and Spinach Swirls (p.111)… what could be better? Now, make any of these foods and start sharing them. I think this will be the hard part because you’re going to want them all for yourself, but sharing them is compassionate. Not only are you sharing good food with people, but the more people who try this will want to know more about being vegan. Your vegan friends will think you’re cool. All around, a little work and this book can turn you into an instant hero!
The recipes are divided into 5 chapters –
- Mind Your Manners: Eat with Your Hands
- Veggie-Centric Finger Feasts
- Stuffed and Dipped
- Bread-Based Bites
- Sweet Little Somethings
For those of you who want to just make tiny cupcakes, Sweet Little Somethings is a great starting point. Are you going to a party where everyone is watching their weight? Veggie-Centric Finger Feasts has you covered. If you are one of those people who does not like to design your own menus, Noyes and Steen have you covered there, too. There are suggestions for themes like Game Night, Board Games and Baby Shower. As a current pregnant person I noticed that the Rum Raisin Cupcakes are on that list, but I will assume those are for the grandparents and father-to-be.
This is a really a fun, colorful cookbook. I would recommend this as a great book to gift yourself or someone else. After all, spreading delicious food one finger food at a time is a great way to get across the message that being vegan is just plain awesome.
Book review by Madelyn Pryor
Get copies for your Paleo friends now!!
I love the idea of this book. It was about 10 years ago that I was eating badly already, so to lose some of the weight I had piled on, I went Atkins. Lots of meat and cheese? I was already eating like that, so I threw out the few vegetables I did eat (tomatoes, onions, etc) and went all in. I lost weight those first weeks but felt terrible! Then the weight started piling on, my heart started racing, and I had pre-diabetic symptoms. After a few other failed diets, I went vegan, lost 60 pounds, cleared up my skin, and 3 years later, I met a wonderful man who was also vegan.
Paleo is in some ways Atkins redone, wearing a disguise. The diet as it stands with tons of meat, some veggies and no legumes, grains or beans has been debunked by many dieticians. Enter Jones and Roettinger. They provide a sensible approach to a paleo diet that uses the ‘cheat’ calories to build back in those gains, legumes, and beans. Because refined oils are also a huge no-no on the diet, these tweaks turn paleo diets into a healthy vegan diets, something that Jones points out. She also offers suggestions and tweaks for those on raw diets so they can also feel welcomed by this book.
For those who like their information in a visual form, I must say I liked the charts provided in the Chapter 2, which explains the Paleo Vegan diet. On page 11 there is a nice chart of foods that both vegans and paleos can enjoy and on the following pages (13, 15, and 17) there are tables of vegan protein sources, vegan calcium sources, and vegan iron sources. I love charts like this because they are easy to read and make a quick reference for family and friends.
The recipes, provided by Mr. Roettinger are all relatively quick and easy. Many will come together in 30 minutes and there are several that will come together even more quickly. Many dishes use ingredients that are easy to find at the local supermarket and some that will expand many people’s pallets, such as sunchokes, bitter melon and dandelion greens, to name a few. Some may see these as a challenge to obtain, depending on what stores they have access to. There are lots of options that do not use these harder to obtain ingredients, too.
What the real charm of this book is taking away some of the argument “I want to lose weight so I am going paleo, which means I am eating all this meat”. When I first became vegan many years ago lots of people were still going with an Atkins diet. People left the healthy, compassionate lifestyle of veganism because they wanted to drop a few pounds quickly. Now people have the best of both worlds!
I would recommend this for vegans interested in adopting a paleo lifestyle and paleos who want to expand their pallet. This would also make a perfect present for vegans to give family members who are toying with the idea of becoming paleo. Or, if you would just like some new recipes that askew all processed foods, this would also be great!
Review by Chef Madelyn Pryor
Veganize This, I Can’t Quit You
There are many vegan cookbooks that have been relegated to the bottom two shelves of our library. Some are because they are not great, and some because I never look at them anymore. Veganize This by Jenn Shagrin is a great book that I find myself reaching for again and again. Sometimes it is because I want to smile, sometimes because I just want to admire her passion for Mimiccreme, and sometimes because just find myself loving the book. Let me explain.
Jenn Shagrin is a vegan actress who loves to cook and bake. She also has a fun sense of humor, which you can see in her chapter titles:
- Hail Seitan and His Followers
- Recipes Guaranteed to Get You Laid
- Satisfying the Vegan Munchies
- Grilling and Chilling
- Getting Baked
She also has hilarious chef notes for most of the recipes. I love those touches. But you want to know about the recipes, right? This is a cookbook, after all.
As one would expect from the title, most of the recipes in here take ‘traditional’ animal product heavy foods and offer vegan alternatives. There are recipes in here for vegan Twinkies, Scallops, melting mozzarella, and gems like “Juniper Berry and White Peppercorn-Rubbed Field Roast with Sage-Infused Vegetables and Balsamic Ale-Cranberry Reduction”, and that was just me opening the book to a random page, pg. 144 to be precise. You will find a ton of great, pretty easy fun recipes in here. I love her chapter on vegan basics alone. This book is so much fun!
There are a few downsides. She loves Mimiccreme. It is in every recipe. Normally, such things annoy me, but since she offers you five recipes to make your own, I don’t feel like it’s such a bad thing. You don’t have to buy that one ingredient. The same is true with her love of No-Chicken and No-Beef bouillon base. You don’t have to use it, you can use another vegan bouillon. Once you can get past those ingredients and see them for what they are, and you can make your own, this book is very user friendly. There are only a few ingredients that I can’t grab locally in here, such as barley malt powder.
So just for originality alone, I love this book. I feel like it is an underrated vegan gem that does not get out there much. That makes me shake my head. It’s better than a lot of what is out there.
If you are looking for some ‘mock’ recipes with lots of meat alternative and scrambled ‘eggs’ that look like eggs, this is your book. If you want a book loaded with whole foods that is a great into book with no mock products, this is probably not for you.
I still love it.
If you want to see more ‘retro’ reviews, for books that might be older or underrated, let me know.
Review by Madelyn Pryor