Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: Tasty Bites

The good people over at Tasty Bites offered to send me six packets of their various dishes for my family to try.  What an easy meal, so I said sure!  I believe I've made their Bombay Potatoes before, but it's been awhile, and I haven't tried their other dishes, so I was looking forward to these.  Please see below for the full review with feedback from the fam.

Here are the packets, from left to right:  Pad Thai Asian Noodles, Punjab Eggplant, Garlic Brown Rice, Channa Masala, Bombay Potatoes, and Ginger Lentil Rice.  All of these are microwavable and able to be boiled in their pouches.  Each packet serves two.  I asked for only vegan samples, and so that's what they sent me.  I chose to microwave each packet; the rice dishes were ready in 90 seconds, and all the others were ready in 60.

Here is my plate with a dollop of each dish.  I kept my dishes in the same order as I've listed above for ease of seeing what they look like.  As you can see, with a small sampling of each, it made for a full plate - this is the size of a salad plate, and it was plenty.

I'm not going to list all of their ingredients because that would make this just too long, but there was no corn syrup, msg, artificial colors or flavors or preservatives in any of them, making these very acceptable for my family.  Here is the full breakdown of each dish.

Pad Thai Asian Noodles:
JK:  "Good."
GR:  "All right."
SR: "Good."
Me: "Surprisingly Tomatoey."
G: He said most of the dishes, including this one was "tasty."

Punjab Eggplant:
JK:  Didn't like this one, but that's not a surprise.  I don't know too many kids that like eggplant.
GR: "Not bad."
SR: Didn't try this one because of dislike of eggplant.  She also wanted to say that even though she's not "big on Indian food," she liked all the dishes she tried.
Me: "Good, but the eggplant is indistinguishable from the other ingredients."
G: "Tasty."

 Garlic Brown Rice:
JK: Didn't try this one.
GR: "A little bland."
SR: Didn't try either.
Me:  "I agree with GR."
G: "Good flavor but slightly dry."

Channa Masala:
JK: "That is good!"
GR: "Okay."
SR: "Good."
Me.: "Good."
G:  "Tasty."

 Bombay Potatoes:
JK: These ended up being his favorite, and he went back to finish up the pot.
GR: "Good!"  Her fave too.
SR: "Good."
Me: "Good.
G: "Tasty."

Ginger Lentil Rice:
JK: "Not very good."
GR: "I like it."
SR: "Good."
Me: "Okay."
G: He liked this one.

My overall impression:
  • I liked the quick preparation.  For my family, this entire meal was ready in less than ten minutes; that's pretty good!  
  • When I had all the dishes on one plate, the brown ones blended in with each other.  I would have liked them to be a bit more visually different, but they were tasty.  
  • These are definitely not gourmet, and they wouldn't replace my dinners on a regular basis.  However, I can see me keeping a few of these on hand in the pantry, especially the favored ones, for those busy nights, or for the Blessings to make their own lunches or snacks during the day.
  • I prefer fresh foods over pre-packaged, but as far as pre-packaged goes, these were a fairly healthy choice.
  • In the end, these were definitely a hit with my family, and we give these an overall thumbs-up.  Recommended for purchase!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Another New Family Member - Mew, mew!

Meet Aurora!

Aurora dozing on my recliner.  She looks long here, but she's just tucked up in its corner.

On Saturday we received a precious two month old kitten.  How we got her has a bit of a short story.  I got an idea in my head last year that every birthday that I had where my age ended in a zero or a five, I should get a new pet.  G mumbled some kind of acknowledgement, but I could tell he wasn't really taking me too seriously.  After all, we already had two cats and two dogs.  But...then came Cleopatra in October, and any mention of me still saying I wanted my own pet with those special birthday numbers, were quickly brushed aside by him because we now had Cleo.

Well, I justified myself by explaining that Cleopatra was in a desperate situation, and we rescued her to be a family pet.  (Never mind that she prefers me...but, of course...over everyone else!)  If you've read a certain few of my posts, you know I have OCD, and when I get something in my head, especially regarding numbers, I can't let it go. 

So, this year in January, I had that birthday that I had been warning G about.  He ignored me, simple as that, but the Blessings, well, they latched on to it.  They love the idea of having a complete kingdom of all kinds and numbers of creatures.  So, I tried to catch ferals.  I suggested we adopt a senior kitty from the shelter.  I reminded and reminded G to no avail.  Well, on Monday of last week, we ran into his niece at his sister's house, and what do you know?  She rescued a kitten that she found on the side of the street!  The kitten had a leg injury that seemed to have healed, and the niece bottle-fed it back to health.  The only thing that appeared wrong with it still was a weeping eye.  She guessed the kitten to now be two months old, and she had had it for a few weeks already.  She didn't want to keep her because she already had seven cats; she also didn't name her because she wasn't going to keep her.  She was actively looking for a home for her.

Cue everyone turning their heads to look at G.  Poor helpless, outvoted G.  One could almost feel sorry for him, the ultimate dog lover's shoulders giving way to a defeated sag, the burly face that frightens strangers on darkened streets softening under the weight of his love for his family, the heart that tries to stay hardened to the world opening up once again to a sweet little girl kitten.  Needless to say, we got her on Saturday.  And by then, he was all for it, and was reminding me to call her to let her know for sure we'd accept her.  She'll be seeing the vet for a looksie in the next couple of days.

So, the only thing that technically makes her mine is that I got to name her, and when all the kids are fighting over her, I get to say, "She's mine. Give her here."  That's pretty much it.  Oh, and I feed all the inside kitties and clean up after them (Sparkly prefers the outside most of the time.).  Yay.  The Blessings are enjoying their first kitten, and she's adjusted amazingly fast to our home and all the critters in it.  All three cats, Charlene, Sparkly and Cleopatra, are acclimating as cats do, on their own terms.  The pups are great with cats:  Abby is curious about her, but Mindy is slightly intimidated.  We are now officially outnumbered six pets to five people.  All the pets are also female, so G and JK are feeling the pinch!  So, now I technically don't have to get another pet for five more years.  Unless...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pizza for Grown-Ups

Recently I made pizza for the G, the Blessings and I again.  I used my typical pizza crust from my Quick Veggie Pizza recipe. I divided the dough in five balls, as usual, but this time for mine and G's pizzas, I decided to go for toppings that the sweet Blessings would not find appealing at all.  Not only could we indulge in spicy goodness, but it also assured us that our leftovers would be untouched by grubby, greedy littler hands.  I usually have a variety of toppings for us all to choose from, but I decided to pull out red onions and jalapenos, which I knew only G and I would have.  Whereas the Blessings top their own crusts, G just trusts my topping instincts to have me make his own.  He was delighted with the finished product.   With onions and hot peppers, at least in our home, this is definitely pizza for grown-ups!

Here's a shot of Pizza for Grown-Ups still on the baking pan after coming out of the oven.

A close up of all those delicious goodies.

Pizza for Grown-Ups



2 pkgs. or 1 and 1/2 Tbs. of active dry yeast
2 cups of warm water
4 cups of flour
1 and 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 and 1/2 Tbs. vegan or raw sugar

Grown-Up Toppings:

We used:
Organic pizza sauce
Daiya cheddar shreds

Daiya mozzarella shreds
Red onion, chopped coarsely

Sliced black olives
Mushrooms, sliced
Artichoke hearts, chopped coarsely
Pickled jalapenos, chopped small
Vegan pepperoni slices


In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let rest for ten minutes. Combine the remaining crust ingredients in a large bowl, along with the yeast mixture, and mix well. Cover bowl with a damp towel, and let rise for 30 minutes. Punch dough down and divide into five sections. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out one section of dough to about the size of a plate. Pick up and gently toss with your hands, until it's at least one and a half times its original size. Put on your baking sheet or pizza pan, and load with toppings. Bake for 20 minutes. While baking, make your next pizza. I can bake two pizzas at a time side by side; a bit of one baking sheet rests on the edge of the other, but it doesn't affect the end result. Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes before slicing. So good and easy! Feeds five hungry vegans or two vegan grown-ups and kid-friendly toppings for the rest of the gang.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Root Beer Floats!

Who says vegans can't enjoy creamy, sweet goodness? Not us!  Every now and then, I love to make root beer floats for my family.  They are so simple, it's kind of silly to post a recipe.  But, think of this as a gentle reminder or encouragement to not give up the stuff we loved as kids or before we became veggie.  Drink on!

Here is my float.  As you can see, I don't have fancy tall glasses in which to serve them, so we used our Magic Bullet mugs.  I do have the long spoons for iced tea, though, which work great for scooping out ice cream.  And, of course you gotta have the crazy straw!

Here it is again from how it looks as I'm aiming for that straw.  Mm-mmm goodness.

Root Beer Floats


Vegan vanilla ice cream - we used Soy Dream
Natural root beer soda with no corn syrup or artificial colors or flavors - we used Hansen's


In a large mug or glass, scoop two large scoops of ice cream. Top with root beer.  Wait for the fizz to die down a bit, and add some more root beer.  Enjoy with a spoon and straw.  Feeds five hungry vegans or however many you have in your home.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Puppy Dog Cake, Superhero Transformation Cake and JK's 7th Birthday!

Hello!  I thought before too much more time has passed I should put up the cakes for JK's birthday that was over the summer.  Since JK's actual birthday was on a Friday, I asked him what kind of cake he would want, and he asked for a puppy cake.  His party was the next day on Saturday, so I made him a cake that is supposed to represent the moment of transformation from an ordinary man to a superhero.  People thought I either just went crazy with the frosting and ended up with an abstract design, or politely nodded when I tried to explain what I did and that it was on purpose.  I think it looks good!  What do you think?  :-)

Both of these cakes use my White Cake with White Butter Cream Frosting  as their base, and then built from there.  They are easy and fun to make, and taste good too!

 Puppy Cake

  Side view of Puppy Cake - notice how the ears go down to the bottom layer

 Slice of that cute puppy!

 Superhero Transformation Cake - you see it, right?

 A slice of that transformation

Both cakes start with the batter for my...

White Cake:


2 and 1/2 cups cake flour
1 and 1/2 cups vegan or raw sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups soy milk 

1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. EnerG Egg Replacer
4 Tbs. water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two round cake pans with an oil spray, and lightly flour their bottoms. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream the shortening to soften it completely. In a small bowl or mug, whisk together the Egg Replacer and water. Alternate the flour mixture and the milk into the shortening, beating with a mixer on medium speed. With the last addition of milk, add the Egg Replacer mixture and the vanilla extract. Beat for three minutes, until completely smooth. Divide between the two cake pans, and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for fifteen minutes in their pans on a cooling rack. Then carefully invert the cakes out onto the rack to finish cooling.

The Frosting for both starts out as my White Butter Cream Frosting and is tweaked for each cake.  Here's the basic frosting recipe:


1/2 cup vegan margarine, room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
3 and 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbs. soy milk


When the cakes have completely cooled, prepare the frosting. In a medium bowl, cream together the margarine and salt. Starting on low speed and working up to medium, beat in the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla extract and the soy milk, and beat on medium speed for three to five minutes, until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Makes enough frosting for one double layer cake. 

For the Puppy Cake:

Extra Ingredients:

2 Tbs. cocoa
2 vegan chocolate chips
1 freeze-dried raspberry or fresh berry

Extra Directions:

Divide the frosting in half.  Mix in cocoa in one of the halves.  Spread about half the chocolate frosting onto the top of what will be the bottom layer of cake.  Add the top half.  Spread the vanilla frosting on the sides of the cake and the top, leaving space for the puppy's ears.  Spread the chocolate into two large floppy ears that extend down to the bottom layer of the cake.  Add a couple of cute eyebrows and a little dot nose.  Place the two chocolate chips as eyes and the raspberry as a tongue.  Now, you've got an adorable puppy cake!

For the Superhero Transformation Cake:

Extra Ingredients:  NOTE:  I've misplaced my actual recipe, where I noted precise measurements.  I'll guesstimate here and update when I've found the recipe, but this is pretty close.

1/4 cup freshly pureed blueberries
1 Tbs. turmeric

Extra Directions:

Divide the frosting into 2/3 and 1/3.  Leave the 2/3 vanilla, and spread the cakes as normal.  Divide the remaining third into another 2/3 and 1/3.  Mix the blueberry puree in with the smaller amount and the turmeric in with the larger.  Spread the turmeric-based frosting in creative angles and segments to represent the explosion of a person becoming a superhero; don't forget the center of the blast.  Flick the blueberry-based frosting on the cake with a fork to add to the sheer excitement of the transformation.  Behold, the blinding blast of man to hero!  Eat up.

Both cakes feed five hungry vegans for a couple of days or several babbling children at a birthday party.  Yummers!