Sunday, June 23, 2013

Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips at Tropical Smoothie Cafe!

Last month, at the Vida Vegan Conference in Portland, Oregon, I was introduced to Kedar, a representative for Beyond Meat. He happened to mention to me that there was a Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the Omaha area and that they carried Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips for sandwiches, wraps or salads! I've heard rumblings of Vegan options at Tropical Smoothie Cafes across the country, but I had no idea Omaha had one (technically it's in Papillion, but whatever.) Kedar provided me with a Vegan cheat sheet that really comes in handy once you're ready to order. It goes like this:

Vegan Breads:
Flour Tortilla
Garlic Tortilla
Ciabatta Flatbread

Vegan Sauces/Toppings:
Jerk Sauce
Thai Peanut Dressing
Buffalo Sauce
Southwest Rice

Suggested Vegan items with Beyond Meat:

Buffalo Chicken Wrap (without cheese)
Thai Chicken
Southwest Chicken (without ranch)
Hummus Veggie (without pepper jack, doesn’t normally have meat, so add Beyond Meat)

Turkey Guacamole (With Ciabatta bread instead of 9-Grain)
Build your own? (Chicken, Hummus, Guac with Lettuce & Tomato on Ciabatta)

Baja Chicken (without cheese and ranch)
Caribbean Luau (without cheese)

It also turns out that many of the smoothies are Vegan, too. They use Turbinado sugar, which is completely Vegan, plus tons of fruits and veggies. So now you can get some great food and a smoothie. My kind of fast food joint! Everything was pretty easy to order. Just remember that most things come with cheese, so just ask for no cheese and Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips in place of the chicken. Here's what I tried:

Looking at the cheat sheet, I knew I wanted the Buffalo Wrap. I love that buffalo tang and I knew it would taste great with the Chicken-Free Strips. Boy was I right, these are dynamite! Probably my favorite of the three food items I tried. For real, I could eat these everyday.

Next is the Caribbean Luau Flatbread. A very flavorful, sweet, hearty creation that's a little different than your typical sandwich fare. I have to add that the Chicken-Free Strips taste great! I believe they serve the Grilled Chicken-Free Strips. I'm not sure of their cooking method, but they are warm and delicious.

And finally we have the Hummus Veggie Wrap. Now, this wrap is normally Vegan (minus the cheese) but I tried it with and without Chicken-Free Strips (yes, I'm pretty thorough.) I loved it both ways! The strips add a lot of sustenance to the wrap, but it was also excellent without.

Unfortunately, there was only one bag of chips that were Vegan. They were Miss Vickie's Simply Salt Chips. I liked them but I would love to see more Vegan options. Hopefully Tropical Smoothie Cafe can rectify that in the future.

I also want to mention how impressed I was by the smoothies. If you follow me on twitter or know me in real life, you know I'm a sucker for shakes and smoothies. The two I tried were simply amazing: Island Green and Caribbean Carrot. They were refreshing AND came in very handy during this hot Nebraska month of June. Can't wait to try some of the other varieties!

It's always been a dream of mine for fast food restaurants to offer Vegan options. I know it happens on the coasts with Chipotle and Subway, but nothing like that ever happens in Omaha. I'm really excited and I hope people come (I'm talking to the whole city of Omaha) and try all of the different varieties of Vegan eats.

Special thanks to Kedar from Beyond Meat for telling me all about this. I was half drunk when he told me (we were at party, I'm not always drunk) and I didn't believe him. I'm so happy he was right! Find a Tropical Smoothie Cafe location near you here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella Cheese Shreds

I don't know about you, but Follow Your Heart Cheese was the first Vegan cheese that I really liked. Before that, there were numerous blocks of orange-ish clay that called themselves "cheese" but tasted like salted play-doh. Vegans at the time just accepted that Vegan cheese would taste a little funky. Follow Your Heart cheese really changed that (it melted!) and I'm forever thankful. In the last five years though, brands like Daiya and Teese have taken away some of Follow Your Heart's shine. So for me, it's exciting that Follow Your Heart has introduced three new shredded cheese products. For this review, I'm only sampling the Mozzarella, but the other two flavors are Cheddar and Fiesta Blend. And the best test for mozzarella is pizza, right? I think so!        

I've got the cheese all ready to go, but now I need a couple toppings. One of my favorite faux meats is Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausages. If you've never had it, you're missing out big time 'cause it's tasty as heck. As for a veggie topping, I'm gonna be lazy and throw some black olives on this thing. I love my black olives. In a perfect world I would have had green pepper on hand, but alas...

As you can see the cheese melted nicely. I used the broiler for a couple minutes after the pizza was done to melt whatever cheese hadn't already melted. Texture-wise, I liked it more than the recently reviewed Trader Joe's Mozzarella Style Shreds. This was thicker and more cheese-like. It doesn't have the elasticity that Daiya does, which  I don't mind, but some of you might. Taste-wise, it was richer than I thought it would be. Not as rich as Daiya, but not as mild as the Trader Joe's. It has nice mozzarella flavor, maybe a hair salty, but still good. I liked that the flavor didn't overpower the pizza, kinda like Daiya sometimes does. But even though it was a dream melted on the pizza, eaten straight out of the bag it was a little blah. And I know you might be curious, yes it does have palm oil, but thankfully it has been sustainably sourced and bears the Rainforest Alliance certified logo on the packaging.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the mozzarella and I'm excited that Follow Your Heart finally has a shredded cheese on the market. It's a nice alternative to the other Vegan shredded cheeses out there.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vega One All-In-One Nutrition Bars

New from Vega is the Vega One All-In-One Nutrition Bar. My favorite new product of 2012 was the Vega One Shake, so I was pretty excited to sample these bars. When I heard the name I assumed they would be similar to the shake, but that isn't the case. I would have loved to see a French Vanilla bar, but maybe next time!

Basically, the Vega One Bar is a chocolate covered protein bar designed for pre/during/post workout or whenever you need a shot of dense, Vegan sustenance. Vega has been kind enough to send me some bars to try out. I've been eating them after the gym and I must say they're pretty filling. So I've had a couple weeks with the bars to form my opinions. Are the Vega One Bars right for you?  

Well, I hope you like chocolate! Each of the three bars is covered in chocolate, which makes them seem a little like a candy bar. Being that they are covered in chocolate, you don't want to leave them in your car on a hot day (like I did, whoops!) The three flavor choices are: Chocolate Almond, Double Chocolate and Chocolate Cherry. Chocolate Almond has a nice almond flavor with a little bit of crunch. Double Chocolate is a chocolate lover's dream with chocolate on the inside and outside, giving it a brownie taste. Chocolate Cherry lives up to its name with dried cherries and cherry flavor in the bar. Being that all three bars are basically chocolate, the differences are subtle. My favorite is the Cherry, but any of them would be great after a workout. 

Now, you're not going to mistake these for a Go Max Go Bars, but for the amount of nutrition packed in one bar (15 grams protein, 6 grams fiber and tons of other vitamins) I think they taste pretty darn good. My only complaint would be the lack of a non-chocolate variety. So, if you are looking for a convenient shot of protein and vitamins, take a look at the Vega One Bar!


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