Feb 06

Product Review Better Bean Company

The last set of samples that I received for my EAT! Vancouver series was from my new friends atThe Better Bean Company. The lovely folks at The Better Bean Company provide us with refrigerated, ready to eat, delicious beans.  They want to add convenience to beans without having to sacrifice flavour and nutrition. As a vegan and healthy gal, I know how labour intensive dried beans can be. The soaking and boiling are crucial and can take a while but with rethought beans from The Better Bean Company you are in luck! Just open the package and voila! Awesome beans await you that:

  • all natural
  • no artificial ingredients, flavours, or preservatives
  • local, sourced from NW Farms (not to Vancouver, but it’s close!)
  • freshly prepared, not canned
  • premium ingredients such as organic beans and high oleic safflower oil
  • innovative recipes from Mexico, Cuba, Italy, Spain and France
  • outstanding flavour!

“Supporting our local food system:
We believe strongly in supporting the local food system and use Northwest farmers wherever possible.  Our Food Alliance Certified black and pinto beans come from the Washington State Central Valley.  Our Organic Red beans from the Idaho Magic Valley.  Our cold press safflower oil comes from central Oregon.  We use Northwest produce such as Washington and Oregon onions wherever possible.”

How great is that! Although not local to Vancouver, none of it has to travel far to get to us.

There are five great flavours:

  • Rethought Red Beans (mild)
  • Uncanny Refried Black Beans (medium)
  • Cuban Black Beans (mildest)
  • Three Sisters Chili (mild)
  • Wholly Chipotle Bean Dip (medium)

Now these beans were so darn good that I could barely hold onto them for long enough to make something with them. I did enjoy them in a few different ways. Firstly, I always sample the products on their own. Yum! I even just dipped crackers and chips in them. haha My favorite so far is theRethought Red Beans but I haven’t been able to get my hands on the Three Sisters Chili yet. They were all sold out when I went to pick them up with my product coupons. Here are a few ways that I enjoyed them:

My friend Barry raved about this dip. I warmed the rethought red beans then layered it with salsa, Daiya cheddar shreds, cilantro and green onion. I wanted to put a guacamole layer too but the avocado was not ripe yet.

Not a great pic but man these were yummy. I made simple nachos that were beefed up with the Cuban black beans. Woah. These beans are so good! Black beans are my fave and they go amazing well with nachos. I also used them as a dip.

This was my low carb Mexi-bowl. I basically did the same as the layered dip but add some extra greens and ate it with a spoon and a side of corn on the cob. This was one of the best lunches I’ve had in a while. OMG. These red beans are something special. I actually ate this two days in a row and couldn’t stop salivating for about an hour after eating. My new addiction.

What I really wanted to do with these beans is try them in my Mexican lasagna. I’m going to have to run out and get some more to make it as I demolished all my samples pretty fast. The uncanny refried black beans would be perfect but I think I’ll do one layer of them and one layer of the rethought red beans. Yum! Try it and let me know!

Eat better. Feel better.

Feb 06

Product Review Snackbox By Foodee

My friends over at Foodee started a new program called Snackbox. Snackbox is quite innovate, creative and on point with the current health trend that is sweeping the city. Being active and eating healthy meals is great but what can make or break us is snacking. Having healthy snacks on hand is very important in keeping a healthy lifestyle and Snackbox by Food.ee makes it so easy! It only takes three easy steps:

1. Choose your plan: Monthly plan ($33/box), Three month ($27/box) and Six month ($24/box)

2. Tell them where to send the boxes.

3. Enjoy nutritious snacks and feel better.

Pretty simple if you ask me. Snackbox takes the grunt work of finding healthy snacks out of your hands and puts it in theirs. They’re gluten free, all natural and tasty! Not only will they satisfy your sweet and savoury tooth but will also nourish you. Great features of the Snackbox are:

  • They never choose snacks that have high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, trans fats or hidden sugars.
  • No additives, preservatives,  hormones or manufactured ingredients
  • The products are mostly vegan (contain no animal products)
  • Soy free

YES! How brilliant is this? All you do is sign up and wait for your box to be shipped to your door every month. If all that hasn’t convinced you to sign up then read to the end of this post and find a coupon code! Yup. I got a coupon code for you all. How kind of generous of Food.ee.

Currently they only ship these wonderful boxes in Canada and it usually takes less than four days. Your first Snackbox will ship immediately and thereafter will ship around the 15th of the month.

The featured brands in the May Snackbox were:

  • Simply Natural Salsa – This is was super happy about as this is my FAVORITE salsa! As you may have noticed I’m uber healthy and there are SO many salsas out there that contain added sugar. Why? It is so unnecessary. Well Simply Natural Salsa does not have any added sugar and it is jammed packed full of flavour.
  • RW Garcia – These were a great new snack for me. They are all natural tortilla chip dippers that are perfectly crafted for dipping in a big bowl of salsa. They are also verified non GMO! Bonus!
  • Rebar – This lovely bar contains eight servings of fruits and veggies, is organic, gluten free and vegan. Now this is a snack bar that I can get on board with. They are also processed at low temperatures to keep the nutrients in tact so we get the optimal amount of nutrients from it.
  • Life bites – They call them Life Bites, I call them bites of heaven. Banana and chocolate are one of the best combos out there. These are little bits of banana coated in chocolate and coconut. Wow. You had me at hello. They’re also local!
  • Kind snacks – These bars are made with whole nuts, seeds and fruits that you can see and pronounce. They are a great bar to pop into your purse (or bag) to have with you at all times when you need a little snack. Great healthy alternative to Cliff bars and other sugar laden bars. If you are vegan, watch out for the honey.
  • Happy Water – This water comes from two Canadian springs and is high in lithia, potassium and magnesium which promotes a sense of well being and joy. It’s also alkaline and refreshing. The company is also from Vancouver!

My favorites: The Simply Natural Salsa for sure, but I always loved them so if I had to choose, which is pretty tough as there are so many great items in the box, would have to be the RW Garcia dippers. I loved all the seeds and the shape of them. They weren’t your typical tortilla chip. The shape is made to fit perfectly into a jar of salsa and your mouth! These dippers have some really great features that are music for my foodie ears:

  • Certified non GMO corn
  • No trans fats
  • Their organic corn is certified from seed to milling (never heard of this but yah!)
  • The spices are non-irradiated and free of artificial ingredients
  • All of their products are wheat and gluten free

The highlighted features I pulled from their website are the most important from me. They are all important but on my radar in the last year and especially last 6 months has been ensuring that I eat the highest possible organic and non GMO diet I can. Now I have been introduced to a snack that will satisfy my savory craving but won’t sacrifice my beliefs.

The Life Bites were also up there in the fave department but it’s tough. Every snack was so yummy and none of them really competed with each other as each one was so unique. It’s not like they put two types of chocolate covered fruit bites.;) I kind of devoured them before I had a chance to snap a picture so here is one from their website:

This gem from Alive and Radiant Foods is my favorite NEW find. This line is called their Veggie Krunch line and I got the Sweet Onion. I have to tell you, my first impression was not the best. It was not negative in any way. And I’m talking about my first impression from reading the bag. Although a product that is gluten free, raw and vegan are definitely characteristics that I long for, the fact that they were onion chips is what was throwing me off. But I have full and utter confidence in my Food.ee friends so I dove in head first. I gotta tell you, they were damn yummy and I am now a full fledged Veggie Krunch addict. YUM!

There were a few items in the box that were not vegan. That wasn’t a big deal to me. I just gave the non-vegan snacks to my friends and they got to try and love some new products that they had never had before. So win win all around. Currently the program is not customizable to your diet. Maybe that is in their future but I’m not sure.

Make sure you sign up to get your healthy eating on track! It’s super easy, convenient and we already know they’re healthy, so why not?

Eat better. Feel better.

Feb 05

Product Review Organika

In connection with my EAT! Vancouver review, I received a fantastic package of samples from a local company called Organika. They have a wide range of ingredients and products that are :

  • ISO 9001 certified
  • cGMP site licensed company from Health Canada
  • Is a certified organic company
  • Member of the True Label program
  • Ensures all products are NPN licensed

Well hello, that’s a whole lot of awesome in a Vancouverites backyard. Before I got the samples I actually bought one of their products for myself and for a friend for his birthday. I’m a big fan of milk thistle. It’s great for cleansing the liver and is my hangover cure. It works like a charm. When I ran out of mine, I went to Whole Foods to get a new one and noticed that Organika is organic and a local company so I snatched that up! When EAT! Vancouver let me know that Organika was sending me samples I was super excited to try some of their other products.

Product samples I received:

  • Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Coconut Aminos
  • Coconut Nectar Syrup

I definitely don’t have a sweet tooth, savoury and salty things are my kryptonite so when I saw the bottle of Coconut Aminos I was very intrigued. Being half Japanese I just can’t ever stop using soy sauce but I can limit my consumption and where possible use alternatives so that I can reduce my sodium intake. I’ve had the Braggs liquid aminos before but I think I will just stick to regular soy sauce and the coconut aminos by Organika. I love that it is low sodium and doesn’t contain any soy. It has a nice light flavour profile and when used in dishes that require a little soy sauce, adds that savouriness without changing the flavour of your dish. I kept it very simple when tasting it. I tried it on its own and then mixed it with a little quinoa or rice, nutritional yeast and sriracha. REALLY yummy! It’s a definite mainstay in my kitchen.

Now obviously coconut oil is awesome. We all know this and love it. I use it quite frequently as it is delicious and a good choice of an oil to use. I thought it would be nice to try some other uses for it other than cooking.

  • Body lotion: you only need a small amount. It rubs in very well and absorbs. Gives you a yummy smell that will make you irresistible! Especially to your pets. lol
  • Nighttime eye cream: apply a small amount to the delicate skin around your eye
  • Bodyscrub: 1/2 cup turbinado sugar and 1/4 cup coconut oil (optional 5-10 drops of essential oils). This is so lovely and natural!
  • Makeup remover
  • Lip moisturizer
  • Wound healer: put it on cuts and burns to speed healing
  • Massage oil

Love it all! I’ve never used coconut oil so much in my life. I cook with it often, but this was so much fun! You can check out tons more uses for coconut oil here and here.

The Coconut Nectar Syrup was delish! It was very similar in sweetness to agave nectar but a different flavour of course. I use agave in my cooking when I need sweetness so having another option that is more on the low glycemic side and more natural than processed white sugar is A-OK myself.

I made this old recipe of mine with all three of the products and it was a huge success!

Thai Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms:
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice (or any other whole grain)
  • 2 cloves of garlic 1 inch of galangal (can use ginger if you can’t find galangal)
  • 2 Thai red chili peppers
  • ¼ chopped onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 leaves of kale
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 2 tbsp. coconut aminos
  • Half can of reduced fat coconut milk
  • ¼ – ½ cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. coconut nectar syrup

Method:

  • Cook rice or grains according to package.
  • Clean out the inside of the mushroom and take out the stem.
  • Put carrots into food processor and pulse until finely chopped, put aside in a mixing bowl.  Perform the same process for the kale, Thai red chili peppers, garlic and galangal (my food processor is too small to do them all at once).
  • Dice onions and toss in frying pan with coconut oil.  After 2 minutes or when the onions are a little translucent, add the carrots, kale, Thai red chili peppers, garlic, coconut aminos and vegetable stock.  Cook on low/medium heat for 3 minutes and add the diced red pepper, the half can of coconut milk and coconut nectar.  Mix with the brown rice and stuff your mushrooms!
  • Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

Makes enough to stuff 4 mushrooms, but I’m usually only cooking for one or 2 so there’s tons of the veggie mixture leftover. I just mixed it all together and ate it like fried rice/Asian Jambalaya. DELISH!
Optional: -Sprinkle chopped nuts, daiya or seeds on top during the last 5 minutes of cooking. -If you like more heat add some hot sauce or chili flakes to the mixture -Would also be good in a red pepper

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture. Silly Krystle, but I have an old one.

Organika is all about quality so make sure you try their products out. I can’t wait to try more. I’m definitely going to stop by and say hello at EAT! Vancouver which is happening at BC Place on May 24-26th. You can find Organika products almost everywhere: Whole Foods, IGA, Urban Fare, Body Energy Club and many more. How could you not try them when they are such high quality and local.

Feb 04

Product Review In The Oven

In the Oven is run by two lovely ladies, Erica and Sami. They arrived in Vancouver from England in October with the idea of starting In the Oven in a vegan-friendly city. Vancouver is known for having a diverse range of cuisines from different cultures and taking care of almost every dietary restrictions possible. You can’t walk a block without running into a restaurant that has vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, raw, soy free, dairy free, etc etc etc. They chose the perfect city for their new adventure.

Erica and Sami gave me a sample of each of their 5 flavours of caramels: Lime, dark chocolate coffee, maple pecan, smoked salt and coconut.  I am quite a caramel fanatic so I was super excited to try these. Caramels are made using a variety of sugars and used in pudding, candy, ice cream, desserts, sauces and custards. Vegan caramels are really hard to come by and are considered a luxury item…by me, haha. I prefer a candy caramel, like straight up caramel or chocolate covered. The chewy, gooey goodness is what I love most about them.

It was really hard to choose a favourite. I’m actually not good at choosing my favourite for anything like movies or songs as so many are my favourite for different reasons and at different times. All of these caramels were chewy, gooey and ooey. All the characteristics of caramels that we love, these have them. Major bonus, they are vegan, gluten free and locally made! Those are magic words to my ears. After careful consideration, I declare the maple pecan as my favourite. I love the bold sweetness of the maple syrup and the crunchy, subtle flavour of the pecans. That being said, I really loved them all. I thought that I wouldn’t like the lime but I did. I didn’t think fruit would be a good addition but the tart sweetness really complimented the caramel. Quite lovely actually.

I ate one bite from each of the samples in the hopes that I would save them to have a bit or two every day till they were gone, but that didn’t happen. I put them in the fridge and only made it 10 minutes before devouring them all. So good!

Feb 03

Product Review Of Vancouver Olive Oil Company

My friends over at EAT! Vancouver contacted me to let me know that this year they are highlighting gluten free exhibitors. This is great news for myself and many other people who are gluten sensitive or celiac. They were kind enough to contact some vegan and gluten free exhibitors to send me some samples of their products for review. I love doing reviews! I’m also going to be working one day at the festival so I will get to meet all these lovely people.

Up first in a series of product reviews is olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Vancouver Olive Oil Company. The beautiful and extensive samples were hand delivered by the owner, Michaelanne. I loved that! I love meeting new people and it is great to be able to put a face to the name. I thought that was a really nice touch. It adds to my experience and already was winning me over. She also gave me a little run down on the company and how they source their oils.

Their exclusive supplier has quite the reputation for providing high quality oils since 1924. They import over 24,000 litres of oil from around the world every year! Woah! By working with a company that has such a great reputation and standards, it allows Vancouver Olive Oil Company (VOOC) to keep their own high standards. They always taste and test before they buy to ensure that they are providing the high quality oils we need and desire.

Butter olive oilProducts received:

  • Persian lime olive oil
  • Blood orange olive oil
  • Arbequina olive oil
  • Honey ginger balsamic
  • Espresso balsamic
  • Traditional balsamic

 The butter olive oil does not contain butter. It is infused with magic. lol I can’t remember what Michaelanne said they infused it with but I say magic because that’s what it is. Magical. It really does give a buttery taste. Unfortunately I could not try the Honey Ginger balsamic as I’m vegan and I don’t consume honey but I’m going to give it to my dad who’s a big foodie. He can have some fun with it and let me know what he thinks.

I did some research on how to properly taste oils and one article said you put it in a small glass, warm it in between your hands to smell it and then taste it. Then you make some recipes with it using very clean and simple ingredients. The options were basically endless. I tasted the Persian lime and the blood orange but the others I just cooked with. The espresso and the honey ginger balsamic are the only ones I haven’t tasted yet.

Peanut lime coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups unsalted raw peanuts
  • 1/2 of a medium-large cabbage
  • 1 basket of tiny cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
  • 3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4cup Persian lime olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

 Directions:

In a skillet roast the peanuts for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning, until golden and toasted.

Cut the cabbage in half and core it. The goal is to cut the cabbage into bite size pieces. Use a mandolin food slicer to shred the cabbage.  Combine the cabbage, tomatoes, jalapeno and cilantro in a bowl.  Add the Persian lime flavoured olive oil to the mixture and gently stir.  Just before serving fold in the peanuts (add them too early and they loose some of their crunch).  Taste and add more salt if needed.

I also tossed one of my usual salads with some of the blood orange olive oil and the traditional balsamic vinegar. I tasted both of these on their own before combining. The balsamic was sweet and refreshing. Actually so was the olive oil but not quite as strong.

Dinner was quite lovely!! These salads would go really great for a summer picnic or BBQ. The simplicity of the recipe and the use of such high quality, infused olive oils make the dishes ingredients really come to life.

Next up is the butter olive oil. Game changer. I did another simple dinner. I tossed a head of broccoli in the butter olive oil, paprika, sea salt and a little nutritional yeast and roasted for 40 minutes along side a acorn squash. Once cooked I scraped out and mashed the acorn squash with some of the olive oil, garlic powder and nutritional yeast. Wow. I could not believe how much you could taste this butter flavor! It was fantastic and I’m not obsessed.

It was such a pleasure to cook with such great oils and such simple recipes. It really let the natural flavors of the ingredients shine.

Check out Vancouver Olive Oil Company on West Broadway. They have a blog section of the website which has some great recipes to try out. I definitely give this company two thumbs up! The butter olive oil is my favorite. Michaelanne called it too. She said vegans go crazy for it. lol She was right!

Feb 01

Simple Kale Salad

I love salad! I’m vegan so obviously right? J I like to have a salad every day for lunch as it’s a great way to get in a ton of veggies. This salad is my go-to recipe for potlucks, side salads or the base of a meal sized salad. The tartness of the lemon and the creaminess of the avocado is always a hit!

Check it out!

Simple Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1-2 avocados
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 package alfalfa sprouts
  • 3 tbsp hemp seeds

Directions:

  1. Tear the kale off the stems, wash and chop/shred into bite sized pieces
  2. Scrape out the avocado and massage it into the kale. Once it is all mashed and coated evenly on the kale, mix in the remaining ingredients.
  3. Enjoy!

Optional additions: shredded carrots, julienned red peppers and cucumber

Kale is such a great leafy green to add to your repertoire.

  • Low calorie
  • High fiber
  • High iron and calcium
  • High vitamin A, C, K
  • Filled with antioxidants such as flavonoids and carotenoids
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Can help lower cholesterol
  • Detoxifies your body (liver especially)

I pretty much eat kale every day in my salads and sometimes in my smoothies/juices. It can be a little much in smoothies, so if you’re new to green smoothies, start with spinach.

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