4

Blendtec Blender Review

(image from blendtec.com)

I’ve had my Blendtec blender for quite a few years now so I figure it’s about time I did a review.

I think I bought my Blendtec back in mid 2012. I bought it from an Australian distributor for around $750 all up, and that was the sale price. I remember really, REALLY wanting a power blender and preferring this over a Vitamix due to price at the time, and reviews I’d read. After I made the payment online, I felt pretty sick at how much money I’d just spent, but you know, I had heaps of plans to use it. And before that I’d had two other blenders, each around $100 which were not only crappy but they also stopped working and weren’t able to be repaired.

I use the Blendtec all the time, so it’s pretty much paid itself off. I average about one use a day, other days I might use it three times depending on what I’m making. On the whole I love my Blendtec and don’t regret buying it at all. In warmer weather I use it pretty much every morning for a smoothie. I rarely make breakfast and first thing in the morning I want something as quick as possible, so it’s usually a smoothie.

The one major gripe I had was that I’d made a smoothie once and there was a smell. A nasty burning smell. My smoothie also had little bits of weird stuff in it. I couldn’t work it out, I checked the blender jug, thinking I might have left something in it without realising before pouring the ingredients in. I put the blender on again and it started smoking from under the jug. Turns out the rubber seal at the bottom had come away somehow and so the burning rubber smell and smoke was coming out of the hole you slot the jug in to. The seal was being blended up too.

Blendtec couldn’t help me with a replacement jug as I’d purchased from an Australian distributor (I don’t think Blendtec were in Australia at the time, like they are now). So I contacted the distributor, who was extremely helpful, and I had to package up the jug and post it to Queensland for someone to repair it. But the jug was beyond repair so I had to buy a replacement for the special sale price of about $240. This was the larger four sided jug. My warranty had run out a couple months before. Argh! I’d also followed the care instructions, so I was pretty unimpressed this happened and that Blendtec couldn’t help.

It’s been all good since then. Here’s what I use the blender for the most:

  • smoothies (nuts and veggies blend fantastically well)
  • juices (well, water based runny smoothies really)
  • pureeing cooked veg like sweet potato
  • pureeing soups and sauces
  • frozen fruit nice cream
  • cashew cream
  • making oat flour and other flours such as buckwheat
  • vegan nut based cheeses

The only thing that bugs me is when I make nice cream with frozen fruits, always banana and whatever else. I have to constantly stop and scrape everything because the blades do that thing where they just spin around but the food is stuck around the sides. I get there in the end though as the fruit softens, or sometimes I have to add a splash of liquid to get everything moving.

Because the blade is a little high up from the base of the jug, I can’t make half batches of a lot of recipes like cashew cheese because the food gets stuck under the blades to the base of the jug. I don’t always want to be making a full or double batch of something just to get the blades spinning properly, particularly if I’m not likely to eat the food myself over the next few days.

I mostly make smoothies and throw in some cooked veg too such as broccoli with my overripe-banana smoothies. It all blends perfectly for me, with no obvious bits.

In the past I have made my own chickpea flour. I know the Blendtec can handle it, you just have to watch some Will It Blend? videos on YouTube to see how powerful this blender is. But it’s just easier to buy chickpea flour and save any wear on the blades. And the noise is pretty horrible too when you’re grinding chickpeas, it’s like gravel.

There’s just so much you can do with the Blendtec. I don’t know how it compares to other power blenders like a Vitamix or the Ninja thingy I always saw on infomercials. I mostly use the smoothie cycle function. There are quite a few speed/power levels and pre-programmed cycles go for a set time limit, using varying speeds. The whole juice cycle option is a good example of this, in fact when I showed some relatives how to make a juice they thought the blender was malfunctioning and about to explode.

I have the thick recipe booklet that came with the blender but I’ve never used it. There are recipes for bread and one of the cycles is for kneading dough but I’ve never tried it. I might put it to the test one day as I’m sceptical about kneading dough in a blender!

For special occasions where I’m preparing foods, I might use the blender many times in a few hours depending on what I’m making. For some things like nut butters I prefer to use my food processor. Overall though I love my Blendtec and it’s quite likely on my list of stuff to take out of a burning house.

 

I’d definitely recommend a Blendtec but as I said I don’t know how it compares to other brands. I know people who prefer Blendtec over Vitamix and vice versa. If mine exploded tomorrow I would probably see if I could trial another blender for free first to be completely certain, but I suspect I would end up with another Blendtec.

Blendtec Australia currently has the blender online for $913. Even typing that price freaks me out, I keep coming back to “$913 for a BLENDER???” So yeah, I’d probably trial something cheaper first. When I told people how much mine cost they understandably couldn’t believe anyone would spend that much on a blender so I had to point out it’s not a regular cheapy style simple blender, it’s a full on power blender and not like a $50 Breville.

All I can say is that my Blendtec is an integral part of my food prep and diet, in fact as soon as I post this I’m going off to make a smoothie with some ice 🙂

12

Product Review: Mrs Monagle’s Ethical Fine Food

mrs monagles souvlaki

Mrs Monagle’s Ethical Fine Food first came to my attention through Rosalie of Quinces and Kale. Rosalie wrote about some fantastic food she’d tried, made locally (ish!) in Kyneton, Victoria. Aaaand when I saw that souvlaki was involved, I knew I had to try it FAST.

Based in Kyneton, you can either pick up your meals or use a Coburg area drop off point. This worked brilliantly for me as I don’t drive and Coburg is convenient for me to get to.

Rissy of Mrs Monagle’s pins up a seasonal menu on the business’s Facebook page, which you can find here. Wow, decisions decisions… I knew I had to get the souvlaki and just that week there was a souvlaki special. Win!

Okay, here’s what I got. I’ll tell you from now that this is indeed fantastic food and I loved everything.

So first up, the souvlaki! Seitan chunks perfectly flavoured and grilled on skewers. I followed the reheating instructions (warm in the oven) so meal prep was super easy. I absolutely loved the almond feta that came with the souvlaki. In fact, I ate half of it before it even made it to souvlaki stage. A round pita is also provided and was warmed in a frying pan. There was a small container of tzaziki sauce too, with a good amount of garlic 🙂  I had bought tomatoes and cucumber the day before but decided against salad greens because of that recent salmonella-on-greens sitch here in Melbourne (and my veggie garden isn’t a happening thing just yet). Two skewers worth are shown in the photos:

mrs monagles souvlaki

RAVIOLI YOU GUYS!!! I have had vegan ravioli before from two brands, but pre-packaged from the freezer section. I didn’t like either and ever since I’ve been looking for another ravioli to try. I’ve never got around to making my own but when I saw Mrs Monagle’s had two varieties, I ordered both without hesitation. First I tried the pumpkin ravioli. Wow, this was so good! The pumpkin ravioli I’ve had before (vegan and pre-vegan) has often been kinda bland and tasteless. The Mrs Monagle’s pumpkin ravioli was very flavourful and I really enjoyed it.

mrs monagles pumpkin ravioli

Whoops, just reading the printed info from Mrs Monagle’s here and just saw the sage-pine nut butter was supposed to be put in a pan and then drizzled over the pasta. I just put a dollop of it on the plate. For the next batch I’ll follow the instructions. Regardless, it still tasted great!

mrs monagles sage butter

Next up, the olive cashew cheese ravioli. These are freaking fantastic. I’m a very fussy filled-pasta person and these are by far the best I’ve tried, anywhere anytime. Loved it loved loved it. You also get some tomato jus to go with your ravioli.

mrs monagles cashew cheese ravioli

 

The sausages you see there are the fennel sausages on the menu and come with a small container of tomato relish per serving. I love fennel and these were certainly nice and fennely! I opted to slice mine and pan fry and they went really well with both flavours of the ravioli.

This was all thoroughly enjoyable food and I would gladly order from Mrs Monagle’s again. All ingredients are either from Rissy’s garden or sourced from local farmers markets. All foods are freshly made but can be frozen. I cook the ravioli straight from the freezer.

The current spring/summer all-vegan menu also includes malai kofta, vegetable dumplings, cheesy risotto, eggplant cashew ricotta lasagna, layered veg lasagna stack, black sesame veggie burgers with wasabi sour cream dressing, spinach almond feta pie, chicken style seitan curry. Little extras include almond feta, sundried tomato green pepper garlic cheese, smoked cheddar, nutella. For sweet treats there are chocolate chip cookies and vanilla slice slab. Ha, I was so tempted to order the slab but I knew I’d pretty much eat nothing else for two days so I let it go for now.

Mrs Monagle’s also provides a catering service for dinner party type foods and smaller events. More info can be found at the Mrs Monagle’s Facebook page, including prices and delivery/pickup information.

One measurement I apply to food is how much it inspires me to step up my own efforts in the kitchen. When I eat something then spend time later thinking about what I can do, or how I can replicate it, then I know it’s really good food. The ravioli in particular have inspired me to give it a go myself and to break out the pasta roller I insisted I MUST get years ago (it’s still in the box… aaaand the ravioli cutter is still lost in the utensils drawer somewhere).

All up, this is excellent food and I happily recommend you stuff your face with it.

6

Review of the Latest Gardein Products to Hit Australia

Gardein Meatless Meatballs

There was a fair bit of excitement when Gardein products finally landed in Australia and we were able to get a repeat of that excitement when more products began shipping here. My review of the first batch of Gardein products was quite favourable and these new products are pretty tasty too. First up, the Meatless Meatballs. The packet instructions suggest you place the meatballs in your favourite pasta sauce, so that’s exactly what I did, though because I already had the oven on I decided to cook them (in the oven) first to get nice and brown. I made another pasta meal without cooking the meatballs first (I cooked them in the pasta sauce) and they were fine. The photo above shows my homemade pasta sauce which is made with tomatoes, roasted red capsicum and sundried tomatoes. I really liked the meatballs with this sauce and would happily eat them in a sub kind of sandwich or wrap next time.

Next up, the Crabless Cakes. I’ve never had a non-vegan crab cake but I was assured by a former crab cake eater that these do taste like crab cakes and are a great animal-free alternative. I’m happy to believe that, because they had that fishy flavour, with a little spicy flavouring too.

Gardein Crabless Cakes

The Sweet and Sour Porkless Bites had that exact same taste and texture that you find in non-vegan sweet and sour pork dishes. I used to order that now and then from Chinese restaurants in the past and this vegan version did not disappoint. I stir fried some vegetables and served this over rice. I tried to be a little more imaginative but really, this is the way to serve this dish!

Gardein Sweet and Sour Porkless Bites

For the Sweet and Tangy BBQ Wings, I wanted to have them in a wrap with something fruity on the side. I was a bit too lazy to make a proper nectarine salsa, so I just cooked up some brown rice quinoa mix and a red onion, and had it in a wrap with leafy greens and sliced nectarine. I like anything smoky flavoured, so I enjoyed this. If you’re a fan of BBQ style pizzas with those smoky toppings, give these a go:

Gardein Sweet and Tangy BBQ Wings

The final product I tried was the Beefless Ground. This is pretty much your vegan ground beef/mince meat alternative. I had wanted to experiment with a vegan version of my Mum’s moussaka, so I used the mince here and added some brown lentils to bulk it up a bit more. The Beefless Ground is easy to cook with and is already flavoured, so I didn’t add much to it. It’s on the sweet side which I don’t think worked that well in a moussaka but might do better in a lasagna. I’m not used to my bolognese style sauces being sweet and in the 90s when I traveled to the US and Canada, I was surprised that every meat sauce I tried (in restaurants or store bought) was sweet! Still, I liked the flavour though because it is on the sweet side, I would be quite picky about how to use it.

Gardein Beefless Ground in moussaka

 

If you’d like to see where Gardein products are stocked near you in Australia, check out the Gardein Australia Facebook page. In Australia, the distributor is Plant-Based Foods. Check out Plant-Based Foods’ website to see what other products they stock.

* Disclaimer: These products were sent to me for review purposes: thank you to Plant-Based Foods. All opinions are my own and I receive no compensation– I will only recommend products I am genuinely happy with!

25

Giveaway: The Chocolate Yogi And Bonus Recipes! Raw Cherry Choc Brownie and Lumberjack Style Parfait

 

*This giveaway is now closed*

The Chocolate Yogi chocolate bars

I first tried The Chocolate Yogi chocolate at last year’s Vegan Day Out here in Melbourne. The Chocolate Yogi were handing out samples at The Cruelty Free Shop and I might have had three samples… of each flavour. In my defense I did buy some bars because it was the best raw organic vegan chocolate I’d ever tried! I’ve since bought bars of this beautiful chocolate for gifts, though there maaaay poooossibly have been this one time where the chocolate I bought as gifts for someone ended up being a gift for my mouth that day.

The Chocolate Yogi team are Malindi and Ed who hand make their chocolate north of Sydney. Each bar is stone ground from bean to the final chocolate bar form and free from dairy, soy, gluten and white cane sugar. Some of the bars are also caffeine and theobromine free. The Chocolate Yogi website states “we see our chocolate as a bridge for those who want to break away from conventional chocolate (which can be quite a tough habit to break!) towards healthier wholefood versions of their favourite treats”.

For this reason, Malindi and Ed have created a series of familiar, classic flavours such as Creamy Mylk (I believe it’s as close to traditional non-vegan milk chocolate as you can get, with the added bonus of being raw, organic and downright delicious!); Deep Dark with 64% cacao solids from single origin Criollo beans; Frothy Toffee (my favourite) which is slightly sweeter with a lovely toffee flavour, and Deep Mint which is infused with peppermint oil.

The flavours listed under the premium range include Cherry Coconut with its soft centre surprise (the cherries are sweetened with organic apple juice); Dreamy Chai flavoured with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and black peppercorns, and Salty Caramel which is a mylk chocolate bar filled with a lovely soft caramel centre made with cashews, maple syrup and coconut oil.

The Chocolate Yogi work with ethical traders who have direct relationships with the cacao growers. Suppliers take care to wash and sanitise the cacao beans with citrus based sanitisers. The beans are then quality tested and hand sorted before being made in to the final product.

The ingredients are pretty delicious too– evaporated coconut nectar, raw coconut, raw lucuma, raw cacao, vanilla and infusions of cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger, cardamom, black peppercorns and cloves.

The Chocolate Yogi kindly sent me all their flavours to review and to use in recipe creation. Challenge accepted! I loved the Frothy Toffee flavour so much I knew I had to use that first.

Lately I’ve been a bit obsessed with Lumberjack cake. Not the actual cake itself but more what I can do with the ingredients. My mum’s old recipe has the apples and dates, with a lovely topping of coconut and almonds. I love the blend of caramel or toffee flavours with apple, so my first recipe is a layered apple parfait style dessert (or breakfast!) with The Chocolate Yogi Frothy Toffee cashew cream swirl, topped with toasted almonds, coconut and more Frothy Toffee.

I wanted to keep the chocolate in a raw state so on Malindi’s advice, I very gently melted the chocolate in a bowl over some hot water. This keeps the temperate of the chocolate in the ‘raw’ category. You can make this recipe 100% raw if you like by keeping the apples raw and the almonds and coconut untoasted.

Lumberjack Cake inspired parfait with Chocolate Yogi

Lumberjack Style Parfait with Cashew Cream and Chocolate Yogi Frothy Toffee

Serves 2

For the apple layer: Peel, core and thinly slice two large apples (I used Granny Smith). Place them in a saucepan with a splash of water and a pinch of cinnamon. Cover with a lid and gently simmer until the apples have softened. Remove from heat.

For the topping: Put 1/4 cup of slivered almonds and 1/4 cup of shredded coconut in a frying pan while your apples are stewing. Toast gently until browned. Take your bar of Chocolate Yogi Frothy Toffee and keep one piece aside for decoration if you like. Gently melt the bar in a bowl over hot water. When the chocolate has melted, stir in the toasted almonds and coconut but leave about a tablespoon of melted chocolate aside for the cashew cream swirl.

For the cashew cream swirl: simply swirl a tablespoon of the melted chocolate through a cup (or less if you prefer) of cashew cream. Don’t overmix, you want to keep a swirled effect.

Layer your parfait by placing a layer of the apple, a layer of cashew cream, another layer of apple, more cashew cream then finally the Frothy Toffee almond coconut topping. If you’ve kept a piece of the chocolate bar aside, cut it in to little pieces and sprinkle it on the top. Serve warm if you can!

You can also mix some finely chopped dates through the cashew cream too if you want things a little sweeter.

Note: there are lots of cashew cream recipes online and some recommend soaking your cashews though it can also depend on your blender. I have a power blender so I don’t need to soak. I use one cup of raw broken cashews (these are the cheapest) and whiz them up with a little maple syrup and a tiny splash of water if I find the mixture isn’t blending well. You may have to keep stopping your blender to scrape the sides down a bit. Alternatively try a vegan yoghurt like coconut, or coconut and almond!

Lumberjack Cake inspired parfait with Chocolate Yogi

The flavours of The Chocolate Yogi chocolate bars are so good that I wanted to make something else, this time completely raw. I’m really happy with what I came up with: I’m calling it Raw Macadamia Choc Cherry Chocolate Yogi Brownie with Cherry and Raspberry Coulis. I wanted to use ingredients with a bit of an Australian feel so as well as macadamias, I’ve used olida (also known as forestberry herb or strawberry gum) which is a native Australian plant. Olida has a kind of berry-ish passionfruit flavour and I like to use a little to enhance the flavour of the cherries and the berries, though it’s completely optional in the recipe as it’s not that easy to find! You can find olida at some online stores that sell native Australian herbs and spices. From my reading, olida is best used in recipes that are not subjected to high temperatures so I thought it would be perfect in this raw dessert!

Raw cherry chocolate macadamia brownie with Chocolate Yogi

Raw Macadamia Choc Cherry Chocolate Yogi Brownie with Raw Cherry and Raspberry Coulis

Serves 4 to 8 (depending on the size of your cookie cutters, and how much of the mixture you eat!)

The olida (forestberry/strawberry gum) is optional!

For the brownies:

Put one cup of macadamia nuts, 1/4 cup cacao powder and 1/4 teaspoon ground olida in a food processor and pulse until the macadamias are broken down in to small bits. Stop the motor and add 1/4 cup dried cherries and one roughly chopped bar (watch out for the soft insides!) of Chocolate Yogi Cherry Coconut. Pulse until the chocolate and cherries have been chopped up and incorporated with the macadamias. The mixture should hold together when pinched.

Tip the mixture out of the bowl and on to a surface you can use a cookie cutter on (I used a wooden chopping board). Pat the mixture in to a disc about 1.5cm to 2cm thick, then use a cookie cutter of your choice to cut out as many shapes as you can. Put your cut out brownie shapes in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the coulis.

For the coulis:

Put one cup of pitted cherries and one cup of raspberries (both defrosted if frozen) in a blender along with 1/4 teaspoon of olida. Blend to a smooth puree, then push the coulis mixture through a strainer to get rid of little gritty bits. I prefer the sweetness of the fruit alone but add some of your own sweetener before pureeing if you like.

To serve, place a brownie shape on a plate and drizzle over the coulis.

Raw cherry chocolate macadamia brownie with Chocolate Yogi

*This giveaway is now closed*

GIVEAWAY TIME! Australian readers only sorry!

The Chocolate Yogi are offering one lucky Veganopoulous reader a choice of five bars of their chocolate! To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below. You must leave a comment telling me what five flavours of The Chocolate Yogi chocolate you’d like to try. You can check out the flavours at http://www.thechocolateyogi.com.au/collections/all This giveaway will end on December 17th at 12:00am. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: The Chocolate Yogi sent me their chocolate to review. All opinions are my own and I only recommend products I really like. And I LOVE this chocolate!

 

14

Review And Giveaway: The Plant-Based Journey By Lani Muelrath

* This giveaway has now closed *

This review includes a giveaway for readers in the US and Canada. Please read on!

The Plant-Based Journey Book Cover

I’m very happy to be a stop on the blog tour for Lani Muelrath’s latest book, The Plant-Based Journey. Lani is an award winning teacher, speaker and mindful living and plant based lifestyle coach. Lani’s website and blog are great– I especially like her blog entries focusing on animals and her travels!

Lani appeared on CBS TV recently and you can catch the five minute segment here:

http://lanimuelrath.com/lani-muelrath-on-cbs-tv-five-fast-ways-to-plantify-your-plate-video/

My own vegan journey began nearly four years ago primarily for health reasons. I’d been stocking up on the animal protein when I was weight training as I believed, like many, that I needed a meat and egg filled diet to increase my muscle mass. My friend and trainer was vegan and pointed out the benefits of plant based eating and suggested some resources to read. Soon after reading those resources, I made the decision to stop eating animal products.

Since then, I’ve always been on the lookout for new resources I can recommend and pass on to people to help encourage them to make the shift to plant based living. Similarly, I look for resources that vegans and plant based dieters can use too if they feel their diet habits need improvement, especially with moving towards including more whole foods. Lani’s book is a great source of information that I happily reach for to share with others and to give myself a refresher course.

The Plant-Based Journey is subtitled A Step-by-Step Guide for Transitioning to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight. The sections in the book are laid out in a very user friendly way and present information in an easy to understand manner that helps you both begin and maintain a plant based journey of your own. Lani mentions that when people seek out her help for moving to a plant based diet, she finds they need help with setting up their kitchen but also with giving consideration to their previous ways of thinking and eating. I see this echoed all the time in conversations I have, or exchanges I read online and there are many stories of people who did try but felt information-overloaded or they had a lot of the knowledge ready to be put in to action but didn’t know how to put it all in motion! I particularly liked the chapter on navigating social and family situations and encouraging children to get on board, a challenge I face in my home from time to time.

Lani is also known for her fitness education work and she includes an informative chapter on the importance of physical movement. Lani also writes about mastering strength of mind and building the foundations to support you mentally on your plant based journey. There are reader stories throughout the book too.

There’s a recipe section, with some of the recipes being more for quick meals that you can get on the table in around ten minutes (those recipes are marked with a symbol). The recipes don’t have photos and that’s fine with me as this is an educational, information sharing resource and not a cookbook in the traditional sense. I’ve made a few of the recipes, first up the Pumpkin Muffins. These are oil free and sweetened with dates, raisins and applesauce. We took these outside and enjoyed them with some stewed rhubarb and apple ‘jam’ (I often call home made sugar-free stewed fruit ‘jam’, works in my house!). I swapped the flour for a combination of wholemeal spelt and wholemeal flour (the recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour, which I don’t believe we can get here in Australia):

The Plant-Based Journey pumpkin muffins

l love love love these Lime Chipotle Chickpeas. They’re my new favourite way of eating chickpeas. I made the roasting option but forgot to drain off the marinade. Which didn’t bother me one bit because it’s all delicious! I made some corn tortillas and anticipate this being on regular rotation for me:

The Plant-Based Journey lime chipotle chickpeas

I also made the Portobello Pot Roast, using home made vegetable stock instead of the stated wine. This was really tasty and a great way of using up those mushrooms which I always buy with good intention but kinda forget about!

This is the kind of book I would have loved to have available when I became vegan. I often hear people say things like “I’d like to go plant based but it seems too hard”. My personal experience is that it isn’t hard at all, so I think Lani’s book is incredibly useful for people who need a bit of guidance and the confidence with making the switch.

If you would like to catch up with the previous stops on the blog book tour, here they are:

ThePlant-BasedJourney_BlogTourSchedule

* This giveaway has now closed *

Thanks to BenBella books for having me as a stop on the book tour and for providing a hard copy of The Plant-Based Journey for a giveaway! This giveaway is for readers in the US and Canada.

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below telling me your favourite quick and easy way of upping the veggie content in your meals– or do you drink your veggies in smoothie/juice form like me?!

The giveaway runs for two weeks and will end on October 14th at 23:59 AEST.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of The Plant-Based Journey from BenBella Books. All opinions are my own and I happily recommend this book to you!