Vegan Pizza at Home: Review of Parmela Creamery Mozzarella style nut cheese & American Flatbread Farmers Tomato Pie

Back in August we visited Las Vegas, where my daughter had the BEST VEGAN PIZZA EVER at Trattoria Reggiano at The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes. It tasted so much like a real cheese pizza that we suspected it might be real cheese after all. After all, my daughter had had plenty of pizzas with Daiya cheese, including from great pizzerias like Zachary’s, and they’ve always tasted like vegan pizza.

The waitress at Trattoria Reggiano had suggested that their pizza was made with nut cheese, so when we saw packages of Parmela Creamery Mozzarella style nut cheese at our local Grocery Outlet, we had to try it. My daughter is very glad we did. While it didn’t work I tried to make an Alfredo sauce with it, it makes a mean vegan pizza.

Parmela Creamery’s cheeses are made with cashew milk, which is cultured and then aged – following a process similar to dairy cheesemaking. It’s not surprising that they taste considerably better than Daiya’s cheeses, whose main ingredient is tapioca flour.

A search online suggests that it’s not easy to find Daiya cheese in stores, though there are a couple of places that sell them online, so we need to stock up at Grocery Outlet and start looking for other nut cheeses to try. When available, a 7 oz package of Parmela Creamery shreds costs $6-7.

My daughter has been making her close-to-real pizzas by putting the cheese on frozen American Flatbread Farmers Tomato Pie. This is a thin pizza shell covered in tomato sauce with some veggies, basil and balsamic vinegar. She just covers it with the shreds and bakes it. I also found this product at Grocery Outlet, but it also seems hard to find in regular stores. Where available it should retail for about $8. I’m not sure why this product is not described as vegan – the only potentially non-vegan ingredient listed is yeast.


Review: Margherita Italian-Style Meat Trio Panini

I found this frozen sandwich at Grocery Outlet for $2 and decided to give it a try. It was actually pretty tasty, though a little too heavy on the meats, which made it a bit salty for my taste. I microwaved it, so the panini was soft, but it was a pleasant doughy-chewy consistency. It’s not a huge bite, but it’s good for an easy snack.


Trader Joe’s Frozen Foods

We did a major Trader Joe’s shopping trip yesterday, and I got quite a lot of frozen items to try. I haven’t been into cooking for months now, and I don’t see the muse hitting me any time soon. So frozen food it is.  I thought I’d share my opinions of what I’ve gotten.  I’ll be adding them here as they go.

tjtrufflebread

Mushroom & Black Truffle Flatbread with Mozarella Cheese

This had a real truffle flavor.  If you like truffles, this is the flatbread for you.  I do, so I’ll be buying more. I think it was $3.

tjpadthai

Vegetable Pad Thai

Mika complained that it was spicy and didn’t taste like pad-thai, but she did eat it.


Lightlife Crispy Gold’n Chik’n Nuggets Review

My 12-yo vegetarian child has been pretty reluctant to try vegetarian frozen entrees. She’s particularly offended by fake meats.  She’s a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and she doesn’t see the point in eating fake animals.  But she probably was tired of eating pasta, so she gave this entree a try.  She was underwhelmed.  She said the chik’n nuggets tasted mostly of potato, but they lacked flavor altogether. They were edible but not enjoyable. She wouldn’t have them again, but she’d eat them if there was nothing else around.

 


Jimmy Dean Frozen foods

grilled-steajimmyI’m once again in a funk about cooking, so I’m back at eating frozen meals from time to time.  Grocery Outlet is now carrying the Jimmy Dean Delights brand, which I hadn’t seen before.  It’s pretty much just like every other frozen food brand – forgettable.

I had their pulled pork sandwiches in chipotle bbq sauce. An acceptable snack for $1.50, but with too much bread to meat ratio. The pork is pretty much a paste (not chunks as in the promotional photo), and the sauce tastes like your generic tangy/sweet bbq sauce.

My vegetarian oldest was OK with the three cheese pasta bowl, but she’s not that demanding.  The grilled steak bowl was edible but unmemorable.  The photos on the boxes definitely look better than the real thing tastes.


Trader Joe’s Classic Lemon Bars

Lemon-BarsI got these to serve as the last course of my 13-course Xmas Eve dinner and they were perfect.  Indeed, these were very good lemon bars overall. They come frozen, and the curd is perhaps more cream-like and less sticky than that of a regular lemon bar, but it had the right degree of balance between sweetness and sourness, and they were the perfect size for an after dinner bite.  All in all very satisfying for anyone who likes lemon bars.


Ciao Bella Blood Orange Sorbet

CB_bloodorg_lgI have a pretty nasty cold, so I only want to eat things which are smooth going down my throat and so flavorful that I can taste them despite my stuffed nose.  Ciao Bella blood orange sorbet fit the bill perfectly.

Of course, I can’t tell you how someone that has their 5 senses would experience it, but to me it was delicious.  The sorbet had a strong orange flavor, with some welcome bitter undertones.  It was very creamy and smooth.

They have these at Grocery Outlet here in San Leandro for $2 now, and I think I’ll stock up.


Soul Indian Wraps – Review

soul_butter_chkn_3dIf you’re tired of having the same old frozen burrito for lunch, Soul’s Indian wraps provide a reasonable alternative.  They have four flavors, butter chicken, chicken vindaloo, chicken tikka masala and vegetable curry.  I’ve tasted the three chicken ones, and I can’t say I could really distinguish their flavor. They all tasted like mildly spicy generic chicken curries, acceptable but not exciting. Of the four choices, the tikka masala has slightly less calories/fat (370 c/11 g. fat) than the others, so that may be your best choice.  The vegetable curry, which I haven’t tried, has the greatest fat content.

The wraps were about $1.50 at Grocery Outlet and they cook in the microwave in about 3 minutes (you have to turn it half way).


Johnsonville Smoked Brat in a soft baked roll – Product review

This is yet another frozen product that no business tasting as good as it does.  I’m not the biggest fan of hotdogs in the first place, but these smoked bratwursts are quite good.  The smoked flavor really comes through, and the bun is soft and tasty. And they’re cheap (85c. each at Grocery Outlet) and microwaveable – ready in 90-seconds.

Now, for the bad part.  The brats-in-the-bun are actually quite small, each sausage only weighs 2.67 oz (5 oz when you include the bun).  And they are *very* fattening and salty.  Each sandwich has 420 calories and 23! grams of fat.  Moreover, each sandwich has 41% of your daily allowance of sodium.

In all, these are a tasty snack to have once in a while, but too dangerous to keep at home.


Contessa frozen “On the Stove” meals – Product Review

For the last month or so, Grocery Outlet has been carrying three of Contessa’s frozen “On the Stove” meals ($4), out of the 20 or so that Contessa makes: Orange Beef, Crispy Pork with Tangerine Sauce and Crispy Chicken with General Tsao Sauce.  I’ve finally tried them all and while I really like the Orange Beef, the other two are not nearly as good.

These meals consist of a package with four different components: a bag of  white rice, a small bag of meat, another bag of sauce, and frozen vegetables .   To prepare, you stir fry the meat  for 5 minutes or so, add the veggies for another 3-4 minutes and then the sauce for 30 seconds.  You microwave the rice for 3 minutes, put it all altogether and you are done.  Note that there is too much rice for the amount of meat/vegetables/sauce included – I ended up discarding about 1/3 of it.

One package is supposed to have two and a half 1-cup servings.  Now, if you are a child or on your deathbed maybe 1 cup of food (mostly rice) may satisfy your hunger.  Personally, I’d say it serves one adult – maybe you could share it with a younger child, but not more.

Now, as for the food itself.  The meats were generally good, tasty and tender, and they brown nicely.  The rice is as what you could expect from something that comes from a bag.  The sauces were generally good; I particularly liked the orange sauce that came with the beef, it was dark and intense and not overly sweet.  The General Tsao sauce was a bit too spicy for me, but it was still pretty good.

Where the problems come are with the vegetables.  The orange beef came with onions, leeks and red peppers and these were all very nice, they kept their flavor and went well with the sauce.  The tangerine pork, OTOH, came with onions, water chestnuts, carrots and scallions and these were less than tasty.  I actually disliked the bell peppers, carrots and water chestnuts that came with the chicken, they had such an “off” taste that I couldn’t make myself eat them.

In all, I’d say that the orange beef is restaurant quality (well, Chinese restaurant quality) and I would definitely buy it again (and have).  I wouldn’t say the same about the other two meals.  If GO offered other flavors, I would probably try them as well.

I hadn’t been able to figure out how much these meals sell in regular supermarkets – perhaps they don’t have much distribution yet -, but I definitely wouldn’t pay more than $4.