Product Reviews

Yikes! Five months since my last update! I've actually been cooking up a bunch of new recipes, but don't have hundreds of beautiful photos to share, so the print-outs with stains and mark-ups simply languish in my junk drawer.

I had intended to write this product review in time for Christmas wish lists. But you can go ahead and mark them for now because let me tell you: you will love this USA Pan non-stick bakeware.

I learned about USA Pan at the Music City Food + Wine Festival. As I was relaxing and letting copious amounts of food settle, I struck up a conversation with a couple of their representatives. They had several pieces of the bakeware on hand and were nice enough to give me a muffin pan and a loaf pan to try out. I have to admit I was dubious; I'm not a fan of most non-stick bakeware, not least because it never seems to work.

USA Pan non-stick bakeware is different, though. First, it's heavy (and heavy-duty), which I like. But most importantly, the non-stick comes from a proprietary coating of non-toxic silicone that

actually works! Without greasing at all! There are all sorts of other reasons why these products are great, but that's the top two right there: non-toxic and really, truly non-stick. And let me tell you, I tried to make stuff stick. Corn muffins, blueberry muffins, and my banana nut bread. All popped out with no effort and no mess. Take a look:

Look at that smooth bread. I pulled it out just like that. You can still see the steam on the loaf pan. And the imprints on the bread!
Here's a cornbread muffin that also popped right out. Not even a crumb left behind.

And finally, the blueberry muffin--the ultimate test! The residue wiped right off with a damp sponge.

Even messy blueberry muffins were an easy clean-up because the residue outside the muffins just wiped right off with a damp sponge. No scrubbing and no damage to the non-stick coating.

I can't say enough good things about this bakeware. Not only is it absolutely technically fantastic, it's not expensive! Most pans cost between $10 and $30, so I'll be adding several more pieces. I hope they will soon add Bundt and tube pans to their product line. Visit their online store to see the entire product line.

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What's this? Finally, a post, but not a recipe? I have been in a real rut lately. I haven't been making anything new. A year into it, and the house is still under renovation. But! One room is completely finished! A powder room, but still. Many other rooms just need the trim painted and the windows cleaned, but both of those are still big jobs. Though the kitchen is functional, it's not finished and I don't have the time or energy to make big, elaborate meals in it. But someday!

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some of my favorite vegan items since I'm trying to eat more vegan at home.

veganfood

First up is Gardein. I don't love a lot of fake meats, but everything I've had from Gardein has been really great. Their stuffed "turk'y" was as good as the Trader Joe's and Tofurky turkeys, but I only see it around the holidays (and I believe the TJ's version is no longer available). Their mandarin chick'n is also a favorite. Gardein is easy to find in most "healthy" freezer sections. I've seen Gardein products at Kroger and Publix as well as Whole Foods. Gardein really helps a good dinner come together quickly and easily.

Next, I finally got around to trying Dandies vegan marshmallows. I didn't realize that I even missed marshmallows, but I wanted to eat the whole bag right away. I think they taste better than standard grocery store marshmallows. There's a great vanilla flavor and the texture is perfect. As far as I know, Whole Foods is the only store around Nashville that carries them.

I've already proclaimed my love for all things So Delicious*, but lately, I've discovered that I can't handle much dairy ice cream any more, so these ice creams have taken the place of my beloved Ben & Jerry's favorites. The cherry amaretto is my absolute favorite. The Coco Whip is a Cool Whip substitute and it is fantastic. It keeps well in the freezer, too. It also doesn't have that weird aftertaste (and afterfeel) that Cool Whip has. I'd recommend Coco Whip be used for any Cool Whip recipe, regardless if you're vegan or not. So Delicious products are available at most groceries, but Whole Foods has the most comprehensive selection.
(*I thought I had, but apparently not here, just on Instagram. So Delicious is...um, so delicious! All the coconut stuff as well as most of the almond products. I don't love the almond yogurt.)

The BE Hive seitan is a product that--I think--is available only in Nashville, but if you're local, I highly recommend trying it out. I mean, I could make my own seitan, but I'm not gonna. Not when I can buy really good, already-made seitan (available all around the city). I used the filets on sandwiches to simulate a roast beef, but they can be used for any chunk purpose.

uptons

Last up is Upton's Naturals jackfruits. Again, this is something I could make myself (my recipe for barbecue jackfruit is here), but I often just don't feel like going to the trouble of preparing my own. I will say that Upton's doesn't take out some of the stuff that I do when I prepare my own, so the texture is different (it's moister, for one thing), so I like my own barbecue version just a bit better. However, the chili lime carnitas version is really great. We used them for tacos. If you want to try them out, you can find them at Whole Foods. I'm looking forward to trying out their seitan, too since it comes in several flavors.

And speaking of Tofurky, I like to use the Tofurky Italian Sausage in my red beans and rice. I use the Vigo brand, which does not contain any stock (though it does list "natural flavors," which I hope is not animal-derived). It makes the meal really hearty (and helps one package become four servings).

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A friend of mine brought over some tarragon from her garden recently. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but then I remembered I’d just gotten some red new potatoes at the farmers’ market and figured if it’s good for chicken salad, surely tarragon would be good in potato salad. And it is! Tarragon has a unique flavor; similar to anise but not as reminiscent of the dreaded black jellybean. I definitely went light with it. Using a shallot instead of onion made it a milder salad, too. The fried shallot is from the international market and added a nice bit of crunch and texture.

I served this as part of a 4th of July dinner al fresco. It was also a great occasion to try out some Repurpose dinnerware I was sent recently to try. Repurpose is kinder, gentler disposable serveware; the cups, cutlery, and plates are all made exclusively from plants (corn, sugar, and bamboo with soy inks) and completely compostable. They’re also BPA-free, chlorine-free, and petroleum-free. Though not completely tested, it is believed that the limited amount of soy ink used will not create an issue with anyone with a soy allergy.

Repurpose is not just earth-friendly, they’re also really durable. The plates and cutlery are strong and the cups aren’t flimsy at all. You can definitely tell there’s something different about them, but in a good way. They’re surprisingly sturdy; they held up to a plate of this potato salad and a couple of Smart Dogs really well! Repurpose compostables are available at stores across the country (though none in Nashville) and are available online.

tarragonpotatosalad

Tarragon Potato Salad
a variation of Potato Salad with Tarragon and Shallots from Saveur
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
2 pounds red new potatoes, cut in bite-size pieces
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons red wine or apple cider vinegar
1 shallot, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup fried shallot to finish (optional)

Boil potatoes in a large pot of salted water until tender, 10–20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Once cool (room temperature), add mayonnaise, vinegar, shallots, and tarragon and stir gently to combine. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Top with fried shallot when serving.