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  1. Friday, March 22, 2019

    Plant-Based Eating Hack #2: Finding Milk Alternatives…with a little help from your friends!

    Time for another plant-based eating hack, don’t you think? Okay, so, you want to start replacing dairy with more plant-based options. And starting with milk seems like a good idea. But then you go to the store and THERE ARE SO MANY MILK ALTERNATIVES that your head starts spinning, you grab your usual gallon of milk, and walk away in a cold sweat. Here’s the thing, finding milk alternatives is kind of hard for a few reasons. First, there are just so many to choose from. Second, if you do buy one and then hate it, suddenly you have a whole carton of “milk” that either you suffer through or end up wasting. Today I have a suggestion for finding milk alternatives that is not only helpful but fun. Gather your friends and do a milk tasting together!

    Alternative milk tasting party with friends in a kitchen

    Last week I hosted an evening with a group of friends and coordinated a milk tasting. I created a sign-up list with around 10 different types of milk alternatives. We all pitched in, brought one to share, then held a tasting. My friend Laura kept notes on people’s reactions to each product and we discussed our thoughts at the end of the night. We other delicious foods, too, much of it vegan and all of it vegetarian. Plant-based goodness galore!

    10 milk alternatives set up for a milk tasting party

    I wish that I could tell you there was consensus and that XX milk is the best one, but there wasn’t! Everyone’s tastes were very different and every single type of milk we tried had people who loved it and hated it. Which is why the milk tasting party became even more genius once we were actually doing it – since we do all have different tastes, it was really awesome to get together and try out so many different milks at once. We could figure out what works for our own tastes then go home and just buy that type of “milk” from now on. Plus, people could take home the carton of milk that was their favorite, leading to less waste!

    Line up of 10 different milk alternatives

    Even though we didn’t have strong consensus on the products we tried, I do think it’s worth sharing Laura’s notes. We tested the unsweetened versions of each “milk” since we were looking for a cow’s milk alternative for multiple uses. I neglected to put pea protein milk on the list, which I’m regretting because that one is supposed to be great. I’ll have to try it on my own (wah-waaaah). Take all these comments with a grain of salt because, as you’ll notice, many of them contradict one another. That might be the most surprising outcome of the night was how different we all taste things! Please note that where it says “my” or “I” in the comments below, those are quotes from my friends. Only the comments italicized and in orange are my personal opinion.

    • Hemp: favorite, I drink it every day; neutral flavor; can taste plant base; chalky; bland; watery; grainy
    • Flax: silkier; creamier; good texture; watery; neutral flavor; my new favorite
    • Oat: smooth; sweet; closest to milk; thicker; best so far (Jane note: oat is my personal favorite and what I use daily – I think oat milk had the highest approval rating of the night! Note: Most oat “milks” taste great, but the brand Pacific Organic is awful, do not buy that one!)
    • Coconut: watery; dirty water; bad after taste (Jane note: I don’t love coconut milk that comes in a carton, and some canned coconut milks have a weird flavor to me. That said, Thai Kitchen’s canned coconut milk is FANTASTIC and that is what I use in oatmeal, coffee and for cooking.)
    • Macadamia: texture is good; bland; watery, like skim milk; really good
    • Almond: tastes like almonds; refreshing; fresh; good; fabulous (Jane note: my friend Chelsea made her almond milk from scratch, which is why it was so freaking awesome, but if you find a good brand I think the comments would still apply!)
    • Cashew: tastes cashew-y; good texture; sour; good but not great; my favorite that I use in coffee every day
    • Soy: taste like edamame; simple and easy; after taste; actually, better than I was expecting
    • Rice: too sweet; can’t believe it’s unsweetened

    A note on sugar content. Oat and rice milk both have naturally occurring sugars, although rice is higher than oat, and both rice and oat have less sugar than regular cow’s milk. Most of the other milk alternatives had 0 grams of sugar.

    Voila! Finding milk alternatives isn’t as bad as you think, as long as you get a little help from your friends. Have fun!


  2. Thursday, February 14, 2019

    Plant-Based Eating Hack #1: Non-Dairy Plant-Based Ice Cream

    As part of my new year’s resolution to focus more on plant-based eating, I promised you I would share all kinds of tips and ideas throughout the year. Today is the first of these posts, which I will call “Plant-Based Eating Hacks.” A bigger focus on plant-based eating doesn’t mean you have to go vegan, but those of us who aren’t vegan or vegetarian are often unfamiliar with the great options out there for plant-based eating. Let’s explore those options together! Today we’re going to start with a classic dessert we all know and love: ice cream. Yep, we’re talking about non-dairy, plant-based ice cream with nary a drop of cream in sight!

    scoops of salt & straw vegan ice creams

    Three years ago I had the chance to travel to Vermont to visit the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters. It was ridiculously cold, I had a 5-hour flight delay in Chicago and I discovered on this trip that I have sacroiliac dysfunction (which basically just means excruciating pain). Despite all the cards stacked against me and the fact that I hobbled about like a 150-year-old woman addicted to ibuprofen, it was hands down one of the most fun trips I’ve ever been on. We toured the factory (including the production floor!), ate ice cream straight from the production line, and even got to create our own new ice cream flavors in the test kitchens. The experience was unforgettable. Ben & Jerry’s hosted this media trip as part of their non-dairy frozen dessert product launch. I was the only writer on the trip who was not vegan. At the time I was a full-fledged dairy consumer and knew very little about veganism, quite frankly. But I walked away from the trip with two things. First, really wonderful vegan friends who were open and ready to teach me in the least-judgy way imaginable. Second, a love for non-dairy, plant-based ice cream.

    Why Non-Dairy, Plant-Based Ice Cream?

    Here’s the thing: you totally do not need cream to make good ice cream. I know, it sounds like crazy talk. But since I cut dairy a year ago, I can attest to the fact that my non-dairy, plant-based ice cream options have left me completely happy and not missing “real” ice cream at all. And, as we learned in my plant-based eating kick-off post, cows are a huge drain on the environment. Eating red meat and dairy makes for a reeeeeealllllllyyyyyy big carbon footprint. If you can sub out that dairy with something equally delicious, why wouldn’t you?

    I’m going to share two great non-dairy, plant-based ice cream options that I love with you today. And then I’m going to ask you all to share your own favorites in the comments! Let’s make this the best collection of plant-based ice cream recommendations around!

    Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Frozen Desserts

    As I mentioned, about three years ago Ben & Jerry’s launched their non-dairy frozen desserts line. At the time I believe there were 4 flavors, but today the line has expanded to 11 flavors (and I’m sure it will keep growing). All of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy frozen desserts are made with an almond milk base (which is delicious, btw) and are certified vegan.

    Display of Ben & Jerry's Pints at the Factory in Burlington, VT

    And since I have yet to write about that trip from many moons ago, I have to share some pictures with you.

    Tour of the Ben & Jerry's factory in Burlington, VTPictured: Top – Shots of the Ben & Jerry’s factory floor in Burlington, VT; Middle – Ice cream straight off the line; Bottom – Product testing for quality control

    The Ben & Jerry's Test Kitchen - creating new non-dairy frozen dessert flavorsPictured: The Ben & Jerry’s test kitchen where they develop new flavor – we had the chance to create our own non-dairy frozen dessert flavors. My partner Becky from Glue & Glitter (bottom left) and I decided our ice cream should be called “Beck & Janey’s.” Aren’t we clever?

    Salt & Straw Vegan Ice Creams

    Salt & Straw is a Portland, Oregon-based ice cream shop that that serves unique and quirky ice creams that taste amazing. They have started to expand to other states and the kids and I recently visited their Anaheim location. Salt & Straw has made a commitment to make 20% of their product line plant-based by the first of of this year. From what I recall on my last visit, their non-dairy ice creams are all made with a coconut milk base.

    Sign announcing Salt & Straw's new focus on vegan ice creams

    My 7-year-old meat eater son Owen is very resistant to my plant-based food changes, so when he happened to pick one of the vegan flavors at Salt & Straw, I just kept my mouth shut. I only let him know his ice cream was vegan after he was done eating. He looked shocked and then just laughed. If you can fool Owen, you can fool anyone.

    I know not everyone has access to Salt & Straw, but when you visit your favorite ice cream shops, keep an eye out for non-dairy options! Last summer the kids and I visited Honeycomb Creamery in Cambridge, MA. They had a few vegan options, including an ice cream made with a cashew milk base, which was divine. I’m telling you, now is the time be alive if you’re wanting to eat more plant-based foods. The trend will only continue and these ice cream companies are proving that plant-based ice cream can be done in a truly delicious way.

    Scoops of Ice Cream from Salt & Straw in Anaheim, CA

    Tell Us Your Favorite Non-Dairy, Plant-Based Ice Cream Brands!

    Now that I’ve shared a couple favorites, it’s time for you to fess up! Tell us your most favorite non-dairy, plant-based ice cream brands and flavors in the comments below!

    Vegan Bloggers I Met at Ben & Jerry’s. These blogs are fantastic resources for plant-based eating!