Product Review: Sesame Seaweed Rice Balls

I woke up this morning with the intention of doing my first ever “daily eats” post – I was going to photograph everything I stuffed into my gob today, and then share it with y’all tonight. But then I got lazy, and then it got all grey outside and the lighting in my kitchen was horrible, so… I gave up. Instead, I need to – need to – tell you about my new favorite thing.

YUMMY.

Forget cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudel, I’m talkin’ about these SESAME SEAWEED RICE BALLS, people. Trader Joe’s had a bag of these intriguing specimens on sale for somewhere in the region of $1.50, and I had to try them. In two days’ time, this is what remained of my bag:

DONE.

A whole lotta NOTHIN’. These lil guys are like CRACK. They’re not overly salty, but they have little flecks of seaweed that give them little bursts of yumminess. And the sesame flavor is understated, but in the best way possible. Basically, they’re tiny little balls o’ deliciousness. I’m pretty sure I could’ve eaten the entire bag in one sitting, but somehow I managed to make it last two days. Small victories.

Anyway, if you’re in the market for a relatively cheap snack food, give these little guys a shot! They’d make great travel food, I bet. They’re easily munchable yet they won’t leave you feeling all gross like you would if you downed a bag of chips or something. Plus, they’re vegan AND gluten free! Everyone’s a winner! Yeehaw.

A Tempt-ing Solution

One of my most perplexing conundrums (conundra?!) as one who eschews dairy is what kind of milk to use. Soy milk is pretty standard; it works in baked goods and hot and cold cereals alike. But I’m not too keen on consuming tons of soy products, so I’d like to cut back on that. Plus, I don’t actually enjoy drinking soy-milk straight-up from a glass. Maybe it’s because I was never much of a dairy girl to begin with, but I was never one to pour a glass of ice cold cow’s milk and suck it down just because I thought it tasted good. Even so, every once in a while I’d like to drink a glass of something with my cookies. I tried it with soy milk a few weeks ago and quickly remembered why I didn’t do that in the first place. Blech. Even the vanilla kind just doesn’t do it for me.

A better alternative in the taste department is almond milk. I actually enjoy the way it tastes, and it’s also great for baking and cereal-eating. But while I’m at home with my family, using it in baked goods is a no-no – my dad and sister are both allergic to almonds. Boo.

And I just can’t get behind rice milk. It’s way too watery and thin for my tastes. I’ve used it in baked goods, but I don’t think it’s ideal for that purpose.

So, apart from having multiple cartons of multiple types of alternative milks in the fridge, I generally just stick with soy so that I can ensure I won’t kill anyone who accidentally eats an almond milk-laced cupcake. But that MoFo survey got me thinking about less common types of milks, types I’d always vaguely meant to try. So when a recent trip to Whole Foods I discovered Tempt Hemp Milk on sale for $1.87, I did a mental dance of glee and snatched up a carton. Oddly, only the vanilla variety was on sale, but that works for me. The regular price was $3 and change, so it was a pretty fantastic sale. I thought that maybe some of their vanilla cartons were nearing their expiration date, but mine’s good ’til July 2010, so no problems there! I was so excited about this purchase.

Tempting...

I couldn’t wait to try this stuff. I decided to pour myself a glass for a taste test, ready with some of those chocolate chip cookies I made recently in case I couldn’t stomach it plain. But it was love at first sip. It’s creamy and delicate, similar to soy milk but without that, um, soy taste that turns me off. The flavor is much more neutral, but deliciously so. It’s amazing! I haven’t baked with it yet, but I’m excited to try. Maybe I’ll use a blend of rice and hemp milks in the future, since rice is pretty cheap.

I wish I’d bought more than one carton, but before I left Whole Foods I checked to make sure the sale wasn’t ending any time soon; it’s not; the price is good through December! You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be back to stock up. Alternative milk problem SOLVED, thanks to the amazingness that is hemp.

Stuff That Makes Me Happy: Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Coconut Bliss

As much as I love your average, everyday vegan eats that I prepare on my own (tofu! sweet potatoes! cupcakes!), there are some pre-made products that just make life a little bit easier – and a little tastier. So here’s the first of my “Stuff That Makes Me Happy” product reviews, wherein I’ll sing the praises of vegan products that, well, make me happy! First up is Coconut Bliss frozen dessert, because I just polished off my first pint of this sucker and it deserves a little love.

Before I get to the good bits, I’ll be honest – the $5.99/pint price tag doesn’t actually make me happy. But I was lucky enough to comment first on a Coconut Bliss blog post, and the lovely people at Luna and Larry’s sent me a fabulous Coconut Bliss t-shirt, a couple of stickers with their logo, some literature on their products, AND a coupon for a free pint of their ice cream! Now, that makes me happy, as does the organic, dairy-free, and soy-free ingredient list.

I used my coupon to pick up a pint of Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge, and, well, yeah. Holy yum. This is decadence in a carton, folks. It has the slightest hint of coconut flavor, which I think works well as a base for the chocolate. The hazelnuts add a fun textural change to your ice cream experience, although I think my pint could’ve used a little more fudge. My only other [eensy-weensy, super-tiny] complaint is that I wish the ice cream were just a bit creamier, but I may be spoiled because the last dairy ice cream I ate was gelato… in Italy. So. Yeah. Take that minor complaint with a [big, gigantic, humongous] grain of salt.

The only shortcoming of this ice cream is its nutritional profile. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty dismal in the fat department. Whereas most soy-based ice creams only contain a few grams of fat, coconut milk-based ice creams are extremely rich and contain large amounts of saturated fats. Although the folks at Coconut Bliss address this on their website and explain why coconut-based fats are at least somewhat healthier than animal fats, the fact that one 1/2 cup serving of Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge contains 10g of saturated fat and 16g of total fat is just a little frightening. To be clear, I don’t worry about fat content for weight purposes; I just know that diets low in saturated and total fat are, well, a heck of a lot healthier than those containing lots of fats.

In the end, though, I believe that it’s a matter of moderation. I don’t eat much fat on a day-to-day basis, and if I want to splurge and have a serving of Coconut Bliss every once in a while, I’m damn well going to do it, and I’m going to feel fine about it. I’m treating it like, well, a treat, especially since it’s so rich that I can’t eat much at a time (even when I was a kid, foods high in fat made me feel sick). I’ve made the pint last for at least three weeks now, which is really quite impressive. When I do have a helping, I make sure to savor it – no mindless eating here! I pay full attention to each spoonful, enjoying the flavors and textures. And that, my friends, makes me very happy indeed. :)

(“Photos” aren’t mine, obviously. I found them from Google Images; I imagine they’re from the Coconut Bliss website originally.)