One of the free items I received for this Simple Truth MyMagazine Sharing Network mission was a box of Simple Truth Gluten Free Fusilli.
I didn’t have high hopes going into this. I have yet to really find a gluten-free product (aside from products that never had gluten in them to begin with) that I have really enjoyed.
For that reason, I decided to just keep it simple (see what I did there?) and just cook the pasta and top it with some store-bought sauce, so that if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be wasting a lot of expensive ingredients.
I cooked the pasta according to package directions and decided to give it a taste before I used my expensive jarred pasta sauce (I don’t do Prego and such) on it.
The flavor was pretty good, but I didn’t like the texture at all. It wasn’t as gummy as some gluten-free pastas I have tried, but it was still a bit gummy. Perhaps it needed to be cooked differently or maybe that’s just how it is, I’m not sure. I decided I wasn’t interested in eating it.
If I had a gluten allergy or celiac disease, I would definitely consider this as an option, if I were determined to have some kind of pasta, but as a person with no issues with gluten, it’s not a product I would purchase.
I have tried several varieties of Simple Truth’s non-gluten free pastas and found them to be excellent and very comparable to Barilla, which has been my go-to brand for dry pasta.
I had initially intended to blog about a vegan mushroom ravioli recipe, but that was an unmitigated disaster. No fault of the mushrooms of course and probably not the fault of the recipe either.
Rather than write about that disaster, I decided to go to a plan B. When I was shopping for the mushrooms, I noticed Kroger’s Private Selection produce included fingerlings and purple potatoes, which are both products I have never worked with before. I was intrigued, so I picked up a one pound bag of each and then searched the Internet for a recipe to use them in.
I needed a side item for some veggie burgers I was planning to make, so I settled on a recipe for Crisp Garlic Oven Fries from Barefoot in the Kitchen. For the full recipe, please visit the above link.
This recipe requires just a few simple ingredients: salt, pepper, oil, garlic powder and potatoes.
The prep was also pretty simple. I washed and quartered the potatoes, and then tossed them with oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a mixing bowl.
Once all the ingredients were tossed together, I spread the potatoes out on an oiled baking sheet and seasoned with some additional salt and pepper.
Next, I put them in a 425 degree oven, for about 25 minutes. Some of the potatoes were still pretty raw at that point, so I ended cooking them an additional 15-20 minutes. Once the potatoes were tender, I cooked them under the broiler for another 3 minutes or so, to crisp them up.
The finished product wasn’t quite as crispy as I had hoped. It’s possible I should have let them broil another minute or two, but they were still tasty. The flavor was not really any different from any other potato, but it made for a more colorful dish. If you added in some white potatoes, this would make a fun side dish for a 4th of July picnic.
I doubt I’ll start using these potatoes on a regular basis, but they are a fun option if you’re looking for a little something different in terms of presentation. The Private Selection brand is a nice option to have for this sort of speciality item, that you don’t always find in your typical grocery store produce section.
I previously reviewed Ripple’s non-dairy yogurt, and I didn’t like it. I’m happy to report that the results were better for Ripple’s pea protein based milk.
I decided to go with the chocolate flavored milk and I enjoyed it in a couple different ways.
I like to have a few Oreo cookies as a daily treat, so I decided to try dunking my cookies in the Ripple milk. I found the milk to have a pretty similar flavor to other chocolate flavored non-dairy milks I have tried, but the consistency is a bit thicker and I found it to have a more satisfying texture than many nut milks that sometimes tend to be a bit watery. It also soaked into the cookie nicely.
Next, I blended together a bit of the Ripple milk with some So Delicious vanilla bean coconut ice cream, a bit of cocoa powder and some iced coffee to make a mocha chocolate shake. The coffee and the chocolate mixed together perfectly to create a very tasty shake and the thickness of the Ripple milk helped to make this drink more shake like than some I’ve made with other non-dairy milks.
I was so pleased with this product, I have already purchased a second bottle, this time the plain variety, and it works great for cereal and for dunking Oreos. I look forward to trying it out in some of my savory cooking in the future.
Ripple Greek Yogurt is a dairy free alternative to traditional Greek yogurt. They boast 12g of plant-based protein, active cultures and a “thick, rich texture.”
I chose the Strawberry variety, which retails for $1.99 at my local Kroger. This non-dairy yogurt is vegan, soy and gluten-free.
Prior to going vegan, I didn’t consume a whole lot of yogurt, so finding a vegan alternative has not been particularly important to me. However, I do occasionally cook with yogurt and I’ve had the opportunity to try out a couple other brands for free and I didn’t like either of them, so I was hopeful for this one.
Unfortunately, things did not get off to a good start with this product. The package looks great, but when I opened it up, I was treated to a watery, somewhat weirdly brown looking product.
A lot of yogurts don’t look all that appetizing when you first open them up, so I gave it a stir and it did look better, though still a somewhat off-putting color.
I have to admit, not knowing whether this yogurt was supposed to be brown or not made me a bit concerned about putting it in my mouth, but I worked up my courage and did it anyway.
The good news is that the texture was very comparable to a traditional Greek yogurt. They delivered on the “thick and rich” part of the promise. The bad news was that, for me, this was the worst tasting of the non-dairy yogurts I have tried so far.
The Ripple yogurt had that same almost chalky flavor as the almond and soy based yogurts I have sampled. It also had a very in your face tang to it, that some people may enjoy, but just increased my fear that this brown yogurt might not be entirely not-spoiled. It was in date and everything, so I think that’s probably just how it tastes. In any case, I took a second bite to make sure I wasn’t just having a fear reaction to the weird color and then tossed the rest. Definitely not for me.
As with anything, taste buds vary, so I’d encourage anyone who is interested to give this a try for themselves, but the search for an acceptable non-dairy yogurt will continue for me.
Simple Truth is basically Kroger’s organic store brand. Simple Truth products include “organic,” “free from,” “natural,” and “fair trade” products.
The organic products are held to the same standards as any other product marketed as certified organic in the United States and this is mostly what I buy in the Simple Truth brand.
The “free from” products are guaranteed to be free from 101 artificial preservatives and ingredients. You can find the full list of everything Simple Truth’s free from products doesn’t contain here.
Simple Truth’s “natural” products are supposed to be minimally processed and in the case of animal products, fed an all vegetarian diet, among other things. They make mention of exceeding federal standards for natural products, but I was under the impression that “natural” was kind of a marketing thing without actual standards. I could be wrong about that though. I always bought the organic versions, rather than the natural versions when I did eat animal products and now that I’ve gone (mostly) vegan, I don’t buy the animal products at all.
Much like with organic, the Simple Truth fair trade products have to meet the same standards as any other product certified as fair trade. You can find out more about fair trade products here.
I buy a ton of Simple Truth products. As a matter of fact, I’m sipping on some Simple Truth bottled water as I write this post. I’m not one of those freaking out about chemicals in my food sorts, but I purchase Simple Truth products for a couple of reasons. The first is, I view organic products as a “can’t hurt, might help” sort of thing. I’m not entirely sold that organically produced products are a ton healthier than conventionally produced products, particularly when it comes to “big organic,” but there’s at least the hope that they are healthier and better for the environment.
The primary reason that I purchase Simple Truth products is that I find them to be competitively priced and consistently high quality. With few exceptions, I have been pleased with the flavor, texture and freshness of Simple Truth products and that’s what keeps me coming back. As a vegan, there’s the added bonus that certified organic products have to meet certain standards, which is helpful when trying to find things like cane sugar that I know hasn’t been treated with animal bones.
One of the suggestions for this mission was to photograph the free shopping bag they sent me, full of Simple Truth products. However, I had so many Simple Truth products in my pantry, I couldn’t even fit them all in the bag.
One of the free products I received, along with the nifty Simple Truth bag, was Simple Truth’s strawberry flavored fruit and grain bars.
The bars are “naturally flavored,” which suggests to me there’s probably little to no actual strawberry in them, but they are organic, along with carrying Simple Truth’s other promises about artificial and gmo ingredients.
“Natural flavorings” are always to be approached with caution for vegans, because they can be pretty much anything. Other than that, I didn’t notice anything on the ingredients list that should be a problem for vegans, though the package does note that it could contain milk, which suggests to me that the product is probably processed on the same equipment as products containing dairy, since I didn’t see any dairy listed on the label.
The bars are very comparable in texture and flavor to Nutrigrain’s cereal bars, so if you like those, you will probably like these.
I’m not much of a breakfast eater and have always considered this sort of thing something I would be willing to eat, but not something I would go out of my way to eat.
Simple Truth’s version of this product fits that mold. It was a reasonably tasty and filling snack. My only real complaint would be that I found the filling to be a bit overly sweet. Not something I would be likely to purchase in the future, but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys these cereal bars and is looking for an organic version.
I highly recommend the Simple Truth line of products to anyone who is looking for reasonably priced organic and fair trade products.
I decided to add some Beyond Meat “chicken” strips and wrap everything in a couple of homemade tortillas to make chicken fajitas.
The first thing I did was heat the “chicken” strips in a skillet with some canola oil. The package instructs you to heat over medium heat, while stirring, for about 3 minutes, which is what I did.
While the “chicken” strips were cooking, I heated the SMARTMADE entrée in the microwave.
Finally, I warmed the tortillas, which I had made previously, using this recipe, and then frozen. I opted to warm these in the microwave for 30 seconds. I think I probably should have toasted them a bit in a skillet, so they would have held up better to the wetness of the rice mixture.
Once everything was heated up, it was time to assemble the fajitas. I put half the rice mixture in each tortilla and topped it with 3 of the “chicken” strips and then rolled the tortilla around it.
Here is the finished product:
The rice mixture was a little wetter than I would liked for it to be. If I had this to do over again, I probably would have put it in a skillet for a couple of minutes to cook off some of the liquid, before assembling the fajitas.
The flavor and texture of the rice was decent. Like I said, it was a bit wet, but it wasn’t mushy. The overall flavor was OK. Not something I would go out of my way to eat, but it wasn’t unpleasant. There wasn’t much cheese flavor, which was a bit disappointing, considering the cheese is what kept this from being a vegan entrée, so it would have been nice to actually be able to taste it.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Beyond Meat “chicken” strips. I have tried a few Beyond Meat products and they’ve all been good so far, but I was surprised by how well these strips imitated the flavor and texture of actual chicken. I’m not saying anyone would ever mistake them for the real thing, but I anticipate this is a product I will regularly keep on hand for recipes that need a protein boost or that would normally have some sort of chicken in them.
Overall, this wasn’t a great meal, but it was a decent one. The SMARTMADE entrée was OK for what it is, but probably not something I would purchase in the future, even if I weren’t doing the vegan thing. However, if someone is looking for a low-calorie, vegetarian, frozen entrée, they could do worse than to give this one a shot.
Rather than eating them as a snack or appetizer, I decided to have them as a side item with a Lightlife Chili “Cheese” Smart Dog.
The first thing I did was make a vegan ranch dressing to dip my jalapeno poppers in. You can find all the details for the recipe I used at the link above.
The dressing was pretty easy to make. Basically you just dump all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, whisk them together and then let them chill in the refrigerator for a while.
I omitted the parsley from the recipe, because I didn’t have any on hand.
After initially whisking the ingredients together, the dressing was pretty watery, so I added some additional vegan mayo and seasonings to thicken it up a bit. Once I got it all mixed together, I poured it into a mason jar and put in the refrigerator for a few hours.
This is what the finished product looked liked:
Next, I prepared the jalapeno poppers. The package instructs you to preheat the oven to 450 degrees and cook the poppers in a single layer on a baking sheet for between 11-14 minutes, depending on how many you are making.
Since I was just making 4 poppers, I cooked mine for 12 minutes. There are also instructions for frying them, but I didn’t want to mess with cleaning up and disposing of frying oil, so I went with the baking method.
While the poppers were in the oven, I got to work on my chili “cheese” dogs. I already had some Lightlife Smart Dogs, which is a vegan veggie dog, and some homemade vegan hot dog buns in the freezer. I made the buns using this recipe. I added some Amy’s Organic Spicy Chili, which is a vegan canned chili I had used previously to make vegan chili dogs. Not pictured is the Daiya cheddar style shreds, which is a vegan cheese substitute.
The cooking instructions for the Smart Dogs suggest boiling them. I tried that the first time I prepared them and I didn’t care for the results, so I opted to brown this one in a skillet with a bit of canola oil.
I microwaved the frozen bun for about a minute and then split it with my bread knife and put in a dry skillet to toast it, while the veggie dog was cooking.
Once everything was close to being ready, I put a quarter cup of the chili in the microwave and heated it for about 30 seconds.
After all the components were ready, I put the veggie dog on the toasted bun, topped it with the chili and 1/8th cup of the Daiya cheddar shreds. Usually, I’d also add some yellow mustard, but I forgot about it this time.
Here’s the finished product with the poppers and a side of vegan ranch dressing:
As I mentioned, I have made these vegan chili dogs before. The Smart Dogs do a pretty good job of imitating the look and texture of a meat hot dog, but they don’t have a lot of flavor. I don’t think I’d just eat one by itself, but with some decent toppings on it, it’s not a bad, easy meal. Using the homemade hot dog bun helps amp up the flavor.
The Amy’s chili isn’t really all that spicy for a “spicy” chili and it’s a bit on the bland side, but as far as canned chili goes, it’s about as good as any I have tried. A homemade chili would be better, but I’m not really dedicated enough to the chili dog experience to make homemade chili for this purpose. At some point I may look for a recipe for an actual vegan hot dog chili.
The Daiya cheddar style shreds are frankly, pretty gross on their own, but they actually work pretty well for adding cheese flavor to dishes that usually have cheese. I’m not sure why that is, but when I put them in things that I would normally put cheese in, they’re generally pretty good, even though I find them pretty unpleasent to just eat plain.
The FarmRich jalapeno poppers were a bit disappointing. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t particularly good either. The breading is very bland and is a bit too thick. Perhaps the texture would be better if you fried them. This might be a good product to try out in an air fryer for those who have one. The inside of the popper was pretty good. The peppers were pretty mild, but had good flavor and the cream cheese filling was pretty tasty. It was really the lack of seasoning and slightly off-putting texture of the breading that drug these down. Not terrible by any means and if you really need a poppers fix and don’t have any other options, I wouldn’t steer you away from purchasing these, but not something I’d really recommend.
The vegan ranch dressing was also a bit disappointing. Even with the extra mayo, I found it to be too watery. However, the biggest problem I had with it was the taste of the soymilk was way too prominent. If I were to make them again I’d probably use a different non-dairy milk….perhaps cashew or almond and add it in a bit at a time, instead of using the amount called for in the recipe, so that I could make sure I got the consistency I wanted without having to keep adding mayo. I’d probably also add more seasoning than the recipe called for. These poppers really need a stronger, more substantial dip to compensate for the blandness of the breading. Some sort of vegan cheese dip might have been a better choice than the ranch.
Overall, while the poppers and the dip were a bit of a let down, this was a reasonably enjoyable, easy to make dinner.
A few months back, I signed up for Kroger’sMyMagazine Sharing Network. The MyMagazine Sharing Network is a “customer community from the Kroger family of stores.” The site has forums and other places to share feedback, but the main reason I signed up for was the opportunity to try new products and get free stuff.
Sometimes there are specific tasks to complete, which they call “missions.” One of the current missions is called “Fresh Ideas from the Freezer.” The objective of this mission is to take ready-to-eat frozen meals and spruce them up a bit.
For this mission, Kroger provided me with coupons to get a free Devour, Marie Callender’s Delights, Smart One’s Smartmade and FarmRich entrée. I wasn’t able to find any vegan options, but I did find a vegetarian option in all but the Marie Callender’s.
The Tofurky Italian sausage is a soy-based vegan sausage. I don’t usually cook with a lot of pre-made products, but whenever I spot a vegan product I haven’t tried before, I’ll usually pick it up. It’s nice to have a few easy options on hand for those times when I don’t feel like doing a lot of cooking.
The parmesan is the last bit of a hunk of cheese I bought before I decided to start phasing dairy products out of my diet.
Preparation of the Devour frozen entrée was pretty much as you would expect. You take it out of the box, pull back a corner on the plastic film and then pop it in the microwave for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Next, you pull back the film, give the ravioli a stir, replace the film and microwave it for another 2 minutes and then let it stand in the microwave for another 1-2 minutes.
While the ravioli was in the microwave, I cooked the Tofurky sausage on the stove top. The package directions provide instructions for grilling, browning in a skillet, boiling or microwaving.
I think grilling tends to produce the best texture in these veggie sausages, but I didn’t want to mess with the grill pan. I have boiled veggie hot dogs and ended up putting them in the skillet to crisp up the outside a bit. I’ve never tried microwaving, but I can’t imagine that would do much to improve the texture, so I opted to go with the skillet method.
Faux meats can be bad about sticking to the pan, so I used to a non-stick skillet, with a bit of olive oil. There was no suggested length of time for cooking on the package, so I just cooked it until it started to look brown on the outside. It took about 2 minutes to get the sausage good and brown on all sides. I used some tongs to turn it, after about 30 seconds on each side.
While my ravioli were resting in the microwave, I sliced the cooked sausage. I kept half of the link to put on the ravioli and put the other half in the freezer for future use.
The ravioli was ready by this time. This is what it looked like fresh out of the microwave.
Not the prettiest thing. I decided to get my fancy eating plate out and see if I could perk up the presentation a bit.
I transferred the ravioli from the plastic tray to the plate, added my sausage slices and then topped it with some grated parmesan. Here’s the finished product:
I was initially concerned that the sauce in the ravioli was a bit thin looking, but by the time I was ready to eat, it had thickened up to a nice consistency. The ravioli were pretty comparable in flavor and texture to the frozen cheese ravioli you can find in the freezer section of your local grocery. I think the sauce could have used a bit more seasoning, but overall it was pretty good. Since my end goal is to fully convert to veganism, I probably wouldn’t purchase this product in the future, but if I were looking for a reasonably tasty, easy, vegetarian option, I would definitely consider purchasing the Devour Cheese Ravioli with Sun-Dried Tomato cream sauce entrée again.
The Tofurky sausage went well with the pasta. The texture was not particularly meat like (which isn’t a priority for me), but it was not unpleasant. I’m not really sure how to describe the flavor. It doesn’t really taste like Italian sausage. I guess the primary flavor is the added seasonings. This isn’t a product I would use to try to convince a meat-eater that they could stop eating meat without missing it, but as a vegan convenience food, it’s a decent option. I will probably keep some on hand for those times when I don’t feel like cooking, but don’t want to just eat a plain bowl of pasta. There are really only two things about the product that I didn’t like. It smells weird and it leaves a bit of an aftertaste. Both of those issues are pretty common with store-bought meat substitutes, but neither would stop me from buying this one again.
This was not gourmet dining, but it was an easy, enjoyable meal. Plating everything on a real plate, instead of leaving it in the microwaveable container did a lot to make it feel more like a real meal, instead of something out of the microwave. The sausage component added a bit of bulk to the meal and made it a bit more filling than plain pasta typically is. If you are looking for an easy vegetarian meal, you could do worse than to buy these products. If you’ve got the time and inclination, a fresh, green salad on the side, would probably make this feel even more like a real home cooked dinner.