Long-time Bonzai readers have probably noticed that I don’t do a whole lot of reviews around here. There’s a few reasons for this, like that I’m really super duper selective about the products that I use, and that in general I don’t want Bonzai to center around consumerism, and most of all, that I only have a limited amount of time and energy to devote to blogging, so I prefer to focus on my own material. But that being said, I’m not totally opposed to reviews! We all use (and need to use!) products, and as I’ve expressed time and time again, I firmly believe that PRO-cott is as powerful a form of activism as BOYcott.
So anyways, I get lots and lots of emails asking me to try out lots and lots of products, and most of them I just kindly decline. But a few weeks back I received an note from LightLife, makers of Smart Dogs and Tofu Pups, various chik’ns and bacons and burgers (all vegetarian, not all vegan), and a gourmet line of organic tempeh. I usually pass on the processed plant meats, but this particular email gave me pause . . .
Organic tempeh, you say?
Tempeh is my all-time favorite soy product, just pressed and fermented soybeans. This means it’s a “whole” food (minimally processed), and it’s got those good bacteria I love (probiotic power!) And of course, the flavor is totally unique. I couldn’t resist the siren song of this super-healthy, super delicious treat. I emailed back with an enthusiastic “Yes! I would love to try your tempeh!”
Well, at some point some wires must have gotten crossed. They are wires, after all, and so they’re prone to doing that. The box that I ended up with did in fact contain some tempeh . . . as well as some vegan sausage . . . and some non-vegan chick’n. Ah well. The chick’n went to a vegetarian friend, and the sausage got stashed in the fridge.
So yes, it’s true that I don’t eat many “omni sub” products any more, but that’s mostly just my own preference. Damian enjoys them, and I certainly recognize the important role they can play in certain situations. I’m thinking about a recent comment from longtime Bonzai reader Melisa, who said:
“Going vegan. FINALLY. Could have done it a LOT sooner if I’d only admitted to myself that the key is MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF VEGAN JUNK FOOD. Eventually, I’ll move to a healthier diet, but allowing myself to eat as many pumpkin oatmeal cookies as I want has made this transition possible.”
First of all, congratulations Melisa! And secondly, thanks for bringing up such a great point. The truth is, when I first when vegan I *also* ate a lot of the pre-made products. They’re fun and new and exciting, and they can also provide that familiar feeling you might be needing to stay on the ol’ veg wagon. One of my favorite blogs, The Vegan RD, has an interesting article relating to this: Healthy Vegan Diets Can Include Meat Analogues
So, anyway, Hi! Tangent! Nice to meet you! Was I supposed to be reviewing food here? Okay, you get my point, moving on . . .
Gimme Lean Ground Sausage
I’d actually tried this product before – years ago when we were working on The Vegan Cheese Report, we used it to make some truly incredible Vegan McMuffins. On of my biggest complaints about most veg meats is that they don’t use enough fat, and it ruins the authenticity. Animal products have FAT, and it makes for a rich flavor that a lot of the alternatives are lacking. So here’s the thing: apparently this sausage is completely fat-free. BUT, I only just found that out when I went to check on the fat content, because I was certain from the taste that this was a high-fat product. In case that sounds convoluted or unclear, that’s is a good thing. The flavor is savory and full-bodied and perfectly sausage-y.
But this time around, the sausage sat in my fridge for weeks (that’s another benefit of plant meats over animal meats, ha!), as I waited for an opportunity to arise. And then one day, it did. Hello in-laws!
I brought this sausage along when we went to visit Damian’s parents. They’re omni but they’re very open-minded, always interested in trying my strange concoctions. So I whipped this out for Sunday brunch, which was a delightful spread of fruit and homemade gluten-free biscuits. And of course, the sausage.
Omni approved! And a great reminder to me, that plant meats definitely have their place. Still . . . I think I’ll mostly stick to tempeh.
LightLife offers a variety of tempeh “styles”, including flax, garden veggie, soy, three-grain, and wild rice. They’re all quite similar, with that nutty, earthy tempeh flavor, that certain “je ne sais quoi” that results from fabulous fermentation and makes tempeh so damn special. I love it because it’s a bit firmer than tofu, so it holds together well in recipes. This time I cubed, marinated, and grilled it, but it’s also great in stir fry or as a “ground meat” in chili or tacos. Really, tempeh is super versatile and I adore it!
As with any soy product, buying organic is really important, which is why the LightLife stuff is so awesome. If you don’t have access to LightLife anywhere in your town, but you do have a Trader Joe’s, I’m almost certain the TJ’s “house brand” tempeh is actually the LightLife three-grain variety. So give that a try! (I’m really just totally guessing here, I have no “insider knowledge” or anything, but I know TJ’s buys their house brand products from popular, established companies, and the shape/style/flavor is the same, so it makes sense)
Smoky Tempeh Strips
This was a product that was new to me, and, um, I APPROVE. It’s basically a bacon sub, all sweet and savory and smokey and full of amazing deliciousness. But I love it because it’s not actually trying to be bacon – it’s just trying to hit the same spot. And it does! But it does so with it’s own awesome tempeh undertones, an earthy base that’s so hearty and grounding. Yeah, I love this product, and I’ll definitely buy it again. Damian, who is not a huge tempeh fan, loved this as well, which I consider a major win. Yay!
So what are your thoughts on tempeh – yay or nay?
Have you tried any of the LightLife products? What do you think?