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fav vegan products

As someone working on becoming more vegan & planning on grocery shopping this weekend, I was wondering if some of you could recommend your favorite vegan products. I already use Silk soymilk, but I was also wondering about:

1. margarine (Is smart balance vegan? does cooking with it destroy the omega 3s?)
2. egg replacer (for baking & recipes, not omelettes!)
3. cheese (I've bought some "veggie" cheese before, then read the label & realized theres "milk derivatives"  in it, what sense does that make?!)
4. ice cream, or other frozen treats
5. pancake mix
6. yogurt/sour cream

I prefer organic if possible too. I always feel like an idiot when I go to the store & sit there, reading labels, trying to figure out if theres any animal products, then trying to figure out if what I'm looking at would even taste good! I'll probably go out to wholefoods for this trip, but I frequent an acme's also. I really appreciate any feedback!

There was a long discussion on Smart Balance a while back.  There seems to be two kinds of Smart Balance.  The one labelled "Organic" is also labelled "vegan" and seems from the ingredients to be so.  For egg replacer that Ener G stuff is recommended by some cookbooks and a lot of recipes here.  Bobs Red Mill makes a egg replacer that we (my DH and I) have used to great success in pancakes and cornbread.  The quest for a great tasting vegan "cheese" seems like the vegan quest for the holy grail.  I haven't found one yet but I haven't tried everything out there.  Someone mentioned liking veganrella cheese.  I bought their mozzarella substitute and it was OK but not really a great "cheese".  For ice cream there are quite a few soy based ones that people like.  They don't sell them here where I live and it would melt before I could get it home from San Antonio so I don't buy them.  I like the fruit sorbets.  You can find them without any dairy products just frozen fruit.  Some have extra sweetener that could be a problem.  I haven't looked at pancake mixes too closely.  I don't think most of them that are organic would have anything but flour and leavening.  Pancakes are really easy to make from scratch with the flour of your own choosing and baking powder.  I don't buy yogurt/sour cream for the same reason I don't buy ice cream.  There are a few soy mock sour cream recipes around, at least one on this site; more if you google.

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Here's what I like and use:

1. Smart Balance LIGHT is vegan - regular Smart Balance is not. I use Smart Balance Light as a spread. I use Earth Balance for baking - reason being that SBL has flax oil and it is not good to heat flax oil.
2. Egg replacer - many people use Ener-G Egg replacer (a dry mix). I personally will use 1 tbs garbanzo flour mixed with 1 tbs water for 1 egg, or use a "flax" egg of 1 tbs milled flax seed with 1 tbs water.
3. Cheese - many enjoy Follow Your Heart cheese, I'm still waiting to find some so I can try it! I tried Galaxy vegan cheese from Whole Foods and thought it was horrible :(
4. Ice cream - I LOVE So Delicious chocolate peanut butter ice cream! I've also tried some Rice Dream ice cream but didn't like that as much.

I don't eat pancakes all that often, but when I do, I make them from scratch using a recipe from here. I've made a couple of different ones from vegweb and they've all been excellent! I also can't find unsweetened soy yogurt anywhere so I don't eat yogurt (or sour cream, for that matter).

My favorite vegan products (things I always have to have in the pantry) are: lite coconut milk, canned beans (garbanzo, kidney, cannellini), different flours (whole wheat, white whole wheat, brown rice, garbanzo, spelt, all-purpose), oats, aseptic containers of soy/almond/rice milk, unsweetened applesauce (good for baking to replace oil), flax oil, Bragg Liquid Aminos, pine nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds...basically, some good staples to add flavor to your vegan dishes. I stay away from processed and packaged stuff as much as possible. I do have a couple of Amy's brand products in my freezer for emergencies (non-dairy pot pies, burritos, frozen meals). I also stockpile Ezekial brand tortillas and whole wheat pitas in the freezer - those are good to have on hand. I keep several packages of tofu in my fridge, too.

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1. margarine (Is smart balance vegan? does cooking with it destroy the omega 3s?)
Earth Balance

2. egg replacer (for baking & recipes, not omelettes!)
Ener-G; but you don't really need one.  Most things are fine without

3. cheese (I've bought some "veggie" cheese before, then read the label & realized theres "milk derivatives"  in it, what sense does that make?!)
Don't bother, most really suck.  Try lady dragonfly's chez sauce
http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=7126.0

4. ice cream, or other frozen treats
Soy Delicious Mocha almond fudge, yum

5. pancake mix
skip it, pancake batter is easy with a few basic ingredients (nothis specifically vegan)
http://vegweb.com/index.php?board=218.0

6. yogurt/sour cream
Silk makes good yogurt, not sure about sour cream

I prefer organic if possible too. I always feel like an idiot when I go to the store & sit there, reading labels, trying to figure out if theres any animal products, then trying to figure out if what I'm looking at would even taste good!

Honey, if that makes you an idiot, then we're all screwed  :D  You just asked a question to the biggest group of label readers on the planet.  Just bring a chair and enjoy the stares!  How else are you supposed to know what's in the food you're eating?  Read away!

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Wow thanks! OK, putting these on my list: earth balance, enerG egg replacer (assuming I would find this on a shelf), Soy Delicious ice cream ( really looking forward to this!!) Silk soy yogurt.

I prefer making things from scratch too- but sometimes I just don't have time. Plus if my husband decides he wants something & its not easily accessible to him, he will just go to the store & buy whatever it is without reading the label. This is my main reason for the pancake mix, he likes to make breakfast on the weekends & I've told him before that I can make pancake mix from scratch & he said, no, I'm treating you for breakfast, then went & bought that just add water shake up container stuff with powered milk & eggs in it.

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1. Smart Balance LIGHT is vegan, but not the original. (And yeah, cooking with it would destroy the Omega 3-s.) I've never seen the Organic one, but apparently it's ok too, as TinTexas said. Most here will recommend Earth Balance-- it's relatively inexpensive, organic, and delicious. (Yay!)
2. Egg replacer-- the one commercial one available is Ener-G; some people like it, some don't. It just depend what you're using it in. I'd honestly hold out on getting a box until you have a specific recipe that calls for it-- there are a lot of much cheaper alternatives that work as well, sometimes better. I've personally had good luck with blended silken tofu, applesauce, banana, pumpkin puree, and flax "eggs."
3. As far as vegan cheeses go, most people have allegiances with one brand in particular: Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet, which comes in 3-4 different flavors, and is really tasty. There are a few others out there, but that's the one that seems to be easiest to find. A word about soy cheese: now matter how good a substitute it is, it won't fool your tastebuds, especially if you just quit dairy. I'd hold off on any cheese-analogs for a few months.
4. There are some really good Ice "cream" alternatives out there, but again, people vary in opinion. I've only had So Delicious, and it's excelllent, albeit a very "light" tasting substitute. I liked it a lot, but I hadn't had iced cream in a year and a half, so I was easily swayed. (Hehe.) Some of them are more decadent; I've heard Double Rainbow products get great reviews. We have entire Topics in here devoted to ice cream flavors, so browse around when the craving hits, you'll find what you're looking for.
5. Pancake mix... hmm... I know the new Bisquicks were at last glance vegan, but they also have some random chemicals/preservatives that vegans aren't generally fond of. I know there are some pre-made mixes (check with your local healthstore), but I haven't personally tried any of them. Luckily, there are quite a few recipes for scratch pancakes and waffles in here that take only a few minutes to put together, and a lot of them are whole-grain, which is always a plus.
6. I've found one brand of soy yogurt that I've liked, and that is Wildwood Plain (unsweetened). I don't like sweet junk in my yogurt, and a lot of brands are overly-sweetened to account for the non-dairy flavor.

Other than that, don't be afraid to try new stuff, exotic items, ethnic fare-- it's all fun! Vegan food is quite diverse, so just keep your eye out for stuff that looks good. Welcome to the boards!

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If you do use the Bisquick all you have to do is add soymilk to that (just a little more than the recipe for regular Bisquick pancakes w/ milk and egg calls for, but just soymilk, no egg replacer needed!) for a buttermilk pankcake just wisk some apple cider vinegar to your soymilk and let it sit for a few minutes before adding to the dry ingredients.

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Yeah, don't feel silly at all about reading labels.  I happily read labels in the store, and I think everyone else is an idiot for not knowing/caring what they are putting in their bodies!

Soy Delicious is so yummy!  And it doesn't have a lot of strange ingredients either. 

Someone referred me to this for egg replacers once: http://www.theppk.com/veganbaking.html
Awesome advice (and site)!  But I usually only use "eggs" if I am making something for someone else and I want it to be perfect.  Otherwise, I can't really tell.

I've given up on vegan cheese really.  I don't really like it too much, and it usually has more weird ingredients than I care to find in a product.  I use Dragonfly's sauce too!  It's awesome, and has good old regular ingredients.

I've noticed that my Trader Joe's is finally carrying soy yogurt (flavored) so I buy that every once in a while.  But you can make your own by mixing maybe a few cups of soymilk (with a decent amount of fat) with a heaping tablespoon of *active* soy yogurt, and putting it in a warm spot for 10-24 hours.  (I prefer 24).  If you start with flavored yogurt, and use truly unflavored soy milk, you will end up with unflavored yogurt, especially if you continue the culture into a second batch.

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A couple recommendations in addition to the great ones already posted:

*For icecream, I'm addicted to So Delicious Vanilla--I top it with fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce or coconut shavings and chocolate sauce...endless possibilities with vanilla! I tried the strawberry So Delicious and was very disappointed (the Rice Dream strawberry looked good, so maybe I'll try that next time), so I wouldn't recommend that one.

*For yogurt, I'm not a huge fan of the Silk yogurt--maybe it's a texture thing? I like the Whole Soy brand. I just buy the plain (which is sweetened--it's hard to find unsweetened soy yogurt-- but doesn't have any more sugar in it than dairy plain yogurt). I get mine at Sunflower Market (if you live in Arizona, New Mexico, or Colorado and haven't checked out Sunflower, do so today! It's my all-time favorite grocery store!) I haven't seen Whole Soy elsewhere, but maybe I just wasn't looking at the time.

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I get mine at Sunflower Market (if you live in Arizona, New Mexico, or Colorado and haven't checked out Sunflower, do so today! It's my all-time favorite grocery store!) I haven't seen Whole Soy elsewhere, but maybe I just wasn't looking at the time.

Sunflower is in Nevada too--I do my weekly grocery shopping there!

margarine=Earth Balance

egg=I prefer flax, tofu, banana, applesauce (depending on the recipe) to a commercial egg-replacer.  But Ener-G works ok in a pinch.

ice cream=So Delcious hands down.  I didn't like Soy or Rice Dream at all.  If you feel really indulgent (and have a large pocketbook), try the So Delicious Purely Decadent line.

Yogurt=Silk is really sweet, though some people like their yogurt that way.  I prefer Whole Soy and unfortunately haven't had the opportunity to try Wildwood. Buy a little container of each if you can and figure out which one you like best.

Sour cream=Tofutti.  They make one that contains hydrogenated oils and one that does not contain hydrogenated oils--I think that it tastes just fine without.

Cheese=when I first became vegan, I tried a brand of vegan cheese (can't even remember which one, maybe Veganrella?).  It made me want to puke and I'm scared to try any other brand, though many seem to like Follow Your Heart.  I prefer my own cheese sauces made with nutritional yeast (though I think you mentioned your husband doesn't like it :( too bad, it is my favorite vegan thing in the world, maybe keep trying it out on him in things like cheesy lasagna and cheesy beans and cheese enchiladas--both on this site).  Try out Dragonflys Bulk Dry Uncheese mix too.

Pancake mix=I have to agree with the others, it is sooooo simple to make pancakes from scratch (hardly takes any time at all).  To cut down on time, you can even make your own "mix" of dry ingredients ahead of time and then just add liquids when you are ready to make pancakes.

Welcome to the site!

Elizabeth

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As far as Bisquick is concerned, you don't even need to use soy milk.  I use just water, and they come out great!  I'm concerned about the transfat & preservatives, so I try not to eat it too often...

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I really like tofutti ice cream too, very tasty.  There is a product called "better than sour cream" I think it is by tofutti also.  I think it's really good.  I made the twice baked potato recipe from this site using it and the omnis loved them!  They alos make "better than cream cheese."  Eh, that's just so-so.

Soy Delicious chocolate peanut butter....MMMM!  :)

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If someone wants a meat replacer, I really like Field Roast's Mexican Chipotle sausage...there are other good ones out there, but this is what I can find easily.
http://www.fieldroast.com/fieldroast_sausages.pdf

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Hopfrog, I'm so glad you have a Sunflower Market! I absolutely adore that place! I forgot they had some in Nevada, too! And yay for Whole Soy yogurt!

They alos make "better than cream cheese."  Eh, that's just so-so.

The Tofutti "Better than Cream Cheese" isn't wonderful by itself (but I don't think dairy cream cheese is much to write home about), but it's terrific in things (i.e. the Cheesy Lasagna recipe on this site, vegan cheesecake, etc.)!

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1. margarine (Is smart balance vegan? does cooking with it destroy the omega 3s?)
Earth Balance

2. egg replacer (for baking & recipes, not omelettes!)
Energ-C, bananas, apple sauce, ground flax seed with water, etc.

3. cheese (I've bought some "veggie" cheese before, then read the label & realized theres "milk derivatives"  in it, what sense does that make?!)
I haven't been able to find one that I like, most like Follow Your Heart though....

4. ice cream, or other frozen treats
Soy Delicious, Tofutti

5. pancake mix
I make mine from scratch and use Whole Wheat flour.

6. yogurt/sour cream
Never been one to like yogurt and don't use sour cream.  I do know Silk makes yogurts and Tofutti makes mock sour cream and cream cheese.

Here are a couple sites that may also help you:
www.theppk.com
www.vegcooking.com
www.veganforum.com

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1. margarine: Earth Balance (seems like what most of us use thanks to the lack of hydrogenation... plus, it's tasty =))

2. egg replacer's a real trick. I use cornstarch and water (1 tsp. mixed into 1 oz. water) for cookies and batters for frying, and I use applesauce (1 oz per egg) for fluffier things (cake, brownies, soft cookies, etc). In the case of banana-something (pancakes, bread, muffins, cookies), I just omit the egg replacer because apparently banana does the trick. I've used Ener-G before, but I don't think it's all too special; it's pretty much just potato starch and leavenings anyway...

3. Follow Your Heart makes block cheese that melts and is the best I've tasted. I've seen another brand,typically purple with Vegan in big white letters (I think the actual brand name is soymage), but it's not as good as Follow Your Heart. But I use their parmesan 'cause they're the only ones who make it  :P Anyway, I've used both cheddar and mozzerlla Follow Your Heart and they're both darn good (I've used it in nachos, grilled cheese, cheese burgers, and pizza).
A cheaper vegan cheese is made by Tofutti (slices; not the cream cheese), but I haven't been able to find it lately. It worked fine in pizza.

4. Purely Decadent by soy delicious is the beeeest ever for me (any flavor), but Soy Dream chocolate brownie, Tofutti cuties, and Soy Delicious cookies n cream (quart) are my occasional indulgences too... Soy Delicious has pretty exclusively organic ingredients, not sure about Soy Dream or Tofutti, though.

5. I have abandoned pancake mix ever since discovered the Easy Pancakes recipe on here (the one that involves letting the batter sit and mixing again) as well at the Banana Pancakes recipe that's got all those delicious photos. They're both easy enough.

6.  Tofutti makes a sour cream (I forget the specific name), and it no longer has hydrogenated oils. Dunno about organic, though. It's reeeeaaally good, tho.
I've not been an avid yogurt-eater at any point in my life, but there are three flavors of soy yogurt at Trader Joe's (if you've got one near you) that are good... especially the peach. No plain/vanilla yet, though.

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Tamikads already gave you the ppk link, but just in case you're going to be doing any vegan baking in the immediate future, Isa (the author of the site, and some seriously amazing cookbooks) has a guide on when to use egg replacer, and what kind you should use. It's here:
http://www.theppk.com/veganbaking.html

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I almost bought the Tofutti ice cream today after reading this thread. But the package was too big. If I didn't like it, I'd throw it out. I wish I could get just a sample.

I stay away from vegan cheeses. I haven't met one that I like. So I avoid cheese all together. So do my two other vegan friends (unless they make their own).

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Margarine
Earth Balance

Egg Replacer
I use whatever I have on hand.  Xanthan gum (I don't like it much - it's really easy to add too much and things come out kind of "slimy"), guar gum, pureed prunes, potato starch, corn starch, apple sauce...

Cheese
I don't use vegan cheese/cream cheese/sour cream because it all tastes gross to me.

Ice Cream
I don't like the taste of soy in deserts.  Soy Delicious has a lot of varieties and is available in a lot of stores, but there's an aftertaste.  Tofutti is awesome with no aftertaste.  Well, vanilla doesn't have an aftertaste, but the chocolate does.  The absolutely best is Tofutti Cutie (ice cream sandwich).

Pancake Mix
I don't have any recommendations on this one.  I don't eat pancakes.  You can make your own mix and use what you need at the time.  The cool thing is that you can use flour from different whole grains so the pancakes have some added nutrients.

Yogurt
This might be the only vegan dairy food item I use.  I only rarely use nut milk (and then it's Almond Breeze).  I eat yogurt daily for breakfast.  I am lucky to live in an area where I can buy a lot of different brands of yogurt.  My favorite is Whole Soy & Co.  I have vanilla soy yogurt, Hodgson Mill Multi Grain with Milled Flaxseed & Soy Hot Cereal (I just sprinkle it on top), and freeze dried fruit (because it's easier) for breakfast most mornings.

Whole Soy & Co. has four live active cultures (L. Acidophilus, B. Bifidum, L. Bulgaricus, and S. Thermophilus).

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On thing about soymilk. You mention you buy Silk. I know a lot of people do and like it, but I have found Silk to be one of the less tasty soymilks out there. Definitely experiment with all the non-dairy milks (soy or not) that are out there, you might just find one that you like a lot more. I like Organic Valley, Vitasoy unsweetened, WildWood brand, and Pearl (this one's more expensive, but it's yummy!!).

1. margarine (Is smart balance vegan? does cooking with it destroy the omega 3s?)
Earth Balance, but I cook/bake a lot with oils and only use margarine for special recipes or a treat.
2. egg replacer (for baking & recipes, not omelettes!)
It depends. Replacing eggs is a whole discussion in itself. Some people say an egg replacer isn't needed, but I would say that's only the case for recipes that are already "veganized." Look at baking recipes on this site and see what is used. Baking from recipes actually makes things a whole lot easier in the beginning. To answer this, possible egg replacers include: Ener-G egg replacer powder, "Wonderslim" liquid egg replacer, blended silken tofu, mashed banana, ground flax, cornstarch/arrowroot/other starch, soy yogurt, and probably a whole list of other things people have found to work. Which one to choose depends on what you're trying to make.
3. cheese (I've bought some "veggie" cheese before, then read the label & realized theres "milk derivatives"  in it, what sense does that make?!)
Trial and error. I like Follow Your Heart, but it doesn't taste like cheese to me. I just use it as a "fancy ingredient" in cooking rather than "just like cheese," if that makes sense. Recently I have read a lot of people rave about "Sheese" on their vegan blogs. I haven't tried it myself yet. My favorite vegan "cheese" is actually vegan parmesan because it comes pretty close to the real thing and is nice in most recipes calling for real parmesan.
4. ice cream, or other frozen treats
Here are my favorite brands: So Delicious (especially their "creamy raspberry" bars), Purely Decadent, Double Rainbow (especially mango-vanilla!), tofutti cuties (I like their new strawberry swirl kind), Celestial Seasonings (I hope they still make these, my favorites are imperial white peach, and the hazelnut fudge or whatever it was called), and Soy Dream. Also go for the sorbets at your local market (read the label, almost all sorbets are vegan).
5. pancake mix
Can't help you with that, I make pancakes from scratch.
6. yogurt/sour cream
I know someone already mentioned it but WILDWOOD!! I have actually never tried any WildWood product that I didn't like. Just the opposite. All (!) of their products that I tried have been the best of their kind (tofu, sour"cream" when they still made it, soymilk, soy yogurt, vegan mayo, etc.). If you are looking for unsweetened plain soy yogurt (for something like a dip for example, where sweet/vanilla flavored would not work at all), I believe WildWood is the only company that offers actual plain soy yogurt. It's called "plainly plain" I believe, and they sell it in individual-size or large containers.
For fake sour cream, I buy any that is non-hydrogenated. Sometimes I will buy a tub that is very off-tasting (happened twice with tofutti brand in the past), but ususally that means it's a bad batch, not the product. I found them all to be very similar, and liked them all.

And don't feel bad for reading labels. That's how it starts out, but it does get better. I used to read a LOT of labels and sometimes feel very uncomfortable an inconvenienced doing it, but now, 4 years down the road, I hardly ever read a label because I know most products that I buy regularly, and I don't buy a lot of processed foods anyway. I usually only resort to label reading nowadays when someone offers me something I have never seen before or if I spot a new item at the store that seems interesting.

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Sorry to bump this page up again, but I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for suggesting items & making me rethink the reasons why I want some of them. I have to say I got 8th continent soymilk only because it was on sale & I'm mad because it is not anywhere near as good as silk. 

Soy Delicious Pure Decadent peanut butter ribbon ice cream is AWESOME. I know I got the name wrong, but it is chocolate peanut butter & soooooo good. ( this is coming from someone who probably hasn't had ice cream since last summer) I bought earth balance "buttery spread" & put it on some veggies last night, my husband gobbled them up & kept saying he really liked the way I made the veggies (it probably tasted rich, because I would never have ruined veggies buy adding butter anyway!). I skipped buying any fake cheese & sour cream. I made some guacamole though, which I LOVE & saved some to put on tacos one day this week instead of sour cream.

I plan on making the tofu spinach manacotti, do you think it tastes close enough to ricotta to fool anyone? I bought garlic & onion flavored tofu.

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