Category Archives: Specialty Products

Mozzarella sticks?!

I’m beginning to wonder if Chicago SoyDairy is some kind of magic factory.  From melty cheese to melty marshmallows to some of the most decadent ice cream I’ve ever tasted, CSD seems to have made it their mission in life to fill in those pesky “gaps” in the vegan menu.  It’s funny, because as a vegan I rarely feel like I’m missing out on anything omnivorous, but when a neat new product like Dandies comes out I definitely enjoy it more than I remember enjoying the “real” thing!

Anyway, all that to say… CSD has now seriously outdone themselves with the invention of the vegan mozzarella stick. I’m not talking string cheese (although that’s surely next) — I mean the breaded, herbed, oily, tasty thing that as a child I used to get an order of EVERY TIME my parents took me out to dinner.

I’m usually hesitant to suggest such blatantly unhealthy food, but the throwback (and, ok, the delicious picture) convinced me I had to share.

Vegan mozzarella sticks!

Restaurant-style vegan mozzarella sticks! Image from

Check it out at VeganEssentials!  Currently the price is set at $5.99 for a bag of 15 sticks (frozen, dur), which is way, way cheaper than the dairy ones go for in any restaurant.  So go to!  I expect a report from whoever tries it out first! :)

I’m beginning to wonder if Chicago Soy Dairy is some kind of magic factory.  From melty cheese to melty marshmallows to some of the most convincing ice cream I’ve ever tasted, they seem to revel in filling in those pesky “gaps” in the vegan menu.  It’s funny, because as a vegan I  never feel like I’m missing out on anything omnivorous, but when a neat new product like Dandies comes out I seem to enjoy it more than I remember enjoying the “real” thing!

Anyway, all that to say… CSD has now seriously outdone themselves with the invention of the vegan mozzarella stick. I’m not talking string cheese (although that’s surely next) — I mean the breaded, oily thing I used to get an order of EVERY TIME my parents took me out to dinner.



I KNOW.  Sounds impossible, right?  But oh, is it possible!  I have a new obsession…

Our friends at Zen Bakery have done it again!  Well, OK, they’ve presumably been doing it for a while since the cinnamon rolls aren’t a new product, but I’ve just discovered them so they are new to me babe.  And I am making up for lost time by buying bags of them at once.  …And I will tell you to your face that I do not have a problem.

miraculous cinnamon roooooll!

I discovered these things at TJ’s on the West Coast, but back here at home I’ve only been able to locate them at Whole Foods, and not all of them at that.  For example, I know for a fact that they ARE at the WF on River Street in Cambridge, and they are NOT at the WF on Washington in Brighton.  I keep forgetting to check Whole Foods Andover (which is, ironically, the one closest to my house).  In any case, you can find them somewhere near you; and it’s worth it, I promise.

OK, now to extol their virtues.  First, let’s look at the ingredients (there are only nine, and none of them are sugar!): Whole wheat flour, unbleached wheat flour, water, white grape juice, raisins, canola oil, yeast, cinnamon, salt.  As if that weren’t good enough, somehow these few ingredients manage to pack in four grams of fiber and SEVEN grams of protein!  Serving size is a whole roll (none of this “1/2 muffin” stuff) and it has less than 9% calories from fat.  Winner in my book already, but if that weren’t enough, they are delicious!

They are also HUGE.  Hello breakfast.

I don’t know what Zen magic they’ve used on the white grape juice to give it such sweetness, but it did the trick!  I usually don’t even miss the icing, though there have been times of serious sugar withdrawal when I’ve made my own to pour on top.  It’s got the texture of a whole-wheat dinner roll (the kind you might get in a classy restaurant’s bread basket), light yet chewy and doughy.  The cinnamon layer is just right too – not cloying or artificial, just plenty of sweetness and cinnamon flavor.  And the whole thing is chock full of raisins.  Also, know how conventional cinnamon rolls taste way better the closer you get to the middle?  None of that nonsense here.  It’s consistently yummy from start to finish.  And they are still peelable, layer by layer, providing just as much fun as the far-less-healthy (yet still somehow vegan?) Pillsbury ones.

The one thing you MUST take note of for proper enjoyment of these cinnamon rolls is that they are NOT to be eaten un-heated!  Please, do yourself a favor and pop them in the toaster oven for a few minutes first.  I’ve had a few bites of cold, untoasted roll and it is basically just cinnamon-raisin bread.  I think the heat brings out the sweetness somehow.  I guess it might still be good if you ate it cold, but it’d be so boring…  Boring is not recommended!  The good news is that these freeze and reheat just fine, so if you live far enough away from WF that you need to buy multiple bags at a time to stock up (*ahem*) that’ll work just fine for me.  Um, I mean you.

So go get some!  Pair with chai tea and a fall day for best results.

Zen Bakery cinnamon rolls can be found at select Whole Foods and (possibly) Trader Joe’s.

(As a disclaimer, I swear I am not a Zen Bakery rep and I did not receive a cent to write this post.  Though… if they wanted to hire me, I’d seriously think about it. ;)  Think of the perks!!)

Chocolate truffles by Xan Confections

On a recent grocery excursion to Whole Foods with the boyfriend, something caught my eye in the bakery case.  Vegan chocolate truffles by Xan Confections!  I had been lusting after these ever since I first saw them listed for sale on VeganEssentials, but could never quite justify buying a whole sampler of expensive chocolate for myself (and let’s not forget the cold pack, plus shipping charges).  That game changed, my friends, when I was able to purchase them one at a time.

I finally settled on two: a chocolate caramel truffle from the Jewel collection, and a “Raspberry Sin” from the Saintly Sins collection.  I would gladly have sampled the whole case, mind you, but these are still expensive chocolates, even one at a time.  They were just under $2 each at Whole Foods.  (Interestingly, Xan sells them on their Web site for $3 each.)

I started with the raspberry “sin,” which Whole Foods had actually labeled “Raspberry Symphony.”  Their title seemed more appropriate, as the teardrop-shaped chocolate was decorated with a print of eighth notes and bass clefs (which were weirdly backwards for some reason).

Raspberry Sin by Xan Confections

The "Raspberry Sin." Go to Xan's Web site for a better and/or more detailed glamour shot -- just wanted you to know what it looks like when you bring it home!

I thought the truffle deserved a solid rating of Good.  Nothing to write home to your mom about (well, other than the existence of GOURMET VEGAN TRUFFLES WHAT), but certainly nothing to advise your mom to avoid.  The raspberry was a little sourer than I think a truffle filling should be, and the chocolate was not quite as rich-tasting as I was expecting, but what this really says to me is that I should try not to have preconceived notions about what things are going to taste like before I taste them.  The chocolate and raspberry had a good blend to them even when chewing, but by far the best flavor experience was to let the whole bite melt in my mouth.  (Over the course of probably 4-6 small bites, I chewed roughly half of the chocolate and let the other half melt.)  It might have been better paired with some kind of beverage, perhaps, but I didn’t want to let any outside forces corrupt my tastebuds.

While I wasn’t as overwhelmingly impressed with the particular “sin” I sampled as I’d hoped to be, the existence of the Saintly Sins collection is actually really exciting.  Each truffle has only 29 calories and 1 gram of fat! This is unheard of for a truffle of any kind.  And check out the ingredients list:

100% Organic blue agave, dark chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, vegan beet sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural vanilla), raspberries, balsamic vinegar, citric acid

Yep, that’s IT!  Amazing, no?  The miracles of science!  I’m hoping to get to try the other two flavors (pineapple and strawberry) at some point and report back.  Supposedly the raspberry (which I tried) is actually the best-seller, so maybe I’m just hard to please.  If any of you have tried it and have dissenting opinions, let me know!

Second, I tried the chocolate caramel from the Jewel Collection.  This piece was shaped like a little, well, like a little jewel, but was a bright metallic silver in color.  The Jewel collection (all are jewel-shaped caramels) is almost as exciting nutritionally as the Sins – 54 calories per piece, but a lot richer inside than the measly extra 26 calories would have you believe!

Jewel Collection Chocolate Caramel by Xan Confections

The very metallic chocolate caramel.

Maybe I am just not a fruit-in-chocolate kind of girl, because I absolutely LOVED the chocolate caramel.  The outer chocolate, despite being freakishly metallic in appearance, was delicious – incredibly rich and dark.  The inner filling was a blend of chocolate and caramel that was a buttery, almost nougaty consistency – not at all stringy like you might expect from a caramel filling.  Once again the flavor was markedly improved when I let it melt in my mouth as opposed to chewing – BUT the filling stuck to the roof of my mouth and got a bit unmanageable this way.  Finally, the glittery powder does not lick off, if you were wondering!

Truffle cross-section!

Non-stringy deliciousness!

The Jewel Collection ingredients list, both on the website and on the box from Whole Foods, is an aggregate of all the ingredients in ALL the Jewel chocolates.  So (for example) I’d be willing to bet mine didn’t contain any raspberry, but here’s their list anyway:

Ingredients (varied): filtered water, organic oat groats, organic oat bran, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, guar gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan, carob bean gum, riboflavin (b2), Vitamin A, palmitate, vitamin d2, unsweetened cocolate, vegan beet sugar, organic tapioca syrup, organic agave nectar, organic palm fruit oil, organic coconut oil, cocoa butter, soy lecithin added as emulsifier, natural vanilla, pecans, almonds, unsweetened coconut, natural flavors, raspberries, rice bran extract, sea salt, natural colors (titanium dioxide, mica).

Either way, I’m amazed they got oat groats to taste that good.  By far the best vegan caramel product I’ve tried yet.

These are definitely intended to be snooty chocolates, and not daily treats – the Saintly Sins description, for example, states that the truffles are “soul-satisfying” and “lovingly hand-crafted by trained artisans.”  All that said, I can’t wait to try more of these babies!  They are the perfect thing for any chocoholic trying to eat healthier, any vegan who misses those samplers, or anybody at all who likes fancy chocolate.  We may have passed V-day and it’s way too early for Christmas, but you can think up some excuse, I’m sure.  As for me, well, my half-birthday is coming up, and I’ll be accepting donations in chocolate from now until…indefinitely.

Xan confections are available online at and, and maybe some more sites I don’t know about.  Prices vary based on size of order and which site you order from.  Unfairly to you, I was at a Whole Foods in Arizona, not Massachusetts, when I spotted these beauties.  As far as  I know none of the MA Whole Foods locations carries them.  According to the Xan retail locator, the truffles can be found in a handful of physical stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but definitely call before making a pilgrimage to one of them just to be sure!