Archive for the ‘Veggie Life’ Category

Sweet Jesus.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

So, yeah.  As a reasonable human being, I was a little taken aback when I learned of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Double Down. If you’re not familiar with this (what I might call an) abomination, the description reads as thus:

This one-of-a-kind sandwich features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel’s Sauce. This product is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun!

No room for a bun?  NO ROOM FOR A BUN?  Do you understand what this implies?  A bun itself is superfluous in most fast foodwiches, any way.  When you’re scarfing down the 700 calories, and 35 grams of fat in a Mickey D’s Steak, Egg & Cheese Bagel, is there room for anything in that sandwich equation that your body is ok with?  Is the bagel even necessary?  I say nay  nay.  It may taste good and come cheap, but it’s an exercise in masochism.  Ouch.  And no room?  If there’s no room for something, something else is wrong, kiddies.

Feel your heart flutter.  Photo from, all credits to them.  I couldn't bring myself near the thing.

Feel your heart flutter. Photo from, Broward New Times and John Linn, all credits to them. I couldn't bring myself near the thing.

The Double Down appears relatively harmless at first.  Despite the fact that it looks like a deranged prison chef pretty much just fried everything in the pantry and piled it into a sloppy, sadistic mess, KFC assures us that:

It’s 540 calories and 32 grams of fat.

It can’t be sooo bad, you may think.  What’s 540 calories?  You may say, that’s like, a little less than a third of my FDA certified recommended daily caloric intake.  Lemme skip breakfast and I’ll be golden, much like those crunchy, savory breasts holding my pig and cheddar sandwich together.

Again, I say nay nay.

City Rag checked out the Double Down and did some research of their own.  Apparently they got their hot little hands on KFC’s nutritional information and a basic calculator, and I’ll quote their math as follows:

2 fried chicken breasts at 360 calories, 21 grams of fat each, comes to – 720 calories and 42 grams…

2 x 1 oz slice of “Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese” at 100 calories, 9 grams of fat each, comes to 200 calories and 18 grams fat…

1 squirt of sauce 100 calories and 10 grams of fat (even by KFC’s calculations) and the Double Down is hit twice as you can see in the picture, comes to 200 calories and 20 grams fat…

2 strips bacon, equals 70 calories and 6 grams of fat…

For a grand total of 1190 calories and 86 grams of fat!

(I kept all the original links because well, it’s their research and not my own.  I’m too lazy to attempt like, calculations and stuff.  I retired my TI-82 when I got to college and the batteries corroded and vomited the nasty all over my little prized machine.  I was sad.  Just not sad enough to buy a new hundred dollar calculator.)

(Can you imagine if some mathematically gifted MIT undergrad attempted to turn the nastiness in this sandwich into an equation?  I’d imagine it would look something like:


photo credit: all Gwen Feldman, baby. It's my special MIT-approved equation.

Oh, my internet friends.  Why?  What is the point?  Why do we do this to ourselves?

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Okay, I get that maybe it’s tasty.  I wouldn’t know.  But here it is; I slap you in the face with a riding glove and challenge you to try fruit for a full week.  The fat in the Double Down might just appall you once you’ve acclimated to healthier living.  It scared the crap out of me.

The funny thing is that when I initially read that the sandwich wasn’t so bad, I found the vegan take on it, and figured it might be fun to attempt a PETA-friendly fry up of the thing.  I may not be a vegan myself (I’m a vegetarian who cannot live without cheese), but well, I didn’t have to do the work to come up with the recipe. explains the recipe clearly:

Start by getting your kitchen stocked with vegan substitutes.

  • Gardein Lightly Seasoned Chick’n Scallopini
  • Lightlife Smart Bacon
  • Follow Your Heart Vegenaise
  • Energ-G Egg Replacer
  • Earth Balance Natural Shortening
  • Follow Your Heart Monterey Jack

You can replace the shortening with canola oil or even Crisco, if you feel like taking your life into your hands. Before doing anything else, I fried up about six pieces of Smart Bacon, and thinly sliced the Follow Your Heart Monterey Jack using a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin, a cheese slicer will do the trick, or a sharp kitchen knife if you’re really patient. You should also thaw out the Gardein patties, which are usually kept frozen.

The Colonel’s Sauce
No one has any idea what’s in this stuff, so I basically went for “yellow”. 

  • 4 Tbsp Vegenaise
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp turmeric

Mix it up until it looks yellow. Adjust as needed.

KFC’s 11 Secret Herbs and Spices
The actual recipe is a closely guarded secret, but this is close enough. I adapted the recipe from with vegan substitutes where needed.

  • 1 Tbsp sage
  • 1 tsp ginger root
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder or cayenne
  • 1½ tsp thyme
  • 2 Tbsp garlic salt, or mix 1 Tbsp salt + 1 Tbsp garlic granules
  • 2 Tbsp onion salt, or mix 1 Tbsp salt + 1 Tbsp onion granules
  • 3 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp powdered vegetable bullion from Rapunzel, or any vegan “chicken-flavored” bullion.
  • 1 pack of McCormick Thick & Zesty Spaghetti Sauce Mix (available at Safeway), or 1 packet of any vegan tomato powdered instant soup.

Grind into a fine powder using a food processor or blender, and set aside.

Making the batter and deep-frying it all up

  • 3 Tbsp Ener-G egg replacer
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened, plain soy milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

In a mixing bowl, beat together the egg replacer, water, canola oil, and soy milk. This is your “eggs and milk” batter.

Now is a good time to get your deep-frying apparatus into gear. If you own a deep fryer, you know what you’re doing here. For everyone else: melt the whole box of Earth Balance shortening in a wok or cast-iron pan on medium heat. Top it up with canola oil if the pool of oil isn’t deep enough.

Next, thoroughly mix together the flour with the “secret” herb and spice mix that you made earlier. Spread out the flour mix onto a long sheet of baking paper.

You basically want to coat the living hell out of the Gardein patties, then deep fry them until your kitchen smells like KFC. So: take a patty, dip it in the batter, then roll it in the flour/spices until it’s completely coated. Then take the same patty and repeat; you want to coat the coating.

Finally, drop in your patty and deep-fry it for a few minutes, until golden brown. You can test out your oil beforehand with a small glob of batter and flour. You really don’t want to cook them for too long!

Putting it all together then nomming the shit out of that
Now you’re ready to assemble your Vegan Double Down: two slabs of fried fake chicken, stuffed with fake bacon, fake cheese, and fake “Colonel’s Sauce”. Make it look pretty.

You will eat about half of this before realizing what a mistake it’s been. But until that moment, it will taste like sweet, deep-fried heaven.

(by the way, all images in the above quotations (except my equation) were ganked directly from  They get all credit.  You may have noticed this, but no image in this entry is mine.  They all come from very nice, hopefully reasonable and non-litigious sources.  Hey, I try to give credit where it’s due.  Please don’t sue me.)

Believing that a vegan version would only be a healthier incarnation of this (and I hesitate to call it a) sandwich, I was set to try it out and blog about it.

I dunno.  After reading about the gravestone-friendly stats on the amended version of the Double Down’s nutrition list, I can’t bring myself to try even a milder version with fake meat, as it’s still an exercise in yuck.  See, I’d have to eat the thing, just so I can relay how it could still taste like it was dredged out of the delicious depths of a thirty year old, lard seasoned deep fryer, and I just can’t do that.  It would hurt me, I think.  I love my readers (apparently there are many of you, though you rarely comment), but I don’t love you enough to justify a stroke at the age of thirty-five just because I choose to play a game of tennis and it’s taxing enough to kill little ‘ol me.  If the actual Double Down is that bad, then the vegan play on it couldn’t be too far behind.  Just…no.

Soooo…have any of you tried the Double Down?  What do you think of it? I won’t judge, I promise.  It ain’t my place.  Let me know.  Photos are strongly encouraged.

You Scream, I Scream, we all Scream…Tofurkey!

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

This is not a vegetarian blog, but I try to write about the things I encounter in daily life, and well, it’s Thanksgiving.  For most of us, that means gathering around a roasted turkey (which yes, does smell utterly delicious), piling orange potatoes on our plates, and generally appreciating the circumstances in which we exist.  Though I may bristle a bit at its origin, I am a fan of Thanksgiving.  It’s a time to lay cynicism down and appreciate the people I love.  I can dig that.

But there is no turkey in my holiday repast.  I’m a vegetarian.  Don’t think it’s not hard – I smell rotisserie, and yes, yes, I miss things like slow cooked turkey and chicken caesar salads and even the occasional taco.  I made this choice though, and I’m stickin’ with it.  I’m happy to.

So this year’s Thanksgiving posed a problem; I can’t eat turkey.  I despise cranberry sauce, loathe yams, and am genuinely frightened at what people try to pass off as green bean casserole these days.  So far, all that was left was the mysterious spinach my grandmother brought, and the dessert plate friends placed waaay too close to my chair.  The former could make me gag and the latter would only result in summer swimsuit nightmares.

In search of protein, I bought a Tofurkey roast, which came in a box – a concept that scared me a little.  Hmmm, unknown soy meat lookalike carefully packed much like a bar of soap?  Sure.  Right.

My mother the Thanksgiving hostess would have naught to do with it.  She sneered at my fake meat box like Britney Spears would to a recording studio denuded of Autotune.  Mom was polite, but I could tell she regarded my Tofurkey as a kind of holiday abomination, an apostate to the Giving of Thanks creed.  Surely no small child would trace his or her hand with crayon on paper and then name it a tofurkey.  That’s not natural.

Photo credit: Brandon Vogel, Gwen Feldman, Fake Turkey

Photo credit: Brandon Vogel, Gwen Feldman, Fake Turkey

Still, what’s a veggie to do?

Don’t get me wrong; I was nervous.  I packed a shopping bag full of extra firm tofu and nutritional yeast (please stop gagging, it’s distracting) for a quick ‘fu fry in the case that things got disgusting.  I didn’t want to be hungry at Thanksgiving dinner.

I arrived at my parents’ abode early to cook my Tofurkey.  The fake meat frightened others, I think.  Mom told me its preparation was in my hands.

It took a few attempts to secure the strange looking oblong mass from its plastic encasing.  The Tofurkey loaf was part football, part luncheon mystery meat, and part spaceship.  Or it seemed that way.

Loosely following instructions, I prepared a marinade consisting of olive oil, soy sauce, pepper, dried garlic and salt.  Using half, I basted the loaf in its casserole dish and shoved the sucker in the oven at 350 degrees.  An hour and a half later, I painted the rest of the mixture over the cooking fake turkey and stuffed it back in the oven.

A few minutes later, the last of our Thanksgiving party arrived, and I was thrilled to find there was another vegetarian among them.  Not only was he happy to try my Tofurkey, he was willing to carve it.  That means a lot when you’re clumsy and not allowed near knives, like me.  You can check out the carving of my fake bird meat loaf above.

So was it a dead ringer for our feathered turktastic friends?  Absolutely not.  The texture was a little like you’d expect from a chicken sandwich at McDonalds, or from a cafeteria meat.  The processed nature of the non-beast was evident.  But the flavor was not disappointing.  I think the loaf would have been okay on its own (though I love tofu and paneer – bland things that could perhaps be indicative of my tastes), but the marinade I’d whipped up went a long way in flavoring the mass.  I ate most of my serving and enjoyed it.  The other vegetarian at the table was left rubbing his tummy in appreciation.

The texture gave the faux-nature of the Tofurkey away, but it wasn’t unpleasant.  I was able to easily cut it with a knife, and the “meat” had a fake “skin” to it, which tasted like the real thing, with the exception of the little bumps (of which I am not a fan, anyway).  The marinade miraculously sunk in most of the way, flavoring the stuff pretty well.

The Tofurkey loaf came hollowed out, a portion filled with vegan “stuffing.”  I’ve not touched stuffing since 1987, when it inspired me to vomit profusely in front of my mother’s Mah Jong group, and I wasn’t about to try swallowing the animal friendly version this time around.  It’s a texture thing.  The other veggie at the table scarfed it down though, and proffered two thumbs up.  He also ate the vegan mushroom gravy that accompanied the Tofurkey, and declared it satisfying.  To me, sauces are used to disguise evil.  I don’t go for them.  So I practiced restraint when the “fravy” was passed my way.  I was told that it was delicious, though.  Sorry, guys.

I’ll be honest – Tofurkey is not a turkey clone.  But then again, I don’t think that any of us who eschew meat are expecting that.  Anything too close would be…too weird?  But when you regard it as a protein replacement/supplement, especially in the setting of a large, communal dinner, it more than fits the empty turkey place.  Follow the directions and I think you’ll be satisfied.  I was.

Non-veggies might even enjoy Tofurkey on its own merits – you never know.  I would have liked it six months ago when I used to eat chicken sandwiches.  Still, even if you hate the stuff, if you’re about to entertain vegetarian guests, Tofurkey may just be a great way to fill their bellies.

Is it perfect?  Nope.  I’m certainly going to try products by the brand’s competitor, Quorn.  But so far, Tofurkey seems to get the holiday job done.