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January 6, 2013 / bethanyshondark

A Few of My Favourite (Kosher) Things

There’s a few products out there that I’ve recently fallen in love with. Because I’ve felt like a bit of an evangelist of late, I decided it would make for a great blog post in order to spread the gospel of good food that also happens to be Kosher. I have in no way been compensated by any of these companies for reviewing their products, the only way they’ll know I’ve done so is when they get a Google alert about it. In no particular order, here are my favourite Kosher products:

1. Daiya cheese. Pareve and vegan cheese, certified by the OU. I know what you’re thinking. Pareve cheese, been there done that, it’s disgusting. Trust me — give it another shot if you’ve never had Daiya. I bought it at Fairway on the Upper West Side last year and was too afraid to use it, and it sat in our fridge for weeks. One night, Seth was put on deck for dinner and we tried to brainstorm the easiest possible dish he could make and settled on pizza on a premade crust. When I came home, he looked at me shyly and said “I did what you told me but the cheese isn’t melting quite right. I don’t know what I did.” As it turned out, he grabbed for a package of shredded white cheese and didn’t notice that it was the Daiya. We were about to throw the pizza out, but realized that except for a noticeable total lack of melting, it looked like pizza. So we tried it. And hit the roof. It was amazing. My husband, ba’al teshuva, immediately requested meatball subs, which we had the next night with the reminder of the cheese. Now, Daiya doesn’t melt exactly like regular cheese, but hot damn, it’s close. And it tastes great. They have a few varieties and we haven’t found one yet that we don’t like.

beef bacon

2. Grow and Behold beef bacon. Before you get too excited, it doesn’t taste exactly like pork bacon (aka “real” bacon). I don’t remember it, but Seth does, and while he enjoys G&B, he says that it’s not quite there. However, it’s the closest we’ve ever had and is a great way to excite (and confuse) Shabbos guests when you offer them kale, beet and bacon salad (which is my favourite dish with this bacon). While it’s not exactly what you might expect from bacon if you know what the treif version tastes like, I really recommend giving G&B a try. We usually just buy sausage and bacon from them, so we pool together with other people in our community every few months to get a few packages of each delivered to someone’s home. (While I am not getting paid for any of these recommendations, nor am I getting any free samples, if you do end up using Grow and Behold, email me bethanyshondark @ gmail . com before you place an order and I’ll send you a referral so I can get a coupon for my next order. Thanks!)

3. Brent “The Cheese Guy” cheeses. I first discovered his cheeses at a wine and cheese tasting at a shul on the Upper East Side last year. I tried more of his stuff at a Kosher blogger event several months ago. I’ve tried a large variety of his cheeses, and I have to say, they all are incredibly impressive. It’s almost as if it wasn’t Kosher! (Almost all of his stuff is certified OU, don’t worry, and a lot of it is also cholov yisrael!) I’m also really impressed with the price point – I buy his products at Fairway and an 8oz tub of grated parmesan which lasts a while is only $8 and an 8oz ball of fresh mozzarella was only $5. For appetizers last week I bought a fresh baguette from the amazing bread section of Fairway, some fancy olive oil (a large bottle for only $15 which will last us months), and some of Brent’s fresh mozzarella cheese and we felt like we had taken a flight to Europe! For pasta nights we always use his Pecorino Romano freshly grated on top.

4. MorningStar. For longtime Kosher keepers and vegetarians, MorningStar is no secret, however, there are two products that stand out in our house. We use their “Crumbles” when we make dairy taco night (with Brent’s cheeses of course!)  and are really impressed with how close it comes to ground beef while also saving us a lot of calories. Seth is obsessed with their buffalo wings and loves to dip them in Ranch dressing.

5. Cabot OU Cheddar Cheese. It is fabled that once a year, around Pesach, Cabot lets the OU come into their factories and a large run of Kosher cheese is made with an OU hechsher. Last year we got two cases and sold it (at cost) to neighbours, one 8oz bar at a time. While it was a hassle to do, it was a great opportunity for a lot of people in my community to get good quality cheese at a great price. Last year a case of 12 8oz bars was $33.00 and they don’t expire for over a year in your fridge, let alone freezer. Keep an eye on their website for their next OU run. A note on the hechsher situation at Cabot: The rest of the year they are certified by Tablet-K. While I’m not one to pass judgement on hechshers, I will on Tablet-K. Don’t buy it, don’t use it, don’t trust it. A lot of times in the Kosher industry the “not recommended” response from your rabbi infuriatingly comes with no explanation. Here is one story from another blogger about her experience with the certification company. Read it and come to your own conclusion and talk to your LOR if you still are in doubt. 

Thanks to a Facebook subscriber, I’ve discovered that sadly, Cabot is no longer doing OU runs of their cheddar cheese. I’ve contacted them on their Facebook page, and I’ve found that companies are often responsive if they hear from enough customers about their product. Reach out to Cabot and let them know you’d like to get some of their OU cheese back on the market. 

6. Starwest Botanicals. I’m about to say something tragic, but I don’t want you to feel too badly for me. I’m allergic to onions and garlic (and the entire allium family). It makes my tummy not so happy, it always has and I’m used to it. Two years ago in a Facebook group for other people with the allergy, a woman sang the praises of a magic powder that mimicks the taste of onion. It comes from India and its smell is revolting. It’s nicknamed “Devil’s Dung” for a reason, though most people just call it asafoetida powder. I spent months looking for a company that made it Kosher and twice ordered from companies that said “almost all of our spices are certified” and discovered, upon ordering, that asafoetida was one of their only spices without Kosher certification. Finally, I found Starwest and unfortunately, the only option for Kosher certified powder came in a 1lb bag. In retrospect, I could have bought the jar version and double checked that it was the same spice, just in a jar, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. I bought the bag 14 months ago and am nowhere near the end. I generally only use 1/8th of a teaspoon per recipe and my husband has called it life changing. In order to qualify for free shipping I added a lot of their other spices to my cart and I was pleased with all of them – garam masala, coriander, thyme, turmeric, just to name a few.

This last one isn’t a product, but instead a magazine. I discovered Vegetarian Times thanks to one of my favourite blogs, Kosher on a Budget. Mara posted a coupon code for that let me subscribe to VT for $5.50 a year and I thought, heck, she gave it such a glowing endorsement, why not give it a try? The next time Mara posted the coupon code, I bought another two years for myself, and a subscription for my two sister-in-laws and my mother-in-law for Hanukkah. There’s a ton of great pareve and a few dairy recipe ideas and almost all of the desserts are vegan (sometimes they use milk or butter, but almost always give suggestions to make the recipe vegan, aka, pareve). Keep an eye on Mara’s blog for the next coupon code.

What are your favourite Kosher products? What should we be trying?

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7 Comments

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  1. valerie / Jan 7 2013 5:08 am

    What I don’t understand, much of this “kosher” food is far from healthy. Morningstar foods are made with GMO soy, other per-packaged foods are laden with preservatives ad additives that are cancer producing. Very confusing to me! I refuse to eat very little of it! If I cannot make it from scratch, I refuse to eat it.

    • dman / Mar 5 2013 11:47 pm

      The soy in Lightlife products is non GMO. See http://www.lightlife.com/FAQs
      One problem with Morningstar is that many of their products are marked Dairy. Lightlife products are generally Pareve.

  2. Kirby / Jan 8 2013 6:47 am

    Spices don’t require kosher supervision, though, like several other products that don’t (like rice, flour, sugar), you’ll find heksherim on spices anyway. We keep a high standard of kashrus around our house, and I just read a respected Rabbi’s Kashrut magazine stating just that. Perhaps you hold differently, but if not, it might make spice shopping easier.

    • thegameiam / Jan 9 2013 2:42 pm

      Could you please post the link? I’d love to read that article.

  3. thegameiam / Jan 9 2013 2:30 pm

    Check out the DearCoCo dark chocolate truffles. Pareve and delicious, but not cheap. http://www.dearcoco.com/

    I’ve also found some non-mevushal Bordeaux wines, the most affordable of which is Chateau La Cheze at about $20, and all of which (that I’ve had) are magnificent.

  4. Tanya Dresner / Jan 21 2013 7:00 pm

    have you ever tired calling or contacting the spice house? I was looking for kosher curing salt and this is what they told me “If you buy it from our Milwaukee store it is certified kosher. You can either order from them directly by calling 414-272-0977” They will ship it to you too.

    http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/asafoetida-powder

  5. brent / Feb 4 2013 1:09 pm

    thanks for the nice review!

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