Almost The End of the Month, But Not the End of the Journey

29 Mar

I can’t believe it’s almost been a month already!  I’ve tried so many new recipes and techniques and rediscovered some old favourites.  I’ve come so close to finding the 5 star vegan brownie recipe, and I’m not done trying.
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If there’s one thing I learned from this month, it’s that I am not ready to be a full-time vegan.  But taking on this challenge also made me realize that eating the foods I crave, but in vegan form, is not difficult, nor is it any less satisfying than the boxed and packaged versions of these foods.

I noticed a few things about my eating habits while going full-out vegan:

1) I eat a lot of convenience foods.  Not greasy burgers and fries day in and day out, but a lot of Tim’s hot chocolates, bagels and cream cheese and boxed snacks like crackers find their way into my daily life – mostly because of my lack of time management.  I would rather be eating more nutrition-dense foods but somehow I fill up on these quick foods often.  I found myself going hungry once in a while when these convenience foods weren’t an option due to their dairy or animal product contents.

2) Dark green veggies are really good in pasta dishes.  This is not a groundbreaking realization, but before this month, I didn’t often add broccoli, spinach, or kale to my mac n cheese and quick pasta dishes.  I might have eaten broccoli on the side with some KD but now I find myself throwing kale or broccoli right in with the pasta while it’s cooking and truly appreciating the bright green colour and fresh flavour that the greens add to my meal.

3) Going full force eating vegan for 30 days has not  made me yearn for seeds and salads, nor has it turned me into a carnivorous bacon connoisseur.  I’m the same person with the same desire for cheese, but I still find eating less animal to be a worthwhile pursuit and I’m not about to give up on it.  Those cookbooks on the shelf still have a lot of vegan love to give.

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Vegan Hot Chocolate

27 Mar

Honestly, a really really good cocoa recipe. So comforting after a tiring day…

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A Soul-Warming Miso Soup

26 Mar

Last night, my beau and I had a friend over.  For this occasion I made coconut BLTs and a lovely Miso Soup.  I added Wakame seaweed which includes beneficial nutrients such as 100% of your daily iodine in a serving (good for thyroid support).  The soup was one of the best I’ve made in a long time.  I’m going to try to recall how I made it, just for you.  
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1. Finely chop one of each – onion, carrot, and celery and 2 cloves of garlic, and add to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot on medium heat.
2. Cook until onion is translucent.  Then add about a quarter of a block of tofu, chopped into very small cubes.
3. Add a splash of tamari, a 1/4 tsp of Siracha or other hot sauce, and saute for another minute or two.  
4. Add 2 cups of mushroom stock or other vegetable stock and a teaspoon grated fresh ginger.  Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium low to simmer.
5. While soup is simmering, soak a couple sticks of wakame seaweed in cold water for 5 min.  Remove seaweed from water, chop, and add to soup, along with about 1/2 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil.
6. Add 2 cups chopped kale (stems and rib removed) to the soup and continue to simmer until kale is wilted.
7. Just before serving, dissolve 1 tablespoon of miso in a few tablespoons of water (smoosh it up against the side of the glass/bowl to break it down), then add the diluted miso to the soup.

Serve it up!

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Vegan BLT featuring Coconut Bacon!

25 Mar

I know…coconut bacon sounds strange and unappealing.  But it is SO GOOD!  Anyone who’s ever visited the successful vegan restaurant, Aux Vivres, in Montreal (and ordered the BLT) knows this.

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I discovered the coconut bacon at Aux Vivres while visiting Quebec’s big city this past summer.  I couldn’t believe the smokey flavour, the crisp texture, and even the colour.

Since I haven’t eaten bacon by choice for years (it sneaks its way into things sometimes), and I pretty much want to barf if I accidentally ingest it, I guess you could say I don’t actually like real bacon that much.  Anymore.  I used to eat it religiously with weekend breakfasts, and BLT wraps were among my favourite foods.  My, how things change.

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But I digress.  The coconut BLT recipe is not only easy, but super delicious.  So much so that I think any omnivore would be delighted by it.  Coconut bacon is an especially good alternative if you are avoiding animal fats and opt for plant-based fats or if you’re not a fan of the greasy-ness of bacon in the first place.

Here’s how you make it:

Preheat oven to 325F.  Combine 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke, 1 tablespoon of tamari, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon of water in a mixing bowl.  Add 3 and a half cups unsweetened flaked coconut or raw coconut “chips” found at health food stores.  Toss gently to coat coconut in the sauce.  Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 3-5 minutes at a time before flipping with a spatula.  Keep an eye on these since you want them crispy but not burnt!
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Enjoy in BLT form or throw these into a bacon-free caesar salad. :)

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The sauce used here is “soy-free vegenaise”.

The coconut bacon will keep in an airtight container for about a week.

Broccoli and Mushroom Rotini Alfredo

22 Mar

The other night I was craving a kind of saucy pasta dish, but dairy-free of course.  This rotini with a really simple vegan alfredo and a whole head of broccoli had me satisfied.

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Broccoli and Mushroom Rotini Alfredo. Not the best, pic. Oh well.

About half a standard box of whole wheat rotini pasta (or some other shape you like)
One head of broccoli, chopped
5-6 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup vegan buttery spread, such as Earth Balance
1/8 cup all purpose flour
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond, unsweetend)
1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
Salt to taste
1 tsp garlic powder (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp Paprika

Steps:

1. Cook the pasta according to your taste (I like it al dente), but 1 min. before it’s done add in the broccoli, then drain and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, sautee the mushrooms on medium until cooked, set aside in a dish.  In the same pan, melt the vegan butter on medium low and stir in the flour til it forms a paste/roux.
3. Stir in the non-dairy milk until you reach ‘sauce’ consistency (about 1 min.), then add nutritional yeast.
4. Turn the heat to low and add salt to taste, garlic powder, and paprika for colour and a little flavour, if desired.
5. Add pasta and broccoli to the pan, along with mushrooms and toss to coat with sauce.

And you’re done!  It wasn’t too creamy, but it was just enough for me.  If you like it quite saucy, double the sauce recipe.

It serves 2 or one very hungry person and takes less than 20 min. to make once you have your ingredients ready.

Don’t be afraid to play around with the amount of ‘milk’, nutritional yeast, salt, and garlic powder you use to get your perfect flavour.  If you want a richer sauce, add more vegan buttery spread.

This would make a great quick dinner this weekend!

Arabesque Cafe Family Restaurant

21 Mar

For those nights when you just don’t feel like cooking there’s always takeout.  But as a vegan in KW there aren’t as many options.  My beau has wanted to try the Lebanese food of Arabesque Cafe Family Restaurant since sighting it on Victoria Road, Kitchener.

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 I was hesitant but agreed to try takeout tonight, with the promise of a falafel plate.  The dish came with that quintessential red cabbage slaw, hummus and pita (made on site) and I ordered tabouleh salad and fries as sides.  It was a big portion and very enjoyable, especially if you like a lot of tahini in your hummus.  I can’t say what it’s like to dine in, but I’d give the takeout a try if  you live in the area and you’re looking for something out of the pizza or Chinese food realm.

Check out their website for the full menu.

The Vegan Brownie Review Trilogy – Part 3

20 Mar

1-IMG_2861Almond flour, rice flour, and arrowroot powder.  With ingredients like that, who would’ve thought these would be the most scrumptious brownies of all!

After the tasty, but less than amazing results of Part 1 and Part 2, the Part 3 brownie recipe of the vegan brownie review has reigned supreme, so to speak.

Vegan, gluten-free brownie:  You are understated and never overrated as the vegan brownie champion!

The recipe came from the ever-popular vegan blog “Oh She Glows”.

My Review:

Cakey or Fudgey?:  Fudgey as any other.  A great dense texture without being *too* much like fudge.

Ease of preparation:  The ingredients are obscure if you’re not a regular gluten-free baker.  But I promise, you’ll want to make these again and the extra ingredient purchases will be worthwhile.

Overall taste (Scale of 1-5, 5 being out of this world and the best I’ve ever tasted): Scoring a full point ahead of the last delicious recipe, I give ‘em a 4.5.  The first bite had me questioning flavour – you get a quick hit of almondy flavour before the chocolate fully kicks in, but every bite after that is nothing but brownie heaven. These were taste-tested on 3 other very willing participants who agreed they were super tasty even in comparison to most “regular” brownies.

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Did I mention these are not only vegan, but gluten-free?

1-IMG_2832 I hope you enjoyed that vegan brownie triology. I know I did. ;)

A Simple Idea for Satisfying a Sweet Tooth

19 Mar

This is a snack that I created (or at least I’d never seen before) while on a detox a couple years back.  My eating choices were limited to mostly fruit and veg, rice, oils, vinegar, and other non-gluten grains.   All you need is a banana, almond milk (any flavour, sweetened or not), cocoa powder, and cinnamon.  I still eat this any time I’m craving something sweet but would feel too jacked up if I ate something chock full of refined sugar.

Just slice the banana, pour the “milk”, sprinkle the cinnamon and cocoa, and you’ve got a sweet, slightly chocolatey snack!  And the cinnamon helps balance blood sugar levels, too!

P.S. Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Vegan Brownie Review Triology tomorrow!  These babies are gluten-free and vegan and might just surprise you.

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A Stew That Tastes Like Christmas (to me)

18 Mar

Lentil Stew
I know it’s almost Spring and far from Winter festivities, but the weather is making me crave cozy meals.

Most of my friends and family have Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that consist of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.  This year my family Christmases had those things plus more.

Being the vegetarian of the group, I usually bring my own dish with enough to share.  This year’s dish brought on the “Mmm”s and “Ooh”s.  It was a vegan lentil stew adapted from vegan chef and cookbook author, Chloe Coscarelli.  Hers was featured in a handy nytimes blog post along with the recipe and two more recipes for soul-delighting vegan holiday mains (for those internet newbs, click the link to read the post and recipes).

It’s a lentil stew with the sweet and spicy flavours of apple, sweet potato, and curry powder.  Oh yes, curry, but it doesn’t taste just like an Indian-style lentil curry.  It’s got a different vibe.  The curry is subtle in the background and is balanced with the richness of the vegetable broth and green lentils that simmered in it.

The original recipe calls for squash instead of sweet potato and spinach instead of kale.  I put a little of my own preferences into it – and let’s face it, squash is a bit more difficult to peel than a potato (any tips on peeling butternut?).

I recommend you give these flavour combos a try.  What other ingredients do you cook using curry?  There’s a whole curry world out there, and someone’s gotta eat it.

p.s. Sorry for the lack of pics.

Sarah Eats Salads

15 Mar

Like I said a couple posts back, I do eat more than just brownies.  I eat veggies and fruit, too. ;)

Here’s a salad I like to make with roasted vegetables (carrots and broccoli – yes you can roast broccoli and it’s delicious!), avocado and balsamic vinegar.

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It’s pretty cool because you don’t need to make a dressing.  The oils from the avocado mix with the vinegar when you toss the salad and make their own dressing.  You have to use a very ripe avocado and toss it with your hands, mushing the avocado slightly as you go.

Here’s some fruit I had for breakfast (a deconstructed fruit salad?) courtesy of my beau’s parents.

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Have a lovely, relaxing weekend and don’t forget to soak up some sun!

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