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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.

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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.

What’s More Comforting Than a Good Mac ‘n’ Cheese? A Vegan Version.

8 Mar

Knowing that there are almost infinite cheese-y vegan substitutes for my fave comfort foods is … well, comforting.  Last night I made this recipe from Chef Chloe Coscarelli’s book, Chloe’s Kitchen.  This book has been renewed many times by me, as a local library frequenter.  I check out a million of their vegan cookbooks and keep them forever  until I have to pay fines.  Finally, for Valentines Day, my beau (with some direction from me) went ahead and purchased Chloe’s Kitchen for me so I never have to pay fines again!

Now I have the yummy mac ‘n’ cheese recipe at my real-life fingertips whenever I want – and thanks to the internet, you can have (virtual) fingertip access too! This is sounding a lot like an ad for Chloe, or for libraries, or for the internet.  I don’t know.

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Anyway, I made the mac ‘n’ cheese and it was cheesy, as it should be.  It starts with a roux and ends with bread crumbs.  Sounds about right to me.  I love how versatile the recipe is too, because it can easily be made soy-free and gluten-free (just use almond or rice instead of soy milk, rice pasta, and gluten-free flour as the base for the roux!).  Mine was full of wheat and soy milk, but hey, the potential is there for just about any kind of dietary needs.

The secret to a cheesy vegan mac ‘n cheese (IMO) is the nutritional yeast.  It’s  got the right flavour and melts into the sauce easily, without clumps.  It’s also a good source of B12 – a vitamin vegan eaters don’t always get enough of (say, if you eat mostly potato chips and pop 😉 ).  I’m not sure how much of the B vitamin the “nooch” contains after cooking, but it’s worth a try!

Mac 'n' Cheese

I enjoyed this before baking, after baking, and then reheated in the microwave and on a bed of spinach (to make it healthier! and more beautiful!).

Have a great weekend, everyone.  Here’s a picture of my cat, just because.

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Cool Beans

5 Mar

If there’s one thing we love as a society, it’s getting more for less.  That’s how I roll when it comes to beans.  Some food preparations of the not-so-distant past seem daunting to us.  Cooking your own beans from the dried form is one of these processes – and it isn’t as hard as it seems!  I have started cooking my own dried black beans, and now that I’m on this vegan kick I feel it’s time to share my enthusiasm for my old style food prep.

Black beans are my fave.  Not only are they delicious, did you know they have the most antioxidants of any legume?  In case you didn’t know, antioxidants do important things for our bodies.  They help our cells stay healthy and function well.  They prevent diseases.  If you’re worried about embarrassing gases, don’t fear!  I’ll fill you in on tactics to prevent “…the more you toot” part of that song.  If you’re sensitive to soy there are many other nutritious legume substitutes that, in combo with other foods (like rice and veg) give you all the amino acid/protein and other vitamins you need when you aren’t eating animal products. What’s not to love?

Now that I’ve convinced you that beans are cool, I will tell you how I cook them.

First, it’s important to soak the beans.  I put about 2-3 cups in a big glass bowl and cover it with fresh water – just fill the bowl right up.  The tricky part is remembering to do this the night before you plan on cooking the beans (or in the morning if you’re cooking ’em at night).  Let the beans soak for 8 – 12 hours.  That’s really the hardest part.  Just be patient, ya’ll.  A watched bean pool never boils, or something like that.

After the beans are good and soaked, the water will look all ugly, and almost black.

Next, drain and rinse those babies.  The rinsing is key to getting rid of the gas-y stuff.  Throw the beans in a big ol’ pot and cover with fresh water.  They need some room.

Boil the beans for 60-90 min. depending on how soft you want them.  I boiled mine for too long because I was talking to my mom on the phone (multi-tasking!), but that’s okay because I needed soft beans.

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When they’re done, drain and rinse again (for even less toot).  And now you’re done!  You’ll have like 10 times the beans you would’ve gotten in that little can, for maybe twice the price.  You can freeze the beans and then just throw them in soups or chilies when the mood strikes.  The fresh beans can be used as is in salads or tossed into anything from pastas to the blender for bean dip!  The best part is that now you have so many more beans for so little money, a lot of inactive wait time, and really not very much actual active cooking time.

I made re-fried beans with a bunch of mine and turned them into burritos with veggies I had kicking around in the fridge (including some leftover roasted potatoes).

Here’s a recipe for re-fried beans you can try that is very flexible to your tastes.  Just add or take away spices to your mouth’s content.  🙂

Simple Re-fried Beans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 smallish onion (diced)
1/2 tsp each cumin, chill powder, and coriander
1-2 cloves garlie (minced or pressed)
cayenne pepper or chilli flakes (or both!), optional or to taste – start with 1/4 tsp
2 cups cooked black beans (can sub pinto beans)
3-4 tbsp of veg stock for added flavour and moisture
 1tsp salt
squeeze of lemon or lime (optional, but recommended)

Method
Heat the oil in a pot or skillet.  Add the onion and the first 3 spices and cook until onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and the other spice if using.  Cook for 1 min-ish.

Add beans, stock, and salt and cook until heated.  Use a slotted spoon or other utensil to help smash the beans as they’re cooking.

When they are heated, mash some more or blend for smooth beans.  You can add the citrus now if you like.  You might need to heat it up again but I’m not bothered.

Serve with nacho chips and salsa, use in taco salad, or make a burrito and enjoy!

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