Quick Post About a Quick Breakfast

14 Mar

Today is a quick afternoon post kind of day.  Most people have made a smoothie before (right?) but everyone has their own preferences or things they like to add to create a more nutritious snack or breakfast.  I’m not feeling well lately – for the last 3-4 weeks, some time before this vegan challenge.  I might have a touch of the flu or some other affliction (went to the doc yesterday).  So when I’m not feeling like putting a lot of effort into a morning meal, I make a smoothie!

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My basic everyday smoothie favourite is:
1/2 cup of apple/pear juice (no sugar added, unfiltered is good)
1/2 cup water
1/2 banana (not frozen, or frozen – up to you)
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 tbsp flax oil (for omega 3 and 6)

Sometimes I add some ground flax for the fibre – other people like to use hemp or chia seeds.  There are so many little add-ins for smoothies to up the nutrient factor.

I also like to add a special energizing greens powder that is nutrient-PACKED!
With the greens powder and strawberry combo, you can expect a brown-ish colour…kind of gross-looking but tasty!

Another favourite of mine is a tasty banana-cocoa smoothie.  It makes me feel like I’m eating dessert any time the mood strikes!

1-IMG_2628 1/2 raw banana
1 cup or more almond milk or coconut milk (diluted or not)
1 ice cube
1 tablespoon cocoa
1-2 tsp maple syrup to taste

What’s your favourite smoothie add-in?  I’d love to know how to make my smoothies a nutritious meal in drink form. 😉

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The Vegan Brownie Review Trilogy – Part 2

13 Mar

Remember Part 1 of The Vegan Brownie Review Trilogy?  As promised, Part 2 is here!  This time I made a more complex brownie recipe from jae steele’s book, “Get It Ripe”.  This is another book that I borrowed countless times from my local library, only to buy it months later.  Sidenote: This book is full of great recipes, but not only that, offers a LOT of helpful nutritional info from a holistic and vegan perspective, cooking and baking technique tips, and more!

1-IMG_2717My Review:

Cakey or Fudgey?:  As I mentioned in Part 1, I like somewhere in between a cakey and fudgey.  These would’ve been more fudgey than the brownies in part 1 I think, but I’m pretty sure I over-mixed the spelt flour (it has less gluten and over-mixing can cause it to crumble) and they turned out a bit dry.  What with the melted chocolate and the tofu in this recipe, I’d think they’d normally hold together.  That said, you might want to try all-purpose flour instead of spelt if you’re worried about over-mixing with spelt.  Spelt was used to eliminate conventional wheat from this recipe, which causes allergies for many.

Ease of preparation:  These brownies were easy enough to make.  There were a couple finicky ingredients besides the spelt (melted chocolate and tofu) which also require a double-boiler set-up  and a food processor or blender.  But other than those, the rest of the ingredients were your basic straight-forward brownie fixin’s.  Not difficult!

Overall taste (Scale of 1-5, 5 being out of this world and the best I’ve ever tasted):  I give ’em a 3.5.  I took off .5 for the texture (due to my over-mixing or mis-measuring, I’m pretty sure) wasn’t as it should be, but the flavour was excellent!  Even as a crumbly brownie, these were great with coconut ice cream (such as the vegan brand “so delicious”) or the  coconut whipped cream I made.

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I would recommend trying these out!  Since the ingredients are a bit different from your traditional brownie recipe, it’s a fun experiment.  And if it works out texture-wise, the flavours are as rich as any other brownie I’ve tried.

If you try them and the texture works out, I’d love to hear if they held together for you.

Part 3 of the Brownie Review Trilogy is on the way  and it will be gluten-free.  Let’s see what happens!

Making (and eating) Pancakes Like It’s the Weekend

12 Mar

We’re on March Break!  Yes, I work in a school and my beau is a soon-to-be teacher himself, so we are off for this week (without pay, but off nonetheless).  And what this means is that I have more time to eat (vegan) pancakes.

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Pancakes are just about the easiest food to make vegan, but I use this vegan recipe.  It’s an oldie but my go-to every time I make pancakes (which isn’t often enough, I figure, since I don’t have the recipe memorized).

The coolest aspect of this recipe is that you make it in a blender!  No more stirring, just throw everything in and blend away.  Want pancakes the next morning but not with-it enough first thing to get out ingredients and follow steps?  Just blend it up the night before and put the blender pitcher in the fridge overnight.

My beau actually made these pancakes for me and did a fantastic job.  They were thin, cute, and slightly chewy (in a good way).  We had them with strawberry sauce (aka strawberries defrosted and smooshed up in a saucepan).

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P.S. I know that it’s starting to appear that I mostly just eat vegan cheezey foods, brownies and pancakes, but I promise I eat lots of other more beneficial foods too!  I just like to share with you all the things that are vegan AND fun!  You know, like, more fun than salads?

Want a Sweet Treat? Man, Go Eat a Mango!

11 Mar

Until recently I would only buy bags of already cut, frozen mango.  Then I saw some whole mangos on sale for a good price and bought three!  I had been too lazy or disinterested to figure out how to pick a good mango and actually cut one.  Eating a ripe, fresh mango is such a tasty experience.  When the juicy sweetness hits my taste-buds it transports me to a tropical fruity heaven of some kind.  Yes, I’m being a little corny.  But honestly, for me , no other fruit can provide such an elated feeling!

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In general, fruit is like natures fast food.  It often comes in its own edible wrapping.  It’s easy to grab and go.  And it’s a scrumptious mid-day snack.  Mangos are a little different in that they need to be peeled and they can be quite messy – not the best fruit-on-the-go option.

1-IMG_2379That’s why I have taken to eating mangos as a dessert, at home.  I like to cut it up all fancy-like, and eat it with a bit of dark chocolate and scoop of coconut ice cream (yes, all vegan!).

Want to make your mango look all fancy too?

What you’ll need: 
– a ripe mango (soft to the squeeze with a sweet smell)
– a paring knife or small-ish utility knife
– a cutting board (to catch all the juice and mess!)

How to slice it:
1) The mango has an oblong shape, a bit like a squishy egg shape.  You’ll want to start by cutting off each of the wider, flatt-ish sides (which will become the attractively diced fruit you see above).  Watch out for the pit!  Mangos have a stone a lot like a peach, but bigger and oblong, just like the fruit it lives in.  You’ll have to cut the flesh off as close to the seed as possible (you’ll hear a kind of crunching sound and the knife won’t glide easily when you hit it).

2) After cutting off each of the fleshier flatter sides, you can slice off the other parts, so as not to waste any of the yummy fruit (I just eat this part right away, ’cause who can wait?).
The "hedgehog" style is a common way...

3) Now you should have two flatter, fruity sides to work with.  Much like cutting an avocado, if you’ve ever done that, you’ll want to hold the oblong half in your palm – flesh up, skin down.  Now run the knife through the flesh vertically, just until you hit the skin (but not through the skin!).  Do the same thing horizontally, making a checkerboard pattern.  Now you’ve got your dice!

4) Gently push the skin side so it’s now concave and the inner flesh is now a convex shape with diced chunks sticking out of it (as pictured above).

That’s it!  It’s so pretty and impressive.  You can do this for your own enjoyment or present your beautiful mango dessert to your dinner guests.  Such a sweet treat to behold!

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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The Best Way to Grow Food in Your Kitchen

7 Mar

A sprouting glass jar with mung beans sproutin...

I’ve had grand aspirations to grow my own vegetables.  As a hungry vegan, growing my own would make eating my veggies that much more attainable and satisfying.  Homegrown veg are local (obviously) and can be organic. You have control over the process from start to finish and you reap the reward!

But, life can move fast.  We have priorities.  And if becoming a small-scale farmer isn’t a priority to you, it helps to take little steps without getting overwhelmed.  In this consumer culture it gives me peace of mind to do something, no matter how small, to create.

Enter sprouts!  Remember those cute little chia pets?  That green stuff was sprouted seeds!  Remember when you could go to any grocery store and get alfalfa?  Not so much any more due to e. coli health scares.  Know what’s easier than sprouts at the store that could contain e. coli?  Sprouts that took you a few days to grow on your kitchen counter for a fraction of the cost.  Sprouts are full of micronutrients (more than a mature plant!) – all the things the little plant would need to grow after germinating are most available for your body to absorb.

You can find instructions on many websites for sprouting, or you could buy a little sprouting container, but I’ll let you know how I do it.  It’s the easiest way and fun!

Materials:
– any wide mouthed glass jar (like a mason jar)
– cheesecloth (can get it at the dollar store)
– rubber band
– a packet of sprouting seeds (I get them at a health food store, or you can just use some organic lentils if you have them at home)

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These are the seeds I used. I think there was red clover, mung bean, radish seeds, and something else.

Steps:

1) Fill jar about 1/4 full with the seeds.  Put the piece of cheesecloth over the top to cover and secure with a rubber band.
Rinse and drain the seeds through the cloth.  Fill the jar again with cool water to soak the seeds.  Probably 6-12 hours.  Overnight works.

2) Drain water when soaking is done.  Then rinse and drain the water this time.  Put the jar somewhere out of direct light, upside-down and on an angle to let excess water drain off (pictured below).

3) Repeat step 2 twice daily for 2-6 days, until sprout is as long as the seed or grain it came from, or when the tiny seeds have broken away from their hull.  Basically they will look like sprouts and will not be difficult to chew.

Here are my sprouts (after soaking) on day 1 and 3:

Day 1 after soaking (top) and Day 3 (bottom)

Day 1 after soaking (top) and Day 3 (bottom)

I ate them yesterday as part of a salad but didn’t take a picture of the salad.  It looked a bit like the one below.

Organic Quinoa Salad

Organic Quinoa Salad (Photo credit: uwenna)

I also made a simple dressing by squeezing half a lemon over the quinoa then adding about a teaspoon each of flax oil and olive oil.  I also put in a little salt and pepper and a pinch of cumin to take it up a notch.

Usually I would make more than just this little bit of sprouts but I only had about a tablespoon left in the package.  You can eat sprouts in salads, on sandwiches, or just eat them as a snack if you’re that hardcore.  It’s an easy way to add nutrition to your diet, with minimal effort and without spending a lot of money.  Awesome!

So many seeds are suitable for sprouting!  What have you tired to sprout?

The Vegan Brownie Review Trilogy – Part 1

6 Mar

No matter what my diet contains, it must contain brownies.  That and cookies.  And ice cream.  Dairy or no dairy.  Eggs or no eggs.  There must be brownies.

So I’m putting vegan brownie recipes to the test.  This time around I used a basic recipe from one of my favourite blogs Alien’s Day Out.  I began reading this blog while I was in Korea and was looking for ways to make vegetarian food.  The original recipe is from a popular vegetarian website, VegWeb.com.

1-IMG_2691My Review:

Cakey or Fudgy?:  I like somewhere in between a cakey and fudgey.  These were a little too on the cakey side for me, but still tasty and chocolatey.

Ease of preparation:  These brownies were a snap to make as long as you have flax seeds or meal on hand (found in most grocery stores.)  No obscure ingredients to worry about.  For most vegan baking it helps if you have flax seeds on hand, as these are often used as a simple and neutral-flavoured egg substitute/binding agent.

Overall taste (Scale of 1-5, 5 being out of this world and the best I’ve ever tasted):  I give ’em a 3.

For the little work it takes to make these, I would recommend giving them a go.  The texture might change depending on your oven’s temperature, if you eat them right out of the oven, or if you wait ’til the next day’s coffee and chocolate fix.

The adapted recipe is as follows (from Alien’s Day Out): 1-IMG_2689

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
1 Tbs ground flax seeds
2 cups organic unrefined sugar (or 1 cup white, 1 cup brown)
1/2 cup grape seed oil (or canola)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coffee extract (I left it out)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I left them out)

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your baking pan by lightly oiling it or using parchment paper.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, add about 1/4 cup of the water and the ground flax seeds. Whisk til it thickens a bit. Add the rest of the water, along with the sugar, oil, extract, and salt. Whisk well.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and using a spatula, stir until everything is almost all incorporated.
5. Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan and spread evenly with a spatula.
6. Bake in oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let it rest about 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

I left out the coffee extract and the walnuts since I didn’t have any, but you could probably replace the water with strong brewed coffee for a bit of the same effect.  Apparently, coffee extract can help bring out the cocoa flavour in the brownies.

Part 2 and 3 of the Brownie Review Trilogy is on the way (in the coming weeks).  And for all my gluten-free friends, one of the next two recipes will be vegan AND gluten-free!

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.

1-Cool Beans

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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You Put a Carrot Where?!

4 Mar

This weekend was a fun one, but tiring.  I had an amazing time on Friday with a bunch of friends at a favourite local bar, Imbibe.  They have some great craft beers which are different all the time.   There aren’t a lot of vegan food choices, but I made do (salad and a stack of tofu, anyone?).

Saturday was actually pretty relaxing, and after a short hike on a nearby trial with my beau, we were off to uptown for a coffee and lunch.  We tried a new place, “Zoup!“.  I had a 7 bean soup and a vegetarian sandwich with hummus, hold the cheese.  It was pretty tasty and soup-er satisfying.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures since I have a very old non-smart phone and didn’t have my camera.

This Sunday I got up to some light cooking and had a delicious lunch of soup (again with the soup!) and sandwich.  I had some pureed squash/pumpkin in the freezer that I cooked up back in the fall.  With a diced onion, some grated fresh ginger, a few spices and a can of coconut milk I was on my way.

The coconut cream I saved from making the soup.

The coconut cream I saved from making the soup.

The best vegan "cheese" I've tried.

The best vegan “cheese” I’ve tried.

I was craving a grilled cheese.  “How does one make a vegan grilled cheese?” you ask?  I used a vegan shredded “cheese” available at many supermarkets near you.  Besides being dairy free, it’s also casein, soy, and gluten free, and made with non-gmo expeller-pressed oils (which is good).  It’s not health food by any means, but if you’re hankering hard for some cheese, then all (vegan) things in moderation.  The brand, Daiya (pictured right), is gaining popularity with dairy-free eaters everywhere.

But where does the carrot come in, you ask?  The carrots in the grilled cheese idea came from Candice, The Edgy Veg.  I’ve been following her youtube videos for a while and haven’t tried too many recipes yet.  However, this grilled cheese has become a new favourite.  It’s made like a standard grilled cheese, but using vegan buttery spread, Daiya, and roasted carrots.

I can’t get enough of the carrots.

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It seems odd, I know.  Carrots in a grilled cheese?  But the roasty/sweet flavour and firm texture just adds a little something extra.  Try it.  I dare you.

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Cocounut Pumpkin/Squash Soup

Cocounut Pumpkin/Squash Soup

The First Day and Just Getting Started

1 Mar

It’s officially the first day of my month of vegan-only eating.  And I’m pumped!  Last night I went out and bought a few items that I would consider staples in the process of converting to an animal-free diet.

Some of these items include:

  • agave syrup (as an alternative to honey which is what I usually use, along with maple syrup)
  • quinoa (one of my fave grains/seeds for its high nutrient profile, with all the amino acids a new vegan needs)
  • WAY TOO MANY types of non-dairy milk – unsweetened almond, unsweetened soy, and a chocolate/mint soy that I have previously tried during the holidays (so good in coffee)
  • Bengal Spice tea, which is like chai tea except there’s no caffeine.  It’s so good with a bit of maple syrup and almond milk.
  • chocolate chunks for baking (these ones are semi-sweet and non-dairy with no soy either).  Baking is one of my favourite hobbies, so I gotta have chocolate in the chip or chunk form.
  • greens – spinach and kale (great for anything from soups and stews to salads or just to eat on the side)

In addition to these I already have:  vegan buttery-spread, lots of fruit, dark chocolate, carrots, potatoes and other vegetable basics, and 3 kinds of mustard (my favourite condiment).

For my first vegan breakfast I decided on a quinoa porridge with vanilla almond milk and some frozen mango chunks cooked-in.  Then I added some sliced bananas, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup.  I made this with the leftover quinoa I had waiting in the fridge.  Pretty convenient!

Quinoa Porridge with Mango and Banana

Quinoa Porridge with Mango and Banana

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I really enjoyed this (with some of that Bengal Spice tea)!  You have to be okay with a quinoa flavour and texture to begin with.  It’s a bit nutty and is high in fibre with a slight grit to it.  That sounds weird, but if you’ve ever had quinoa, you know what I’m saying, right?

Quinoa has been touted for its healthy protein, fibre, and mineral content – and it’s gluten-free and therefore safe for folks who are sensitive to the gluten found in wheat.  Here’s what the Whole Grains Council organization website has to say about it.

Well, how about that?

This weekend I plan on trying out a few more complex vegan meals (more complex than porridge at least).  I can’t wait to discover some alternatives to my usual weekend breakfast of eggs over-easy.  🙂

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