Tag Archives: vegetarian

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.

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?

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 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.

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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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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

Why Vegan (for 30 days)?

28 Feb

A vegan diet consists of no animal products, whether that is meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or anything that comes from a living creature (like honey, for example).  For the last, oh, 6 years or so I have eaten a mostly vegetarian diet (no meat – beef, poultry, or pork, and very little fish).  There are some ethical, environmental, political, and other reasons for why I stopped eating meat, but that’s a dialogue I might open some other time.  Regardless of how I’ve labeled my eating habits, I’ve always found myself wrapped up in culinary adventures of many sorts.

As a kid, there was the chocolate chip cookies experiment (No, adding salt as a substitute for flour is NOT a good idea); the scientific discoveries (KD will be ready sooner if I add a little salt to the water); and the first time successes (Yes, french toast does taste amazing when sandwiched with jam on the inside!).  As I entered my twenties, a vegetarian diet just started making more sense to me for various reasons and I was faced with the challenge of turning my long-time favourites (mmm, chicken strips and cucumber) into vegetarian versions!  Well, sometimes the meat and potatoes meal just isn’t the same with tofu in place of meat and it becomes time to find some creativity.

I have heard many friends and family members declare, “I could never live without meat/cheese/other animal product!”, and while I can see what makes living without these foods seem undesirable and scary, I can also attest to the whole realm of flavour and texture possibilities that comes about with the creativity that vegan cooking requires!  To me, cooking and eating vegan is all about just that – creativity and possibilities.  As a vegetarian, I’ve often preferred a unique vegan meal to one that features a mock-meat substitute in the place of the meaty main dish.

So, why vegan?  The answer is: Why not?  Vegan cooking can be some of the most imaginative, incorporating flavours and ingredients from a diversity of cultures and continents.  It’s time to step outside the box by stepping into the world of a plant-based prerogative.

Join me this month (starting tomorrow!), as I tackle the challenges of giving up some of my most crave-worthy foods (cheese!) and enjoy the ‘fruits’ of my kitchen adventures (mangos!).

Let the good eats ve-gan!

(Is it too soon for a ‘vegan’ pun?)

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