Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Blues - Salty Snacks to the Rescue!

Well is has certainly been a busy past few weeks. Christmas is sneaking up on us all again; I can't believe there is less than two weeks to go! This year, I decided to do as much as my shopping as possible online. Maybe I was taking the lazy way out this time, but I saw it more as efficient shopping with a glass of wine in hand. Can't get much better than that!

My sister now knows about my blog so I can't divulge any secrets just yet. I have to say though, I think she had the better idea of shopping local. I am guessing she found much funkier gifts. Ah well, on the right side, I will be the recipient of one of them! Woo hoo!

So this year is the first time doing the holidays while eating a vegan diet. I made it through BBQ season and have just one Christmas party to attend. Man, what am I going to do! I don't think the non-vegans of the world realize how much time you can spend trying to figure out how to get through holiday season with good food and without bothering anyone. It's madness! 

I think I will have a similar plan of attack as I did for BBQ season. Vegan emergency pack! Basically I pack a cooler (a small one, like the ones that can hold 12 beers). Inside the cooler I pack something sweet and something salty, vegan condiments etc etc. During BBQ season I packed it with home made black bean burgers, toppings, salad and.or vegan salad dressing, and ice cream.

Now for Christmas... I will have to think about this, but I am thinking I will need an appetizer, something to substitute the turkey, a dessert or at least coconut ice cream, and.. soy nog... Man do I have my work cut out for me!

I shall do my best to have a full reporting of the Christmas festivities including what the hell I am going to pack with me. To be continued!

Alright.. On to the good stuff.. lately I have had a major case of the winter blues. It's cold out and all I want to do is sit at home and eat junk. So rather going out and buying junk food, I did with what I had at home.. and it was a million times better than potato chips and candy!

Roasted Lotus Root, Leeks and Sweet Potato
  •  Lotus root, about 4" peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled (or not) and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced (White part only)
  • 1-2 tbsp of olive oil
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup

This recipe is adapted from Alicia Silverstone's cookbook, The Kind Diet a fabulous book with lots of tasty recipes.

I modified the recipe a bit as I did not have all the veggies listed in the books. I did, however, happen to have lotus root on hand from a shopping trip to T&T. Every time I go there, I wonder why I bother with shopping at Safeway. Everything is cheaper, fresh and they have lots of ingredients that aren't easily found in western grocery stores.

Now, back to the recipe.. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F and get a baking sheet out. I did not grease the sheet and things stuck a bit. Maybe use some cooking spray. Peel and slice all the veggies and put them in a bowl. pour the olive oil on top and mix it up with your hands so everything is covered. Sprinkle the salt and pop it in the oven for 12 - 15 minutes. Take them out and stir then drizzle the maple syrup over top and put them back in the oven for 10 minutes.

How easy is that! Salty, sweet and yummy. I served mine with some left over lentil loaf and sauteed spinach

Vegan Onion Rings
A couple days after this tasty treat, I was again feeling the craving for something salty. I had not been grocery shopping in some time, so my kitchen was not exactly well stocked. After some searching on the internet, I found a recipe for vegan onion rings!

I did not change much as this was a first time making something like this. I did change the seasonings and added some paprika and Chile powder. I have to say that this recipe is easy to do and pretty good. It was not as good as the deep fried version, but pretty close and probably a lot lower in fat, so I will definitely make these again before I go find the fast food alternative. Here are some snap shots of my attempt:

Found all the ingredients. I actually made half of the recipe on the PPK because I only had a little bread crumbs left.

After taking this pic, I realized that this was not the right order! Onion, wet, dry, pan! :)

 Ready for the oven... and now the final results!

trust me, make these! They are salty and sweet and fab!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

Well, my birthday has come and gone. I was glad that in the end I went and partied. I wasn't planning on it, but was convinced by my friend. I got my hair done, bought new clothes (Which did not fit. Serves me right for being in such a rush).

This year, I decided to give myself a birthday present with a trip. Everyone put names of places in a hat and I ended up drawing Rio de Janeiro!! I am so excited. A little scared too. It sounds like Rio may not be the safest place in the world.

Now I am just deciding on when to go and whether I want to risk it and do it on my own, or go with a tour group. Honestly I know I will get to see more if I go on a group tour, but it is so much more expensive!

I found two promising tours. The first is a 15 day volunteering trip. It sounds amazing, but does not seem to have a lot of relaxing time. Essentially you work everyday with the exception of a couple of trips on the weekends. I can't go to Rio and not have a beach day! That honestly worries me.

There is also Carnival. So expensive, but man what an experience!

Will need to figure out the expenses and the timing and go from there I guess.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lazy Saturday - Lazy Did not Pay!

I love a good, lazy weekend. Today I drank my breakfast... by having a soy coffee misto at Starbucks. That is the way I think I need to start more days. I spent my morning with my oldies volunteering at their garage sale. I was given the important position of the white elephant table. I am always in awe of what people will buy... and even more so on how little it takes to convince them. I sold Christmas Villages, coats, VHS and books on Cassette (The woman didn't even think she had a cassette player!), leopard print foot stools, fanny packs and many more things I can't even name. Something about the oldies makes me happy. I love that it is perfectly acceptable to complain and whine all day and everyone just puts up with it. Now don;t get me wrong it's not all whining and carrying on, but there is rarely a day when I don't hear something.

After having to get up early I decided to have a pasta lunch. I have a simple pasta sauce recipe from the Everything Guide to Vegan Cooking Cook book and I loosely follow it to make my own dish:

Pasta with Green machine sauce
- 3/4 cup of soy milk (or whatever you have on hand)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp vegan butter or margarine
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/2 pack of frozen spinach thawed and drained
- Pasta - use one that catches the sauce well like macaroni, or penne
- salt and pepper

(Note - I didn't use exact measurements when I made mine, but this is generally what you need)

1. Boil water and get the past going, cook to the package instructions.
2. As the pasta is cooking, combine the soy milk, butter and garlic over medium heat until melted. Whisk in the flour and let it cook until it begins to thicken
3. Add the spinach, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper and cook until heated through (5-8 min)
4. Combine with pasta

I garnished with some fresh basil. Parsley would have been yummy too.

For dinner, I continued with my lazy Saturday by throwing together a quick stir fry. I had this meatless 'chicken' in the fridge for a while now and decided to try it here. Let me tell you before anyone sees this and thinks it sounds like a quick and easy dinner. I learned my lesson.. Yves Fake chicken is not very good. I did not like it at all! On top of that, I went really lazy and just used some frozen veggies as the base of the stir fry. The veggies were good, but the dish really lacked the luster of a yummy veggie meal. It looks drab and boring.

So see below or what I did. Then I will tell you what I wish i had done!

C+ Stir Fry
- 2 tbsp of oil, I used Sesame
- 2 cups of frozen veggies, I used a Japanese blend
- Hand-full of mushrooms, chopped
- half a head of cabbage (or 2 cups) chopped
- Mince Ginger, about 1 tsp
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp soya sauce
- 1-2 tsp of vinegar (Rice or umeboshi plum)
- 1 small pack of noodles (I used Udon), cooked
- 'Chicken' strips.

Heat up a wok and add sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, add the frozen veg and cook for a couple minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Now... Knowing that this is really like a 4 out of 10. Here is what I would change:

  1. Fresh Vegetables. I know this, and in a pinch a combo of frozen and fresh could work, but really the more fresh, the better the taste
  2. Fake Chicken - this is not good. It definitely had the consistency of meat, but the taste was just weird. Maybe if you had a heavy sauce you could mask the flavour, but not good otherwise. Tofu or Seitan would have been much better.
  3. Cabbage - I used green and it just wasn't right. Bok Choy would have been much better.

So after a mediocre dinner, I decided to make cupcakes! I had all the ingredients to get things going, but not much of a recipe to follow. So I did what most people would do and googled for guidance.

I used the linked recipe to start with:


To this recipe I switched up the spices a bit. I had cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and all spice. I also put a bit less oil in the recipe, probably closer to 1/3 cup than 1/2 cup. The batter was a bit more dense, but it worked out ok.

I would say as they were, these were somewhere between a muffin and a cupcake. They were much more dense than most cupcakes and not very sweet. That said, they were still very yummy... but thought they needed an icing to send them into the world of cupcake.

So, I made a simple vanilla frosting and called my sister for colour inspiration. She chose green...

This, may have been another mistake. The colour was a weird slime colour and I put too much millk in the icing, so no matter what I did, I couldn't get it to thicken enough.

So now these cupcakes had to be eaten with a disclaimer... They really were much yummier than they looked.

All in all it was an OK day. Lots of cooking and really lots of lessons learned about the value in fresh food. I'll leave you with a picture of my favorite roommates.... Meet the Piggies!

All caught with their mouths full.... They had all fresh food.. They refuse anything else. I could take a lesson from them!

Night all

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Quick Meal, Quick Post!

So today I have to keep things short and sweet. Failed on goals today, if only there was an easy way to find motivation. As a serial procrastinator, I figured I could, workout while drinking 8 glasses of water while using my iPod to post resumes online. So here I am at 10:00 pm... nothing started!

Today was a tricky day. It started off great with a yummy green smoothie with spinach, pineapple, banana and soy milk. So good!!

After dealing with the morons at work, I retreated at 11:30 to the nearest open bar (no, not alone... I haven't sunk that low yet!) and had some pizza without the cheese. now I think in a nice pizzeria this would be pretty yummy. However, in a grimey pub before noon, I guess you just take what you can get.

For dinner, I didn't feel like going to the effort of plan A which was a pressed salad a la Alicia Silverstone with homemade lentil soup. So, I came up with a nice plan B for the lazy girl in me... that has pretty much taken over my body.

Polenta and Chili Casserole
- Two cans of Vegan Chili
- 1 1/2 Cup Home made polenta (Though store bought would work too, I felt that making some was easier than going to the store).
- Chili powder
- 1/2 Onion
- Veggies (Frozen, canned, fresh.. whatever) If you use fresh, steam them first.

So after making the polenta, I dumped the chili into a oven safe casserole. Then I stored in the vegetables (I used california mix frozen greens). Then I dumped the polenta on top and sprinked with the chili powder.

Next I baked it at 400 F for about 20-25 min.

So easy... so good!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A whole new me?

Well, it's been a while. Like many things, I never finished my thirty day challenge... well at least with a blog. Decided I am going to change things up on here..

Tonight I can't sleep. I think it's because my life has gone completely stale. I never thought I would still be sitting around, wasting my time in this awful city. I so want out!
The subject of tonight's insomnia is regret of playing it safe. I hate how things have been going lately and really have no clue what to change. Should I move? Should find some new friends? get a hobby? I don't know. I wish answers were little easier to come by. Kind of wish I had a bit of a safety net by now, so running wouldn't be so tricky.

I don't know what to do with myself and I don't know how to figure that out either. Saving money and I know something needs to happen soon. I am truly turning into a lost soul.

It feels like I have missed a lot of good opportunities, but I couldn't actually name one at the same time. Is this what a quarter life crisis is?

Hopefully some sleep will come soon and answers will follow. We shall see.

On the vegan front, things going very well. Although the weakness for creme brule and cheese still kicking around. I know as long as I plan it all out, I can stick with it. Made some brownies tonight... they small yummy. May have a breakfast brownie tomorrow... Will the brownie answer these questions?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Week 2 - This diet is not so bad!

So week two is done, I am half way there. Week two was a little tougher than the last. I wasn't craving meat and started the week with a meal plan that included miso soup, spicy chickpea stew, black-eyed pea croquettes. Well, I couldn't find black-eyed peas anywhere! I didn't know what to substitute them for, so I decided to not bother with the croquettes.

I did make the stew and it was pretty tasty. It was filling and spicy and I used the left over garbanzo beans for hummus.

Then on Friday, I had a slip. I was out of town for a couple days working at a hotel in Calgary. I ordered myself a special meal for the meeting and figured I would just find something veggie for dinner that night. When we got to the restaurant, I was faced with pre-made food and everything had meat and/or dairy! I asked if they could make something for me or switch a sauce and was told flat out 'no'. I ended up having a pasta that had a butter sauce and no other animal product. A small slip, but figured I did my best. Later that night, after a bottle of wine and then creme brulee. Did it taste good? Oh yeah... but I felt pretty crappy after.

The next day I got back on track and found an excellent sushi place that had lots of veggie options. I researched it before going to make sure. It was well worth the trip!

This week was a little tricky and a real test of what it's like to be vegan. There are a lot of restaurants out there that use pre-made food that have lots of junk in it. Also, not everyone is ok with substituting or altering a dish for you. Doing this diet has really made me learn that I have to plan everything out. If I know someone is picking a restaurant, call ahead and if they won't help, eat before you go and pay the price of people thinking you don't eat enough as you pick at a gross, wilty salad.

I am hoping for a better week next week. It involves making vegan chocolate cupcakes, so I am sure it'll be better than this!

I am going to go listen to some hippy vegan propaganda to remind me why I am doing this.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Vegan Challenge - Week 1

So I have made it through a full week of vegan eating. While the start up costs hurt my budget (By hurt, I mean doubled my grocery bill!!) I have to say it did not take long to get me on board with this diet. I am way less tired all the time, I rarely feel hungry, it takes less food to make me feel full, I am drinking more water than ever, and best of all I have not craved meat or dairy once. Well, that may not be completely true, on day two I was drooling over every steak house that I passed. Even as a meat eater I didn't crave things like steak.. How weird is that!?

I am completely surprised that I have not wanted milk or cheese once since starting. Before, both were a part of almost every meal. I was completely hooked. I have no idea why I don't crave either now.. I really don't want to know, I am just glad I don't have to feel the pains of detox.

It has been a learning curve for me. I thought I started off so well; I went to Asian markets for most of my food and then got the few last things at Planet Organic. I made a food plan for the week and tried to reuse ingredients to waste less. I tried have balanced meals and treats and snacks so I wouldn't feel deprived.

Things that I have learned:
1. Beans - who knew how much work goes into these things? And who knew that they pretty much are involved in every meal I eat now... You have to soak them and cook them for hours.. and you can't even leave them to cook, because the water might boil out and need replenishing. I have not quite gotten the hang of the bean situation yet, but I have vowed to try at least eight different bean dishes this month. I have already had two and two more on the menu this week. i wish someone could tell me the easy way to deal with these things.. They confuse me.

2. Tempeh is gross - Ok well that might be exaggerating a bit, but I made a slow cooker meal with tempeh and it was not good. The tempeh had the consistency of spam and the taste of rubber. I don't know if I will try it again... we'll see.

3. Tofu prep - I learned a great trick to prepare tofu. When you buy it, freeze it right away, then let it sit and thaw on the counter. If you do this you can wring the tofu out like a sponge. So much easier than weight down tofu with paper towel and plates etc.

4. Vegan Jello - my dessert this week was Vegan jello. Jello is my favorite thing in the world.. so good light and a million flavours. So I got the recipe for fruit juice, berries and agar agar with ginger juice... I didn't try it until today in fear from my life (something about gelatinous sea vegetables that freak me out) well... verdict - it was really good! not really jello.. but it jiggles and tasted great. Success!

5. Quinoa - Weird super grain.. looks like couscous, cooks like rice.. tastes pretty good, but wouldn't eat it on its own.

Well on to week two - bean dishes, black eyed peas and vegan peanut butter rice crispy treats... I think its going to be a good one.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Vegan Challenge

Screw New Year's resolutions. I have never been a fan, rarely bother to make them and fully-aware that I will never keep them. The vegan challenge started January 11, 2010 and not because of a resolution I made.

It all started one night while I was shopping for a cookbook at 3:00 am. Sometimes I can't sleep, and when I get bored, I tend to surf the net in hope to bored myself into a short coma. I ended up reading a blog on vegan diets and while I have been vegetarian before I had never attempted the plunge into veganism.

The more I read, the more I thought maybe it was worth a try. I bought 3 new books on vegan cooking, subscribed to a couple of podcasts, and began researching this way of life.

As soon as I started to tell people that I was going to do this; the questions began: What will you eat? How do you get protein? What about iron? Are you sure this is Healthy? One thing I was sure of is that it would likely be healthier than the junk that I had been eating the past year.

I find it really interesting how people worry so much about not eating animal products as they sit there eating greasy junk food, sugary candy, and fatty meals. Eating vegan has the same issues as a meat-based diet. You can eat fresh, healthy food, as well as processed junky food.

So to ensure I would eat healthier I plan to base meals on four components: A protein, carbs, vegetables, and something sweet for a dessert. My biggest fear is no dairy. There are easy ways to substitute meat, but in my opinion there is no equal substitute for milk, cheese, and eggs.

This is why I decided one month to try out this new diet. It gives me time to detox off the dairy, try out a lot of new food and decide if it makes me feel better, worse or whatever.

I read the books, got advice from some vegans online, made a meal plan and I am ready to see what happens!