Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Touring Peru

Finally made it to Peru ^... flight delays, running the entire Miami airport and getting zero sleep on the plane.. I was ready to get to the hotel and get some sleep... unfortunaely I spent the next 24 hours trying to track down my bags... they spend and extra night in Miami and then made to me with about 30 minutes to spare before I was on the road again. Despite this, I did get to see a little bit of the city with the 24 hours I had to wait.

I found the ocean and got to walk a bit on the beach.. also found a cool place called love park in Miraflores which seemed to be the hotspot for wedding photos. Was really strange, most of the brides were very pregnant and young. Looked like a lot of shot gun weddings going on in Lima.

The hostel I was at was good, but also like going back in time. All the decor was from the 1950s including an old radio and rotary phones.

Next I took off to find Playa mayor and ended up on a tour with a bunch of americans. In the square we went to the Church and Monastery on San Francisco. Such a cool place, very catholic. In the basement they have catacombs and when people died they just piled them on top of each other. The bones protect the church from seismic activity. Interesting way to earthquake proof a building.

In terms of food in Peru, it is very, very, difficult to find vegetarian, let alone vegan. I managed to find salad that was pretty good, though I am pretty sure it had cheese in it. The farther into the highlands I am going the harder it is to find things, but it isnt that bad. Every tastes really good and I found veggie sandwhiches.

I think the best part of Lima is the dancing. Everywhere you go, they are looking for a reason to dance. As soon as the music starts the danicing begins. Pretty sweet.

Nasca is next... Looking forward to flying over the lines and getting to wander in the desert.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Formula for an Easy Wholesome Meal

They days are counting down fast until I leave again. This time, I am gone for three weeks. I am trying my best to just use what I have and save my money for traveling. So tonight for dinner, I decided to make a rice dish. Something that not just vegans, but I think all people should know is the formula to an easy, one-pot meal. Since I am vegan, mine is based around the grain.

The formula is very simple, take a grain that you have on hand (rice, barley, couscous, quinoa, etc). Then pair it with a protein (Beans, lentils, seeds, etc), add in a few herbs and spices (cumin and corriander is one I go to a lot, but you could do basil, italian seasoning and pretty much anything you are feeling). Here is the basic formula:

Easy Dinner = 1 cup cooked grain + one can/cup of beans + 1 can of tomatoes + 1 cup cooked greens + 1-2 tbsp herbs

This obviously is the basic recipe, so go ahead and play with it. You really can't screw it up. I normal try to use fresh veggies when I can, but I didn't have any, so I used frozen spinach and it made this recipe wholesome and tasty.

Here is my actual recipe of what I made:

Dirty Vegan Rice
Served 4 ish, takes about 45 mins if cooking rice from scratch, 10 minutes if you have cooked rice
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can of dice tomoatoes, not drained
  • 1 package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp corriander
  • salt and pepper
  • Green onion, chopped
Add the rice and water to a big pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 35 minutes. While its cooking drain the chickpeas and the spinach. When the rice is ready add the remaining ingredients and cook until heated through.
Start with a pot of rice, or some other grain. Start adding the beans and tomatoes
Add your greens and spices..
Stir and heat through and Serve! Or eat it out of the pot, why waste a dish..

Serve with green onions and toasted seeds as a garnish.
Add some green onion and sunflower seeds as a garnish.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ginger Molasses Baked Tofu

Saturday night. I have grounded myself in order to get ready for my next trip. Luckily there are plenty of bad movies on TV and I have even more bad movies PVR'd. I didn't have much on hand to cook with, but I knew whatever I made I needed to incorporate a couple things: 1. roasted potatoes. I bought some from the Farmer's Market and I have been waiting all day to roast them up! 2. Tofu. I have had some in my fridge for too long and it is time something is done with it. 3. Sweet and Spicy. I just love that combo and I have a pumpkin spice cupcake for dessert that would go well with a sweet n' spicy dinner.

As usual, the next steps were to forage in the kitchen for a way to pull this together. I decided to make a basic marinade with ginger and molasses.

Molasses, specifically blackstrap molasses is about as healthy has sugar is going to get. It is full of minerals and is a great source for iron... like 15-20% of your daily requirement is in one serving. Not bad. Next time someone asks you how you make sure you get enough iron without tearing into animals for dinner, you can tell them that. Then you can google it when they don't believe you. It is also a  good source of calcium (10% of your daily requirement is in two tsp of molasses).

So yeah, healthy sugar! I still is a sweetener, so a little goes a long way, but it is so much better than white granulated sugar. Also a great choice to thicken and sweeten up a marinade.

Ginger Molasses Baked Tofu
*Serves two
  • 1 block of tofu, cut into quarters or whatever shape you want.
  • 1/4 cup of blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 soy sauce
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • salt and pepper

First press your tofu and place it in a shallow dish. Mix the marinade ingredients together and then pour on top. Let it sit covered for at least and hour. Longer is better. Once the marinade is ready, preheat your over to 350 F. Get a cookie sheet and cover it with Foil. Add the tofu slices and if you are doing potatoes as a side, you can put those beside the tofu. Bake for about 30-40 minutes turning half way.
Save a little space for your veggies

I served this with kale which I added to the same cookie sheet about 12 minutes before everything was ready. This way I had nothing on the stove and with the foil, minimal dishes to clean up afterwards. It is a very practical way to cook!
The aftermath of an edible arrangement I got became the side dish of my dinner
Was told only a vegan would take garnish and eat it.. I'm ok with that. 
One dinner, one pan, no scrubbing. Love it.
The result - fast and easy dinner.

For dessert, I had my last cupcake that I got at the farmers market from vegout bakery. I bought a lemon and pumpkin spice cupcake. They were both amazing. They taste so homemade yet so perfect. It is really hard to describe it in words. I will be back for a birthday cupcake next week! If you are in Edmonton, go check them out sometime at the downtown farmers market.

Dessert from Vegout Bakery. So good, Edmontonians, Veggie or not, I recommend!
Now, the following day I decided to try this same recipe except for fried. It was even better than baked! Simply heat some oil in a pan and then bread the tofu in cornmeal. Cook about 7-8 minutes a side.

Same recipe, but fried. Seriously good.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Things Momentarily Returning to Normal

Back home. I figured the first thing I would want to do is run out and make a big home made vegan meal. Instead, all I wanted to do is lie on my couch and take a day off. Not wanting to eat junk food for another week... I lucked out and my sister cooked me dinner for World Vegan Day! and yes, I am late posting... the excuse de jour? I left my computer's power cord on my last trip.

Tofu... yum... My favourite way to cut them up. For dinner we had them quartered and it also worked really well
Laura, my sister and vegan flirt decided to make a vegan feast which is generally dinner at her place when I come over. She and her family have really gotten into a lot of the vegan recipes that I have tried over the past couple years. She made an awesome dinner that was so simple and so satisfying, it is something I never seem to get when I am on the road.

First she made ginger marinaded baked tofu from the Kind Diet. When I make something like this I am always trying to find something to give it a kung pow, but she paired it with a nice simple brown rice with roasted sunflower seeds and green onion (I also threw some of the leftover marinade on it. Highly recommend). Then some steamed veggies on the side with a little bit of lemon on them. The recipe isn't posted online, but she has lots of others available: http://www.thekindlife.com/

I was so hungry when I got there, I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished product and then ate two full servings.
One thing that Laura asked me to bring when I came over was dessert. I forgot. Those that know me know that this is pretty much a constant in my life. I forget everything, but dessert? Inexcusable! To make up for the potentially world vegan day disaster I actually went back to a recipe for a cookie I made once a long time ago (Original recipe is here).

I modified this recipe a bit. First thing I did was I did not dry the apple sauce. I just used a scant 1/4 cup instead of a full one. Next? I forgot to put the maple syrup in. Then after the cooked were ready to bakes, I stirred it in. Lastly, I didn't bother with raisins. I was in a hurry and plumping raisins takes five minutes. Chocolate cookies and chopped pecans are instant gratification.

The result of these changes? Amazing! It kind of tasted like oatmeal, but intensely sweet and a hint of salt. Even my mother who brought in pepperoni pizza in case she didn't like tofu liked them. It is so satisfying when I can make something vegan and people who hate 'vegan' food love it. She even admitted the tofu was pretty good and it was just the texture of it that she wasn't into. I consider that a win in itself.

It kind of drives me crazy when people say they don't like vegan food. Mostly because people eat 'vegan food' all the time and the things that they haven't tried yet? Just drip the vegan from the name and people seem to be much better with it. Something about that word gets some non-vegans on edge. I don't know if I will ever understand that.. maybe for another post.
A picture I found of my favourite vegan in training! 
Meet Gizmo. He is one of my pigs and a fellow vegan.
Part of the reason I have not be posting much is that he is  sick, but now happy to report he is on the mend

Happy belated world vegan day. I am getting the energy together to make some tasty meals this weekend and include lots of pictures.

A vegan in her element... blogging and cooking.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Vegan in the Maritimes

Family things have unexpectedly brought me out to Saint John New Brunswick. I was hoping to have a little travel break for a few weeks, but it was not to be. So here I am.. eating in airports again and working up the energy to explain my dietary choices to everyone out here. It is tricky, because I don't want to offend people here and there are lot of elderly that just can't see beyond meat and potatoes.

I had a very pleasant surprise when I arrived, 'fresh' of the red eye and starving. I am staying with my Aunt and Uncle and they have another family member that recently made the switch to a full vegan diet. He switched for health (high cholesterol) and apparently loved it ever since. When I got to the house, I expected not a lot I could eat beyond grains and veggies, but to my surprise, there was bruschetta pizza and vegan cupcakes! They were super good too!

I did a bit of a search before heading out here to see what the vegan food situation would be like and it seemed grim at first, but yesterday I had an excellent meal at a Thai restaurant called Suwana Restaurant on the west side. All of the entrees had a tofu option and the pad Thai was vegan. I also had a great salad with carrots, cabbage and a tangy spicy dressing. It was really, really good. The restaurant is in an old, old house so the surroundings are really neat. Something you don't really get in Edmonton.

Saint John has also got sushi now and apparently a very decent range of veggie sushi is available. I heard the restaurant to go to is A Taste of Sushi in uptown SJ. I likely won't have a chance to go this trip, but it is comforting to know it is there. Previous trips have gotten me and my sister to drive 90 minutes to fulfill a sushi craving.

One thing, that I have forgotten about that is really a maritime delicacy is cherry cream cheese sandwiches. I am planning to attempt the vegan version when I get home as I could not find toffutti out here. The sandwich is simple and very pretty looking. To the non-east coast people out there, it seems odd and to some... gross. Once you try, you will love.

Maritimer Cherry Cream Cheese Sandwiches
  • 1 tub of toffutti cream cheese (regular about 16 oz)
  • 1 large jar of maraschino cherries
  • bread
  • Margarine
Simplest recipe ever. Get a tub of cream cheese and put it in a bowl and soften. Cut up the maraschino cherries and add them to the cream cheese with a little of the juice. Stir well. Get some sandwich bread (you can make in tea style sandwiches or you can roll them) and remove the crust (I know the crust is healthier, but I have never seen them with the crust). spread a little margarine if you want on the bread and add a generous dollop of the mixture. If you want rolls, simply role the single slice of bread up and then cut into 1-2" slices.

So good, it is almost like cheese cake in sandwich forms. I forget about these little sandwiches, but they have an appearance all maritime functions. Perfect for tea, receptions, showers etc etc.

I think I will be making these at home when I get back. It is time Alberta got a little taste of maritime traditional food :)

Sorry, no pictures again. I didn't bring my camera. It makes for a less interesting post, but hopefully it's not too bad. I can't believe that Vegan MoFo is almost finished. It has been so much fun trying to post everyday. I hope I can keep it up as much as possible. I hope everyone out there reading has been enjoying and would love to hear topic suggestions if there are some out there. I tend to not plan these posts and write them as I go. Makes it more fun to me and keeps me cooking!

Tomorrow night I am getting treated with vegan chili. I will try and snap some cell pics of it and maybe even steal the recipe to share!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

100th Post! Attack of the Vegan Protein/Snack Bars

Man, I wish I had planned for this. I didn't. I have not grocery shopped and I am about to hop a plane again.

So.. This post will be unfortunately without many pictures. If I ever get some time to get organized, I will add them on. Last week while I was out of town, I decided to test out vegan protein and snack bars to see what was out there, what was good, what wasn't etc, etc.

I find as a vegan that travels a lot, I need to always have a protein bar or two with me at all times. You never know when you are going to be stuck somewhere hungry and all you can get is a green salad. For me that is never enough!

My problem has always been that I never know what is vegan and what isn't and I never know if the bar is going to be good enough that I will even bother finishing it. In my opinion a protein bar or snack bar is not really ideal, but in a pinch it works for me. I went to a few different stores to see what was out there. I found lots. I also went online to see what people recommended and some said that bars that I am sure were vegan, were not. I read the ingredients, so hopefully I didn't miss something.

Before I review, here is a few of my overall learnings from this experience:

I don't like protein bars. In general, protein bars are going to pack the bigger punch when you're hungry. Every protein/meal replacement bar I tried, I didn't finish. I didn't like any of them. I found that protein bars were more dry, less sweet and really just not my favourite. Snack bars, on the other hand are pretty good. Lots of sugar and not so cardboard like. Such is the story of my life! :S

They are expensive! Across the board they are $2-3 each. That adds up. If you can find a way to get real food, I would say go for it. Next time I am in the US I think I will stock up, they are about half the price there from what I saw.

Ingredients... too many! Almost every bar I tried had an ingredient list that barely fit on the packaging. That is too much if you ask me. The longer the list of ingredients, the more suspicious I get about how healthy it really is and whether it is actually vegan. I am learning there are a lot of things out there that are derived from animals that I didn't know about.

Check the labels - a lot fo the bars I tried said vegan right on them. That makes it so much easier!

Flavour - I was hoping to make this a better experiment by only trying chocolate flavoured bars. Unfortunately my assumption that chocolate would be an across the board flavour was very wrong. I also found out that chocolate is probably my least favourite! Lesson learned.

So what bars did I try? There are probably more out there, but these are the ones I attempted to eat.

Protein Bars

  1. Vega Bar - I was excited about this one. Mostly because it gets promoted a lot on my twitter feed. Unfortunately, I did not like it at all. It was kind of dry and didn't taste that great. However, it did the job as I ate it as a meal and I wasn't hungry after eating about half of it. From that respect, this maybe was not as bad as I thought at the time. It doesn't seem to have a lot of other flavours going on which is good for me. It has 10g of protein and 6g of fibre. Most of the ingredients were not chemical looking on the label (date, hemp, almond, flax, even dulse!)
  2. Pro Bar - This one I hated, to be honest. Mostly because it was chocolate, but had dried fruit in it, including pineapple and I just don't like that combo. The ingredient list is insane, with over 35 listed. Most of which were, again, real foods and not processed stuff. If you like fruit and chocolate, this could be a good choice. It has a lot of calories (370) and 20g of fat! This one is seriously a meal replacer. Be warned if you eat this as a snack!
  3. Clif Bar - This one was one I heard online isn't vegan. I couldn't find anything non vegan in it, so I tried it. I did not like it. Not at all! Dry and kind of tasted like cardboard. I didn't finish it and I did not feel full from it.
  4. Bumble Bar - I am not sure if this is a snack or protein bar, but I was told it was supposed to be a protein bar. I love the packing on these, but to my surprise when I opened it, the bar looked like those sesame snacks you can get at the grocery store. It tastes like sesame and brown rice syrup. It was good, sort of filling (not as much as the other two), but to be honest, I could make this at home pretty easy and probably better. 
Snack Bars
  1. Lara - This was the first vegan snack bar I have had. I don't like the chocolate flavour, but the fruit ones are great and there are tons of options which is good. My favourite is key lime and peanut butter and jelly. They do have quite a bit of calories and not a lot of protein and fibre, but these are something that I often take with me on trips. Easy to pack and I know they will taste good.
  2. Luna - I saw online that these are not vegan. I have gone over the ingredients many times and can't see why they aren't, so I am listing it. If they really are not, let me know! I love Luna bars, but only one flavour, Smore's. Chocolaty and sweet they make a great little snack or packable dessert. This is another one I take with me a lot.
  3. ReBar - First time eating this. I had the banana walnut flavour and it was really good. A little less in calories at 170, these to me seem like a good option for a snack. not much in the way of protein and fibre though. It tastes kind of like a fruit roll up.
Chocolate Bars
  1. Twilight - this bar is basically a vegan mars bar. It was so good. Has a lot of calories in though, but if looking for a treat, this is a good one.
  2. Mahalo Bar - Made by the same people as the Twilight bar, this is another yummy treat. Made with coconut, chocolate and almond. I ate this after sitting at a staff pizza party where I did not have much for food. I was so glad I had this. I think it kind of tastes like a bounty bar.
So there you have it. If you are looking for a snack bar, meal replacer or a treat, there are lots of options out there for us vegans. These bars never replace the real deal which is a good balanced meal, but in a pinch they are better than nothing. I am so glad I tried all the different ones out there and have added a few now to my vegan travel bag so I know I will never truly go hungry.

Did I miss any good ones out there? If so, leave a comment!

** I may not be blogging for the next few days, I will try, but you have been warned. I will be back for sure on Monday though! Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pizza Pizza Pizza

Another day of not cooking. I don't like it. Not at all! I have an unexpected trip tomorrow and haven't even unpacked from the last, let alone meal plan or do groceries.

Normally in instances like this, I would hide away from the blog world and take a few days off. This time, I am trying not to do that.

I was really hoping to make a vegan pizza during Vegan MoFo, but unless that happens on Oct 31, It will be something for down the road.

Today for me was a day of pizza. It all started at lunch. The dreaded pizza lunch. This is something I fear more than almost anything of the non vegan world. Even more than going to meat-fest BBQ's. At a BBQ, I don't want to eat whatever people have there that isn't vegan. Pizza parties on the other hand... It smells so good. Grease and Fat and Bread encased in cheese. That is a tricky thing for a vegan to compete with. Especially if you are like me and you are not so big on vegan cheeses.

My work made sure they had a salad for me, but unfortunately it showed up with feta cheese all over it and even trying to pick around it, I couldn't eat it. Instead I went and found my left over rice and ate that with a vegan chocolate bar for dessert. Everyone kind of looked over and was a little angry. This is not the impression I want to send out to non vegans. I don't want them to see being vegan as a sacrifice or a struggle. Unfortunately, once in a while when you aren't prepared, this can happen.

In the future, I need to take control on these pizza lunches. I have had enough of the sad looking salad (that still has cheese on it!) any pizza place can make a vegan pizza. They may not believe, but all they have to do is leave the cheese and meat off! sometimes, it will take a little explaining, but just tell any pizza place to put tons of veggies, sauce, but no cheese. I wish I had done, this... but I didn't. Lesson learned!

It was a sad lunch for me today and all afternoon, all I could think of is pizza. I didn't have anything to make a pizza at home, so James and I headed out to Famoso Pizza. Possibly one of the best pizza places in the city.
Photo Credit: http://eatingisthehardpart.com
Over half an hour wait and we finally got in. At least while waiting, they provide wine and flatbread. Famoso has always been somewhat vegan friendly. They have a non-dairy cheese option for $2 on any pizza. They also have salads that can be done vegan. In the summer I have seen sorbetto there as well which means you, as a vegan, can go to this non-vegan labelled restaurant and happily eat a full meal. how nice is that?

Tonight, I discovered better news. They have switched their cheese to Daiya and they are no longer up-charging for it! My favourite pizza there is the Primavera Pizza. They give a very good serving of veggies and they put the cheese underneath so it stays together. You can also make your own pizza. They have hummus and bruschetta as well.

If you are looking for a vegan pizza place that delivers, you can also try Funky Pickle. They make a really good vegan pizza with tahini on it. It is good. Very Mediterranean Inspired.

Coming soon, I hope, will be my version of the ultimate vegan pizza. There will most certainly be pesto involved in this recipe. I can't wait!

Is it Vegan? Part I

Unfortunately another quick post for me tonight. Some things came up today and I ended up not cooking, spending time with the family instead. However, I wanted to be sure I posted something and what better time than now to start a series I have been meaning to work on for some time. Is it vegan? I get this question a lot. Really, a lot. There are things out there that seem vegan, but if you look closely... they are not.
Beware the hair and feathers found in this bread. Ewww...
Today I am going to keep it brief an just mention one that I recently discovered.

L-cysteine - This is an improving agent. It is found in bakery products and namely, bread. I discovered this by my sister. I don't where she heard, but she said that originally this was derived from human hair (ew) and is now coming from by products of the slaughter. Mostly from feathers.

It is in a lot of bread. Most of Safeway's bread and sandwhich bread. so far, I have not seen it in whole grain breads and pita bread which is a relief.

So beware and seriously... Is it really necessary to put human hair and/or feathers in baked goods? Why can't we just get a fresh baked bread. I don't need it to be 'improved' or presernved. I just prefer not to have hair and feathers or the crap that is derived from them in my sandwich.

Boo - If you would take out the milk protein, vegans could have this too.
Not that I support much of what Nestle makes... another rant for another day.
Another one I would like to quickly mention is casein or caseinate. It is often found in veggie cheese and meats and in non-dairy creamer. not all, but some. Again check the ingredients closely! What I don't understand is why would you make a product like soy cheese where you already have a small market in North America and then limit yourself even more by making it non-vegan? I don't get it and what ever this stuff does, I bet it isn't worth it.

That is all for now. I will be adding to this list with others and there are many.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What F*ck is a Sesame?

Today I was craving sesame seeds. I was then told by a friend that my craving confirmed I am definitely a vegan. Who craves Sesame seeds?? Apparently I do. My craving reminded my of the Mitch Hedburg Skit on Sesame. Enough that I went and watched it on You Tube, hence the title of this post. Here is a bit of the skit I was thinking of. You are warned. Mitch was not vegan, but still, funny.

I didn't do what you all think. I didn't go out and eat a bowl of sesame seeds. Instead, I made Maui ginger marinated tempeh with sesame seeds, wild and brown rice with herbs and sesames seeds and collard greens fried in sesame oil and topped with... yes.. sesame seeds. I have fulfilled the craving. If only all of my cravings were so easy.

Before I get to my dinner, back to the question that Mitch Hedburg raised... what the hell is a sesame?  Well, it is a plant and normally grows in Africa and India and the seeds are super good. They are one of the oldest condiments out there. Mainly used in Asian dishes, they add a little nuttiness and a little crunch to food. You can also make tahini with them (Oddly, I have tahini and didn't think to use any at the time!).

Are sesame seeds healthy? Of course! They are a great source of manganese and copper. They also have calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1 zinc and fiber. They are also known to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

I love when my cravings are healthy. It doesn't happen often, so i figured I should just go with it today.

I was going to make sesame crusted tofu, but I was running late and hadn't prepped anything, so I hit up Planet Organic and found some pre-marinated tempeh. It was good, but I would have rather made a marinade from scratch. I know that would be better, but sometimes, time isn't on your side.

Maui Ginger Tempeh

  • One package tempeh (I actually used half, but would work with all of it)
  • 1/4 cup of Maui Marinade (I have had this forever, but go check the grocery store for marinades. They are usually with meat and fish, but most are vegan. Read ingredients first!)
  • 2-3 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
Getting the Tempeh ready to bake. The strips cook faster than the not pre-cut stuff
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Take the tempeh and add the marinade of your choice. If you can, let it sit for an hour. If you can't, get marinaded Tempeh. I used ginger-garlic. Add marinade and tempeh to an oven safe dish and top with lots of sesame seeds.

Cook for about 30 minutes, flipping once. You can also fry this if you want. heat some oil in a pan and fry for about 8 minutes a side.
first time cooking wild rice. Just like brown rice, super easy

I wasn't finished with my sesame craving yet. I also made some wild rice with sesame seeds. Take 1 cup of wild rice or a mix of brown and wild. Add to a pot with 2 1/2 cups water or veggie broth, a tsp of salt, a tsp of butter and a bay leaf. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 40 minutes.
I do this side all the time. It is one of my faves.

Lastly I paired this with sauteed collards with balsamic vinaigrette, dried pomegranate and, yes, toasted sesame seeds. I heated sesame oil in a pan. Added the greens and cooked for 5 minutes. Then I added the remaining ingredients and cooked for another 5 or so.
Dinner in under an hour and only minutes to prepare

The cooking time took a bit (40 minutes), but the work was about 5 minutes. Perfect after work dinner.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Where to Eat in Peoria

When I found out I had to spend a few weeks in Peoria, IL... the first thing I did was check out what the food situation would be like there. I can't remember if I have ever mentioned it, but two very good websites that I use to look for vegan-friendly restaurants are Happycow.net and urbanspoon.com Most vegans are probably already aware, but just in case.. That is where I go when I am going somewhere I don't know anyone.

Searching for vegan restaurants in Peoria, I found zero. three listed as vegetarian-friendly. Not much, so it pretty much means I have to find the ones that aren't listed. There are always some that aren't. Here are few of the places I found and I will be looking to add them to happy cow when I get home.

1. Kellehers - Not a lot on the menu, but they do have a veggie sandwhich and it is good. Roasted vegetables and fries.. can't really be beat. They had some salads that could be altered as well. Not much else without attempting to try and create your own dish (I didn't attempt, but maybe next time). Prices are cheap and overall not a bad spot.

2. Pasand - There are a couple Indian restaurants in the city. Always a safew bet to find a full vegan meal. I was told one was better than the other, so that is what chose. Nice spot down by the university. It was a little grungy inside, but the food was pretty good! They didn't have a lot vegan, but enough that it was no trouble to eat. There is another Indian-Pakistinian restaurant that I want to try. Maybe next month

3.Sushigawa - Little sushi restaurnat right by the hotel. Good food. Actually, great food. They are happy to make maki vegan for you and have a few rolls on there that I had never seen before. Cheap too. Highly reccommended.

4. Five Guys - I wasn't sure about putting this up on the list, but in all fairness, they have a veggie snadwhich available and if that doesn't work, you can fill a greasy food craving with their fries.

The not so great, but I tried anyways

1. Alexander's - They were actually pretty good. I got a veggie skewer, fries and a salad and it was pretty tastey. The reason for the not so great is really, a lot of vegan people probably don't want to be at a restaurant full of gigantic steaks that people grill themselves. That thought definitely crossed my mind while I was there. They do ahve sunflower seeds for a salad topping. That was actually pretty sweet.

2. Joe's Crab Shak - This place was not good. The non-vegans didn't seem to like their meal and all I could find to eat was a garden salad and fries. I told them no meat, no cheese etc for the salad and my ended up with meat on it. To make it worse the service was slow so I didn't bother getting a new one.

3. Peoria Hofbrau - I wasn't going to put this one on, because I didn't end up going. Nothing vegan on the menu and when we called to see if they could accommodate they just said no. They said that was the first time anyone ever asked them that before. I considered being a trouble maker and going anyways to see if I could get them to do anything, but to be honest, I was tired of eating side dishes and bailed out. I ate in my room instead. Sometimes it's just not worth the fight.

I have been purposely just going with the group while I have been in Peoria, but I know there are a few vegan-friendly spots that I have yet to try. Next trip, I will be seeing if I can convince anyone to join me.

I am now back home in Edmonton, but got consumed by pet trouble this weekend and missed a couple days. I hope to be back on track tomorrow. Not much makes me exhausted except dealing with a sick pet and vets. It was a long day with emergency room and dealing with vets that have never treated a guinea pig. Going to attempt an early night and have a fresh start tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pressed Salad

A quick recipe that I learned from the Kind Diet:

Pressed Salad

  • Half a head of cabbage (I like purple or green, any kind will do)
  • 1/4 cucumber, sliced
  • 4-5 radishes, sliced
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • 1 green onion, sliced thin
  • 1 handful seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin) toasted
  • 1 tbsp umeboshi plum vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1tbsp apple juice
  • optional: kale, collards spinach, orange
Super easy to make. Combine all veggies in a bowl and massage them for a few minutes until they start to wilt and release some water. Add the liquids and stir well. Now you need to press it. Get a full kettle and place it on top of the bowl with a plate underneath. Press for about 20-30 minutes.

Can eat right away or save it. Keeps for 3-4 days.

Still got trouble with computers, pics to follow!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trapped in hotel!

Still no way to access my blog while here. Shout out to my best friend James for helping out. So, because of this (the stupid computer, not James... because James is the best), still no pictures to post, but I am still blogging!
Yesterday I wort e a little about eating in airports, but what about after you get to the hotel? Sometimes when I travel for work I can go eat out and there isn't a lot of problems, however, when I travel on my own, I tend to eat in my room a lot more to save on money. Every stay I learn something new about how to make it a bit easier for me. Here are some tips for any vegans out there, or really anyone who wants to be able to save a little by eating in.
First thing that you need to deal with is your room. You need to try and get one as well equipped as possible. Look for hotels that have kitchenettes or suites. Double check before you book the room for what that means because every hotel is different. The room I have right now has a fridge and a microwave, but I have had other suites that have a full kitchen right down to utensils and pots and pans. I find that if you are looking for cheaper spots, just go outside the touristy areas and you will have a much better chance. If you don't mind a small commute, it is worth it. If you are not so big on a commute, look for private owned hotels. You are taking a slightly larger gamble with them, but just do a little research and it will work out.
Now, once you got your hotel room and they have confirmed it is a for real suite with something to cook with, ask after you check in if they can provide cutlery, plates, bowls etc. You can ask for her things like pots and pans if you got an actual kitchen For the most parts, hotels are accommodating.
So what to cook? Well, depends on what you are working with. Where I am I have just a microwave and fridge, so I am pretty limited. For breakfasts, I usually have instant oatmeal, miso soup, breakfast burrito, cereal. At home, I have a green smoothie and it is really hard not having one when I am away. I have actually considered bringing my immersion blender, but because I fly, I haven't. Definitely an option if you love a smoothie in the morning and check baggage or drive. Lunch I rarely eat in my room, but on the few occasions that I have, a sandwich is an obvious one. If I am low on cash, this is my easy standby. Instant soup is another easy one, but not that great. My favourite is pita chips, hummus and veggies. Filling, easy and requires pretty much nothing.
When I eat dinner, I prefer something hot.  One thing that I have tried once was tofu scramble (I guess this could be breakfast too, but I always have it for dinner). The tricky part will be getting spices, but you can either pack your own o just buy when you get there. if you can find bulk, it's pretty easy. Chop up a tomato and put it in the bowl, crumble the tofu (Get pressed, more convenient or you can get silken). add with your fave spice and any cooked veggies if you have any, cook for 4-5 minutes. You can also just cook tofu or tempeh in the microwave. I cut it into strips and then if I have it throw some salad dressing (vinaigrette) on it. Cooke for 4-5 minutes and then top with BBQ sauce or marinara. You can have this with instant rice, baked potato (To do this, just wash and poke some holes in a potato, cover with a wet paper towel and zap it for 10-12 minutes) and with some steamed veggies (Throw veggies into a freezer bag, add a little salt and pepper and a couple tables spoons of water. Cook for 3-4 minutes). The one I was hoping to take some pics of was cooking spaghetti squash! At the store, buy a spaghetti squash, being careful that it will actually fit in the microwave. Ask the store if they can cut it for you, lengthwise. Get a plate and put a little water on it. Put the cut squash, cut side down on the plate and microwave for about 10 minutes. Once done you can top it with earth balance and garlic, or with some marinara. Insanely easy to do.
Lastly, snacks... I have to admit I don't do a lot of snacks in the hotel. I generally just buy some hummus and veggies or chips and keep some fruit, snack bars etc. But for research purposes, I did attempt one dessert and it was not bad at all.
Duke Nukem Apple Crisp
- 1 apple, peeled and chopped
- 1 packet of instant oat meal cinnamon spice flavour (or if you want to get some regular quick cooking oats, it would probably work too)
- 1 Tbsp margarine, melted
- hand full of nuts (I used walnuts and pecans), chopped
First, prep the apples and add them to a bowl (or in my case... a glass). Add a little water (About 2 Tbsp) and cover and cook for 1-2 minutes. Next pull the apples out of the microwave and drain the water. Add the oatmeal and margarine and cook again for about 5 minutes. Test the apples with a knife to see if they are cooked. Once ready, top with the chopped nuts.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Well, blogging is going to be a little more difficult than normal. I was hoping to post every day while I was gone, but my works web filters are not allowing me to access anything. Really frustrating.

It means that unless I can get this fixed, there will be no pictures. I am going to try and keep taking pictures and I will update everything once I am home. It is pretty frustrating and I am not really sure why I can't get access, but I am not going to let it stop me!

Today, I thought it would be a good time to talk about being a vegan in an airport. I fly quite a bit and have been to dozens of airports.

For the most part, I pack snacks. I find it easier than having to seek out food while flying. Sometimes, it is nice to just get a treat for yourself too though. Eating in airports can be a little tricky. In a pinch, I know I can always get chips, nachos, bagel or toast with peanut butter an jam (This is what I turn to when I can't find food and I am hungry!)

Here are a few airports that I have been to recently and what I found they had to offer. This obviously is not an exhausted list, but just what I have seen.

Edmonton International (YEG): I wouldn't have thought this to be the easiest airport to eat in. However, that is not the case at all! First, there are two Starbucks, so my caffeine needs are always taken care of. They also have nut and fruit to go, oatmeal (and they usually hook you up with soy milk if you want it). I also heard that the blueberry bars are vegan. I double checked this on the website and it appears true. The supplier used for them in Edmonton uses margarine that doesn't have whey or milk products. It's so nice to be able to get a treat while you waiting around. Looking for more? YEG has wok box which is vegan-friendly and can do gluten free as well.

Calgary International (YYC): Pretty similar to Edmonton, Calgary has a few choices. Most of them are in the form of french fries, but they do have a smoothie cafe. If you ask nicely and sometime direct, you can get a vegan smoothie. Beyond that, they have Starbucks and some restaurants you can get decent salads and veggie sandwiches. You can also get nachos at chili's, but they don't really give you much more than that. You can also get sushi in the food court which is nice.

Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP): I have found a few options here. There is veggie sushi in the food courts and also veggie spring rolls and stir fry's. There is, of course, Starbucks everywhere you turned. I haven't seen much else except for french fires and salads. I did ask the pizza place in the food court and they said they would do a half pizza with no cheese, but no less.

Detroit, MI: There is a martini bar in this airport that sells fattoush and it is good! For those of you that don't know what that is, it's a Lebanese salad with veggies and fried pita with a very lemony dressing. Super good!

Philadelphia, PA: I couldn't find much here. Bagels, french fries and that was about it.

Vancouver and Victoria BC: Both of these airports have globe which is vegan friendly. They can get you salad sandwich and they are pretty good. Vancouver also has sushi available and likely lots more. I don't really fly here that much and stay in the airport.

I will be doing a lot more flying soon, so I will update with information about Miami, Lima, Cuzco, LA, Seattle and Chicago.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Iron Chef Challenge II: Coffee and Bananas

Last weekend, I missed the posting deadline for iron chef challenge I, I made a thanksgiving turkey out of stuffing and chickpeas. It was sad that I wasn't ready to post on time, so I made sure I would not miss it this time!

Slightly more challenging this week, the ingredients were coffee and bananas. I didn't want to make the obvious coffee cake, muffins or some sort of sweet baked good. I wanted to find a way to incorporate these ingredients into dinner. Thinking and thinking, my first thought was to make a rice dish or banana coffee risotto, but I was not in the mood to be babying a pot of rice (Although I may try that some day... hmm...).

I am a coffee junky. Not a day really goes by without at least one cup of coffee and I always have instant coffee and espresso on hand when I bake. Secretly, I add instant espresso to most of my baking (especially chocolate baking) to add a special... addictive quality. If you have not tried this, please do.

I am also a banana junky. I eat one almost every day. Generally in the form of a smoothie. Bananas can be used to add flavour and binding qualities to many dishes. They are a decent egg substitute (beware they will make what you cook taste like banana).

I decided instead of the baking route to go a bit outside the box for me and make coffee rubbed seitan with coconut coffee rice and banana-mango chutney. Sounds pretty yummy doesn't it? It was. I will admit, each peice alone was just ok, but together they were magic... vegan magic.

Here is what I did:

Banana-Mango Chutney
Makes about a cup, 15 minutes

  • 2 ripe bananas, diced
  • 1 mango, diced (or a cup of frozen)
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp mined ginger
  • 1/4 tsp lime zest
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup instant coffee
  • 2 Tbsp rasins (I used driet pomegranite)

Alright, this is very easy to make. Start by putting the vinegar, sugar, raisins, spices in a pot and bring it to a boil. Add about half of the banana and the mango and reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered for about 10 minutes. The liquid should thicken up. Once cooked, add in the rest of the banana and the mango. Remove from heat and chill.
Pretty simple. add all the ingredients in a pot, cook down, chill and serve

The finished product. So good... I will be making this again!

This is my homemade seitan - click here for the recipe
Coffee Rubbed Seitan
Serves two, 15 minutes

  • 1 package of seitan
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp oil

In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. take the seitan out of the package. It should be fairly wet already. if you want you can spritz a little lime juice on them. I did this for my first attempt and it was good. Dump the seitan into the dry spice bowl and mix with your hands, rubbing the spices right into the seitan.

Now heat a pan on medium heat with the oil. Add the seitan and cook for about 7 minutes a side (Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn).

Now, make you dish. Start with some rice (Here is a recipe for coconut rice that is what I served it with) and then top first with the seitan and then lots of chutney. Lastly sprinkle some chopped cilantro on top if you have it. It helps brighten up the plate.

Mmm.... challenge complete!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mushroom Leek Soup Part II

Recently, I made some wonderful, creamy potato mushroom leek soup. It was filling and warming, exactly what you need with soup. I had a little mushroom and leek leftover, so I figured why not make another soup?

These ingredients are so versatile that I wanted to try something different from the last one. This time, I made a soup with very similar ingredients, but added some Japanese elements to transform it into a completely different meal.

If you haven't tried cooking with miso, you should. It is not an ingredient used in western cooking, but it is really common in Japanese food. You can find it in health food stores, but I find the best place to get it is in an Asian market. Much cheaper and more variety. Most commonly used in soup, but it can be used to season lots of dishes.

What is miso? Well, normally it is fermented soy beans, but sometimes is made with barley, rice or wheat. Once fermented, it becomes a paste that is salty and smooth. Miso is fermented with a B12 bacteria, so if you are looking for a way to get B12 in your diet (fellow vegans, I am talking to you), this is an easy source. It is also a source of trace minerals like zinc and copper, another thing that are helpful in a vegan diet. Miso is really high in sodium, so watch how much you have in a day. That said, you don't need much, so unless you are on a low sodium diet, I don't think sodium is a big issue with miso.
Photo credit: http://www.foodsubs.com/Soyprod.html
Alright let's get back to this soup. I love miso soups because they don't take a long time to cook. Basically make any kind of vegetable soup you want and then add miso at the end. I always try to add some sea vegetables to boost nutrition. I also usually add tofu for a little more protein.

This time I kept it super simple.

Mushroom Leek Miso Soup

  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • One Leek, white part only, halved lengthwise and chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced
  • 1-2 mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth 
  • Water (enough to cover the vegetables)
  • Udon  noodles
  • 1 Tbso soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • 2 Tbsp miso paste
  • 1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • Optional additions: Tofu, wakame, broccoli, kale,carrots, celery etc etc.
Like most soups add oil to a large pot and heat. Add the leeks, garlic and mushrooms cook them until they are soft and browning. If they are sticking, add some water. Once cooked, add the water, broth, noodles and bring to a boil. Add the soy sauce and mirin. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. 

Always saute your base veggies for soups. it adds flavour

I tried to fry some of the noodles first. It really didn't do much, so I didn't add it to the directions.
Up to you to try this way

Now to add the miso, take a cup of the broth out of the pot and add the miso paste. Stir it well and then add it to the soup. Lastly, before serving drizzle a little rice vinegar.

Another warm and satisfying soup. 

Good for any meal. Including breakfast. Some people swear by miso first thing in the morning
Well, after today, I am on the road for a week. I have a bad track record for blogging on the road. I am really going to try my best to keep up blogging everyday. I am truly loving it. Even if it is hard work! Anyone out there reading.. I am looking for food that can be made with just a microwave and very limited cooking supplies. Please comment if you have any suggestions, or email me.

Thanks, have an excellent Saturday!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Searching for Noorishment

A new vegan/raw/organic restaurant has opened in Edmonton and I really have wanted to give it a try. I went there for their grand opening and, well, it did not go exactly as planned (Click here for more info on that one). So, I vowed to try and come back so I could blog about them during Vegan MoFo. So, tonight my James and I made our way to the southside to give the restaurant another try.
Note the tank and scarf/funky hat combo. Nothing matches. This is what James refers to as a hipster.
The iPhone is a must to complete the look. Extra points for live tweeting through the meal.

Unfortunately, a very similar scene to the opening was before us. Staff that had no idea what was going on, no one knew where to seat us. Reservations were getting lost, menus were made out of paper and they ran out. We were able to get a seat though, so I was seeing this through! 

The menu is small and a bit lacking in my opinion. Salads, a soup, pizza, burger, quinoa and nachos. It actually really annoyed me, because this is what I am generally stuck with at all other veggie-friendly restaurants around here. I was really hoping for something different!!

The menu, nothing special on paper, but everything was amazing  once it got to the table
The menu may not have been all that original, but the food? I thought it was fantastic. We had a little bit of everything so that I could give my true honest opinion of the restaurant. First up was a berry blast elixir. Oh man, was this tasty. It was whole berries and it looked super seedy when I got it, but it wasn't (Seeds are my pet peeve in smoothies). The have a citrus one as well as a couple hot ones to choose from. I wish i could make a smoothie as good as that was!

Next up our main course. You have to order from the counter and pay up front for food here. I am not personally a fan of this in a sit-down restaurant. You have to tip before you eat or really have any service. That makes it difficult to gage. When we ordered, the girl at the counter unfortunately was not really an employee, but helping out that night, so she couldn't answer any questions I had about the food. C'est la vie. I paid and she took my name so they could call when the food was up. Unfortunately the person calling out the food did not get names with it and they don't have (or weren't referring to order numbers) so they just call out what the food/drinks are. Our food took a little trip around the restaurant before coming to us.

For an entree, James had a raw pizza which he did not like at all, I loved it though. I think if you are looking for the taste of a traditional pizza, this one will not do it, but I adored the combination of flavours and all the colours on the plate. So pretty and yummy at the same time! The pizza was one a sunflower crust and had a salsa base, veggies... many veggies, and cashew cheese on top. It comes with beets, carrots and some ginger salad thing that go really well with the pizza. I highly recommend this if you go!

This soup didn't look like much, but it was in the top 10 for soups I have ever tried.

Wilted Kale salad. Almost perfect, but the kale wasn't very wilty.
I ordered a wilted kale salad and Peruvian inspired soup. The salad was tasty, but the kale wasn't really wilted. They need to massage that kale a little more. It was very simple, but very good. Something I should make at home sometime. The soup, also simple tomato-based soup had the perfect combination of spices. It looked a little blah, but it tasted like heaven! I was a good friend and traded James soup for pizza. I missed my soup, but it was a good trade to get that tasty pizza.

What does raw, vegan pizza look like, please see above. mmmMMmmm

For dessert I had kiwi lime pie. It had a chocolate coconut crust and some kind of coconut topping. The first bite, I didn't really like this one, but by bite two, I was in love. It was so good, yet not heavy at all. I love that about vegan food. James had a brownie. Again using a lot of coconut, I thought it was good, but wasn't as good as I hoped. I think they need to add some banana to that brownie and maybe some spice. 

Kiwi-Lime Pie. Nuff said.

Brownie - Pretty good, but must like coconut to enjoy this one!
Overall, the people are nice at Noorish. While they were pretty useless if you had a question, needed a table, or wanted them to fulfill a reservation, it was obvious that it was not intentional, they just don't know how to run front of house at a restaurant. The food is amazing. We ordered almost a third of the menu and I was impressed with everything we got (and, might I add, we got the food fairly fast! Hard to find in this city).

On the downside, the menu was a bit flat for me. It did say daily on it, so if they plan on changing it daily, then that would good, but something tells me they aren't. The restaurant appears to be a a sit-down place, but the food is much more cafe. poor James was starving after his food and while I was not so much, I think the dinner menu would have better been used as a lunch menu. The biggest issue is just the complete lack of organization. There were too many people working and not enough people leading. A yoga class broke and everyone just poured into the already full restaurant making it kind of uncomfortable. People coming in with reservations couldn't get a table and I think they were running out of some food so people that should have been running the front were out buying fruit.

James getting his greasy food fix after dinner. I much preferred Noorish, but it is not for everyone.
I will go back to Noorish, but not for a while unless I am getting it to go. They need to get their shit together. I seriously think that they could do well. They got the customers, but the chaotic environment inside will drive them all away if they don't fix it.

If you are in the 109 st area, I do think you should check it out. It is worth it for the food, but be warned if you go during a dinner rush.. things may not be so smooth when you get there.

One last thing, if anyone reading this works at Noorish or knows someone that does, please tell them to put their phone number on their website!!