Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter Escape Picnic

For what seems to be the first time in a long time, I woke up and saw blue sky... Then... SUNSHINE! Such a nice day today. I almost forgot that it was still winter. Unfortunately I promised myself that today would be a cleaning day. The pigs were dirty, laundry is way overdue. So I kept my promise and stayed in. Since I hate winter and snow, I probably am enjoying this sunny day better watching it through a window. That way, I don't have to deal with the slushy snowy mess outside.
Inspired by the sunshine, I decided to make a summery picnic lunch. I found this recipe in The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone.
Tofu Salad
  • 1/4 cup of frozen peas
  • 1/3 of a block of tofu
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery (I did half of this)
  • 3 olives, chopped (I used green pitted)
  • 1 Tbsp rinsed capers
  • 2-3 slices of dill pickles, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped scallion
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp Vegenaise (I doubled this)
  • 2 tsp umeboshi plum paste
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

So this is very easy to make. First, take the tofu and press it while you prep the veggies. Blanch the peas for a couple minutes so they are bright green.

Next, chop up all the veggies and set aside.

Once everything is prepped, boil 1/2 cup water and steam the tofu for 5 minutes. When it is done, transfer it to a bowl and mash it up with a fork.
Next add all the other ingredients to the bowl of tofu and mix until it is well combined. I like a creamier salad so I doubled the Vegenaise in the original recipe. You may want to start with one tablespoon and then add the second if necessary.
Makes 1-2 servings. You can eat this as a salad or on a sandwich. I decided to make a pita boat with some green leaf lettuce. This recipe has some seriously strong flavours and really packs a punch. Since I was having a winter picnic, I decided to make some lemonade... well limeade actually which went so good with this.

Super awesome to eat in the sunshine!

Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cooking without a recipe a la Chef at Home

Well, it is Monday. It is freezing out and snowing and I am getting over a nasty cold. I am trying to get back into meal planning and while making the meal plan is not so difficult, following it is my challenge. Today for dinner I wrote 'stew'.

Well, so many options here all of a sudden. I took stock of ingredients and I didn't have enough of traditional stew ingredients. I did, however, have two sweet potatoes and really wanted to use them.

Following the Michael Smith theme of cooking without a recipe... I decided to just to go free style. A little scary for me as I have screwed up many a recipes by trying to ad-lib herbs and spices. Here is what I came up with..

Stay outta the Snow Sweet Potato Stew
  • 1 tbsp Oil
  • one onion, chopped
  • two cloves of garlic, chopped
  • One package of Seitan, chopped (about 500g)
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (Or maybe a small hot chili, diced)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp all spice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • two sweet potatoes, approx 1 1/2" dice
  • one can of diced tomatoes
  • approx 1 cup vegetable broth
  • one can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • one head of broccoli, chopped

Prep all the ingredients and in a large pot heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add in the seitan and  cook another 2-3 minutes. Add all the spices and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Add in all the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Once boiling, drop the heat to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are nice and soft. Taste and adjust the spices as necessary.

With mine, I steamed some dinosaur kale, rainbow chard to make sure I got some additional veggies and had a side of steamed brown rice.

When I started this, I was not intending on putting broccoli in it. While I am not sure it is the best vegetable in the stew, it definitely was non-offensive and really just took on the flavours of the stew.However, I really like to put at least one or two green veggies in these one pot meals. I find if I don't, I forget to eat my veggies. I also forgot that Broccoli does not really hold its colour well in things like stew, so it was not the prettiest thing to include.
I think maybe instead of having the chard or kale on the side. This might have been really yummy and pretty with the chard just right in the stew. Noted for next time.
Now, I have recently realized that a lot of people I know, have never tried Kale and I now feel obligated to include some information on this yummy veggie I often throw on the side of my dinners.
Kale is loaded in nutrients including vitamins A, C, K, calcium, fibre, magnesium, and many others. It packs a big punch for the little 36 calories per cup. It is in my opinion, a super food. Some think it has cancer fighting powers and an ability to lower cholesterol.
I compare Kale to a healthier substitute for Broccoli. It is in the same family and is considered part of the same family as Broc, Cauliflower, and wild cabbage. Its taste is pretty mild and it can be pared with almost any entree. I love to add kale to green smoothies, stir fries, soups, stews, pizza.. See? Kale is a magical veggie. You can even make kale chips with it! I have been told the best way to eat Kale is by steaming it first for about 4-5 minutes. I love to steam or saute kale and the throw a splash of balsamic vinegar on it. It brings the kale to life!
If you have not tried Kale, please do. I cannot believe I went 25 years without trying this vegetable. Next dinner, skip the usual, boring veggies and try something new!

Christmas -- Officially Over

Well, it has taken me a long time to get here, but I am finally posting all the Christmas actiivities that I have been up to. This year turned out to be a better holday season than most. I didn't get to go away, but spirits were definetely up. Getting a week off of work didn't hurt either!

Every year our family gets together for Christmas eve and we snack and hang out, open presents and then end the evening with Lobster rolls. This was my first time going into the holidays vegan, so I wasn't sure how it would go. In the end, I did have a lobster roll. I felt a little guilty, but I was hungry. Ah well, I will be better prepared next year and hold strong! Sorry little lobsters!

I was hoping to post all the ridiculous gifts that I got, but the family did really well this time around. All lovely gifts. I wasn't planning on getting into details, but I promised my dad I would post them. He spent the holidays storm watching; not a bad way to do it.

I got a funky apron (how domestic!), a cool piggy bank, a portable speaker for my iPod (now I can listen to music while I cook!), a couple of gift cards, a fun stocking, and a really cool lamp that I had been eyeing for almost a year now. I am so glad we didn't do the secret Santa thing. I may get talked into trying it next year... maybe.. I just really like giving and getting new stuff. Sometimes you get things that you didn't even know you wanted... Like a kobo!!

This xmas I was going to plan my Brazil trip for my present to me, but I got a little side-tracked. Instead I got myself a sweet new laptop! It weighs half as much as my old one and has lots of harddrive space. I think it was an excellent splurge.

Now back to my vegan failure.. I started out doing so well. I went prepared to Christmas with yummy snacks. I made bruschetta, empanadas and rum-nog cookies.

Basic Bruschetta
  • 6 roma tomatoes, diced
  • two green onions, thinly sliced
  • olive oil, use a good one, about 1/4 - 1/3 cup
  • 10-12 basil leaves, chopped
  • two cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bruschetta is such an easy thing to make. Directions are to chop everything up and throw it into a bowl. I always use a tupperware and then cover and shake it up to combine. If you use a bowl, just stir. Let it sit for an hour, but overnight is best. Bruschetta is supposed to be about the olive

I love bruschetta on pizza, with crackers, on bread, anything you want. I also use it with kale chips and topped it on some fried polenta.


The Empanadas were fantastic. I got the recipe from Veganomicon and while I had some learnings, and it really took a long time, these were so amazing and delicious, I would definitely make these again for a party or something. I might also make just the stuffing, and pair it up with rice or polenta. It was seriously that good.

unfortunately I do not have the recipe handy for this one. check out or Veganomicon.

Day one - Prep
First thing I had to do was roast my squash and cool it. I had a squash that was hanging around my apartment for over a month. It looked fine, so I googled what the shelf life is and it seemed ok. So I roasted away... Learning - not all squash is ok after a month. Sometimes it implodes.
So after a fast trip to the grocery store, I returned with a fresh squash and roasted it and got it in the fridge in time to prepare the crust.

Now the crust was fairly straight forward I cut together the shortening and flour and then added in some corn meal. I really liked this addition. It added texture and a bit of sweetness. After rolling out the dough, everything went into the fridge to chill.

Day two - assemble
Alright so with three hours to go to get to my sister's for xmas, I get the rest of the filling together. First I added the red onion and sauteed them in some oil with the jalapeno. While it was cooking I chopped up the squash. Next add the spices and cook for a couple minutes. Next add in the squash and the black beans. Cook everything until its heated through.

Now we are ready for assembly. Another learning for me.. Invest in a rolling pin. When working with a sticky dough a can of chickpeas just does not cut it!

Alright, so I got the dough out of the fridge and started cutting into squares. Adding a couple table spoons of filling to each, I then fold the dough over and seal it with a fork.

Heat your oven to 400 F and bake for about 25 minutes.

The filling was so pretty looking and the spices, maple, lime combo was amazing. I am already starting to think of ways I can use this combo in something else.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, welcome to 2011! I have to say 2010 has not be the greatest of years. While I am not a believer in resolutions, I thought that this year I would start off with some goals.

When I graduated from college, I promised myself that by 2011 I would make some major changes in my life. Now that it's here, I need to really start making some changes for myself.

2011 Goals
  1. Move out of Edmonton - I am not really sure where I want to go, but I do know that I have been over living in Edmonton for a long time. I never intended on staying here and I think I have only because it was easy.
  2. Purge - Not in a diet way! I have a lot of trouble throwing things away. I have a storage closet full of useless things. I have boxes in my living room full of items for a garage sale that did not happen this summer. I think after a while, your things can really start to suffocate you. So with that in mind. I am going to try and purge things as much as possible.
  3. Get more active - Over Christmas I started going back to the gym. I am not a fan of gyms (I feel a bit like a hamster on a wheel), but since I also don't like the cold, a gym is all I got right now in Edmonton! I am going to start slow as I am incredibly out of shape and I think I will try some classes as well to help keep me motivated. Hopefully by summer, I will be in shape enough to use my bike as primary transportation.
  4. Eat more veggies - Even as a vegan, I can forget about eating my veggies! I noticed that so many things that I make are treats and rarely have a side of veggies with it. I find all sorts of reasons, but in the end eating more veggies will make me healthier, cut back on calories, and overall give me more balance.
  5. Write my blog weekly - I thought that blogging would be pretty easy and I would be able to post at least once a week. This has proved to be a huge challenge. I have a back log of recipes I want to post and it becomes overwhelming. I have a problem with procrastination and I think that keeping on top of the blog will hopefully help with this.
OK, so there are five goals. They are big ones, so we will see how I do. Now, how about a recipe? I was having a lazy day today and abandoned a few. I did manage to make an amazing stir fry from my vegan bible, Veganomicon:

Quinoa Pineapple Stir Fry
  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 1 cup pineapple juice (I used a bit less, the juice from a can of pineapples)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cashews
  • 3 tbsp peanut oil (I used sesame)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red hot chili, thinly sliced
  • 1/2" ginger, mined
  • 1 pepper, diced (I used red and green)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped mint
  • 2 cups of fresh pineapple, chopped (I used canned)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • lime wedges for garnish
Since the book calls for cold Quinoa, I made it the night before:

Combine the Quinoa, Pineapple Juice, water, and 1/4 tsp of soy sauce in a pot and bring to a boil. One boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. When it is cooked, cool it in the fridge until cold.

The stir fry:

Prep all the ingredients

Now heat a large wok or frying pan to low heat and dry toast the cashews

Once the cashews are toasted, remove them from the pan and set aside. add the oil and heat the pan to medium heat. Add the green onions and garlic and cook for a couple minutes until it's sizzling.

Next, add the red hot Chile and the ginger. Cook for 2 more minutes. Next add in the peppers and the peas and cook for 5 minutes or until the peppers are soft.

Now add in the mint and the basil and cook for another minute. Add in the quinoa, toasted cashews and the pineapple and toss to combine. Now take the soy sauce, stock and mirin and combine together and pour over the mixture. Stir well so it is all combined and cook for 15 minutes. Stir it every once in a while to make sure that the bottom doesn't burn.

And that's it! Serve with lime wedges for garnish. Recipe makes four large servings.. I ate two because it was that good! Perfect way to start the year!

This recipe comes from Veganomicon, which is now one of my favourite cookbooks. It is a vegan book, but I think vegan or not, this book is great for anyone looking for unique recipes or wanting to dive into the world of vegan cooking. The authors really know what they are doing and are masters at veganizing common dishes and jazzing up tired recipes.

Now, I know I promised to post Christmas, but I promised my sister I would get this recipe up right away. She has just recently discovered the goodness that is Quinoa. If you have not tried it yet, please do. It is a bit pricey in the grocery store, but I found that Cost-co has big bags that are a steal of a deal!

Christmas posts will be coming next, I promise!!

Chinese Take-out, Vegan Style

I am starting to notice a bit of a trend with my posts lately. Salty and sweet treats are everywhere. It must be the dead of winter! Last night I was having a quiet night in and decided to make myself some Chinese take-out... or I suppose it should really be called Chinese Stay-in.

Sweet and Sour Seitan

- One package of Seitan, but into bite size pieces
-  2 tbsp of BBQ sauce (Regular)
- 1/3 cup of vinegar (Either rice or apple cider, I used rice)
- 1 tbsp of Cornstarch
- 14-15 oz can of pineapple (chunks or crushed), reserve the juice
- pinch of salt
- 1 green pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1/2 to 1 yellow onion

Prep the veggies

Heat pan and lightly oil. Add the Setian and brown for 1-2 minutes per side.

Add the chopped veggies and saute for a few minutes. I did not have any other veggies on hand when making this. You could definetely cut back on the pepper and add in some bok choy, broccoli, carrots etc. Whatever veggies are your faves.


 While the veggies are cooking. Stir the BBQ sauce, vinegar, cornstartch, salt and reserved pine apple juice together and let it sit for a couple minutes.

When the veggies are starting to get tender, pour in the sauce and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 8 minutes and then add in the pineapple. Continue to cook until the pineapple is heated through.

Serve on Rice or noodles with a salad or veggie soup. I had some left over miso soup that I had with this. It was yummy!