Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stir-fry, take 101?

Anyone that knows me or has read my blog knows that me and stir-fries do not always get along. People assume that vegans live off stir-fry. When I go to hotels, it is almost a guarantee that I will get stir-fry for at least half of my meals (the others, of course, are pasta with roasted vegetables).

Every time I attempt to make a stir-fry, I do just as everyone says, throw a bunch of ingredients together and voila! A magical meal that always tastes great. Well, my stir-fries always turn out to be mediocre at best. However, it does not stop me from continuing to try.

So, this is my latest attempt at making this magical meal. A definite improvement and the only thing I think I would change is to add a bit more sweetness or a bit less sour.

Mango-Kale Stirfry
  • Oil (I used sesame)
  • 1 block of tofu, cut into triangles
  • half a bunch of kale, chopped
  • bok choy, chopped (I used about half of a large head. Is it called a head of bok choy?)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (seeds removed if you aren't into spicy)
  • 1 handful of chopped mushrooms
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 2 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1-2 Tbsp Soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime (Maybe half this if you aren't into sour)
  • 1 Tbsp Mirin
So, the first thing you need to do is press your tofu. What I do is I wrap my tofu in a paper towel or a cloth and set it on a plate, then you need to weigh it down with something heavy. I usually use my kettle, filled with water. It works well. Press it for at least 20 minutes, to an hour.

Next, cut your tofu. I like to cut tofu into triangles (above). First, cut the tofu in half length-wise and then slice it width-wise into 8-12 slices. Flip the slices so they are laying flat and then cut diagonally. Simple and prettier than doing chunks or cubes.

First, prep your veggies so they are ready to go. Get the biggest wok you have an heat your oil on medium. Once hot, add the tofu and fry it for about 5 minutes or until it is golden brown. Flip it and continue to fry for another 3-4 minutes.
Now, start adding your veggies. I started with the jalapeno, kale, mushrooms and the onion. Then I added the ginger, mango and the bok choy after about 5 minutes. Once everything has started to wilt and look cooked, add the broth, mirin, and soy sauce. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring it occasionally.

Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. If you want it sweeter, add mirin. Spicier, add some hot sauce or red chili flakes, salt? Add more soy sauce. Serve on top of rice.

Well, I have to say that my skills in stir-fry making have improved; if only slightly. I thought this had too much lime and not enough spice and sweetness. Considering I love lime, take that into consideration, when adding the lime juice. One day, I will find the perfect stir-fry. I give this recipe an 8 out of 10.

Anyone reading out there, help me! What makes a perfect stir-fry and why am I just not getting?? I would love to hear any suggestions, or maybe your own recipe. Alright, this will be my last post for a few days. I am about to begin a road trip and the first few days will be tricky to blog. Stay tuned though as I will be posting and blogging in about a week.

Anyone know any decent vegan-friendly restaurants in Montreal, Atlanta or Savannah? Send me a message!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lemon Gem Cupcakes

First thing I shouted this morning... "I FORGOT THE VANILLA!!" How can you have successful cupcakes when you forget the vanilla? Well, crisis was averted, the cupcakes were OK. I did learn a lesson: Vanilla really does add depth to your baking, do not leave it out.  I think for any beginner cook, this is an important lesson. Leaving out vanilla in something like a cupcake, is like leaving out the salt. Sure the dish will probably taste fine and if you stay quiet, no one would know. However, after one taste, there is that feeling that something is missing and it is making the food fall a bit flat.

Well fine, lesson learned. I would love to to say that I purposely left if out so I would have something to write about, but the real reason is that I was baking in the middle of the night again and I did not lay out all the ingredients before I started... Again.

So this recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Isa is co-author of Veganomicon which I consider an important book for anyone's shelf. She really knows her shit. I find her recipes tend to have a little edge which is important. Here was my first attempt at one of Isa's cupcakes.

Lemon-Gem Cupcakes
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking power
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk (recipe calls for rice, I used walnut)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest
Pre-heat your oven to 350 F. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In a larger bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Then pour the dry into the wet and mix well until a light batter is formed.

Line a muffin tin with paper wrappers and fill each about 2/3 to 3/4 full (I had small wrappers, so i filled them as much as I could and it worked). Put them in the oven for 17 to 20 minutes. Let them cool on a rack completely and then frost them.

Lemon Frosting
  • 1/4 cup earth balance butter, softened
  • 1/4 soy milk
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups of confectioners sugar (I needed a lot more)
  • Not part of recipe: 1 tsp of lemon extract
Take the butter and cream it with a fork. next mix in the soy milk and the lemon juice until it is fluffy. Add the confectioner's sugar and mix with an electric mixture until you get a nice icing.

So, when I put the icing together, it was way too thin. I ended up adding a lot of extra sugar and I was worried that the lemon wouldn't shine through, so I also added lemon extract. I thought the icing was pretty good. My sister said it was weird on its own, but it worked with the cupcakes. So, a win I think.

I ended up adding some coloured sugar on top of my cupcakes for a bit of colour. These were good and I think they would be even better if I had remembered the vanilla! Next time I make these I think I will try adding a blueberry (yes, just one... per cupcake) to the batter right before I bake them. I think this would make them even better and I love blueberry and lemon together. It is an amazing flavour combo.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Color Me Vegan

I cannot believe how long it has been since my last post! I have no excuse, but I am back now. I thought I would get back into this with finishing what I had started with the review of Colour Me Vegan, Colleen Patrick Goudreau's latest cook book (available here).

I have been using this book now for a while and I have a tried a number of dishes. Overall, I think this book is a great buy; vegan or just flirting or even just looking to add new recipes to your arsenal this book is a good addition to your shelf.

The way this book is organized is by colour rather than by meal. I have to say that there are upsides and downsides to this. First, the upside:

Organizing the book by colour first I felt took me away from restricting dishes to specific times of day. Not that I have ever followed the rules.. I have eaten pancakes for dinner, leftovers for breakfast, and pasta I feel is an any time of day snack... but I think this book forces you to rethink what should be breakfast, lunch and dinner. Colleen addresses this in her introduction and notes that the purpose of the book is to focus on the different phytochemicals found in the plant-based foods out there and the benefits found in the different colours. So instead of searching in the entree, or dessert sections for recipes, I found myself trying to make combinations of colours. In the end I had colourful and nutrient dense meals that I may not have thought of before.

Another upside to this book, is that it teaches you about the colours in food and provides tips on how to get more into your diet. As someone who is still learning about the nutritional benefits found in food, I can honestly say I learned a lot from this book.

Lastly, there is nutritional information. I have been finding that many vegan cookbooks do not have the nutritional information with their recipes and I always sit and wonder... How healthy is what I am eating? Just because a dish is vegan, does not guarantee that it is low fat (well, I suppose there is the guarantee that it is saturated fat free), low calorie. Regardless of whether you are on a diet, some people want this information and it was nice to see it there.

Now, what I did not like about this book.. Some recipes call for reserving ingredients and do not note how much. If you are like me and never fully read instructions and impulsively jump into a recipe, you will likely have mess-ups along the way... I did (See the post on the Raspberry-lemon muffin loaf!) I found a few recipes that this happened. So my advice, read all instructions before starting!

Another down-side is that it can be difficult to find things in this book. I kept flipping through and seeing things I liked, but then when I would go back, I couldn't find them. This was not the end of the world, there is an index. A lot of the recipes will be under one colour, but likely have more than that colour in them. Colleen acknowledges this and admits she had to make executive decisions on some items.

In the end I tried eight recipes out of this book. I loved all of them. Anything that did not come out right was my own fault. The book is well-balanced and has a number of recipes I had not seen before. Total score in my opinion and I highly recommend that you give it a go!

Recipes that are must-tries (and I may post on soon):
OK, that is it for tonight! Stay tuned for some new recipes another book review and new travels. I am heading east and will have full reports on my travels in Montreal, Atlanta and Savannah. Anyone reading from these areas, please send any restaurant recommendations my way!

Night all!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sugar and Spice Almonds

After having a not-so-smooth experience with the Raspberry Lemon Loaf I needed to try something that would be impossible to mess up. Flipping through my book, I found a little recipe for what I think should be name crack laced almonds. They are that addictive. I almost licked the bowl when I finished these at work today.Simple recipe and all you need is about 35 minutes to make these.

Sugar and Spice Almonds
From Colour me Vegan - Beige foods
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp chili pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups of unblanched almonds

Preheat the oven to 250 F. Mix together all the spices and oils together then toss the nuts until everything is coated. Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes, shaking them up every once in a while. That's it!

Some benefits for Almonds - I think I have talked about them before. They are high in vitamin E and have monounsaturated fats which lower cholesterol and help prevent heart disease. They are also high in fibre, which is good for you too.

Some other beige foods (In no particular order):
Mushrooms, nuts, garlic, cauliflower, parsnips, onion, oats, seeds, quinoa,  potatoes, tofu coconut, rice, the list can go on and on.

Ways to include beige foods in your meals:
  • Have a grain with your meals (Whole grains, not the white bleached stuff)
  • Have hummus and veggies for a snacks
  • Add a bit of raw garlic to salad dressing
  • use garlic, ginger and/or onion as a bas to stir fries, stews, soups and casseroles
  • Have porridge or oatmeal at breakfast - check out this recipe!

Raspberry Lemon Loaf

Seems like suddenly it is spring. I cannot be more relieved. Since it is Alberta, I will remain pessimistic until I see leaves on trees and green grass, but I think there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

This inspired me to try out a brighter, sunny recipe and since It was midnight at the time, I figured why not get an early start on breakfast.

In Colour me Vegan there is a great recipe for raspberry lemon muffins that I just had to try. Unfortunately, I broke a very important cooking rule.. I skipped pre-prep. I made my batter, had my oven heated and ready to go and turn to grab my muffin pan and to my surprise; it is nowhere to be seen! I searched everywhere and I am sure my neighbors were wondering what the hell I was doing smashing pots and pans in the middle of the nigh. Gone, gremlins got it.

So, with my batter ready, I had to improvise and made a loaf. I should have went with my instinct on the timing and temperature, but I didn't and the the end result was classic 'oven too hot syndrome' Little dry on the outside and a little too moist on the inside. Ah well, I am the only one eating it, so it is not the end of the world. The important this is that this recipe is seriously good.

Raspberry-Lemon Loaf
  • 1 small container of vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of milk (I used sunflower)
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup of sugar (I used white granulated)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
Preheat the over to 400F (375F if you make a loaf) Mix together the wet ingredients and set aside. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and stir until it is just combined (Lumpy batter is fine. Over mixing muffin batter is bad, don't do it!).

Fold in the raspberries (Note: While making this in the middle of the night, I was sure it said two cups, so I used about a cup and a half of raspberries and then a handful of mixed berries. This may be another reason why my end result was a little too moist in the middle! Lesson learned? Only to read recipes twice. I will cook in the middle of the night forever)

Pour into a greased muffin / loaf pan. If cooking muffins, bake for 20 - 25 minutes. If cooking a loaf, this will be trickier. Start with 30 minutes, then you will have to watch it. Mine ended up taking about 50 minutes in total, but that included taking it out of the oven at 30 minutes thinking it was done, then remembering to check with the toothpick 15 minutes later, realizing a mistake was made and throwing it back in the oven.

I am amazed something edible came out of this, but obvious it was not the recipe's fault. Totally my fault this time.

I love to put brown sugar mixed with a bit of cinnamon on top of muffins, so if you are OK with extra sugar, go for it!

Makes 12 muffins or 1 loaf.

The book includes the nutritional info, so make sure to grab the book, or send me an email and I can get it to you. Red foods are rich in anthocyanins and lycopene (and plenty of other nutrients) and they have been linked to lowering the risk of cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation,  diabetes and bacterial infections. If that isn't enough for your to try... how about this - it tastes awesome! Nuff said.

Other red foods:
Red pepper, Berries, Beets, Red miso, Red quinoa, chard, tomatoes, water melon, red lentils, Apples and many more.

Ways to increase red foods in your diet:
  • Add apples, red pepper, tomato to salads
  • Eat tomato salads
  • add red lentils or tomato paste to soups and stews
  • Add red berries to cereal or smoothies
  • Drink red berry juices or tomato juice
  • Keep apples at your desk

This is a fabulous red recipe, but could be considered a yellow one too. Really brightened up my Monday morning. The only thing to make this morning complete was to have a little pig time.

Prince Henry, chilling like a villain and looking a little pissed that I am not sharing!

Garlicky Greens Pasta

This is my first recipe attempt from Colour me Vegan, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's latest cookbook. Now, this not only was a pretty safe start, but it was so good that I decided I needed post. I can't believe I never thought of making this before. Colleen also has a garlicky greens soup that is fantastic, so i knew this would be good.

I, of course, did not follow the recipe exactly, so I am going to post how I made this one.

Garlicky Greens Pasta a la Caity
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups of whole wheat pasta
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds, toasted
  • salt and pepper
Check Collen's book for her original recipe.

First get a big pot that you would use for your pasta, fill with water and bring to a boil. Add the kale and boil for about 5 minutes or until well cooked. Remove the kale with a slotted spoon and add it to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Do not drain the water.

Next add the pasta (Wait a minute or two if the water isn't boiling) to the water from the kale and cook according to the package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Next, add the red pepper flakes and cook another minute or so. Squeeze all the water out of the greens and then add it to pan with the remaining ingredients and saute for 2-3 minutes.

When the past is done, strain it and add it to the greens and toss. Cook for a few more minutes so the flavours are incorporated.

 Serves two.

I am planning to try a few recipes out of Colour me Vegan this week and will let you know how it goes. I have a feeling it is going to be a yummy week! Colleen's book is available online at Amazon, or through her website:

Compassionate Cooks is a resource that I go a lot. I find if I have a non-vegan slip, or feel that I might, the Compassionate Cooks podcast gets me back on track every time. There is also a lot of resources and FAQs available that are handy when people ask those common how do you get your...? type questions. Highly recommend.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cuban Stir-fry

I have decided to take a short break from all the non-dairy milks I have been blogging about. Especially now that I have an abundance of flax, rice and sunflower seed milk. I don't want to waste them!

I was looking for something really flavourful for dinner last night. I didn't want to grocery shop or get take out, so I had to make do with what I have. This combined with a serious craving for lime got me thinking... Need something complex with sweet, sour, and spicy.

This is the result.

Cuban Stir-Fry
  • 1 squash, roasted and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp oil (i used grape seed)
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 clover of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 hot peppers (jalapeno, red, whatever you have)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp of coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of greens (Optional, I added spinach. Collards would be good too)
  • 1 can of beans, drained and rinsed (Any kind will do. I used Kidney)
  • 2 Tbsp of cilantro
  • 1 Lime (zest and juice)
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
First thing you want to do is roast the squash. I used a Kobacha squash and I think that was a mistake. It was all I had in my place, so I worked with it, but I think that you would be better to use acorn or butternut. Heat your oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. I sliced mine into 1" slices, but you can also just roast the halves. Brush a little oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, but keep an eye on it.

After the squash is done, put the rice on if you don't have left overs so it'll be ready with the stir-fry. Prep all the vegetables and have them ready to go. Heat a large pan or wok to medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent. Next add in the hot pepper, lime zest and the spices and cook another couple of minutes. Add in the squash and greens if you are using. Toss it well so it is all combined. Cook another 5-7 minutes.

Next, add the beans and stir again. Cook 5 more minutes. When everything is well combined and heated through, add the cilantro, maple syrup and the lime juice.

Serve on top of rice. Serves four.

Now, I am not sure if this is all that Cuban, but it reminded me of Cuban flavours, so that's why I have names it the Cuban stir-fry. I just love the combination of lime and maple with beans and rice. I don't know why, but it is fabulous.

If you really like spices, add more. I found it to be pretty mild.

I am going to finish off this Sunday by reading my new cook books: Colour Me Vegan and Vegan with A Vengeance. I am already diving into a few of the recipes and will have a full report soon.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Vegan Milk Part V: Sunflower Power

My other vegan milks:
Part I: Hemp
Part II: Almond
Part III: Rice
Part IV: Flax
Wow, I cannot believe I am already on my fifth non-dairy milk test. This weekend I decided to attempt another seed milk. The flax milk I think was about a 80% success, so I am striving for more. Instead of looking for something online, I looked to my cupboard. I have no urge to be running to the grocery store, so I needed something that I already keep in stock. This is when I stumbled upon a large jar of sunflower seeds.

What a great idea for milk. I doubt I am the first to come up with it, but I am surprised this one is done more. If I could describe this milk, I would say it is a bit more savoury. I did not sweeten the recipe this time, but I think it would be a good addition if you are looking for a taste that is closer to what you find in the store.

Sunflower seeds are really good for you too. They have lots of vitamin E, magnesium and selenium. They also have phytosterols which can help lower cholesterol. Because of the high vitamin E (1/4 cup gives you 90% of your daily intake), sunflower seeds are known to known to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and some cancers. Not bad for a little seed!

Best of all, they are cheap! For those on a budget, this milk cost me approximately $0.35. I buy the seeds in bulk and it doesn't take much to get a litre of milk. That is a savings that can add up over time.

So here is the recipe. It is very similar to the other seed and nut milk.

Sunflower Power Milk
Makes about 1 litre
  • 1 cup of shelled, raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • about 3 - 3 1/2 cups of water (judge on how thick you like your milk. 3 cups is similar to 1% dairy)
  • dash of salt
  • Sweetener (optional, I didn't use one) - e.g. date, maple syrup, sugar, agave
First, rinse the seeds and soak them for 8 - 12 hours. Once soaked, drain the seeds and pout into a blender. Add to the blender the remaining ingredients and blend for 2 minutes or until you can't see seeds anymore. While the mixture is blending, set-up your straining station: Take a large bowl and rest a small-hole strainer inside. Cover the inside of the strainer with cheesecloth, long enough that it hangs over the sides of the strainer

Once the mixture is completely blended, pout it through the strainer. Let it rest a minute or two and then you can lift the corners of the cheese cloth up and squeeze the remaining liquid out.

Chill and serve.

Finally a milk with good consistency and flavour! This milk looked and poured much closer to the almond milk I made previously. Since I didn't sweeten it, the taste was a bit on the earthy, savoury side. If you let this milk sit, it will separate, so keep in a container with a tightly sealed lid so you can shake it up. I found this milk to be very tasty and could even drink it on its own. I made some muffins with it, and they were really good! I have also used it in a smoothie and it was a welcomed addition.

A cheap alternative to almond and soy milk. This is worth a try. Highly recommended!