Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vegan with a Vengeance - A Review

So for the past week... well few weeks, I have been trying out recipes in a recent cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Overall I did like this book. unlike Veganomicon, this book was a little more into the realm of comfort food and focused on recipes that a novice cook could complete successfully.

Like most vegan cook books, Vegan with a Vengeance begins with a nice introduction on why she wrote this book and where she came from and how she got to being the Post Punk. She tells you what the essential tools are for the vegan cook and what she thinks should be stocked in a vegan pantry. Well-written and does a very good job at telling the story, not just telling you what to do.

Some of the recipes are for beginners, she even goes so far as to tell you how to chop tofu. However, these staple items are a really good foundation for vegan cooking. I kind of wish this was my first vegan cookbook or at least one of my firsts.

Isa also brings her flavour and spice combos into this dish, I personally think she is a master at the sweet, salty, spicy, sour combo. I think it really takes someone talented and trained in matching and combining flavour to produce some of the items in her book.

I think my biggest criticism of this book is that I wish there was more variety in the flavours. I think Isa has her favourites and her books reflect them. It's not fully a bad thing, but I think I would use the book even more if there was a bit more, especially in the entrees. I am not even sure how to articulate this one in words. I think that there are a lot of similar spices in many of the main course dishes (cumin, coriander, curry etc)

Anyways, in summary, I highly recommend this book for the beginner vegan, the flirt (part time vegan), vegan curious etc. There are recipes in this book that I will be going back to and altering to make them my own.

Here is what I tried:

Fronch Toast

Tofu Salad

No-Bake Black Bottom Peanut Butter Silk Pie

Homemade Seitan

Double Wammy: Jerk Seitan and Coconut Rice

So, the bottom line: Highly recommend this book. This is just a small snapshot of what she has to offer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jamaican Feast! Vegan Style

I recently made some homemade seitan (Recipe here) and had no idea what to do with. I decided that I would make some more recipes out of the book I have been reviewing.. (which I can now actually write about, stay tuned for that!) Vegan with a Vengeance. I decided to make Jerk Seitan. Jerk really is a Jamaican style of cooking with a spice run or marinade that normally is used on meat. Traditional jerk contains allspice, hot, hot peppers, cloves, cinnamon, thyme, pepper. These days, people put their own spin on the classic jerk and Vegan with a Vengeance does just that.

Jerk Seitan
From Vegan with a Vengeance

The marinade:
  • 1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp ginger, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp of fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp thyme, chopped or dried
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp of fresh nutmeg grated
For the seitan:
  • 1 lbs of seitan, sliced thick into strips
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced (I used red)
Prepare the marinade in a food processor or blender. Combine all the ingredients and process until it is smooth, although some chunkiness is fine. Put the seitan into a shallow bowl or dish and pour the marinade on top. Cover and let it sit for at least an hour.

Prep - don't forget!

Now, once the seitan is marinaded, heat a large pan on medium heat and add the oil. Next add the onion and the pepper and cook for 5-7 minutes or until it is starting to brown. Add the seitan (reserve the marinade) cook for about 10 - 15 minutes. Then add the remaining marinade and heat it through.

With this I decided to make some coconut rice and although I have a good recipe, I decided to try Isa Chandra Moskowitz's version. The major difference in the two is that my recipe has raisins in it and hers has toasted coconut. Isa, you win. This was my first time eating toasted coconut and oh my, why did I wait this long?! Anyways, here is the recipe, cut in half because that was how I made it.

Coconut Rice
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 a can of coconut milk
  • cinnamon stick
  • pinch of salt
  • lime zest of one lime
  • toasted coconut flakes
Take the rice, water, milk, cinnamon and salt in a pot and bring it to a boil. Stir cover and turn down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. After this give it a stir, add the lime zest, cover and let it sit off the heat for 10 more minutes. While it sits, toast the rice in a dry pan over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve topping the rice with the coconut.

The last thing I made to make this meal complete was some collard greens. I sauteed them on medium heat with a little bit of oil and a splash of white balsamic vinegar.

OK, my review of this meal.. I will start with the seitan. Overall, this was really good. It has sweet, spicy, salty and sour elements to it and the seitan cooked up so much better than the store bought. My only criticism is that the jerk is really not traditional. I found it was really lacking in spice. If I made it again, I would up the spice big time because that is what I think of first when I have jerk. Spicy! I have to say though Isa is a master at combining spice.

The rice - simple, easy and tasty. I will make this again. I also will never forget to use a little toasted coconut on my rice when I want to sweeten it up a bit.

And, the collards... well I make these at least 2-3 times a week or some variation of it. I like them, they take 10 minutes from start to finish and it is a tasty way to get a serving of veggies. Oh and one last thing. It is a must to serve this meal with some Jamaican beer and preferably on the beach if you happen to be lucky enough to live on one.

Oh Seitan!!

Well, another fear conquered. This was not my first time eating seitan, but it was my first time making it. I have seen the recipes before and it looks so simple to do... These are the recipes I tend to mess up the most. I had a free night and I had some homemade broth ready to use (Recipe here) so I figured, why not? How hard could it be? Turns out, not hard at all.
 So, a bit of information for you first because I know that not everyone knows about this meat substitute. Vital Wheat Gluten (the core ingredient in seitan) has been used in Asian cultures for a long time. When combined with liquid, wheat gluten turns into a chewy and stringy meat substitute. It is a great alternative for tofu and other soy-based protein and is known for having a meaty texture.

Seitan contains about 31 grams of protein per 4 ounce serving (more protein that tofu!), has B vitamins and iron and contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. A serving has about 118 calories which is not too bad (about 40% less calories then a similar size of beef).

You can buy it pre-packaged at places like Planet Organic, or Asian markets. I really like it for when I want a 'meaty' dish. The only problem I have with the pre-packaged stuff is that it is really expensive and they never provide enough for a recipe.

So enough class time... how do you make it? Easy! I started out using the recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, but I did not have any tomato paste which that version called for. I then googled for other recipes and found that you didn't need it. A number of recipes seemed very similar to the one in Veganomicon, so I think I will give credit where it is due.
Homemade Seitan
From Veganomicon
  • 1 cup of vital wheat gluten
  • 3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/2 cup of cold water
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grater
  • 5 cups of veggie broth
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
Mix the vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix the cold water, soy sauce oil and garlic. Pour the wet into the dry and stir until it is combined. Now, knead the mixture until it is elasticky, which takes about three minutes. Cut the ball into thirds and stretch each piece out a bit.
Now, in a large stock pot combine the veggie broth, water and soy sauce. Put the seitan in the pot and bring to a boil. Keep an eye on the pot and as soon as it boils, put the heat to lowest and partially cover it with a lid. Simmer for an hour, turning the seitan every once in a while. Once cooked, let it cool until you can handle it and cut into slices.
Yes, this is what it should look like.
Not everything can be photogenic!
If you don't want to use it all right away, save the broth and store the seitan in it (cover in broth). You can freeze it or keep it in the fridge.
This makes about a Pound of seitan, which is what most recipes call for.

Seitan - looks so much fresher than the packaged stuff!
My thoughts on this recipe, it does not photograph well and I now know why you never see pictures of it! I have now tried this in a recipe (more on this one soon) and I have to say, it is delicious. It tastes way better than the pre-packaged stuff and the recipe actually yields enough for recipes. It does take a while to make it, but seriously the work part is done in about 5 minutes. It takes me longer to get to the store than it does to get this stuff simmering.
At Planet Organic, seitan costs about $5.00, sometimes more. This recipe which makes about 2-3 packages worth of seitan probably cost me about $5.00... so it is a third of the price, for a better tasting product.
I will not be going back to the packaged stuff. I have been spoiled. It is like going to first class. Once you know what you are missing, you can't go back!

Vegan or not, give seitan a try... I dare you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No Bake Black Bottom - Peanut Butter Silk Pie

Well, as some of you may know, I have managed to kill my oven about 10 days ago and in true ADD style, I have yet to get around to calling the landlord about it. Instead, I planned my week sans oven. I am working my way through a variety of recipes from Vegan with a Vengeance written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I have never let the lack of an oven or any kitchen appliance stop me from having dessert and this week was no exception. I scanned through her book and found something perfect for testing - A no bake pie.

These sort of recipes scare me a bit. I get a little nervous when the instructions are to dump in a package of tofu into anything that is meant as dessert. Combine that with my fear of gelatinous sea vegetables and got a recipe full of fear! Some use love as a secret ingredient... not me!

Agar Agar anyone?

So it is time to get over this silly fear. What's to be scared of? Luckily this recipe is going to drown the scary ingredients with chocolate, peanut butter, and more chocolate. Besides, I think the animal derived alternative should be considered much scarier. I mean it is made of cartilage and connective tissue of animals... ew.

So here is the recipe and my review of it below:

No-Bake, Black Bottom-Peanut Butter Silk Pie
For the crust:
  • 1 1/2 half cups of chocolate cookies, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp of rice or soy milk
For the chocolate bottom:
  • 4 oz of bakers chocolate
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
For the filling:
  • 12 oz  extra firm tofu silken tofu
  • 3/4 cup creamy all-natural peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cup of boiling water
  • 3 Tbsp agar
Prepare the crust:
Combine the sugar and the wafers in a food processor and blend until it is fine crumbs. Pour into a pie plate and add the oil and mix with your fingers. Add the milk and mix again and press into the bottom of the pan. Put in the fridge to chill.

Chocolate bottom:
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. When the chocolate has melted, add the soy milk and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat. Pour most of this mixture on to the crust reserving a couple tablespoons for drizzling on the pie. Put the pie crust in the fridge.

Make the filling:
In a blender combine the silken tofu, peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla and blend until smooth. In a sauce pan boil the water and add the agar. Stir constantly until it is completely dissolved (about 10 min). Pour it into a glass measuring cup (not plastic). There should be about 1/3 of a cup or so. Add this to the blender and then add enough coconut milk to make a cup (i.e. if you have a 1/3 agar, you will need 2/3 cup of milk). Pour the milk in the blend and blend until smooth and combined.

Slowly pour the filling into the pie crust. pour the remaining chocolate on top and make a pretty design. Put it back in the fridge and cool for three hours.

So when I made this recipe, my chocolate did not turn out ok. I wonder if maybe the recipe has a typo and really it should have half the amount of baker's chocolate. It still worked, but the chocolate layer I had was too thick and it over powered the peanut butter filling. Other than that, this recipe, was easy and super yummy! I recommend for a hot day when you don't want to use an oven.

Sorry about the lack of pictures on this one, I forgot to put my memory card in while I was snapping away, so all I was able to get were pictures of the proof that I did eat a quarter of the pie for dinner. :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Battle of the Tofu Salad

My apartment is stifling and the thought of cooking anything at the moment really just wasn't happening. So I did a switch instead of making curry and made a tofu salad from my cookbook of the week, Vegan with a Vengeance. This is not the first time I have made a tofu salad. The last one I tried came from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. My best surprise with tofu salad is that it is a great example of how tofu can be combined with other things and really not taste like tofu.

Both of the salads are great, easy to make and filling. I think it really just depends on what ingredients you have and what your taste preference is. If you like a fresh, simple tart salad Isa Chandra Moskowitz's salad is the way to go. If you like pickle and salt, go with Alicia Silverstone's version.

To see Alicia's recipe - Click Here...Isa's recipe, see below:

Tofu Salad Sammiches
  • 1 block of firm tofu, pressed
  • 3 Tbsp Vegenaise
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup of fresh dill
  • 3 Tbsp Onion (I used shallots)
  • Bread and sammich fixings
First press your tofu and then crumble into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the sammich fixings) and mix really well. Put it in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes or so and then serve on fresh bread or on iceberg or romaine lettuce.

Easiest recipe ever. Much easier than Alicia's, but I really wish this had some other ingredients like pickle or capers. I think then it would be amazing.

Try it for yourself and see what you think. It takes no time to make and no stove or oven. Cheers to that!

Fronch Toast

Good morning, or maybe afternoon! I got a bit lazy this week with testing recipes from Vegan with a Vengeance after making a delicious risotto, I lived off of that and salad for the remainder of the week. Now that the long weekend is finally here, I figured I would start it off right with a little brunch.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz has a very simple recipe in her book that promises to make a Fronch toast that looks and tastes great. This is a brunch staple I have not tried since switching to a vegan diet; despite the fact that it was always my favourite.

Fronch Toast
  • 1/2 loaf of somewhat stale french bread or baguette
  • 1/2 cup soy creamer (I used soy milk with some soy milk powder mixed in for extra creaminess)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chick pea flour
  • Oil (I didn't use)
Preheat a skillet or griddle to medium heat. After cutting up the french bread mix together the soy creamer and milk then add the corn starch. Stir until it is mixed. Next add the flour and stir. It is OK if it is a little lumpy. I added a bit of vanilla to this recipe and if I made it again I would add salt and cinnamon as well. I can't believe I forgot that was my favourite addition to a regular french toast recipe. Vanilla, Cinnamon and Salt... perfect brunch combo.

If you are using a skillet, the recipe says to add a few table spoons of oil until the bottom of the pan is coated. I used my griddle, so I just used a little bit of cooking spray. I mean, I am already eating a half loaf of french bread, I figured I should scale it back where I can. Cook for about two minutes a side and top with syrup, powdered sugar and berries.

My thoughts on this recipe? It looked just like french toast and is smelled like french toast and it had the texture of a french toast, but I found something was a bit off with the taste. It was good, but just didn't taste as I expected. I do think you should try this recipe and keep an open mind. It is a really basic formula so I think it really could be altered to suit your tastes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vegan Risotto - Success!

This week, I am cooking up a selection of recipes from Vegan with a Vengeance a cook book by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. She is also the author of Veganomicon, a book which I use all the time and consider one of my most useful tools in figuring out the art of vegan cooking.

Starting off the week, I was planning for two recipes. Unfortunately, I can't find my agar agar, so I just have one for now. as usual, I took a few liberties in the recipe based on what I had, but I kept pretty true to the book this time since my last attempt at risotto was ho hum - See here for my first attempt

So here is the recipe:

Sun dried Tomato and Mushroom Risotto
  • 6 cups of veggie broth - Make your own - Click here!
  • 1 cup of shitake mushrooms (recipe called for dried, I used fresh)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cups of cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 cup of shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg, ground
  • 1 1/2 cups of aborio (or other short grain) rice
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Nutrition yeast (not in the recipe, but I added it)
  • Black truffle oil (I didn't have this, but I bet it'd be good!)
First things first, if you are going to use you're own broth, make it the day before (or a few days before) so that you are now cooking all day. Prep all the ingredients and get two pots: one for the broth and one for the risotto. Pour the veggie broth into one of the pots and bring to a simmer. If you have dried shitake mushrooms, put them in the broth to rehydrate. Remove and let cool then coarsely chop them.

Next, add the oil to the pot for the risotto. Add the shallots and cool for about five minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms and the sun-dried tomato and cook for seven more minutes or until the moisture is rehydrated in the pan. Now add in the shitake mushrooms, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and nutmeg and a pinch of salt and cook for a few more minutes. Add in the rice and stir really well to combine or about two minutes.

Now, get the music or a good podcast on because you are going to be stuck in the kitchen for a bit. Start ladling in the broth, one ladle or cup at a time. Stir until it is almost all dissolved (the book says that takes about 5-6 minutes) and then add another ladle. Repeat until all the broth is absorbed. This should take about 30 minutes, and mine was just over that.

Serve with the truffle oil or stir in about an 1/8 cup of nutritional yeast.

I served mine with BBQ tofu and some steamed collards. You know, this recipe is really similar to my last risotto recipe, yet so different. I guess it is the difference between my recipe experiments and a professional. Using a homemade broth I think was a really good move. In fact, if you use a store-bought broth, you may want to consider using 4 cups broth and two cups water. I would be worried that it would be too salty otherwise. Use your best judgement.

As for the recipe, this was an easy to follow and tasty recipe. It has such an earthy taste with all the mushrooms, I think my only change next time might be to add some carrot and celery with the onions. I think that would had a bit of depth and a bit of colour.

If anyone out there tries this with the truffle oil, let me know what you think? I may have to go splurge for some if it is worth it! Isa promises that it is.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Southern Comfort - Atlanta

*** warning *** Long post!
Earlier this month I took a bit of a random trip and fled the country in hopes of finding warmer weather, maybe a beach and some good eats. After very little research I decided to go to Georgia; a state I have never really thought about. A place where I know no one. A place known for southern hospitality and gooood food. I never go anywhere with out a bit of research and really the only searching I did was once to google Atlanta and once to look up the vegan scene on Happy Cow.
Olympic Park
Let me start by saying, southern hospitality is alive and thriving as is the vegan scene in Atlanta. Everywhere I when I met really nice people ate amazing food and saw a small piece of what Atlanta has to offer a weary tourist.
Not really knowing much about the city, I wasn't very sure where I wanted to stay. So, I did what any indecisive person would do and I used Hotwire to find a hotel. There is something about not knowing where you are going to be until commit that is really exciting to me. I ended up with a nice spot in Buckhead, a quiet neighbourhood that was close to transit and seemed pretty safe to wander around on my own.
I only had a couple days to see what a city of five-million had to offer. The first day was practically a write-off as I hadn't slept the day before. I did manage to go and trek around in the neighbour hood. I ended up find a fun little cafe called Cafe Sunflower. I met a nice guy and possibly the only Hockey fan in the city and had an amazing vegan feast.

Vegan Pizza, no cheese required
Sunflower Cafe, Atlanta
The best Quinoa and Tofu dish I have ever had!
Sunflower Cafe, Atlanta

I must say that the south know their food. I started with a tasty appetizer of vegan pizza. It was made without cheese, which I think it my favourite type. Non-vegan, please listen up - you don't need cheese for a good pizza! Following my appetizer (at home, this would have been the meal), I had this amazing quinoa pilaf with almond crusted tofu and lime aioli. It was incredible.  Why do we not have this sort of stuff in Edmonton?? It made me think, that I really should just learn to cook professionally and open my own cafe. To finish my meal, I had chocolate peanut butter cream pie. Words cannot describe the flavour of this thing. I could not believe it was vegan and I have had lots of good vegan desserts.

Proof that vegans don't miss out on good dessert!
Sunflower Cafe, Atlanta

I went to the world of Coca-Cola because... well... how could I not go! I have to say for a tourist attraction, it was a lot of fun. I didn't even know if was the 125th anniversary and that just made it better. I think beyond the tasting room, my favourite place may have been the commercial room. They have a theatre that just places commercials all day. Watching the reel of Coke commercials reminded me how powerful commercials really are. I can sit here and say I am not effected, but I'd be lying. I think we are all effected by the powers of advertising. It may have also been the air conditioning and comfy couch!

Coke Harp, Atlanta

They also had a very cool art room that featured art made with Coke or of Coke. There were pieces that I wish I could have taken home. Then there is the tasting room! Organized by continent and with my flip flops glued to the floor from spilled soda I can proudly say I tried every single one. I then had to go lie down for half an hour or so. It was a lot of pop!

Coke Art, Atlanta
The tasting room, Atlanta

After I recovered, I headed out to check out CNN. I wasn't really planning on going, but it was right there. I have to say it was interesting, but not totally memorable. You get to watch broadcasting and learn a bit about how they got to be where they are. I would definitely recommend going in the building because it is pretty funky inside. Take a tour if you want a nice walk and a picture at a CNN new desk.
CNN World Headquarters, Atlanta

Giant escalator built from a roller coaster?
CNN Headquarters, Atlanta

Rhett Butler, KIA
Cycolrama, Atlanta
Downtown Atlanta was fun, I got lost a few times, and even had to pay a homeless guy to help me find a train station. He was not impressed when I would only give him Canadian money. The next place I went to was Cyclorama. I found it very odd that no one seemed to know what this place was. When I got there, it turned out only elementary school kids and elderly people really go to see it, but I think it was still worth it. Cyclorama is a painting from 1885. It is 42' tall and 358' in circumference. In the 1920's it was brought to the location it is in today and a diorama was built on the bottom to make it a very cool 3-D piece of art. You sit in a theatre and your move around the painting while hearing the history of the civil war and battle of Atlanta. Very cool, and I highly recommend.

Vegetarian Soul is a funky little restaurant in highland. I found it on Happy Cow and it had a lot of mixed reviews, however the consensus was they have possible the best vegan mac 'n cheese in the country, so I could not pass this up. I went in a very nice lady came and found me a table, read through the menu with me and eventually came to the buffet with me and pretty much ordered my dinner. She was so nice and I think they maybe don't get a lot of Canadians their way. Her, the other server and one of the guys from the kitchen all watched as I tried the vegan corn bread. So, so so good! I didn't take pictures because honestly, the place isn't much to photograph, but the food and the people there made it more than worth while. I left feeling fuller than I have in a long and with an offer to franchise a restaurant in Canada.

After this I called it a day and headed back to the hotel. There was a huge storm and crazy people on the train which we had to call 911 on eventually. All in all, I think I got a decent taste of what Atlanta can offer.

After a nice long sleep and a good breakfast at the Hyatt (Soy Milk and lots of fruit and vegetables with the free breakfast as well as bagels and cereal) I picked up my rental car and was off to the next stop - Savannah!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vegan veggie broth - Homemade all the way

I cannot believe I have never bothered to make my own veggie stock before. Well tonight was the night. I am planning a week of cooking since I have been out of town for a while, it is time to get back on it. Part of my prep for this was to get my hands on some decent veggie broth.

Store bought vegetable broth is not the best for you. It is full of preservatives, sodium, and sometimes, non vegan items. I have tried the organic stuff and really it was no better. Last week I had high hopes of cooking and just never got it together, so I had left over vegetables on the verge of going to bad... the recipe for home made stock!

I don't know if there is a really good recipe for veggie stock. My question was, how do I know if I used enough veggies to water? Well, I think the answer fill the stock pot as much as you can and you can't go wrong. Here is my recipe:

Veggie Stock
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped or baby carrots
  • celery
  • parsnips
  • handful of spinach
  • chopped parsley
  • sprigs of thyme
  • sprigs of rosemary
  • basil stems (I had just made pesto)
  • Onion, quartered
  • Leek, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • bay leaves
  • sage
  • Liquid Smoke (optional, I used.. well.. because I had it.)
  • Soy Sauce (optional, if you like a darker broth and more salt)
So as you can see, I cleared out the fridge and some of my spices too. I basically chopped in big chunks all the veggies and threw them in the pot. I filled it with water and brought it to a boil. I then let it simmer while I watched a movie (so about 2 hours or so). Strain the vegetables et voila - Stock!

I froze some into an ice cube tray for later and the rest is in the fridge, waiting to be used in risotto tomorrow. One thing I would do differently next time is I would get some olive oil and brown some of the veggies before starting the stock. I think this would help make an even deeper flavour. I will update when I use this in a recipe, but on a taste test, it is great. My stock is quite dark looking because I threw in some Soy Sauce at the end. Most recipes say to simmer for an hour or so, but I think the longer, the better.

If you have a boring night at home, give this a try. What's to lose? Other than maybe  a way to use left over veggies that would otherwise go to waste.

Oh and remember, don't stick to the recipe. Use what ever you have around. I don't think you can go wrong with this one. It's your chance to be creative; rick-free!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Anyone?

I have been on the road for a couple of weeks and it was so nice to get back into my own kitchen, unpack... and bake a cake! I am sure I have mentioned it before, but I am a midnight baker (yes, I made this term up, but I am sure there are others). Anyways, I had so many delicious vegan treats and desserts while I was gone that I felt I needed to.. well bake a cake.

I took stock of my ingredients as Edmonton is lacking in 24 hour grocery stores, so I was pretty much stuck with what I had in my place. Luckily my house / pig sitter, mom, left me some strawberries and with that the decision was obvious. Must make strawberry shortcake!

I did a little searching online and in the cookbooks and settles on what looked to be an amazing recipe at Honest Fare a lovely vegan blog with some yummy looking recipes. I have definitely bookmarked the page so I can take a closer look at what Gabrielle has on her site.

I tried to make the  cake and it was a completely failure. Similar to my last two attempts at baking, it was underdone and mushy in the middle. Further investigation uncovered devastating news... my oven is broken!

Luckily, this recipe involves hollowing out the middle of the cake to allow for a custard filling, so I made a second attempt (this time with a mix cake) and it turned out great! I cannot vouch for the cake recipe in the Honest Fare, but I can say the batter tasted great. So, if you are feeling lazy, follow my version with the mix cake. If you want a healthier and less-processed cake, follow Honest Fare or use your own favourite cake recipe.

Heavenly Strawberry Shortcake
  • one cake in 9" round pan (I used a yellow cake mix, use whatever your favourite is!)
  • 1 container firm silken tofu
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 sprinkle cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • A little soy milk
  • ¼ cup cake (what you scooped out of the center of the cake)
  • 2 cups of strawberries, chopped
First, make your cake following your recipe or package instructions. Bake in a 9" round pan and let cool completely. Once cooled, scoop out the centre of the cake. Leave about an inch around the edge and about 1/2 inch at the bottom.

Next, make the filling. Combine the remaining ingredients, except for the milk and strawberries (However, you could add a few strawberries in the custard for flavour and a pretty pink colour... I wish I had done that!). Blend with a hand blender or in a regular blender until it is smooth. It should be quite thick, similar to custard. Add a bit of milk if it is too thick and a bit more cake if it is too thin.

Pour the filling into the centre of the cake until it is filled. Add the chopped strawberries and cool for at least an hour before serving.

How easy is that? It takes a little time since you need to cool the cake then chill the finish product, but trust me... it is worth it!! And if you need further convincing... Strawberries are an excellent source of  dietary fiber, vitamin C and manganese and the tofu provides extra protein without any saturated fat!

Stay tuned for my full report on my travels in the beautiful state of Georgia this weekend and maybe some raw desserts since I am now short an oven!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hey Montreal - Where is all the vegan food?

This past week I have been working a conference in Montreal, PQ. One of Canada's largest cities and known for amazing food, I was pretty excited to see what vegan goodness I would find.

Unfortunately, I did not find a lot. Partially to blame is the fact that I was working, so I had no time to really explore the city. I didn't leave downtown at all during my stay. Found that a bit sad. One day, maybe this summer, I will go back and see if I can find out what vegan treats this city has to offer.

Since most of my time was spent at the Sheraton Centre, I will start there. Not vegan friendly at all. This is not to say that they did not make an honest effort to be vegan friendly, but unfortunately the chef was just not getting it. On the first day, we landed kind of late so I ended up eating at a Chinese buffet. It was decent, very much the norm for vegan cafe. I was lucky to find one that has a vegan soup with tofu and some rice and vegetables. I was just glad that we found a place to eat so close to the hotel since it was pouring rain!

The next day was the start of the event, so we were pretty much stuck in the hotel. My lunch was a green salad with fruit and I let the hotel staff know that I do also require protein and grains with my meals. Same needs as everyone else, just not animal product. Unfortunately this seemed to fall on deaf ears as my dinner was more of the same. Green salad, fruit and this time some marinated vegetables.

Now, that said, the marinated veggies were really good as was the salad. I am just not the type of person that can eat the same thing every day or live on salad. I'm just not. I enjoy food and eating out and I also enjoy showing others that it is possible to eat a normal diet that is also animal free.

The next day, I was frustrated and so the hotel cam out and asked me what I wanted. I told them that the veggies and fruit were fine, but I needed some protein; beans, lentils, tofu, anything! 30 minutes later I was ensured that my lunch had tofu (the chef went out and bought it that day). I opened it up and it was the exact same green salad only they had cut up the tofu and placed it on top.... raw. They also made a nice bean salad which was very good, but seriously... raw tofu?? ugh.

Fiddles, beer and veggie wrap. What more do you need??

Grouchy and tired, we had an evening off and our lovely helper onsite invited us to Hurley's on crescent. They had a veggie wrap on the menu and it was so, so good. Now, it could be that I was starving, but I am pretty sure this was a tasty veg sandwich. I was so tired, I forgot ask if it was vegan, so please do before purchasing. I think it is though. I didn't taste mayo or cheese in it, just yummy, yummy food with a big side of sweet potato fries!

Now, I have been hard on the Sheraton. The food for me just was not up to snuff. I know that some people just don't understand vegan cuisine, but I self-identified that I needed vegan meals a week before I got there, and I found they just didn't put any thought into it. The best meal I had was a dinner done through the catering department and it was a very well made dish of vegetables and couscous. Still lacking a bit in protein, but it really was delicious. I highly recommend it.

One thing that the hotel does well is smoothies. They are not on the menu, but this was my way to stay nourished onsite. I had the chef make green smoothies and fruit smoothies and both were amazing. Better than I can make at home.

One place I did get to try was a yummy 24 hr sandwich shop that offered vegan options on Drummond. It was really good, had some variety and was only a short walk from the hotel... oh yeah and it is 24 hours!! Nothing wrong with that. I wish I could remember the name, but I can't. It was downtown on drummond and honestly was a life saver.

OK, that is all I have on Montreal this time. Anyone out there from Montreal, I would love to hear what you think of the vegan scene. I am sure a big part of my disappointment was that I was stuck in one area and was on very limited time.

Anyways, next report will be from Atlanta... and I think I am about to be pleasantly surprised with some southern hospitality! Later!

Monday, May 2, 2011

On the Road: Calgary or should I say the Deerfoot

Hey all, this is the start of a two week adventure. I am heading to Montreal for work and while I hope I can find a few good vegan restaurants, most of the time I will be stuck in a hotel. Then, I will be going to Atlanta and Savannah, possibly other places in Georgia, but this is where I will be sure to go.

First though, I went to the big city of Calgary. I wasn't sure if I would post this at all, because I am not going to do the city justice (I will go back some time soon and have a better report, promise!)

I spent two days on Calgary and spent 99% of my time at the Deerfoot Inn. Maybe I should call this my trip to the Deerfoot Inn rather than Calgary?

The Deerfoot, is not a very vegan-friendly place on the menu. When I arrived, I was hungry and tired. By the time I hit my room, the in-room dining was closed. In the rooms, they have free snacks, but unfortunately the only vegan thing available was a bag of chips. I called downstairs and the nice people at the front desk brought me some fruit which hit the spot.

The next day, I was able to eat at their main restaurant, the Mohave Grill. Again, not vegan-friendly on the menu, but the staff was. They have a flatbread on the menu that sounded fantastic, so I asked them to make me one without the meat and cheese and with more roasted vegetables. It was amazing!

The next place I tried was the restaurant inside the casino. It had a few things that looked vegan on the menu, so I ordered veggie spring rolls and the spinach salad without the cheese. The salad was so good. I cannot even begin to describe how yummy it was. I forgot to ask if the dressing was vegan (a lot of dressings have egg in them, beware!) Maybe ask if you go, but I almost don't want to know.

Lastly, during the conference I was at, the banquet staff were on to the fact that again, the menus are not very vegan-friendly, so they had the kitchen make me a stir fry with deep-fried tofu. Oh my, another amazing dish! I wish I could replicate this at home (I am not talented in the world of stir fry).

So, all in all, Vegans can eat at the Deerfoot, but they keep it on the down low. Ask and you will be rewarded with some yummy dishes. Don't ask and you'll be stuck eating potato chips and french fries with a side of lettuce. This is a lesson to vegans out there. Always ask!!

I hope sometime I can do a better tour of Calgary. I rarely leave the hotel when I go to this city, but from what I have heard, this is a very vegan-friendly city. They may even have better options than Edmonton.

Next.. Montreal... better watch out, angry vegan is on her way!