Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Roasted Yams, Leeks and Lotus Root

Roasted vegetables are nothing new. Just about anything can be tossed in oil and roasted. It brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables. Potatoes, onion, carrots, and peppers are the first thing I think of when it comes to roasting vegetables. I often forget about how good roasting is.. I kind of associate it with animal-based meals. Roasted chick, pork, beef.. as a kid these were the things I had roasted vegetables with. So what do pair with roasted vegetables as a vegan? Anything. Tofu, seitan and tempeh are often my choices for having a vegan meat and potato type meal, but also great with soups, stews, mixed with grains like rice or quinoa.

I Wanted to make some roasted vegetables, but I didn't have the traditional veggies on hand. I also was making this for a midnight snack, so I didn't want a full meal. What I found in my kitchen was yams, lotus root and leek. Kind of a weird combination on first glance, but these vegetables are all mild and sweet and take on many different types of flavours. Seemed perfect for a late-night snack.

When I told people about this one, the first question I usually get is, 'what is lotus root'... The day I discovered lotus root, was a good day in the world of food. It is such a versatile vegetable and really good for you. It is pretty big, about 10-20 cm in length and 6-8 cm in diameter. It looks kind of like daikon (Asian radish. If you haven't heard of it... I will do a post on it some day soon), but has holes running through which makes it a really pretty veggie when sliced.

Lotus root is also really healthy. For a root vegetable, it is very low-calorie. Also very high in fibre with about 5 g in a serving. It is high in vitamin C (more than 75% of your daily requirement). Lotus root is high in B-6 which I found out today is a vitamin that helps control mood. Getting enough B-6  helps control nervous irritability, headaches, and tension. I had no idea. Lastly, it is a great source for minerals like copper, zinc and iron. basically, like most (all?) vegetables, lotus root is really good for you. It is super versatile in cooking too. You can add it to soups, stir fries or on its own as a side dish. It can be baked, roasted, boiled, steamed, fried or shredded. It can be tricky to find. It is in season in the fall and usually only available at Asian markets.

My favourie way to prepare lotus root is to roasted it with other vegetables and dress it up a bit with lime and maple syrup. It is a fantastic sweet and savoury snack.

Roasted Yam, Leek and Lotus Root
*Serves two, takes about 25 minutes

  • 1 large yam, sliced thin 
  • 1 piece of lotus root (about 4-5"), sliced
  • 1 leek, sliced in half lengthwise and the sliced into thinly.
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp Mint leaves
Not a great photo.. I was rushing, but super
easy to get this ready. Just slice things evenly

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare the vegetables and put them into a large bowl. Toss with the oil, salt and pepper and lay everything flat on a cookie sheet. Put in the oven and roast for about 10 min. At this point, take the veggies out of the oven and sprinkle the maple syrup and the lime juice over top and toss again to coat. Put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes until the are golden brown and cooked through. 
Before roasting

And.. after. 

You can slice lime slices and serve with them as a garnish or sprinkle some chopped cilantro or mint leaves (and remember, always spank your mint!) on them if you want to make them look a little prettier for serving. Really these are perfectly fine on their own though. Pretty simple dish.. tastes amazing and is good enough to just have on its own. It will keep a few days in the fridge, but won't be as crisp if you reheat in the microwave. best way to reheat these is in a frying pan or in the oven.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fried Spaghetti

When I was younger, maybe 16 or 17, I decided to become vegetarian. There was not real reason why I wanted to try it.. more than likely I was just looking for a new way to be difficult. So I went out and bought the starving students guide to vegetarianism, made a couple recipes out of it and then within a few days I was back to eating animal products again.

Fast forward 10 years and the idea of going veggie crossed  my mind a lot. Any time I was looking to lose weight, change my diet, eat healthier it was the first thing I thought of. When I decided to try a vegan diet this last time, it really only stuck because I put the time and effort in. It isn't as easy as just announcing to the world that you are now vegan and starting up a blog (we just make it seem that way). In reality, I did a lot of research, bought cook books, talked to other vegans, followed many, many vegans on twitter and found a way to get back on track when I screwed up along the way.

I am not going to lie and say it was easy, but because I wanted to do it, it didn't seem like as big of a commitment as it does now looking back. One thing that helped though was attempting veggie diets and failing miserably in the past. Not only did I end up with a few recipes I knew I could fall back on now (made it seem like not everything I was eating was foreign to me) and I remembered why it didn't work before and what was the trigger to falling back into an animal based diet.

I haven't cooked any of my old veggie recipes in a long time and today I was feeling the urge for my original vegan recipe - fried spaghetti. I stole this recipe from that first veg cook book I bought.. I haven't changed it too much over the years. Sometimes I add to it, sometimes I just make the basic recipe. I love recipes like that. So simple that you know you can change it up a hundred different ways. So here is the basic recipe and I have added a few things you can do to change it up.

Fried Spaghetti
*Adapted from Starving Students guide to vegetarianism
Serves 2, takes about 20 minutes for the basic recipe

  • Spaghetti - enough for two (about a toonie-size amount)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (other oils are fine too)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2-3 Tbsp of tomato paste (I don't really measure, but you can add more if it looks like not enough)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp parsley, chopped

Alright, first get your water going for the pasta (remember to salt the water.. much better that way). Get a large frying pan and add the oil to it over medium low heat. Once the oil is hot, add the Italian seasoning, onion and garlic and stir and cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent. By this point the water should be boiling. Add the pasta and cook al dente. 
As always, prep first. Luckily this one is easy 

The sauce, it will look like there isn't enough, but this is a drier pasta.
Don't expect a ton of sauce, the pasta will soak it all up

Now, add to the tomato paste and water to the pan. Stir it well until it's combined and cook for about 5 minutes. If the pasta isn't ready yet, but the sauce is you can turn the pan to low while you wait. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and throw it in the pan. Toss it really well so it is all combined. I usually used a wooden spoon and tongs or a pasta spoon. Turn the heat to medium high and cook for 5-8 minutes. If you cook it longer you will get some crunchy bits of pasta, if you cook it less, it will be softer. You decide. Lastly, top with the chopped parsley and serve.
Ready to fry!

And the finished result - Dinner in under 20 minutes

Now, there are tons of ways you can jazz this recipe up. I love it on its own, but I also love it modified. It will still be an easy and fast meal to have regardless, so I just judge on what I have available in my kitchen. Here are a few ways I have modified the recipe:
  • Instead of water, add marinara or other pasta sauce
  • instead of or in addition to, do roasted garlic (see below)
  • make roasted zucchini and tomatoes and at to sauce
  • Add mushrooms or other vegetables when you add the onions
  • add red chili flakes or hot sauce
  • add tofurkey sausage or veggie ground
  • deglaze the pan with wine before adding the pasta
  • Add bread crumbs with the pasta and fry together (about 1/4 cup max)
  • Add ground sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Add cabbage when you add the tomato paste and water
  • Add vegan cheese
Any other suggestions, let me know.. really this is such a basic dish that any Italian flavour will work. Now, since I made roasted garlic when I made my version, I thought I would share a little secret... Roasted garlic is easy and a fantastic way to may garlic bread or fancy-up any dish. Seriously... any dish.

Roasted garlic right out of the oven - totally worth the hour!
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Get a head of garlic and chop off the top so the cloves are exposed. Now, place it on a sheet of tin foil and cover in olive oil (about 2 Tbsp). Next add some salt and pepper and then fold up the tin foil to seal the head of garlic.Bake in the oven for about 50-60 minutes, turning once about half way. When you turn it over the oil might seep out so either make a catch with more foil or place on a baking sheet. When it is done you can just squeeze the garlic on to a slice of toasted bread or make garlic croutons (fry bread in oil and then add the roasted garlic) or you can add it to this, or any pasta dish. Roasted garlic is amazing. it is like garlic, but a little sweeter and more mild in flavour. It really makes any dish better. It is one of those flavours that when you add it to something, people can tell its there, but can't figure out what it is. Try it next time by substituting some or all of garlic in a dish for roasted or make a quick garlic bread on your own and you will see for yourself :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Raw Chips

This post is dedicated to James who loaned me a dehydrator in January in hopes that it would help me test out a 30 day raw diet. Obviously that has yet to happen. In fact, I took the dehydrator home and left it at my door... until tonight.

I thought I would start slow and make something easy that I was pretty sure I would love. I have made kale chips many times in the oven. These are similar, but take a helluva lot longer. However, you get a better chip from it, so if you can spare the time, it is worth it. Since kale chips are pretty well known, I thought I would attempt to use a different green and see how it does in the conversion to chips. Tonight, I chose collard greens. They are super good for you and I love them. They are seriously one of my favourite vegetables... actually most leafy greens are on my fave list. I don't know if that is a vegan thing, but I know for me, before being vegan no dark leafy greens were on my fave foods list. I didn't hate them, more indifferent of them. Now, I find that I crave them.. I think my taste buds changed after cutting animal products.. Definitely for the better.

Back to collard chips... I did a little searching on the internet to see what recipes were out there. There are many recipes for a wide range of veggie chips. There are so many ways to make them... so if you like these, just Google raw chips and tons of stuff comes up. Normally when I do these in the oven I keep it simple with some olive oil and salt, but thought I would maybe change it up a little bit. For the kale I am making a herb cheeze chip and for the collards, salt and balsamic vinegar.

Herb Cheeze Raw Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch of kale (any kind, I used curly)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 - 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme (optional)
  • 1 pinch each of salt and pepper
Salt and Balsamic Vinegar Raw Collard Chips
  • 1 bunch collards, sliced into bite size pieces
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used white)
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp ground sunflower seeds
For each of these the steps are the same. First rip or slice the greens into large bite size pieces. They will shrink a bit when you dehydrate them, so don't slice too small. Next throw them into a large bowl and combine the other ingredients. toss and stir until everything is coated. lay out flat in your dehydrator and try not to let them over lap so they dry evenly.
This is the kale pre-mixed

Now to dehydrate, I think the temperature is somewhere around 120 F.. Mine doesn't have a temperature setting, so I just turned mine on and crossed my fingers. I left mine in for about 5 hours total. If you turn the temperature up, they probably would only need 3-4 hours. I have seen some recipes that need up to 10 hours to dry. First time making these, I would allow lots of time in case they need more than you think.
Kale ready to be dehydrated

Collard green chips, pre-dehydrated. I needed about 3 trays for each bunch.

So I tried both of these chips, and I tried to save some to bring for work snacks. First, they were awesome. I liked both, but I kind of like the collards flavour better, but the kale makes a better chip. Just holds together a little better than thing collard greens. If you are going to try and save these, don't use zip lock bags. I did and they kind of softened up on me. Paper bag or Tupperware would probably be better.
Like slow cooking, turn on the dehydrator and then in a few hours you have chips ready to eat.
Takes a while, but I think I prefer to the baking method.

These were so good, I ate so many, I didn't need dinner. Such a good snack. Healthy and tastes good. Can't really get better than that.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Quick snack avec collard greens

So.. ever feel hungry and have no idea what you want? That is pretty much the story of my life. At best, I will know whether I am craving something sweet or salty, but my brain likes to make me guess after that point. Tonight I was poking around in my fridge and seeing what needed to be eaten and found a half a bunch of collard greens. They probably had a day left before they would need to be tossed, so what ever I made for a snack tonight needed to include collards.

Wasn't sure what to call this concoction.... but here it is...
Earthy, salty and pretty healthy. Made in under 15 minutes

Collard-Shroom Bowl
*Serves 1

  • Half a bunch of collard greens, stems removed, rolled length-wise and sliced
  • 5-6 Mushrooms, sliced (any kind and use more or less depending on what you like)
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • Scant 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds, ground
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat your pan to medium heat and add the olive oil. Chop the collards, mushroom and garlic. I think these could be added all at the same time, but I added garlic first and a minute later, I added mushrooms, then collards. Let this saute for 5-6 minutes. Add a little water if it looks dry. Now grind up the sunflower seeds if you haven't done this yet and then toss them in. Add salt and pepper and stir. Cook for another 5 minutes or so until everything is cooked through and tender. Add the nutritional yeast and serve.
Confession - I had already started into this when I realized I hadn't photographed it.
Sorry - have to deal with lower quality cell pic :)
Even though this appears to just be a bowl of greens, the garlic and shrooms give it a bit more depth in flavour and the sunflower seeds give it some crunch and extra fat and protein. So it's like eating greens, except more filling and tastes more like a meal. To make this into a bigger meal, add tempeh, tofu, walnuts, quinoa. I think the options are endless because so many things could go with these flavours... even pasta... I think I might try that one next time!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Clever Rabbit - New Vegan Restaurant in Edmonton

Not too long ago, a new vegan / vegan friendly restaurant opened up in Edmonton. I don't know how it took me so long to get there, but I finally went this past weekend. I dragged my ass out of my apartment before noon and headed out for one of the first vegan brunches at restaurant.. possibly ever.

Clever rabbit is on 124th Street and just north of 107th Avenue. It is only open for breakfast and lunch which for me means that I will only be able to get there on the weekends. Walking in at noon on a Saturday, I was welcomed by a display of vegan baked goods. For vegan people in this city... you know that this is a big deal.

The menu was pretty simple, but had a number of good options. As someone that has no friends that are vegan, what I was most impressed with was that they default all items on the menu to vegan, but will sub in non-vegan on request. What a nice change! I never really thought that I minded that every time I go out to eat, I have to ask for things to be substituted or taken out of dishes... It is really nice to have things vegan by default and people can add when they want something more... carcass-y. Why can't all restaurants be that way?
Vegan donair - and yes, it is good! No meat necessary here
 So my thoughts on Clever Rabbit? I love the name and the casual atmosphere inside. They don't seat many in there, so I really hope that they promote the vegan baking and get some take-away traffic in addition to sit down. I was a little worried when I walked in as the place was pretty empty, but it seems that everyone was just sleeping in and within 30 minutes of getting there, the tables were full. The staff was friendly and prompt. I had a coffee which was really good. I normally wouldn't even comment on the coffee, but it was just a good brew. The kind where you don't need milk and sugar. They also have smoothies there, which I did not try, but may next weekend. One drawback for me was they had juices, but they were all canned and carbonated. Since they are doing the breakfast thing and the smoothie thing, it would have been really great to have fresh juice... but pretty minor I think. The carbonated raspberry lemonade was awesome.

This is what a garden salad SHOULD look like!

My sister, who came out with me, had tofu scramble and it looked and smelled really good. For the $9.00 price tag, you got a lot. She barely got through half of it. I decided to try the vegan donair. First time I had seen one of these and it was so good. Good enough that I wish these guys were open at 3:00 am for post bar munchies. Since they're not, I can wait patiently for the next morning. I had a salad with my donair and though just a garden salad, it was more like the salads I make at home. Lots of seeds, nuts, fruit and veggies. So much better than most restaurants where a garden salad is romaine/iceberg and some carrots and onion.

Why we went here in the first place - Vegan breakfast!
Behold scrambled tofu.. even better than non-vegan scramble
After brunch, we got some homemade vegan donuts and they were so, so good! A little on the heavy side (often happens I find in vegan baking), but the flavour was bang on and it cured a two year craving for donuts. I really wanted a cinnamon bun, but the last one was taken while I was there. Another reason why I need to go back. I have really struggled to find good decent vegan baking in this city. There are some fabulous cupcakes and muffins out there (Pure muffins, so good!), but beyond that, I have to make my own. Sometimes, I just want someone else to do the cooking and cleaning.

In short, vegan or not... Go give Clever Rabbit a try. I think you will be impressed!