Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Last Chance for Noorish - Third Time's the charm

I have posted before about Noorish. It is a new-ish cafe that opened up in Garneau. New meaning that has been around about a year now. I went to Noorish on opening night. At the time, there was really only a couple vegetarian restaurants in Edmonton, and it was so exciting to have a new one.

third time was the charm

You can read my first review here. To summarize it, I liked the food, I did not like the management of the restaurant. Nice people, but seemed to have no clue how to manage a restaurant. I have stayed away from Noorish for quite a few months now, when a friend of mine suggested it for dinner tonight. I figured  if they have not gotten their shit together by now, they probably never will.

What is Noorish? Well, to me it is a hipster hang out, trendy and for the DINK's of the world with lots of disposable income to invest in all the latest health crazes. They are a raw, vegan (Mostly, I think they have cow's milk for coffee), heavy on the gluten-free cafe attached to a yoga studio. The serve elixirs and healthy warm and cold beverages, a small menu of typical cafe food (Think burger, stir-fry, salads, etc)

Was not a busy Tuesday night, so that may have helped them stay on top of service
That said, I here this place still gets packed, get a reservation if you go

My final overall impression? The good is tasty and filling, the staff is friendly. The menu is predictable and over-priced. If I was doing a star rating, for me, I would say 3 stars out of 5. I think it depends on your wallet and what you're looking for though... some would probably give it much more than what I do, but then... It's my blog and my rating system...

First, the cons. The menu, to me, is same as what I find everywhere. They have some salads and a soup and a sandwich, burger, pizza and some stir-fries... I am always looking for something different. The menu does not stand out because even though they are raw.. I can get similar food anywhere. For me, there is nothing on the menu that I HAVE to go back for.

Usual stuff.. burgers, sandwiches etc, etc. I did notice a kids menu.
I don't remember that from last time!
Prices - $8 for a drink (elixirs), $18 for a stir-fry or a small plate of nachos. $12 for hummus and 10 crackers. I am sorry, but I am not seeing the value. Maybe it's because of the ingredients they use... or that they know their target audience will pay to be there, but when you combine and somewhat predictable menu with high prices, it does not make me want to come back. I wish there was a couple things on the menu that were a little more economical... at least then there is a choice for the budget conscious. My friend and I had two appetizers, spit one dessert and I had a green tea. Total? $30 before tip. That is no entree, no alcohol. Let's just say, I didn't really feel like I got my money's worth even thought the food was yummy.

Hipster Vibes - Ok, this is a personal preference thing for me... but I feel going into that restaurant, that I really should have worn a fedora and many, many accessories that have no business being worn together. For some reason, I can expect this from places that are dressy. I know when I go to a fancy restaurant in jeans that I will stand out.. but with these hipster places, I am always surprised. You never know when you're going to land in one. For some reason when I end up in a hipster-type spot, I feel uncomfortable and judged... I don't know why, I just do. Something about trying so hard to have a laid-back, mellow comfy vibe, makes me uncomfortable... I am so glad I don't own my own business and can just blindly judge rather than try to create that feel without offending anyone.

Now that I have done my complaining, what did I like about this place?

The staff - yes, they were a little (A LOT) unprepared the first time I went, but regardless, they seem like nice people there. I was greeted when I came in, and offered three times an explanation on what the restaurant is about. Maybe that was overkill, but I appreciated that they want to tell people dining more about who they are. Our server was very friendly, offered opinions on the menu. Even warned us of a deceptively filling dessert that was good to share. They even happily split the cheque for us, which surprisingly puts some restaurants off. Good staff can be hard to come by and it is nice to be treated like a person and not just a table number.

The Store - part of the restaurant is selling hard to find herbs, health foods and books. I really like that, especially for a place into the vegan/raw culture. Some things seemed priced well, others were kind of high for me, but they have things that you probably can't find elsewhere... like raw chocolate, goji berries, herbal smokes, hard to find teas and lots of herbal mixes. Lots of other stuff too. It's nice to know that I can get some of these things if I am looking for them.

The Food - I know I spent a lot of blog space above complaining about the menu, but overall the food is good. Definitely not for everyone. My restaurant bestie, James, does not like the food here, but I do. Nothing to me stands out as a have to have item on the menu, but everything is tasty, healthy and filling. I am not sure why but it is missing that something that will make me go back. At the same time, I know I won't be disappointed eating there either. Strange.

What did I have tonight? first Hummus and crackers. The hummus is really good. Very homemade tasting and the crackers are very filling (Made from sprouted seeds, dehydrated.) I took the left over hummus home and totally plan to have it with a bagel tomorrow.

The hummus, it was good enough to take the left overs with me

We also split a plate of nachos. Surprisingly the nachos were one of the crackers on the hummus plate which if I had known that, I probably would not have got both of these, but nevertheless, they were also pretty good. They make this homemade chili cheese that looks kind of like cheese that came out of a tube, but tastes much better. It comes with a goji berry salsa, a raw version of refried beans (I forget what it was made of) and a vegan, raw, sour cream. The salsa and sour cream were by far the best part of this dish. They were good on their own and even better when you combined them. I would definitely order than one again.

By far the best part of these is the 'sour cream' and salsa,
preferably together.

For dessert we split a chocolate mousse cake. The server promised us it would be something you could split and when we got it, it was this little, tiny piece of cake. I thought for sure we would need a second dessert, but it was surprisingly filling. half, was more than enough. it actually reminded me a bit of the raw ice cream I made. It came with a raw chocolate sauce, caramel and berry compote and I normally hate chocolate and fruit together, but this was so, so good.

Most important part.. dessert.

So, I think for me, Noorish is not my favourite place in the city, but it isn't because of the people or the food. It is the prices and the menu choices that knock it off the top five. That said, I would not be unwilling to go back. I know the food tastes good and in the end, that counts for a lot.

So there you go, justifying my three stars. Points for food (taste and quantity), funky store and friendly staff. Points off for over-priced and lack of creative menu options. i won't be going there every weekend, but I think I will be back there again some time soon.

More than all I am glad they sorted out their management issues. Regardless of any negative, it is really good to see more vegan and raw restaurants popping up in this overly meat-centric city.

Oreo Stuffed Cookies

One of the happiest days of being vegan was the day that I learned Oreo's contained no dairy. What does that say about them? Well for one, there is not much natural to them... definitely would not consider these a health food! It also says to me, that once in a while it's a perfect treat for me. I have no control when it comes to Oreo's, and really most cookies. I generally keep them out of my house because if they are here, I eat them until they are gone and never feel good after.

Not long ago, my boyfriend, Tony, sent me a picture... See below. I took it as a challenge and I am pretty sure it was meant to be interpreted that way. Really, how could I not try to make these knowing that they were vegan and knowing that I am a self-proclaimed cookie master! Tony did a little research for me by tasting different cookies with Oreo's and we determined that, yes, chocolate chip is the way to go. Lucky for me, I make a mean chocolate chip cookie... so why not put them on cookie steroids by stuffing another yummy cookie inside!

These cookies are monsters. Basically, consider one cookie, three cookies. Yummy chocolate chip cookie on the outside and warm Oreo in the middle. I can't think of something better to have after a long day...

How did I make these? It's actually pretty easy. You can take any chocolate cookie recipe you have on hand.. just remember that it will really only make half the number of cookies, so double if you want lots, but these cookies are pretty filling. I don't think I would recommend eating more than one in a sitting.

I used my chocolate cookie recipe found here

Now, when you have your dough ready, make each cookie dough into a ball. Press down with your hand or a spoon and then place an Oreo on top. Now take a second cookie and place on top. Make sure the cookies are large enough that they wider than the Oreo. Next, grab the dough and press the edges together to they are sealed.
Make your cookie dough, place an Oreo on the dough..

Place the second cookie dough on top and seal.

Pre-heat your oven to 375 F (Or if using a different recipe, just follow their cooking instructions). Bake the cookies to the recipe, mine took about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them for when the edges go golden brown... That means they're ready. Also, space the cookies out well, they can spread a bit.

Let them cook on a rack for about 5-10 minutes and then transfer to a plate.

there is an Oreo hiding in that cookie!!

Let me just say, oh man are these amazing. I wasn't too sure about the combo at first, but who ever came up with this Picture Tony send, they are genius. I am so glad Tony sent these to me now. He is finally coming up to brave Canadian winter and see me on my birthday... maybe he'll luck out and I'll make these for him so he has a snack for when he gets off the plane. He is the best for coming all this way just to celebrate my big 3-0, I should return the favour. What better way than a double threat cookie!

This recipe got me thinking... what else could you stuff inside a cookie? Fruit, obviously. I did that once with a sugar cookie and strawberries... they were good. What about peanut butter? Jam? Icing? Pumpkin? My brain is going a mile a minute.. mostly because I just test tasted these cookies and I am on an obvious sugar high... I think this will not be the last of stuffing food into cookies.... But what to try next?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I have nothing to talk about.

This weekend has been kind of a boring one. If it wasn't for getting out to a concert on Saturday night with my friend James, I pretty much could have stayed in bed for a full 48 hours. Something has happened to my will power this week. I don't want to do anything, I don't want to talk to anyone and I kept the curtains down. It snowed all day today and that just made things worse. I hate having no energy. Everything seemed like a struggle. All I could think to myself is, one more hour lying on the couch.. and then I will go do something, anything. I get like this every year. Something happens when the seasons change. First I get a little excited just because I know I'll be able to cook soups and stews again.. but then not long after, that burst of energy fades and I fall into a major funk.

I have not cooked anything today... really I have done nothing today worth posting. I have been planning all week to fit in some blog time to express my displeasure with Starbucks. Right now I am blogging in Second Cup, so it seems fitting to go with my mood, tonightis the night!

For the longest time, Starbucks gave free soy milk with a registered card. About a year ago, they brought in a new loyalty program. I could still have my free soy, but only after I reach gold status... i.e. make 30 transactions. I love to have a coffee in the morning and a fancy coffee at lunch, so it didn't take me long to get on the gold plan with them. Since then, I have been happily enjoying my latte's without having to pay for soy.

As of this month, Starbucks has suspended the free soy! To be honest, it was really the only thing keeping me a loyal customer. I am now going to Second Cup because I figure if there is not monetary reason for choosing my coffee shop, I might as well support a Canadian company.

But, this brought about a lot of anger... Why the fuck do I have to pay an up-charge of $0.50 - 0.75 for a 1/4 cup of milk!? I get mark-ups. I really do. I know the food industry needs to do this to make money... but, why oh why are we picking on people that don't drink cows milk. It isn't all vegans.. there are a lot of people out there that are allergic and plenty more that just prefer soy or almond to dairy.

It's not like these coffee shops are going out and spending $3.00 - 5.00 for a small container of non-dairy milk. There are obviously contracts in place and I am sure they are getting a good deal. Plus drinks at these coffee shops are already building in for the cost of milk.. that's why dairy milk drinkers don't pay more. It makes no sense to me at all. Especially if you look at the menu and order something that does not normally come with milk. To add dairy milk to this there is a $0.50 fee.. So why is it that something like a latte which has steamed milk built in the price needs an up-charge?

Honestly it makes me think long and hard about how much do I really need to have a fancy overpriced drink at lunch every day. I don't, not at all, but I use coffee shops as my way to get a break. A break from work, from everything. Now I am second guessing whether I should even be going anymore.

I think the thing that makes me so mad about Starbucks in particular is that they seem like the type of company that would discount up-charges and get ahead of the locally owned coffee shops with a more competitive price. They know though that their customer base is addicted.. and will probably pay regardless of the price. Sad, I know I probably will go back.. but I will be thinking twice before I do

Ah well, honestly as mad as I am... it's not like I have to buy their product.. I don't even have to buy something that requires milk in it. I just had to get it out there, that I noticed the change and I am not a happy customer.

So.. I think that ends my mini-rant of the day. I have been sitting on this one for a couple weeks. I thought it my let my rage boil and make for a better post, but I am already getting over it. That said, I have not really been back to Starbucks since. I am really enjoying Second Cup. I like the coffee better, the tea and they have a way better selection of treats. Granted none are vegan... except possibly a veggie roll. I am looking into that one.

I feel a little guilty about not posting anything all that informative today. I do have a new smoothie to try tomorrow though. I absolutely love smoothies. When I bike to work, smoothies were an absolute must to my day. They make everything a little better. It is a rare morning I am in a bad mood after my morning smoothie. I make mine in a magic bullet which does a mediocre job. It is not good at crushing ice, but I find that very few blenders are capable of it. If anyone knows of a good blender out there (Vitamix, I know, but hoping for a cheaper alternative) I normally make a green smoothing in the morning, but once in a while I change it up and make something that I would say is closer to a snack smoothie. Here is one I am planning to make tomorrow.

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Serves 1, couple minutes to make

  • 1 small banana, chopped and preferably frozen
  • 1/2 cup milk (almond is what I used, but any kind works)
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1-2 tsp ground chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter (natural if you have it, if not then you may want to tone down the sweetener)
  • 1 tbsp sweetener (I used agave)
  • Ice (I usually do 3-4 cubes, but depends on the size of blender)
Instructions are very simple, put everything into your blender and blender for a solid 2 minutes. More if necessary. The nice thing about a magic bullet is that you are blending in the cup. it helps with portion control and with mess. Once less thing to clean up is great in my world.

Why do I love this smoothie? It is loaded with potassium from the coconut water, chia and banana. It is very hydrating, coconut water is really good for keeping hydrated. It is also good on a hangover. I don't get a hang over often, but if I do, this is a great smoothie to cure it. In the past I was a believer in powerade to cure my hangovers, but really it is the sugar, salt, potassium that is doing it. This smoothie has all of those and tastes way better than those dumb sports drink.

This is an awesome smoothie for after a workout, or in the morning. Some people like to add protein powder to their smoothies and I this would be a good one for it. I usually don't though. I just don't enjoy the taste of protein powder. I hear though protein powder in the morning is a good way to keep sugar cravings down, so I am considering trying it. Just need to do some research on what type to get.. Seems there are a lot more vegan ones out there these day!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bannock and Babysitting

Last night I didn't blog. I didn't blog because I was tired after doing some baby sitting at my sister's. Not that it was difficult, her kids were pretty well behaved for toddler/baby. Really I have done much more strenuous things and not felt as tired... Maybe her kids are energy suckers, I don't know. Luckily for me, she made some vegan dinner so I would not starve while hanging with her kids. She had a veggie chili which once day I will get the recipe for. It is a black bean, corn, tomato mix. Really good, kind of more sweet than chili flavoured actually, but it really tastes great.

Kind of random, but with this she served up some Bannock... vegan bannock to be exact. I actually looked this up and it seems most bannock recipes are vegan. How awesome is that? I love when something just is and always was vegan. Makes my like easier. I assume it at some point was made in animal fat, but really veggie fat is just as good if not better.

 I have had bannock before. It is an awesome, sweet, filling bread that is native american. I have a grandma recipe for bannock and I have had it at a restaurant before... and I have to say in my limited experience... you need a little old lady to make this to really perfect the recipe. That said, my sister made an attempt.. and she did good.. like REAL good. This was the lightest bannock I have ever tried. I don't know if that is because of the switch for vegan ingredients.. or the fact that this recipe happens to have a lot of baking powder... Probably a bit of both. You must give this recipe a try.

I apologize, but no pictures right now. At the time, I didn't realize I would be blogging about this. I am hoping to try this recipe for myself and maybe reduce someone the sugar in it ... I will post pictures if I do.

Laura's Vegan Bannock
*Recipe from some dad from daycare. Thanks!

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar - (Note from Laura - I'm SURE you could reduce. The last bannock recipe I made had 1 tbsp, haha. 1/4 would be fine I bet)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup raisins (optional) - I bet blueberries would be good (Laura did not put these in, but agree with her comment!)
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 2 cup water

Pre-heat your oven to 400 F. Mix dry ingredients. Add shortening, mix with hands till texture is like large oatmeal (also seen described as wet sand). Now put 2 cups cold water in a bowl on the side and make a well in the flour mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup of the water into the well. Swirl in center till it forms a soft ball. Place on an un-greased baking sheet and keep repeating until the flour is gone. Make sure the dough is not sticky after you may the ball. If it is, add some more flour

Pat down dough in the pan and square off with a knife. Poke two holes in the centre of each square.

Bake for about 35 minutes

Laura - Thank your day care buddy for this recipe. It was so good. I am craving more now and if I had enough shortening, I would be in the kitchen making it!!

Hopefully will be back cooking things on my own tomorrow. I have some stuff ready to go, just not enough time to make it happen. It has been a busy week. This weekend could not come soon enough. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Slow Cooker Burrito

I have been thinking about slow cooking for a while now. Every spring summer I get to the point where I never want to touch a slow cooker again and I put it away for the summer... every fall, I start feeling the urge to slow cook again. I am not sure if it is the temperature drop or the hibernation factor and I think it is likely a bit of both... slow cooking just seems like a must.

Yes, this was done in a slow cooker... Super easy

I decided to stay away from the usual slow cooker meals and try something a little different... how about slow cook burritos? I came up with this from looking through some old cook books and I came across a few recipes that were rice and beans of some sort. Every time I saw it, I kept thinking how much I would love a burrito... So why not just cook all the filling at once and then it would be ready made meal? Seems like a good idea, so I am giving it a go.

I think the nicest thing about this dish is that I can have it as a burrito, or on its own or with nachos. It is kind of like 3 different meals packed into one recipe.

I used a lot of basic tex-mex type veggies in this dish, but as I was adding ingredients, I came across a stray Anaheim pepper in my fridge. Anaheim is such a good match with this, I needed to included it, but decided to roast it first. I have never roasted my own peppers before. It was always something I figured you needed a gas stove to do it best. However, I felt like since I was not sauteing any vegetables in advance that I needed to have this in my recipe.

Turns out, roasting peppers is so easy! I can't believe I used to buy these jarred for 3-4 times the price of doing it myself. It took little time and no effort. Next time you are using peppers, try roasting!

Roasting Peppers
15 minutes

  • Peppers (Anaheim, Jalapeno, Bell etc)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Set your oven to broil and put the rask to the top setting. Now, place the peppers on a cookie sheet. take the olive oil and spread and rub over the peppers.

Put it in the oven and cook about 10-15 minutes. Check them and turn them often. Once they are all blistered and/or blackened, they are ready. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off, remove the seeds and slice.

Ready to use or serve. Try them in sandwiches, stir fries and basically any dish you normally put peppers in.

Pepper - Oil it up

Roast for 10-15 minutes

Peel the skin and ready to use

So, now that we have roasted peppers, time to make some slow cooker burrito filling

Slow Cooker Burritos
5 hours, 10 minutes prep
  • Dice the following:
    • 1 green pepper
    • 1 onion
    • 1-2 ribs of celery
    • 2-3 tomatoes (about a cup)
    • 1 roasted anaheim pepper
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/3 cup green onion chopped
  • 2 tsp cilantro, chopped
  • Lime juice I Used a lot... but probably a tablespoon for those that are not lime crazy
Combine everything up to the rice (Don't put the rice in yet!) Stir it and cook on high for 4- 4 1/2 hours. Stir in the rice and cook for another 45 minutes or until the rice is tender. Finally add the remaining ingredients and you are ready! 

Dump everything into your slow cooker...
Let is simmer.... and then add the rice..

let is simmer.... wait wait wait...
I think the nicest thing about this is that I didn't have to cook things really before slow cooking. I know it helps with flavour, but I really hate messing up more than one pot! When you are the dishwasher and the cook.... you look for any way to spare dirtying a pan.

As soon as it is done, you can start making your burritos... add any other ingredient you want... vegan sour cream, guac, cilantro, whatever you want. You could also use this to make chips... add some salsa, guac and vegan shredded cheese. I am seeing maybe a layered dip in my future with this filling. I think that would be amazing.. I guarantee no one will be wondering where the meat is... these rice and beans hold their own!

Scoop and serve - Could use in a layered dip, nacho, burrito or
Quesadilla filling

I made my burrito with some jalapenos and cilantro and really nothing else. The filling was so packed with flavour that I didn't even think about the fact that I didn't have any cheese. I am planning to freeze some of this off for a rainy day... Going to be great to be able to have this hidden away for a quick dinner or snack.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Whiskey Cookies

I did not have the best day today... things at work are not going exactly to plan, my meeting ran long and had to skip the gym and as usual, I forgot about after work commitments which kills almost all of my time for cooking and relaxing after work.

After a long day, I really want to have a decent meal and if that can't be had, at least a good snack. I remembered when I first moved out on my own making peanut butter cookies quite a bit. Mostly because they only required a couple ingredients and took no kitchen appliances or time to make. Today, I decided these were a must... Even though these are good enough to stand on their own, I thought maybe I could do something to make them a little different than the basic recipe... What else goes good after a long day at work? Whiskey!

With very little additional work, I jazzed up this super easy recipe and turned it from an after school snack, to an after work snack. You could swap out the whiskey for other alcohols... spiced rum I think would be very good here. I origianlly  planned to have some chopped pecans on top, but I didn't have any on hand.. I instead used some apple slices. Apple and whiskey go, apple and peanut butter go, so I can only assume that Apple, peanut butter and whiskey all go perfect together.

Here we go with the recipe. The basic recipe is just the peanut butter, sugar and chia egg. From there, you can add things as you like. Just remember to balance the wet and dry ingredients. If the batter is too wet, the cookies will be flat and crunchy. If the batter is too dry, they will get cakey.

Peanut Butter-Apple Whiskey Cookies
*Makes 15 cookies, 20 minutes

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used brown, but white works too)
  • 1 chia egg (1 tsp ground chia seeds whisked with two Tbsp water)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp whiskey (I admit, I free poured... )
  • 1/4 tsp instant espresso (optional.. this is my secret ingredient in most baked goods)
  • 2 Tbsp Flour (Again this is an estimate depending on how cakey you want the cookies. Add by the table spoon)
  • 1 apple, peeled and sliced thin

Very easy to make. Pre-heat the over to 325 F. In a bowl mix the peanut butter, sugar chia egg, salt whiskey and instant espresso. Once everything in combined, add a Tbsp of flour and mix. Does it look like cookie dough? If it is too thin, add another tablespoon of flour. I would not go beyond 4 tablespoons though.

The ingredients... looks kind of gross, but thinking these are going to taste great!

I wanted a crispier cookie, so I only added a little flour.

Now, take a spoonful of dough and roll it into a ball and place it on an un-greased cookie sheet. Press each cook dough ball down with a fork until flat. Top with apple slices and some extra sugar. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Keep a close eye on them, you don't want to over cook!

Roll into a ball and flatten with a fork.
This will make the cookie, look like a cookie

Ready for the oven!

And.. the result? Well, first I wish I hadn't eaten half the apple and put slices on all the cookies. As you can see above, I ran short and figured sugar was enough. It was good, but the apples make it so much better.

The apple looks good and tastes even better!

These cookies are pretty boozey, if you are not into boozey cookies, use vanilla instead of the whiskey. or cut the alcohol in half. Me personally? I can't wait to eat these with a glass of whiskey on the rocks for dunking ;)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sushi Time!

Finally had a decent me weekend. After all the travel and all the time spent with other people. Friday, I came home and I actually spent my evening alone, in the dark relaxing. I didn't think about anything or anyone, just had some time to shut down. I don't know if this is a normal thing to want or not, but for me, I like to have this time. I guess it is kind of like my form of meditation. Sometimes it just feels like I can't get my thoughts together. I stop listening to myself and I go from day to day just reacting to everything. I had an overwhelming urge to make life stop for a bit.. so that is exactly what I did on Friday and it felt awesome.

Saturday, I made my swim practice (a miracle on its own for me) and I got to hang out with my olds at their garage sale. Sometimes I feel like I fit in more with them than I do with my own friends. It might be that their favourite pastimes are complaining and sitting around doing nothing. These are my kind of people. Although I was planning to avoid my family this weekend, I did make it over to my sisters and hung out with the kids. She lured me over with kale chips and homemade hummus. It was worth it.

Today, I went to yoga for the first time and it definitely felt good to stretch everything out, but the room was kind of warm and it was really hard for me to concentrate on anything other than wondering why the temperature was so high. I think with the trend of warm and hot yoga, it is easier for the studios to keep the temperate higher than room temp so they can get it to the right temperature quickly for the hot classes. I remember before hot yoga was around here that I would be really cold before class started and then feel warm when I was done. Now, I am sweating before class starts...  Maybe it is just me being completely out of shape.... but I didn't like it either way. Might be time to do these things at home instead. After yoga, I went down to Clever Rabbit, with a plan of coffee and a snack. When i showed up, they had french toast. I have been trying to get this dish there for weeks and have been unsuccessful. I had to order it. I have failed a few times at making a vegan french toast and I had to see if theirs would do the trick. So amazing.. the only words I could describe it... They have figured it out and I think now that I have tasted theirs, I have figured it out. I am hopefully going to make a new attempt at vegan french toast this week. I am so excited about it. It was curing a 3 year craving.

As excited as I was to make french toast, this was not the night for it. I had already deemed this night sushi night. At the garage sale on Saturday, I came across a sushi set. The olds let me take it for free and I felt like I needed to try it out right away, otherwise it would end up in the grave yard of the many kitchen gadgets I have bought and never bothered to try over the years.

I cannot believe I have never made sushi before. I have been eating it for years and there are so many places out there with really good veggie sushi. I was always a little scared of making my own sushi. It seems so simple, but if it was, sushi chefs wouldn't require years of training to be a professional roller, would they?

So I did lots of research (i.e. I googled it..) and now here is the story of my first attempt at sushi.

First thing that seems to be so important is the sushi rice. Everything I read said to use specifically sushi rice. This is what I bought, but it looked to me just like a short grain rice. I know that to make proper sushi, it needs to be sticky and you need a short grain for this.

Every blog and website I went on had a different way to cook the rice. Some said you want to boil it for 7 minutes so that you burn the bottom of your pan. Others said to just cook it like any other white rice, others said only cook for 10 minutes. One site said don't add the rice until the water is boiling... Honestly it was really confusing. I decided to cook it like I always cook rice. Boil the water, 15 minute simmer and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

Sushi rice

  • 2 cups sushi rice
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
Rinse the sushi really well in a sieve. You want to rinse until the water is almost clear. Once you get to that, drain the rice well and a put it in a large pot. Add the water and cover it. Have one burner on high and place the pot on it and bring the rice to a boil. While you are waiting for that to happen, put a second burner on simmer (low). When the rice comes to a full boil, move it to the other burner and cook for about 15 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it sit another 5-10 minutes.

Rinsing the rice. Very important. 

Final step, add the vinegar mixture.

Now while you are waiting again, combine the remaining ingredients into a bowl. Microwave for 35-45 seconds or until the sugar is dissolved. Move the rice to a bowl (a wooden rice bowl is recommended online, but I don't have this. I just used a plastic bowl) Add the vinegar and fold it into the rice. Now let it cool to room temperature.

For the filling, use whatever you want really. Here is what I used:

Sushi I - Carrot, Cucumber on Aioli
  • Carrots, julienned thin
  • cucumber, julienned thin
  • leftover aioli (vegan mayo would be good too)
Sushi II - Umeboshi-Apple
  • Apple, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 1 Tbsp Umeboshi plum vinegar
  • 1 handful walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup sweet pea shoots
  • Toasted sesame seeds

For both sushi's (maki actually), chop up the vegetables. You want them to be sort of a matchstick size. If you have mandolin, I think this would be a nice time to break it out if it has the blade for it. I don't so I have to chop by hand. For the apple, you can skin if you want, but you don't have to. I didn't... I'd say it was to get all the healthy stuff from eating the skin, but let's be honest, it was pure laziness!

Step 1 - Add rice on top of the nori

To roll the sushi, you want to get your sushi mat and cover it with plastic wrap (Not totally necessary for maki with the nori on the outside, but if you want the rice on the outside, this is a must! Cover the nori with about a cup or so of rice from the edge to about 2/3 of the way down. Put the fillings in the centre of the nori (not centre of where the rice is).

Get the toppings on it, in the centre of the nori sheet

Now the tricky part, take the sushi mat and lift it up with the nori and rice on it. Make sure that the rice sticks or else you will need to make your rice more sticky! Fold it over to where the filling in and roll it so that there is just a little nori now left.
Prepare to roll!

Lift the bamboo roller

Roll over top of the filling

Squeeze it so it sticks together

Get some grains of rice and place them on the end of the nori, it makes a glue to keep it together. if this doesn't work, you can dab the nori with a damp paper towel after you roll it. The moisture will make it stick.

Now for the second sushi roll, I attempted a reverse roll, which means the rice is on the outside and the nori is in the middle. First thing which is very important, line the sushi roller in plastic wrap. This will stop the rice from sticking to it. Now, put down the nori just like you did in the first one and cover about 2/3 of it in rice. Top the rice with toasted sesame seeds. Now take the nori and flip it over so that the rice is now face down.
Something about the seeds helps this roll stay together. I don't know
why, but seems important!

Get the fillings and start with the umeboshi plum paste and spread it down the middle of the nori. now add the sliced apples and finally the sweet pea shoots. I trimmed them so it was mostly the leaves and less of the stem.
Rice is underneath

Now just roll it the same way as the first one. Make sure to put some strength into it so the rice sticks really well.
Easy, rolled without any trouble!

So, now you have a bunch of rolls. Cutting should be easy, but you need to make sure of two things. First, get a really sharp knife. If you have a sharpener, use it before cutting. Second get a damp paper towel and before cutting, wipe the knife with it. This will help get through the nori. Try to cut straight down so the roll stays together.
Tada! Not bad for the first attempt! Looks very pretty!

That's it! Have a side of shoyu, wasabi and candied ginger. They are good just on their own too.

I can't believe how well this worked. These pictures are of my first time making sushi. I am definitely going to make this again. Sure, they aren't perfect, but they taste good and they stick together. Practice I am sure makes perfect, so keep trying if they didn't come out right the first time. Experiment with fillings too. My original plan for the first sushi was to use potatoes. It was Tony's suggestion. I unfortunately forgot to make potatoes, but I think next time, that would be kind of cool to try. I also want to try it with some tofu or tempeh..

This would be a great thing to make with a friend or date. Especially when taking pictures... trust me it is not easy to take pictures of rolling sushi on your own!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Failed Quinoa Cakes.. Quinoa Pile

For those that don't know me, Thursday is my busy day. It's a day that I normally am busy from about 7:30 am to 10:00 pm. I hate blogging on Thursday because of this. I also don't want to cook or really do anything in my spare time. I want to sit at home and watch bad television and hope that Friday comes soon.

Usually I get take out on Thursdays and if I am really planning ahead, I might make something on Wednesday and have left overs handy. Today I did neither. I decided just because I am busy most of the day is not really a good excuse for being lazy. However, trying to find something that is easy to make, filling and doesn't make a huge mess is not easy.

I have no idea where the idea came from, but I decided I want to make a vegan version of a fish cake.. Not mimcking at all in flavour, more just the concept. I had quinoa on hand and cooked and figured that could be my platform to make something. Now that I have tried this, the binding with wheat gluten did not work. Very surprising to me. I am out of quinoa, but will attempt this again to see if I can figure out how to make them bind properly. However, I had to post this... frying quinoa is amazing.

Quinoa Cakes... Pile
* Serves 3-4 about 20 min to make, 40 if you don't have cooked quinoa

  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 green onion, choppped
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp basil, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 vegan cheese (or cheese sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp Ketchup (or tomato paste)
  • 1 Tbsp wheat gluten
If you haven't already, cook your quinoa to package instructions. If you can, use vegetable broth instead of water.

Set the quinoa aside and chop up your vegetables. In a pan over medium heat, add some olive oil. Once hot, add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until veggies are soft. Add this to a large bowl with all the remaining ingredients, adding the wheat gluten last. Stir until combined and then kneed a few times with your hands. If it is not sticking together, add a table spoon of water.

Now, to cook these, use the same pan you cooked the vegetables in and heat a little more oil (about 1 Tbsp). Take about 1/4 cup of the quinoa mixture and roll into a ball. Add it to the pan and flatten with a spatula. Cook them about 3-4 min a side, but watch them close. You want them to be a nice golden brown. So, it was obvious after one side cooked that these were just not staying together well. In the end I cooked them like a cake, but then  plated it like a grain. The crunchiness from frying them was awesome. 

Serve with a vegan Aioli:
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayo
  • 1 tsp oil (olive is what I used, but use whatever you have.)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1/8 - 1/4 siracha sauce
  • pinch of salt
If you happen to have roasted garlic, use it. If not, it's OK  Get out your mortar and pestle and mash the garlic until it\s a paste. Add it and all the ingredients into a bowl and use a whisk to mix. If you are not wanting it too spicy, add everything except for the siracha. Then add little by little to get desired spiciness. If you don't have a motar and pestle, you could use garlic powder instead... or just mince it super fine. When serving, add a little extra dill on top for garnish.. or if you're like me and have fennel leaves from a soup you made this week, you can garnish with that.

When I first moved out, one of the first recipes I attempted on my own outside of baking was a tuna cake. It was my way of trying to learn to like canned tuna. It didn't really work obviously... however, I remember loving the idea of it. These can be a great appetizer or a nice quick dinner. If making it a dinner, maybe go the extra step and have a small salad with it. Nice to have colour on the plate. Also aioli makes a fantastic salad dressing.

I will definitely re-do this recipe and see if I can figure out how to get them to stay together a little better... until then, please let me know if you try this and figure it out! Either way, the taste of the quinoa and aioli was amazing. 

Pictures to come tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Roast beet and Fennel Soup

I have been talking for a while now about soup and slow cookers and in general, fall and winter foods. I have decided to free-hand a new soup. I was looking for something with lots of flavour and something that would be really warming on a cold day. Searching through my fridge I found beets. I had planned to roast them, but why not use them in a soup.

Beets can go with so many things, so I did a little googling and found a number of recipes that paired beets with fennel. Fennel is something I have never purchased and never used. I figured, this was a perfect opportunity to give it a try. Nice thing about roasting vegetables, it makes recipes a little more forgiving. There is so much flavour unlocked when you roast vegetables, you don't need to add a whole lot more to make a good tasting soup.

Fennel is a root vegetable used in Mediterranean cooking. it is high in vitamin C, Potassium and Folate. All good things. Beets are also a great source of folate and also manganese and fibre. On top of that, they are both loaded in phytonutrients and all sorts of antioxidants. As a someone that eats a vegan diet, I think it is really important to get a wide range of vegetables. I  can't say I am always the best at this, but i love when I can introduce something new.
Prepared for roasting. The foil helps with evening the temperature
good for things like beets when left whole

Both of these vegetables lend themselves to roasting, plus it is so easy to do.. I had to roast these before making my soup. To roast, trim the beets so the greens are removed (If you want, you can save these and use them in salad or saute them). Next toss the whole beets in olive oil and salt and pepper. Now get a large peice of tin foil and wrap the beets in it (This will help to cook evenly and prevent juices from dying the fennel red). Now get the fennel and trim it so the stalks are removed. Cut into quarters, toss in the same olive oil and salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet with the beets. Roast them at 375 F for about an hour.

Exactly one hour later. My kitchen smells so good

Now, if you want, you can just slice and eat these as is, or you can make a soup with them. I chose to make soup:

Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup
*Makes 8-10 servings, about 1 hour if the vegetables are already roasted

  • 3-4 beets roasted, skins removed and quartered
  • 2 fennel bulbs, roasted and quartered
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper diced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1 Tsp ground thyme
  • 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 5-6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp siracha
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup milk or soy cream
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, sliced (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp parsley, chopped (optional)
If you haven't done so, roast the fennel and beets as noted above and let cool. While you're waiting, chop up the other ingredients so you are ready to build the soup. Remove the beet skin and chop into quarters or smaller if you want and set aside. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and leek and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Now add the sage and thyme and cook again for another minute.
Prep done, makes building a soup a lot easier

Step one - Saute all the base vegetables 

Step two - add herbs

Add in the beets, fennel and vegetable stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or so. You can go longer if you want... or do this in a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours.
Step 3 - add the stock and remaining ingredients and wait...
keep waiting...

Now, get out your immersion blender and put on an apron. Beets stain and splatter could wreck what you're wearing. Keep this in mind! Blend the soup until it is a nice cream texture. If you want some chunks, that is fine too. Do it to taste. Now stir in the siracha to taste and the red wine vinegar. I used what was listed above and it was good. Definite hit of spice though!

Before serving, add fresh basil and parsley to each bowl. You can also garnish with a little fennel leaves if you like. Drizzle in a little of the soy milk/cream
See how pretty it looks with all the garnish

Should last for about 5-7 days. If you can't finish it, freeze it!

So... the results.. this soup was a hit. It is rich and a smooth, but also has a good blend of spicy, sweetness and freshness. Really instead of beets you could use any other root vegetable here, but the colour that comes from this soup is so pretty. Somewhere between a strong magenta and a deep scarlet red. By the time I finished this, I didn't even want anything to eat, but couldn't help myself once I tasted it. I think adding the milk at the end adds a nice layer and looks nice, so try not to skip this. My sister (a non-vegan) tried it with sour cream (Toffuti makes a vegan one). Normally beets are paired with sour cream, but she said that it was a bit overpowering and that it was better alone.

The only thing I don't like about this recipe is the mess that the beets make. Roasting on foil is a smart tip I found and saved a huge amount of mess.... but my hands, some of my floor, the cutting board and Tupperware have been dyed red! I love beets, but man are they messy! Keep this on away from kids I think..