Monday, September 28, 2009

Carob Chip Cookies

I always like to give a little something to Paul's clients when they move into their new homes, as a housewarming and a thank you. I usually go with cupcakes because I want to try every single recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World but surely my blood sugar level can't handle it. This way I can sample a SINGLE cupcake and ship the rest along. Okay, maybe two. Sometimes I can fit only 10 in the cupcake boxes I buy from Bulk Barn. It's never occurred to me to buy a bigger box. Hm.

While I would have loved to continue my journey into Cupcake Land (I'm thinking boston vs brooklyn cream pies are next!) I picked up some extra hours at the clinic and had a very important meeting with my thesis committee that I had to prepare for, and thus had no time for adventures of the cupcake variety. I still wanted to have something to give to Paul's client (aside from a case of beer) and so I decided to bake some carob chip cookies. Who doesn't love cookies?!

Because Isa is my baking queen, I pulled out Vegan with a Vengeance, the very first vegan cookbook I ever bought. It had been a long time since I had flipped through the pages and I found myself earmarking like CRAZY. It is an old cookbook and has been on the market forever, but there are so many recipes in it that I have yet to try. I bought it years ago, at a time I really didn't like cooking and tried to avoid the stove as much as possible...I just buzzed through the easy recipes, got discouraged with the more difficult ones, and then forgot all about it.

Among the recipes I tagged was one for chocolate chip cookies, which Isa assures are not healthy in the slightest (see...even vegans can have some junk food fun). I didn't have chocolate chips so I used carob. And of course, I sampled a couple with a glass of rice milk before packaging the rest up (come on, I had to make sure they tasted alright and weren't poisonous or anything!).

A word to the wise though, the measurements are VERY specific. Be sure to have the exact amount of vegan margarine that the recipe calls for. I skimped a bit and had to moisten the batter with a bit of soy milk to get it to resemble cookie dough rather than powder. It turned out fine and cut down the fat content, but if you want the true results make sure you measure properly.

I sure hope there will be a copy of Isa's soon-to-be-released Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar under my Christmas tree this year!

P.S. The batter itself is fantastic. FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC. If only I had had some Rice Divine vanilla ice cream kicking around, it would have made a killer cookie dough sundae.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fried Eggplant Sammies

It's estimated that 0.5-1% of the North American population identifies as vegan. That's (unfortunately) kind of a low number. You know what's even lower? The number of self-identifying vegans that also like country music. I'd estimate that as 1% of the original 1%*. Veganism and country music are not-so-much of the same cloth.

I, however, kind of like country music. Kind of a an extension of my liking all kinds of music. But don't worry, I am aware of the inherent anti-vegan message in a lot of mainstream country these days. All the same, I like a good party song, and they tend to provide.

Zac Brown Band had a song this past summer called "Chicken Fried". As much as I like them, I obviously do not endorse such a message...and so if you caught me driving down the freeway over the last few months singing at the top of my lungs it probably was something along the lines of

"A little bit of TOFU fried...cold beer on a Friday night...a pair of jeans that fit just right...and the radio on"

Well, now that these sandwiches are in my life I'm going to have to modify my lyrics to "a little bit of EGGPLANT fried".

I can't take credit for these little gems. My mom graciously made us an eggplant lasagna plus several little fried eggplants to eat as leftovers because my school schedule has been making me a little more than scattered and exhausted lately. She also made the buns from scratch. We basically just cut some tomato slices, grabbed bunches of spinach and spread jalepeno hummus on the buns. So really, we did nothing. But I had to share a picture of these sandwiches because they were so so so so good and tasted like they just came from a cold deli somewhere.

*I really have no idea about this statistic. Quite frankly, I made it up. Me = worst Master's of Sociology student EVER!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Macaroni & Cheeze

Once upon a time, I loved me some boxed macaroni and cheese...especially at 4 in the morning after a night out dancing (and perhaps a bit too much Jose Cuervo). My old bones rarely make it out to the bar these days, but sometimes comfort-in-a-bowl is all I want.

In order to stand the authenticity test, vegan mac and cheeze has to be two things: 1) Delicious and 2) Convenient. Because let's face it, the majority of people don't eat mac and cheese because it's the greatest food on the planet. They eat it because it tastes alright, it's done quickly, and it probably reminds them of a simpler time in their lives. I've posted about my mac and cheeze casserole which fulfills criteria #1, but not so much criteria #2 as it involves making a roux and then 30 minutes in the oven before you can eat it.

There is no way I'm doing all that work at 4am...that mac and cheeze casserole is reserved for lazy Sunday evenings and nothing more.

As such, I've been patiently devouring teh internetz for a mac and cheeze recipe that is both delicious and convenient (bonus points for taste-authenticity). I've seen the boxed of soy-based mac and cheeze varieties in health food stores but I just can't bring myself to try them. I really, really don't like the taste of fake cheese and I just can't get on board with it (no matter how many ways I've tried it), so I figure the boxed stuff will be similarly disappointing. Besides, homemade is always better!

I have about a dozen mac and cheeze recipes saved on my computer that I'm making my way through and so far, Susan V's daughter-approved mac and cheeze is the winner.

This is what I like about it:
- It tastes really good
- It even leaves that cheezy orange residue on your fork like the real stuff does (I couldn't resist including that in the picture for this entry)
- It has, like, 300% of your daily intake of B12 (or more, if your dairy-free milk is fortified - just be sure to buy the right kind of nutritional yeast!)
- The macaroni goes in the pot...the sauce ingredients go in the blender. Andddd you're pretty much done.
- No creepy orange powder-in-paper-packet required!!!

We really loved it on its own but I think it would be absolutely awesome with some chipotles in it (because we put chipotles in pretty much everything). I think next time I make it I'm going to throw in some chipotle baked beans (extra protein, ftw)..yum!

P.S. If you're not already a follower, check out This is Why You're Thin (vegan food porn at its FINEST) lentil-ball sub is currently being featured!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Peach Cobbler with Mexican Hot Chocolate

aka Late Summer, meet Early Fall

I don't know how it is everywhere else in the world, but around here it's cheaper to buy a basket full of peaches than to buy two people's worth. This creates a bit of a problem around this time of year, as we have peaches coming out of our ears. At this point I'm getting kind of sick of them, as we're on our third basket for the summer..but I couldn't resist squeezing one more in before peaches are gone for yet another year.

We ate a couple and then decided it was time to do away with the remainder. I had such high hopes for myself that I was going to bake a pie from scratch for the first time in my life...or perhaps try Susan V's sugar free peach muffins but alas, the cobbler won out because of the ease with which it goes from raw ingredients to digesting nicely in my belly.

However, last night I was quite content wrapped up in blankets watching Big Bang Theory dvds on the couch and thus was too lazy to make even a simple cobbler. Paul made it...I give credit where credit is deserved!

The weather here has been so strange. You can still rock shorts and t-shirts in the afternoon, but the second that sun goes down you'd swear it was late October. Our cobbler was done around 9 when it was already quite chilly, so we decided to do up some Mexican hot chocolate to go with it. Nothing feels more fallish to me than a cup of piping hot cocoa, and serving it up with the peach cobbler made for a nice juxtaposition of the seasons.

And if you haven't ever had hot chocolate the Mexican way (sprinkled with chili powder), I highly, highly recommend it.

Peach Cobbler

3lbs of fresh peaches, thinly sliced
1/2 cup organic or beet sugar
1/2 tbsp corn starch

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder, sifted
1/4 cup organic or beet sugar
A hearty sprinkle of salt
6 tbsp Earth Balance Spread
1/2 cup rice or other nondairy milk

1) Preheat the oven to 375F

2) To make the peach filling: place the peaches and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the corn starch and stir to combine. Cook until the mixture thickens a bit (8-10 minutes or so).

3) Lightly grease a pie plate or casserole dish and pour in the filling.

4) To make the topping: Using a mixer, food processor, or your two hands, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar until well mixed. Add the Earth Balance and process until the mixture is crumbly and add the milk very slowly until the mixture holds together (may need a tiny bit more or a tiny bit less, depending on how it feels). The mixture should hold together but not stick to the sides of the bowl.

5) Pull and flatten pieces of the dough with your hands and place on top of the filling, overlapping where you can (but if there are small portions of the peach peeking out, that's okay). Sprinkle with additional sugar, if you'd like, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

3 cups of rice (or other nondairy) milk
3 tbsp cocoa
6 tbsp raw cane sugar
A good pinch of cinnamon
A good pinch of chili powder

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and warm over medium heat. Stir often until heated through.

P.S. A quick thanks to Clare of Accidentally, Kle for helping handle some administrative details with regard to This is Vegan over this past weekend. Much appreciated... be sure to check out her blog!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Polenta-Squash Casserole

The calendar says fall doesn't start for another few days, but for eternal students such as myself summer ends on Labour Day. Even though I'm no longer a student in the traditional classroom sense, something in the air changes between Labour Day Monday and the following Tuesday.

I love fall. Not just because it's beautiful here in southern Ontario, but amidst all the chaos of back-to-school, Thanksgiving, Halloween and our beloved Oktoberfest, I garner a sense of calm out of the season because every year is kind of the same. Chaotic, yes...but a nostalgic chaos as we (finally) give in, pull on our knit sweaters, turn on the heat and prepare for all of these events.

It is also the time of year where I am reminded of how awesome squash is (only to become irritated by it in mid-winter when all I can think about are fresh tomatoes and green beans). Squash may wear out its welcome here in the great white north (I know that it is illogical to think that winter is somehow longer than all the other seasons combined...but why does it always feel that way?!) but at this time of year I embrace it in all its quirky varieties.

Throughout the summer I've been emailing myself squash recipes found around the web for fall dinner experiments. Just think of me as a cute lil squirrel hording nuts for the winter. This one here actually found me (I'm on the Vegetarian Times mailing list) so I gave it first dibs on squash-based dinners at our place. Here is the recipe.

It calls for a kabocha squash, which I couldn't find. Our local market had GIANT standard issue organic pepper squashes - I'm talking the size of pumpkins - so I went with that. As an aside, are acorn squash and pepper squash the same thing? Some websites say they are, some don't...anyway, it's not relevant, I'm pretty sure you could use any kind of cube-able squash you want in this.

The filling is made up of diced tomatoes, chilis, corn, bell pepper, pinto beans, spices and of course the squash. This filling is sandwiched between two layers of polenta.

The recipe gets fancy with the polenta, which I was far too lazy for. They wanted 40 minutes for it to cook in a double boiler...they wanted it smooth and thick. I've been eating polenta since I was in diapers and I've come to learn that it pretty much tastes the same no matter how you do it. I know having lumps in it isn't the right way to do it and may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but I cannot see myself fussing with it in a double boiler for 40 minutes. 5 minutes on the stove in water (or broth) and it's done and tastes exactly the same. Maybe it's just because I was raised on this less fancy style of polenta, but I honestly like it better with the lumps..speaking of nostalgia, it tastes like my childhood!

I should admit that if you make the polenta the way I did it won't make for nice perfectly square pieces of the casserole, so if you are trying to impress someone I'd suggest following the recipe's demands. I tried to cut squares out to take a nice picture (and failed), annoying Paul to the point of grabbing a soup ladle and shoveling it into a bowl for himself.

I know people taste with their eyes before tasting with their mouths, but life gets busy and it's okay to cut corners sometimes. As you can notice, however, I did NOT include a picture of how messy it got during this 'shovel the casserole into bowls' step but trust me it tastes the same (or even better if you like a little texture). In the words of Randy Quaid via Christmas Vacation, it was "goooo-ooood".

Aside from the fussiness (which I avoided entirely), this recipe gets two wins from our neck of the woods. It is hearty and filling and the ingredients are relatively cheap and disposable in the fall and winter months.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Very Vegan Birthday!

Yesterday was my...(sigh) 26th birthday. I have never really been a fan of birthdays, even as a kid...something about the passage of time gets under my skin and makes me lose sleep at night. One of my many psychological dysfunctions.

It was kind of nice though, as Paul and I both had the day off and so spent it a bit indulgently. I thought I would share some of the deliciousness that came our way.

We went and had lunch at The Duke Street Muse, a vegetarian cafe. I had the vegan quesadillas:

Paul also tried their vegan chili and said it was absolutely incredible...I can't wait to get that next time we go. We were really impressed by not only the quality of the food but the kindness and enthusiasm of the staff that was working and will definitely return.

Duke Street Muse
6 Duke Street
Kitchener, ON, N2H1A3
(519) 342-0550

For dinner, Paul arranged a little gathering of our friends at Ben Thanh, a vietnamese/thai restaurant. I had the crispy gluten rolls to start:

And then the thai green curry vermicelli bowl for my main:

And, my dearest husband slaved all day in the kitchen to make me chocolate mint cupcakes (recipe found in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) which served as a birthday cake in the restaurant:

Ben Thanh
500 Fairway Rd S
Kitchener, ON N2C 1X3
(519) 742-3338

Having a wonderful birthday with great food and great friends definitely makes the passage of time that I find so unsettling a bit more easy to manage. Thanks to everyone who came out or sent well wishes!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Whole Wheat Zucchini-Banana-Carob Loaf

I was recently the lucky inheritor of an extremely massive zucchini from my grandma's garden:

I love zucchini as much as the next guy, but there's only so many dinners you can revolve around it before you never want to see it again. Let me tell you, several dinners throughout the last week didn't even make a dent in this sucker and so it was time to call on the oven to do away with what was left.

I rarely bake, because neither Paul nor I are capable of restraining ourselves when it comes to sweets. This bread did nothing short of proving that point tenfold. I made two loaves with the intention of either giving one to my in-laws or freezing it for later deliciousness...and out of those two there is but one lonely half-slice of bread sitting quietly in our refrigerator. The rest has all succumbed to the unyielding power of the butter knife and glorious amounts of softened Earth Balance buttery spread...shameful.

I'd never made zucchini bread before, but I do make muffins every now and again so I kind of just made up this recipe as I went along. It turned out to be pretty awesome and so I will share it:

Whole Wheat Zucchini-Banana-Carob Loaf

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini

2 ripe bananas, mashed (I'm talking almost black...not only did I have zucchini on its last legs, I also had banana)

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil*

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce*

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups raw cane sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup ground walnuts

3/4 cup carob chips

*I like using as little oil as possible and even though googling 'zucchini bread' made subbing in unsweetened applesauce for part or all of the oil sound nothing short of blasphemous, it turned out great with the applesauce (and I will do it again...and I'll probably double the applesauce and skip the oil altogether, like I do when I bake muffins).

1) Combine all dry ingredients and mix well.

2) Beat together zucchini, banana and vanilla (it's okay if it has lumps, just make sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed).

3) Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, mix and then add the carob chips. Mix well.

4) Pour into a lightly greased loaf pan (I actually used two). Fill about half way to the top of the pan, as the bread will rise as it bakes.

5) Bake at 350 F for 45-60 minutes (using my oven and two loaf pans it took 45 minutes dead on, but stick a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean before pulling the pan(s) out of the oven). Allow 5 minutes to cool, and then remove the loaves from the pan, allowing them to cool on a cooling rack for an additional 30 minutes. Enjoy!

[Also, just like when I make muffins, I filled an additional loaf pan with water and placed it on the lowest rack of the oven, to keep the moisture locked into the oven and therefore the bread].

Give it a'll thank me for the way your house smells while it bakes (it's really starting to feel like fall!).

I will be making this again. Sooner than later probably, because believe it or not I have inherited a second massive zucchini from my grandma's garden. This time, it is going in the freezer....maybe.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tofu Rancheros & Other Breakfast Goodies

I've never been one for breakfast. And by breakfast I don't mean the actual meal...the meal itself is a great idea. But I've never been a fan of traditional diner-style breakfast food that is so popular here in North America. I just find that my stomach can't handle the heaviness of those kinds of foods that early in the morning.

That being said, I am also a firm believer in breakfast being the most important meal of the day, particularly for those who (like me) have blood sugar issues and turn into raving lunatics around 10am if we haven't ingested anything yet. A bowl of cereal and a couple slices of fruit go a long way in keeping the monster at bay.

I'd imagine a lot of people skip out on breakfast because an extra 10 minutes of sleep is so much more appealing than eating (food or sleep...gah, it's always such a tough call because I love to eat but I am also notoriously lazy and sleeping makes the top 3 list of favourite pastimes). My lacking interest in breakfast has nothing to do with a shortage of of the perks of being a grad student (the only one, perhaps?) is that I really have nowhere to be most mornings and conduct business in pajamas from the comfort of my home office (or when I'm feeling REALLY bed via my laptop). So, if I really wanted to get fancy I could..I'm just not into the whole breakfast thing.

Paul, however, loves loves loves diner-style breakfast food and is probably something he misses as a newbie vegetarian. However, I don't really believe in missing things as a veg and with all of the modern vegan inventions there really is no NEED to miss anything. I don't like to play the "let's make something that tastes like _______" because it usually means the meal is laden with highly-processed pseudo meats and cheeses. Further, there are so many awesome things that are vegan naturally that you miss out on when you play the game that way. However, I must admit I get a little high off veganizing things and have yet to find something I couldn't replicate in some delicious way.

So you'll imagine my surprise when I learned that tofu can be made to taste like scrambled eggs.

scramble scramble!

It is possible that they don't actually taste like scrambled eggs, because quite frankly I cannot for the life of me remember what they taste like. Who cares anyway, the tofu version tastes awesome.

To make these wraps, I followed the recipe in Vegan Express and Nava has you coat the diced tofu in cornmeal before throwing it in the pan. Altogether now .. NOMMMMM.

The veggies are done up in salsa and crushed tomatoes and I also used a fair bit of extra hot cayenne to get the party started right. Nava doesn't call for them, but Paul really loves tofurky breakfast links and since we were being a bit indulgent on a lazy long weekend morning, I threw them in too.

She says to use corn tortillas but I always use Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas because they have so much more nutritional value.

Paul also made french toast using 12-grain bread, arrowroot powder and rice milk and topped them with a bit of maple syrup bottled close to home (southern Ontario, ftw!).

And let's not forget the simple extravagance of a fresh fruit salad. I don't really get why people toss their fruit salads with a sauce/cream/sugar of some sort ... fruit is so refreshing on its own I find that you lose something when you start adding things to it.

I've not been the easiest person to live with for the last couple of weeks, so i think this spread won me some brownie points with the hubby. And it appears I may be coming around to the whole breakfast thing...we might even make it a Sunday morning tradition.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Singapore Yellow Curry

I'm not feeling very "bloggy" lately.
I did make this noodle curry from Nava Atlas' Vegan Express the other night and it went over pretty well. To be fair you could probably put curry on a piece of cardboard and it would go over well in our house, but it was a good meal nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Raw Caesar Salad Dressing

I've been hearing nothing but great things about a raw/living food diet and after seeing such amazing photos posted all around the interwebs I have decided to try and incorporate more raw into my own diet. This is kind of a feat for me because the big baby side of me is saying in the whiniest voice possible "but i hateeee raw vegetables!!". While hate is probably a strong word, I generally prefer most vegetables to be cooked a little bit and I am probably the only vegan on the planet that doesn't really like salad. Not that all raw vegan food is salad...on the contrary, actually. It's just that The Big Baby is worried that everything is going to taste like salad.

Now, I should note that pre-vegan the only salad that was permitted by The Big Baby was caesar. As a teenager it was pretty much the only thing I would order at restaurants and probably the number one thing I missed when I went vegetarian. You may recall I found a recipe for vegan caesar dressing made from silken tofu, vegan parmesan cheeze, garlic, dijon mustard and a ton of olive oil. And it was good...really good, actually but I don't like using soy compounds that mimic meat and dairy and the amount of oil that went into it was a little off putting.

Flipping through Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink & Be Vegan I stumbled on her recipe for a raw living caesar dressing made from raw nuts and a tiny bit of oil (the rest water) and it is SO GOOD. Note that it does call for agave syrup which is hotly debated in veganism because of not only issues relating to fructose ratings but also because the term "raw" is argued to be deceptive because of the highly processed nature of the product. I don't know how accurate any of these claims are, but I've made it without the agave and it tastes fine.

Now, if you are looking for the most authentic vegan caesar dressing you'd probably prefer the fake version because it's quite startling how much it tastes like non-vegan caesar dressing. Not that the living caesar dressing doesn't taste good or tastes nothing like caesar dressing, it's just different and not quite as heavy or thick. I actually like it better because it has a fresher, lighter taste than the alternative.

And while we're at it, skip the prepackaged chick'n and grill up some tofu with bbq sauce and we have a much healthier version of the un-chicken un-caesar than the one I posted about months ago.

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