Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And the winner is...



Thank you so much to everyone that entered the This is Vegan Vegan Express giveaway! The contest was closed as of 10am EST and I ever so carefully did a random name draw.

And the winner of a brand new copy of Vegan Express personally inscribed by Nava Atlas herself is..... DRUMROLL PLEASE...!



Linda Mead Moore!!!!




Congratulations, Linda! If you could please email me at mary@thisisvegan.com with your mailing address, I will pass the information along to Nava and your copy of Vegan Express should be on its way to you shortly.

Thanks again to everyone who entered and a special thank you to Nava Atlas for so generously offering to personally sign a copy of the book for our winner.

And since we are talking about Vegan Express today, here is a picture of another great meal I made from the book (which has quickly become my favourite out of all the recipes I've tried in Vegan Express) - Chana Masala and Curried Cashew Couscous:



I love chana masala regardless of how fancy or simple you get with it, but following along with the "express" theme of this book, I especially love how quickly it comes together. I have had chana masala many different ways, but I anytime it can be done with next to no work, I love it even more. We tend to like things to be extra flavourful so I doubled the spice amount: I put in 2 teaspoons of garam masala and 2 tsp of regular old curry powder (not something I recommend if you like things to be more mild). The coucous was amazing as well; the conflicting textures of the grain, the cashews and the raisins I tossed in made for such an interesting accompaniment to the chickpeas.

Sit tight dear readers, there will be another This is Vegan giveaway coming up soon!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fruity Breakfast Bars and a Camping Excursion



Summer is here! We marked the first official weekend of summer with a camping trip in the Grand Bend region of southern Ontario.

For someone as indoorsy as myself, you would think that I would positively loathe the prospect of sleeping outside with the bugs and having to hike to a bathroom. But, for some strange reason, I absolutely love camping. It is my most favourite summertime activity. Although, to be fair, what we do can barely be called camping - you certainly won't see me setting up a tent in an abandoned forest with no running water or cell phone signals. I like to be where someone can hear me scream and there is an actual real-life toilet at my dispense. So it may not be the most respectable form of camping, but sitting around a bonfire with your buddies on a summer night - what is better than that?

The one thing we always seem to do when we camp is overbuy food of the dinner variety: veggie dogs, burgers and the like, while completely ignoring breakfast. I'm generally not big on breakfast; when I'm at home I rarely have anything more than a bowl of cereal or the night before's leftovers before heading off to work. The thing with camping, though, is that you need to eat something somewhat substantial before spending the day in the sweltering heat.

This year I decided to make a batch of breakfast bars that I knew I couldn't turn down in the morning. I found the recipe on page 101 of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. The base of these guys is made of old-fashioned rolled oats and spelt flour and they do have the general feel of those prepackaged bar varieties without the extra sugar and junk loaded in.

They use brown rice syrup in lieu of sugar.

And now I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the Great Sugar Debate of the 21st Century.

Syrups have generally been demonized thanks to their disgusting brother, high fructose corn syrup, but not all syrups are created equal. I did some research on BRS when I first thought about trying this recipe and the verdict is out. It is generally believed that it is better than both high fructose corn syrup (isn't everything?) and sugar, but there is still debate regarding its suitability for diabetics and others with blood sugar issues.

Basically, it probably won't kill you to eat it now and again, but I wouldn't be pouring it into my coffee every morning (nor would I be pouring sugar into my coffee. Nor would I be drinking coffee at all because ever since I was dared to eat a coffee bean in the fourth grade I cannot bring anything even remotely coffee-like to my lips without gagging).

That's the thing with sweeteners. They are cool now and again but we are way, way too reliant on them as a whole (did you know the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day?! 355 calories a day in sugar alone!). This is precisely why I don't bake unless I know someone else is going to help me eat what I make.

Me and sugar don't really get along, even on the best of days. I have had some pretty gnarly blood sugar issues in the past and more noticeably to those around me, I tend to turn into a raging biotch after just one cookie. As a result, I can't even imagine what would happen if I decided to consume 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. I'd probably be divorced and have no friends, for one thing.

Essentially, even after reading all sorts of websites I still have no idea what's going on with regard to sweeteners. I'm just going to place BRS in the "in moderation only" category for the time being in hopes that I don't keel over and die anytime soon.

This was a camping weekend. I needed something easily accessible for breakfast. These bars seemed to do the trick. They tasted pretty awesome too, with dried cranberries and strawberries; sesame, sunflower and flax seeds all strewn about nicely. After they were already in the oven I realized I forgot to put the canola oil in, but they turned out completely fine without it so hurrah for less fat, I guess.

It was a beautiful weekend and it didn't rain once while we were there, I can't believe it!



Me, Paul and pinto bean hot dogs around the fire.



Fun at the beach



A rousing soccer game in which Paul took his goaltending duties very seriously, to the point where he chipped a tooth after taking a ball to the face.



Saturday night's beautiful sunset



Great times with great friends (and my beloved camping socks)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dinner at Bangkok Cuisine, Kitchener and Four Years of Wedded Bliss

Yesterday, Paul and I marked our fourth wedding anniversary. In the grand scheme of the universe, four years is virtually nothing, but in our lives it has been a crazy four years filled with going to school, graduating, going back to school, finding jobs, getting laid off and finding other jobs. But it's all par for the course when you get married young (Paul was 23, I was 22) and you're just settling in to adulthood.

We both experienced more hectic-than-usual (read: more stressful-than-usual) days at work and then after work we headed to our beautiful niece's eighth grade graduation ceremony for a few hours. We were pretty exhausted by this point but I am a firm believer in marking life's little and big milestones in some way or another - so we went for a late dinner at Bangkok Cuisine.

I wrote about my undying love for Bangkok's peanut curry last summer, but since then I have branched out and sampled some other items off their menu.

I am horribly predictable when it comes to restaurants. I find one thing that I like at a place and then play it safe every time we return, in fear of trying something new and not liking it as much and therefore "wasting" a meal selection. I think this stems from the fact that we never go to restaurants (partly because there are not a lot of restaurants we can go to here but mostly because I am extremely cheap) and I don't want to waste a perfectly good restaurant trip.

So, I did not order my beloved peanut curry yesterday and that works out well for you, because I can show you more of what this wonderful little Thai restaurant has to offer.



We started out with an order of fresh rolls, with a light peanut dipping sauce. To be honest, by this point it was after 9pm and we hadn't eaten in hours and thus it is highly likely that we would have eaten dirt off the ground were it presented to us, but all the same these rolls were a nice crunchy way to start the meal.



For his entree, Paul ordered the drunken noodles. Here is what I love about this restaurant: all of their menu items come with an option of substituting tofu or vegetables in place of meat and they have no problem leaving the egg that traditionally accompanies thai meals out of the equation, no questions asked. That is exactly what they did with this drunken noodle dish; rice noodles and veggies in a thai brandy sauce. "Omnomnomnom" is pretty much the only phrase that can encompass its excellence.



This rice dish that I ordered is the house special, but Paul and I affectionately refer to it as "Bangkok Spicy Rice". Spicy being the operative word.

(I typically like my food really, really spicy but at Bangkok I can never go higher than a medium. Paul tried their "Extra Hot" once and we nearly had to make a pitstop at the ER on the way home. I can only imagine what their "Top of the Line" spice is like.)

This dish has lots of fresh veggies, tomato, pineapple, water chestnuts and cashews and dare I say it - it has stolen the place in my heart previously reserved for only the peanut curry. That should teach me to be more adventurous at restaurants!



And as if there wasn't enough vegan love in this place, they actually have a vegan-friendly dessert! This is a thai banana cake. Don't ask me how this works, but it's basically rice, banana, black beans and coconut milk and somehow all of those things together make for an incredibly sweet end to a crazy spicy dinner. Yum!

It was nice to get to spend some time together after a crazy day and reflect on the last four years - after dinner, like every year on our anniversary, I forced Paul to watch our wedding DVD over a couple glasses of wine. When we turned it off we were kind of depressed though, as we're fairly convinced that we are starting to look freaking old these days.



Here's to many more anniversaries!


Bangkok Cuisine
1500 Weber St. East,
Kitchener, ON N2A 2Y5
(519)748-7676


P.S. There is still plenty of time to enter my Vegan Express giveaway AND the stakes have been raised: I have been contacted by Nava Atlas, the author of Vegan Express, and she has offered to send the winner a personally inscribed copy of the cookbook on behalf of This is Vegan! How wonderful! Now go on over to the post and the Facebook page and enter!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Daiya Experiment...Part One: Pizza



When it comes to veganism, the lack of cheese is where we start to lose people and where, I think, we developed our "vegans be crazyyyy!" status. I don't know what it is about cheese, but it has got such a firm hold on our western society that to the mainstream it seems almost blasphemous to abstain from it. I can't count how many times I've heard the phrase "I can be a vegetarian but there is no way I could ever live without cheese". Up until two years ago, I myself was a frequent dropper of similar kinds of statements that equated a lack of cheese with death.

To this day I don't quite understand what exactly it is about cheese, because when you do stop and think about what it actually is, it's quite gross. I was lactose intolerant for most of my life for Christ's sake and I still refused to give it up until about two years ago. Because apparently at the time writhing about on the floor clutching my stomach after dinner seemed more sensible than not eating cheese.

One of the issues I had with giving up cheese was a lack of suitable alternatives to a shredded cheese that melts and tastes at least somewhat like cheese. I tried tons of different brands...some I tolerated, some I spit out into the sink, and none were reminiscent of cheese enough to make me feel it was worth the trouble. I preferred to simply do without. I generally feel the same way about the faux meats, although I do entertain them now and again (mostly for Paul's sake).

A couple months ago I started hearing about the Daiya brand. And not just hearing about it, but hearing people positively FREAK over it. I saw the advertisements, I saw the pictures and I read the testimonials and my initial thought was that it was entirely too good to be true.

I got word that the brand had gone retail and it was for sale at Panacea in Toronto. A friend of mine so kindly offered to make a stop and buy me a load of vegan products that are not available here in Kitchener, and so this weekend I found myself with two tubs of Daiya: one mozzarella and one cheddar.

I was positively giddy over the prospect of eating something cheese-like again, although not necessarily because I miss cheese. Quite frankly, these days I actually have trouble remembering how cheese tastes (interestingly, I have not forgotten how all of the cheese-induced stomachaches felt).

Truth be told, I just want another point for our team - an item available to those newly transitioning to veganism that wasn't available to me that might make it that much easier to take the leap. Because the whole cheese thing is such a huge hurdle for so many in our society it becomes a powerful roadblock to our cause. I just want there to be something out there for those who are teetering on the edge of veganism but are afraid of a life without cheese (of all the things to be afraid of!).



Despite all the rave reviews, I wasn't prepared to go easy on Daiya. And so for my first meal featuring this product I turned to the quintessential cheese item: pizza.

Back in the day, I was a cheese pizza kind of girl. A double cheese, extra tomato sauce kind of girl - to be exact. I was going to do the same thing with Daiya but these days I feel quite ridiculous eating a dinner with absolutely NO vegetables present whatsoever, so I tossed on some onions, garlic, green pepper and mushrooms.



So, this is my attempt at a non-biased, calm and orderly review:

THIS PRODUCT IS FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TEXTURE

It comes shredded. It looks exactly like mozzarella. It even kind of smells like mozzarella (from what I can remember). You put it under heat and it actually melts (something sorely lacking from many other dairy-free cheeses - they simply flake and crumble in the grossest possible way). I know this kind of excitement over a melting property may seem wildly insane to all you non-vegans out there, but those of you who have tried other vegan cheeses will share in my glee over this innovation. And it even does this without the help of isolated soy (or any other kind of soy either - Daiya is completely free of soy and other allergens).

TASTE

I loved the taste. Loved it! I have never been able to say that about a vegan cheese before; at best I have tolerated them, but Daiya is positively delicious. Now, it is not exactly mozzarella-like (not that I really remember what mozzarella tastes like, it's been years). It is definitely close enough to mozzarella and delicious enough on it's own to help those in cheese-withdrawal to cope in their early days of veganism (and for those of us who are veterans to satisfy the random cravings that sometimes grip us).

I'm still not on board with giving faux meat and dairy a prominent focus in the vegan diet because I think it often detracts from the VEG portion of our name, but I am for anything that can be enjoyed without the needless suffering of animals and anything that can help people realize that veganism is not about sacrifice, it is about being rewarded by the prospect of a peaceful lifestyle. You can now have your veganism, and eat your cheese too. Thanks Daiya!

I'm not done with this project yet. I've still got half a tub of mozzarella and a full tub of cheddar to go, so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes (for Father's Day)



We spent the afternoon poolside at my brother and sister-in-law's place. I definitely stuffed my face full of entirely too much green bean casserole, moroccan phyllo rolls (courtesy of my mom and found in Eat, Drink and Be Vegan) and potato salad and I even got a little bit of sun.

I had planned to bring a dessert, but I wanted to try something new this time. I chose these pineapple cupcakes (on page 70 of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) because the page caption literally described the afternoon we were planning for: "These are sublime summertime cupcakes, perfect straight out of the fridge and eaten while lounging about poolside".

I always think my cookbooks are singling me out and in this case it appears that they actually were.

Truth is, I wasn't all that keen on them as cupcakes at first, but it's not because they tasted bad or anything. They were actually pretty good. I don't know, I just think of the cupcakes of my youth with their teeth-rotting fluffy icing and insanely moist texture. These are definitely heavier and having never actually had a pineapple upside-down cake before, I didn't realize that they were not meant to be light and airy until after I made them (and Paul described to me exactly what pineapple upside-down cake is).

Again, it's not that they were bad by any means, it's just that when you are expecting something other than what you have in front of you it kind of hits you by surprise. The cool thing is that they are completely soy free and use minimal amounts of the bad stuff (read: sugar) so you can feel a little less guilty about eating them than the typical buttercream style this cookbook is famous for. I'd almost refer to them as muffins, and as muffins I love them. So it's not about the cupcakes per say; it's about my own neuroses and games of semantics.

Plus, look how pretty and summery they look! They are perfect for cookouts and cottage excursions and sitting on blankets waiting for fireworks to start (isn't summer the BEST?!).

We had a lovely day of sunshine and now I fully intend to ingest all sorts of leftovers while watching Six Feet Under (I live in a tv time machine - I never get into shows until years after they become famous).



My brothers, my dad and me - Father's Day, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

MexiMillet and Tofu Baked Beans with Apples



I'm a carb-a-holic. Don't get me wrong, I love vegetables, but when it comes down to it, the rice/pasta/quinoa on my dinner plate is usually my favourite part. Which is probably why I will never be a size 3. And also why I turned into a raving lunatic the summer I attempted the Atkins diet in an effort to drop a few sizes (the greatly misinformed young adult that I was).

I don't believe in a world where "carb" is a dirty word and vegetables are forsaken in favour of fatty meat products.

I know cutting them out makes you drop ridiculous weight (while I was a raving lunatic at the time, I did drop a dress size doing Atkins), but at what cost? Atkins actually encourages scrapping a slice of whole grain bread for PORK RINDS!

On what freaking planet are fried pork rinds a healthy option?!

If I were ever to attempt to manage my carbs again, I would go raw - brightly coloured, crunchy veggies and not deep-fried animal byproduct, thank you very much.

Not to mention that the animals and the environment care very little about fad diets and very much about the violence inflicted upon them and the endless pollutants being omitted into the atmosphere every minute because of our over-indulgence in animal-based products.

Honestly though, I think the world is becoming aware of how ridiculous the old low-carb high animal-protein diets are because I held a garage sale this morning and I couldn't even give away my old Atkins and South Beach books.

I'll also note that while I did drop weight doing Atkins that one summer, nothing compared to the summer I went vegan. If you want to cut something out of your diet and drop a quick few pounds, cut out the cheese and butter. I lost ten pounds in a month by doing absolutely nothing but stuffing my face with everything other than meat and dairy. I didn't go vegan to lose weight, it was just an added bonus, but the results cannot be denied.

So, this entry is about my undying love of carbohydrates.

Because I really and truly do love me some grains, I try and at least rotate the kinds I am eating so that I am not sitting down to a bowl of pasta every evening. And I also have a rule that vegetables have to take up more space on my dinner plate than grains.

Because I'm always looking to expand my carb repertoire, I stumbled upon the glorious grain called millet.

Millet is old school. Historically, it's one of the oldest foods on record and is even mentioned in the Bible several times as a key component of bread. Sup, Gluten-Free Jesus! (Interestingly, while I was partaking in one of my compulsive google-clicking extravaganzas I came across this interesting article about the "body of Christ" being literally gluten-free. Not relevant here, yet too curious to not share).

I am neither gluten-free, nor Jesus (that I know of, anyway) so none of this really matters but I always find "eating historically" to be an interesting concept in a time when even our soybeans can be (and often are) genetically engineered in a test tube. And the thing is, millet is really, really good. And good for you, as it is high in magnesium and fiber.

Admittedly, it did trip me out a bit when my mom pointed out that the cute birdseed sticks we used to hang in my beloved childhood budgie's cage were made exclusively of millet, but I pressed on and tried the recipe for Meximillet anyway, found on page 118 of Veganomicon. The recipe involves cooking the millet with jalapeno, garlic, onions, tomatoes and a host of Mexican-inspired spices, topped with freshly chopped cilantro.

The texture was surprisingly, polenta-like, which worked out well for me because polenta has been one of my favourite foods since I was in diapers. I didn't tell Paul what we were eating before he sat down and his response was "Wow, what the hell is this? This is good" so I'm going to give it a double win.

I served it up with a side of tofu-baked navy and black beans and red delicious apples in bbq sauce (recipe on page 96 of Calciyum). Truthfully I defaulted to the baked beans because I didn't quite know what the millet was going to taste like and I figured them to be neutral enough to go along with a Mexican-inspired meal, but they ended up being the perfect accompaniment for the Meximillet.

So embrace your inner carb-lover. Just within reason and never at the sake of vegetables.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Exciting Administrative News + Vegan Express Giveaway!

Last week I received a wonderful surprise in the form of a Facebook message from my friend Courtney, entrepreneur and web designer extraordinaire. Courtney and I go way back - we met in the ungodly portion of an August 1997 morning while lined up for hours in front of a TicketMaster waiting for Backstreet Boys concert tickets to go on sale and have managed to stay friends (see, Facebook isn't all evil).

I was going to post a picture of us from back then but I decided to spare myself the humiliation. That summer I thought it a great idea to have my hair a very dark brown colour, save for one solitary streak of platinum blonde going through the middle. Like a skunk. I'd like to blame it on the times but I'm fairly certain that wasn't cool even then. Or ever.

Anyway, the surprise from Courtney was my very own domain for hosting This is Vegan!

This means that you can now read This is Vegan through your blogger reader, as you have been doing, at http://thisisvegan.blogspot.com - or you can catch up with my vegan antics at http://thisisvegan.com, more convenient for those of you who are not tied to Gmail and Blogger accounts.

Same great This is Vegan charm, one new home on the web - update your bookmarks accordingly!

And while you are at it, check out Courtney's innovative line of goodies for Baby at Sullivan & Sawyer Baby Co.



Because I want to celebrate both the launch of ThisIsVegan.com and hitting a Blogger milestone (This is Vegan has recently surpassed 100 official Blogger followers!) I am going to do my very first cookbook giveaway!

I am giving away one copy of Nava Atlas' Vegan Express cookbook, where you will find such amazing recipes as Portobello-Broccoli Quesadillas, Tempeh and Green Beans with Corn and Scallion Quinoa and many, many more delicious creations. Each recipe also features suggestions for accompaniments, helping you plan your entire meal from start to finish without breaking a sweat.

Vegan Express is perfect for those recently transitioning to a vegan diet as well as omnivores curious about adding more plant-based foods into their diets, as the recipes are straightforward and incorporate easily accessible ingredients. Further, every meal involves 30 minutes (or less) active cooking time, so meals come together quickly and efficiently. It is the perfect cookbook for those less experienced in plant-based cooking as well as those frustrated by a lack of time to prepare nutritious and delicious dinners every night of the week.

EDIT:It doesn't end there - Nava Atlas, author of Vegan Express, has offered to send the winner a personally inscribed copy of the book on behalf of This is Vegan! Not only do you get this incredible book, but you get it right from the hands of the woman who created all of these wonderful recipes.

There are two ways you can enter this contest:

1) Become an official Blogger follower, using your Gmail account, then comment on this post stating your most favourite vegetable.

2) Become a fan of ThisIsVegan.com on Facebook and post your favourite vegetable on the fan page wall.

Guidelines

1) You may enter the contest twice, once via the blog itself and once via the Facebook page.

2) Contest closes Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 10:00am. A winner will be drawn randomly and contacted for shipping information shortly afterward.

Thanks again to my old BSB friend Courtney for the wonderful gift of a domain, and to all of you out there who have been supporting my little project since it launched in 2008 as a simple picture blog. Your interest and insights have been so inspiring to me, and I can't wait to see what my future vegan adventures have in store.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Spring Rolls (and Girls' Weekend)



Sorry I have been a bit MIA, I just returned from my second trip up to the beautiful Muskoka region of northern Ontario for an annual girls' weekend with my sisters-in-law and a bunch of other really great women! It is just a chance to get some time away from husbands/children/work/etc, lay on the dock and get some sun, sit by a bonfire, wear cowboy hats for several days straight and eat and drink entirely too much.

The weather failed us a little bit this year with one day of rain, but I still managed to get a wicked sunburn on my arm and the opportunity to severely question the capacity of my liver (gosh, you all must think all I do is sit around and drink!). Quite a few of the photos are not exactly blog-appropriate, but here are a couple:



What a view from the dock!



The ladies, doing our best Family Feud pose



My "cottage and camping" socks by the bonfire on our last night at the cottage, after a crazy kitchen dance party


The tradition has typically been that each cottage-goer gets assigned a day and a meal to prepare for the group so that no one is stuck in the kitchen for the entire weekend. This time around we decided we should just do our favourite snacks and appetizers to avoid having an excess amount of food leftover after each meal. Turns out we had even more leftovers than usual, but everything was delicious so no harm, no foul.

I decided to make celebration dip (because I always make celebration dip), margarita cupcakes and the spring rolls pictured at the top of this entry, which are the product of my mom's recipe and freeze exceptionally well so they can be made in advance.

I recruited my mom's help the day before heading up north and we made a giant batch, some for the weekend and some for the freezer. The wrappers we prefer come in packs of 50, so it's generally more practical to take an afternoon and make a large quantity all at once, freezing what is not needed, rather than letting the wrappers go to waste (it's not recommended that you refreeze ones that you don't use). As such, the recipe I am going to share with you makes a whopping 50-60 spring rolls, so you can obviously cut the recipe down should you so desire.

Vegetable Spring Rolls

5 large carrots, finely diced
6 celery ribs, finely diced
2 1/2 to 3 cups mushrooms, finely diced
1/4 cup green onions (white part only) thinly sliced cross-wise
12 cups finely shredded green cabbage

salt, pepper and soy sauce to taste
pinch of sugar for the cabbage

vegetable oil for frying (or, alternatively, for brushing the rolls before baking)
1 tablespoon of corn starch dissolved about an 1/4 cup of warm water (to serve as adhesive)
1 pack of spring roll wrappers (I use Spring Home TYJ pastry).

1) In a hot wok with a little bit of oil, stir fry the carrots and celery with a splash of soy sauce. Add the onions and mushrooms and continue stir frying until tender and the mushrooms begin to exude their juices. Place into a separate bowl and keep covered.

2) Add a little bit more oil to your wok and add the cabbage, sugar, salt, pepper and another splash of soy sauce and stir fry until tender but still crisp. If it seems a bit dry, add a splash of water. When the cabbage is tender-crisp, add the other vegetables back to the wok. Cook the vegetables together and test the seasonings/soy sauce, adding more if necessary. Remove from heat and cover. Let the vegetable mixture stand for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) While you are letting the vegetable sit, you can prepare your wrappers. Open the package and separate each of the sheets and arrange them on a plate so they are easily accessible to you. Once they are all separated, cover them with a damp cloth so that they do not dry out.

4) To roll: Place a wrapper on a plate in front of you. Spoon approximately 1 tbsp of the vegetable mixture into the lefthand corner of the pastry. Fold the corner over and gently tuck it in under the mixture. Then fold in the ends and roll into a log, dabbing the final exposed piece of pastry with a bit of of the corn starch mixture before sealing it up. Place seam-side down on a plate to await frying or baking. (Note: there are many ways to roll a spring roll. This site offers a somewhat different approach, but also has extensive instructions).

5) To fry: In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat about 1/2" of the vegetable oil. Once heated, place the spring rolls in seam-side down and allow to brown, keeping a close eye so that they don't burn (approximately 3-5 minutes), before flipping. When spring rolls are golden-brown shake off excess oil and place on a cooling rack.

6) To bake: Preheat oven to 375F. Brush the spring rolls with oil before placing on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until golden-brown (approximately 20-25 minutes), flipping once halfway through baking time.



The spring rolls were delicious and a big hit, and the good news is I still have a freezer-full just waiting for a night where I have to work late or don't feel like making dinner. And really, the vegetables used are entirely up to you - I think they would also be great stuffed with bean sprouts, bell peppers, bok choy, or even asparagus! Mix it up to your heart's content.

And before I go, on Saturday we took the boat out to the small town of Dorset and had lunch at a restaurant there. Low and behold, even the tiniest towns in northern Ontario have vegan options - and not just a side of fries and a garden salad. Look at this amazing bronzed chipotle tofu salad that I got!



I can't wait until next year!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grilled Veggie Fajitas



When I woke up yesterday morning I was feeling much better than I had been all week, and the sun was shining, AND I had the day off work (a rarity, as I typically work every Saturday morning) so I talked Paul into a trip to the farmer's market. We came home with an insane amount of local produce (most of which was from local greenhouses because it's still quite early, but local is local).



It looked so good and I wanted to eat it all immediately, so it was the perfect night for one of my no-recipe-required favourites: grilled veggie fajitas!

We tossed broccoli, asparagus, yellow squash, onion and green pepper in some bbq sauce and fired up the grill.



We served up the veggie mix on Ezekiel tortillas and topped them off with freshly diced tomato, cucumber and avocado. And a bottle of Jackson-Triggs white to drink!



While the fresh veggies were an added bonus, the real reason I wanted to head to the market was for some fresh Ontario strawberries and rhubarb, because I had cobbler on the brain.





Look at the size of that rhubarb!


I always set out to make fruity pies because they are so much daintier and make for much nicer blog photos but I always end up going the way of the cobbler, because it is easier and quicker and tastes just as great (if not more great).



We topped the cobbler with Larry and Luna's Coconut Bliss ice cream (Vanilla Island flavour). I have been raving about their popsicles for a couple of weeks now and I can say with just as much assertion that their ice cream is awesome too.



We spent hours out on the patio with our dinner, dessert, wine and an all Bob Dylan playlist until the rain finally forced us inside. Even our typically hyperactive Dora can appreciate the mellowness of a late spring evening:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Feel Better Soup



I'm sick.

Sigh.

Know that in surrendering to this admission I have made a giant psychological leap.

While I am a massive hypochondriac when it comes to the serious and more fatal of the diseases (everyday I have to remind myself that I have no reason to believe I have cancer, or ebola, or the flesh-eating disease, or some sort of vegan version of count choculitis), my mind does not have the same propensity for freaking out over the more minor and annoying of life's ailments. Like the common cold virus. Which is what I have.

I spent the last few days sneezing my brains out and assuring everyone around me that it was "just allergies". I received more than one strange glance from folks at work when, after coughing for ten minutes straight, I mused that I must be allergic to the air conditioner.

Today I began coughing up highly questionable and seriously disgusting matter of the fluorescent kind. Unless some sort of mystical entity has decided to colour my insides with a yellow highlighter without me being aware of it, all signs officially point to a chest cold.

That sucks, because I was on quite a commendable wellness streak, my last documented cold occuring in October 2007. And so the counter needs to be reset. This is what it must feel like to work in a factory and have to set the "______ days without an injury" sign back at zero.

My mom was kind enough to not only make me her famous soup, but also allow me to post the recipe for all of you too. I plan on having a bowl for dinner and heading straight to bed.

Only I would stay perfectly healthy throughout an entire "swine flu" winter and then get sick in the middle of a heatwave.

Feel Better Soup

4-6 cups of water in which you have boiled 1 vegetable bouillon cube - keep warm
1 tsp oil
1 small onion finely diced
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 garlic clove finely minced
2 potatoes cut into quarters & finely sliced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 parsnip, peeled & grated
1 can kidney beans
1/2 cup rice, more or less according to taste

1) In a large pot, saute the onion in the oil until soft. Add the paprika and the rest of the vegetables. Keep mixing the vegetables until the potatoes are tender and begin to get a bit mushy. Add a little of the broth so that it doesn't stick.

2) When the potatoes are tender add the rest of the broth bring to a boil. Add the rice and beans and cook until the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Top with freshly cracked black pepper (this is my favourite way to eat it when sick - clears up the sinus cavity) and serve.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Black Bean Burgers & Cajun-Spiced Fries (& Sangria)



We are in the middle of one hell of a heatwave here in southern Ontario. Temps have been in the 30Cs for well over a week with pretty much no rain (thankfully we were graced with a cooling, albeit brief, thunderstorm last night). We pretty much skipped over spring and dove face first into summer.

I'm a notorious weather-complainer. In winter it's always too cold, in summer it's always too hot. I probably just like the sound of my own whining. But seriously, right now it's that gross kind of hot where you get out of the shower and before you've even toweled yourself off you feel like you need to take another shower.

I've really had no desire to do anything ambitious. Particularly that which involves me standing in front of a burning hot oven - so bear with the lack of content as of late.

If this heat keeps up it's going to be a very, very unproductive summer.

We did make burgers the other night. Black bean burgers! The recipe is from How it All Vegan. The fries pictured with them are from Vegan with the Vengeance, a zippy alternative to traditional french fries.

I have had very little success making burgers from scratch in the past. Every recipe I've tried has been too flimsy or moist to throw on a grill, and the thought of making a burger in a frying pan is just not appealing to me. It may taste just fine but to me, burgers are meant to be grilled outside in the summertime. This is part of their appeal - you're not relegated to a stifling hot kitchen sweating more than is socially or hygenically appropriate while trying to make dinner.

These burgers are positively perfect for the barbque, they hold together nicely and are a breeze to flip. And they taste great, of course. I didn't have any on hand the other night, unfortunately, but they would be really awesome topped with avocado and salsa.

I suddenly have the urge to throw a Mexican barbeque. To be honest, right now I am thinking far less about food than I am about ice cold pitchers of margaritas.

Speaking of ice cold pitchers, we made sangria on Saturday and spent the afternoon wasting away on our back patio with our novels of choice.



Nothing fancy - just grapefruit, lemon, lime and strawberries stewing about in chilled wine, pineapple juice and club soda. But it made for a pretty picture so I had to share it.

Hope you're keeping cool, wherever you are!

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