Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lunch at Classic Indian, Waterloo

I've already blogged about Classic Indian restaurant on Wissler Road in Waterloo, but if any restaurant in the Kitchener-Waterloo area deserves a second post, it is this one. One of our most favourite spots here in town, we have never had a bad experience at Classic Indian. The food speaks for itself, but it's worth noting that the staff is always friendly, enthusiastic and accommodating with regard to the menu. There is a MASSIVE vegetarian section on their menu and if you want no dairy, they make sure you have no dairy. If you want it extra spicy, they will make it extra spicy. Everything is made in-house and they are always so great about making the meals according to our specifications.

The staff at Classic Indian always makes us feel welcome and at home, and every time we order more food than can fit on our table, which is actually every time we go in there, they have no problem sliding an extra table over to make sure we are comfortable.

The main reason I wanted to post about this restaurant again is to show you the coolest menu item of them all, pictured above. For the first time ever at Classic Indian, we ordered a "Dosa". The one pictured above is the "Masala Dosa" and it is a crispy rice and lentil crepe, filled with spiced potatoes and green peas. The Dosa comes on a platter - as you can see it takes up half the table - so definitely come hungry or find someone to share with. I've never had anything like it!

My most favourite menu item and regardless of whatever other things we order I just cannot visit Classic Indian without getting the chenna masala! For those of you out there who have never tried chenna masala, it is a chickpea dish and the sauce is a thick onion gravy - just spicy enough! It is a little bit of heaven, I am telling you. I've tried making it at home and it is just not worth it, it is nowhere near as good as this one.

And finally, coconut rice (basmati rice with coconut and raisins) - a new favourite of ours!

Although that was more than enough food for lunch (we definitely didn't eat for the rest of the day), we decided to take a bit of the restaurant home with us in the form of a jar of the famous Classic Indian mullugtwanny soup.

The first time I tried this soup was a couple months ago when I had come down with a pretty mean head cold and had absolutely no appetite whatsoever. Work sent me home and I knew I needed to eat something before passing out for a few hours and so Paul went and got me some of this soup. It was so warm and flavourful and with all those lentils and pureed vegetables it surely provided my immune system with a boost. It was definitely the silver lining to an otherwise pretty crappy day.

I am so happy that they sell it in just-add-water jar form - made for some pretty awesome weekday lunches last week!

Although we normally dine in, I also want to comment on their amazingly efficient online takeout ordering system. I always panic a bit when using online ordering systems for the first time. I think it comes from being vegan and the concern that animal products are somehow going to make their way into my order when I can't tell an actual person what I need. The really cool thing about Classic Indian is that after we placed our last takeout order via the website they actually called us to verify! Maybe I am getting overly excited about it but seriously, in this day and age such amazing customer service can be so hard to come by. You can tell that Chef Thiru and the staff at Classic Indian really want to make sure their customers have an enjoyable experience, regardless of whether they enjoy their menu options in the restaurant or at home.

Classic Indian
150 Wissler Road
Waterloo, ON N2K 3C6
(519) 746-1976

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chocolate-Macadamia Pudding (for a Dinner Party)

It was a long weekend here in Ontario in celebration of "Family Day", so this past Sunday night Paul and I hosted the first ever M&P Dinner Party.

It was kind of exciting, because even though we have owned our kitchen table for six years, this dinner party marked the first time that we used our table extender. However it is also kind of depressing, because hosting a dinner party for the first time called to mind our rapidly increasing age and the fact that once upon a time parties at our house featured an entirely liquid diet.

Five years ago, when I was working on our wedding registry, my mom encouraged me to get enough place settings for twelve people. At the time I was 22 years old and "dinner" consisted of delivered pizza slices on paper towels. The thought of needing twelve fancy plates for anything seemed pretty absurd. In those days, I could not seriously envision a time in my life where I would be interested in not only using my oven, but serving a meal that I myself cooked to anyone whose wellbeing I cared for.

Five years ago, the going rate of friendship involved a case of beer and an opened bag of chips. My friends are good people and would probably still be fine with this arrangement and that is why they are my friends. But all the same, I made them an actual dinner on Sunday night.

Avocado Enchiladas and Mexican rice were the main. Taken together that is a somewhat spicy meal and so I wanted dessert to be something that would put out the fire. So, instead of my usual cake or cupcakes, I made pudding instead - something I haven't done since the days of instant Jell-O pudding.

As it turns out, regular pudding is pretty darn easy to make too. It may not be instant, but calling it almost-instant is a fair assessment.

The recipe comes from Vegan with a Vengeance, but you can also find it here. It involves just a handful of ingredients and is done and chilling in the fridge within twenty minutes.

It's pretty tasty on its own, but I wanted to get a little fancy because, after all, this was my first time using my full wedding flatware set - which sounds exciting but really is not, as I picked the most plain and inexpensive plates in Home Outfitters. Either way, I made the executive decision to top each pudding glass with some Macadamia Creme (also from Vegan with a Vengeance) and some blueberries.

The macademia creme is probably my most favourite thing to come out of that cookbook. Reminiscent of custard, I tried it for the first time when I made Strawberry Shortcake Scones for Valentine's Day last year. It goes pretty much anywhere dessert does. It works particularly well when fresh-cut fruit is involved (we definitely dumped strawberries, bananas and blueberries in the leftovers and ate it for dessert twice this past week).

I hope the dinner party was a success and "the family we chose" enjoyed themselves. And we may not be so old - there were an alarming number of empty bottles littering the kitchen on Monday morning!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Indian Lentil Pilaf

This is what I like to call a nice, "sturdy" meal. By sturdy I mean that it comes together quite easily and involves standard issue vegan kitchen staples. While the flavour might not necessarily blow you away and the dish probably won't be added to your shortlisted favourites, it is quite tasty and definitely filling and you will probably like it enough to make it again some day.

This dish comes from the Vegetarian Times magazine (click here for the recipe) and I really love how basic the ingredients list is. It's the perfect Tuesday night meal (or whatever night of the week you come home cranky because your blood sugar is so low because you forgot your midday snack and suddenly you realize that you haven't planned ahead for dinner and so you panic and cause a scene in the kitchen - it's not just me that does that, is it?).

Plus, I usually jump at any chance to fill the house with that intoxicating "cooking basmati rice" smell that comes from most Indian-inspired dishes. And the extra iron boost from the lentils is nothing to stick your nose up at either!

The only thing with lentils is that I seriously suck at cooking them. Either they are too hard, or they turn into a ridiculous mush that tastes good but looks horrible (see above photo for visual evidence).

Either way, give this recipe a try the next time you need something to hit the dinner table quickly while still offering some sort of nutritional value. As an aside - it's positively delicious drenched in Frank's Red Hot just before serving (how's that for authenticity?).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Toasted Coconut Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream Frosting

I mentioned in my previous post that because Valentine's Day fell on a Monday this year, we weren't really going to bother with much of anything Cupid-related. However, after spending the day at work I was pleasantly surprised to come home to a batch of cupcakes made by husband!

Although I do bake a fair bit, I kind of hate it.

I don't like to measure things. Instead, I fling ingredients around the kitchen and into pots and pans, hoping for the best. While this is fine for cooking, baking is an act of chemistry. An exact science. Messy girls like myself don't do well with precision. We instead opt for spending no time at all icing cakes and then throwing fits about how bad they look.

Everything I lack as a baker - patience, perfectionism, accuracy - Paul embodies perfectly, so it is a pretty awesome treat whenever he decides to bake something.

He made me a batch of the Toasted Coconut Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (click for recipe), topped them with coffee buttercream frosting and then rolled them in some toasted coconut. So fancy!

Cupcakes are typically known for their cuteness, their tooth-aching sweetness and their ability to make us feel like a kid again. But this is not your average cupcake. Rich instead of sweet and sophisticated without being too snobby, this is a grown-up's cupcake. Something to eat while wearing all black and discussing postmodernism. Or while watching The Office in your Hello Kitty pajamas, like I was. Whatever floats your boat.

The really cool thing about these cupcakes? I now have a jar of coconut oil in my fridge for the first time. Can't wait to see what all the fuss is about!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Whispers Restaurant, Elora

I tend to think of Valentine's Day as a holiday for new lovebirds, and not old veterans like Paul and I. This is our 12th Valentine's Day together and so we've run the gamut of red and pink gifts and stuffed bears and boxes of chocolate. We scrapped V-Day gift giving somewhere around Year 7 and instead usually opt for a nice outing together to mark most special occassions. We typically like to acknowledge holidays by going to a place where we can first stuff our faces, then unbutton our pants in the car, and then spend the entire drive home struggling to breathe and groaning about having eaten too much. Romantic, huh?

Since I tend to work a bit late on Mondays, we decided to go out this past Saturday night instead of on Valentine's Day Proper.

A few weeks ago the Groupon deal of the day was for "a vegetarian restaurant for meat-eaters" in Elora, Ontario. Being the coupon enthusiast that I am, I was very excited at the prospect about not only trying a new vegetarian hotspot, but trying it at a discount too! While I am a little disturbed by Groupon and their (allegedly) accidental recent cultural insensitivity, I'm also a bit grateful towards them - without that e-mail from them I may have not heard about such an amazing restaurant that is so close to home.

Whispers is located in the beautiful town of Elora, about a half-hour drive from our home in Kitchener. Back in 2007, Paul and I spent our first wedding anniversary overlooking the gorge at the Elora Mill Inn but hadn't been back since. After a bit of an icy and dicey winter drive through country roads, we arrived safe and sound at Whispers, ready to stuff our faces.

We ordered an embarrassing amount of food and I documented our gluttony the best that I could. However, I do apologize for the poor quality of most of the pictures. I was more concerned with eating and enjoying our date than I was with taking decent pictures, and I didn't want to disturb the other patrons with my excessive clickety clacking.

We started with some appetizers:

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Grilled Vegetable Platter with guacamole

Sweet potato fries. Which I admit, were kind of overkill and I fought Paul over the necessity of ordering them. I was defeated, and they came to our table (with the most adorable little ketchup bottle!) and they were, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest sweet potato fries I have ever had in my life.

Needless to say, we were completely stuffed about halfway through the appetizers. Panic admittedly began to set in as our mains came around, but we are not ones to waste food. Especially delicious food.

I got the Shephard's Pie.

Lentils, vegetables, spices and what I think was a bit of balsamic vinegar - just enough to bring out the flavours and give a traditional "down home" meal a bit of character.

The chef's special this past Saturday night was a really cool coconut-pineapple-curry vegetable medley with rice noodles. Paul had his heart set on the coconut curry linguine, but when our server mentioned that the night's special actually came in a pineapple we knew we had to get it. And the thoughtful and accommodating husband that he is, Paul sacrificed his choice to order it so that I could get a picture for the blog. It turned out to be just fine because it was absolutely delicious. Refreshing and hearty at the same time, I hope this one becomes a menu regular!

I really can't believe we made it through all that food. We were pretty devastated over the fact that we were at the point that we could not physically try the vegan apple crumble dessert without some sort of medical professional on hand. But all that means is that we have a reason to head back to Elora for dinner sometime in the near future!

A quaint little restaurant nestled in so closely to the stunning Elora Gorge, we had a wonderful time at Whispers. We give this bright and cheerful restaurant five stars for quality of ingredients and innovative menu options. We were fully expecting to pay about $70.00 for a gourmet vegetarian meal with all the fixings and we were pleasantly surprised that even before applying our Groupon, all of that delicious food you see above only came to $50.00 total. Being that their most expensive entree item is only $14.00, we praise them for their affordability and for subsequently making flavourful vegetarian dining so easily accessible to the masses. I also want to commend the staff for being so friendly and knowledgeable, helping confirm which options are vegan/easily veganized.

Although it is a vegetarian (not vegan) restaurant, the chef goes to great strides in order to provide us vegans with plenty of options to choose from. And I really, really, really hope he finds a way to veganize the butternut squash ravioli soon!

If you're in southern Ontario and are still looking for somewhere to take your sweetheart for Valentine's Day, give Whispers a call and see if they have room for any more reservations. We give this amazing establishment the This is Vegan: Seal of Approval and can't wait to return sometime soon!

14 East Mill Street
Elora, ON N0B 1S0
(519) 846-1104

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Indonesian Coconut and Spice Rice

My infatuation with coconut is a recent phenomenon. After turning my nose up at it for years, my favourite baked goods now feature coconut (like these Dulce sin Leche cupcakes, my number one favourite recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World). I also can't enter any sort of Asian-inspired establishment without scouring the menu in search of a coconut curry dish of some sort, my absolute favourite being this peanut curry from Bangkok Cuisine in Kitchener, Ontario.

Coconut itself is something a lot of people have an aversion to, but coconut milk is likely to win over even the most severe coconut skeptics. Especially when paired with noodles or rice, veggies, and tons and tons of curry. The coconut milk gives just the right amount of sweet to counter the bold and spicy flavours courtesy of curry and cardamom.

Speaking of which, cardamom is shockingly expensive. The little jar of it was close to $10.00. Normally, I'm pretty cheap when it comes to kitchen adventures. I still can't bring myself to buy a jar of saffron and I totally use fake vanilla more often than not. But, we make curries so often that cardamom is something we should really have on hand in our house and so Paul made the executive decision and bought a jar.

I made this dish last weekend and paired it with some standard issue tofu, marinated in some tamari and sesame oil and then baked for about a half hour (flipping each piece halfway through).

Indonesian Coconut and Spice Rice
* Adapted slightly from Kitchen Classics Gourmet Vegetarian

1 bunch green onions, diced
1 tbsp canola oil
2 1/2 cups unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp shredded coconut
1 cup coconut milk*
2 cups water
4 tbsp curry powder (a little more or less, depending on how strong you want it to be)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 1/2 cups basmati rice
Hot sauce or red pepper flakes, to taste

* This is how much you use for a mild coconut flavour and fresh and fluffy rice. If you like your rice to positively swim in coconut milk like I often do, don't be afraid to put extra coconut milk in and not cook it off completely before serving like I did.

1) Heat the oil in a wok. Add the peanuts and cook over medium heat, stirring often until they turn golden brown. Add the shredded coconut and stir until it darkens lightly and becomes fragrant.

2) Remove the wok from the heated stove element for a few seconds, just enough so that when you pour in the liquid ingredients the peanuts and coconut don't burn. Pour the coconut milk and water into the wok and return to the heated element. Add the curry and green onion and then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for two minutes. Add the cumin, cardamom and turmeric and bring to a boil again. Add the rice and cook until steam holes appear at the surface of the rice.

3) Cover the wok with a tight fitting lid, reduce the heat to very low and cook for ten minutes. Lift the lid and check to see if the rice is cooked. Continue cooking, with the lid on, if required. When done, sprinkle with some hot sauce or red pepper flakes to give it a kick and fluff with a fork. Would be great with some steamed broccoli on top!

Serves 4.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

The notion of vegan "celebrity" is quite a controversial one. There are many vegans that love celebrity endorsements of veganism because they shine a more concentrated light on our cause, making it seem more mainstream, more admirable and more attainable. Others are vehemently against vegan celebrity, arguing that it instead takes away from our position as animal advocates and instead focuses in on other issues such as health, nutrition, or simply "looking hot in a bikini".

My stance falls somewhere between these two extremes. I secretly get a little giddy every time I see the word vegan on a mainstream source, because of the simple fact that for years vegans were relegated to the underground, forced to explain themselves every time they refused a slice of someone's meat lovers' pizza. Celebrity endorsements have undoubtedly helped bring the word "vegan" into mainstream vocabulary so that nowadays when we go to a restaurant and say we're vegan, the staff is all the more likely to know what we mean and not accidentally butter our veggie burger buns.

However, as with any issue, there are two sides. With more mainstream acknowledgement there is more mainstream backlash. For every time that Oprah or US Weekly or Natalie Portman mentions vegan, there's an equal anti-vegan response that seems to surface. And while it sends a powerful message every time a celebrity goes vegan, it is equally powerful when a celebrity decides to abandon the vegan diet (I'm looking at you, Lea Michele). Furthermore, it's no secret that in the post Skinny Bitch-era, a lot of the celebrity excitement surrounding veganism has less to do with compassion for animals and more to do with fitting into an Oscar dress, making veganism seem like nothing more than just the fad diet du jour. This is something that deeply offends me and many other vegans, because veganism is not a diet for us. It's our way of life. It is everything that we believe about the world and how it should work. While I firmly believe that it really is the most healthful way to look at and interact with food, I am not vegan because I believe it will prolong my wellness and subsequently my life. I am vegan because I don't believe in exploiting animals. The added health benefits (and they are many, many, many) are but an added bonus. A little thank you from the universe, for doing whatever small part possible in preserving its goodness.

That being said, I am all for whatever saves the most animals from abuse. I don't care how or why people make vegan-friendly choices, as long as the end result is the same - less animals suffering than would be suffering had that person not made that choice. However, if you don't come to veganism with at least a slight interest in animal welfare, it makes it all the more easy to abandon the lifestyle. We see it time and time again in Hollywood. I think this is partly why animal advocates are so critical whenever the V-word pops up on the television screen.

Because of this, I am careful when I talk about celebrity vegans, in fear that I will put my foot in my mouth somewhere down the line, when said celebrity shows up at a movie premiere in head-to-toe leather.

I'm going to make an exception here and talk about the actress Portia de Rossi's memoirs, "Unbearable Lightness".

While Portia is vegan, this book is not about veganism. She doesn't even use the word vegan to describe herself. However, it is a discussion about the struggles with disordered eating that eventually lead to her abandoning all animal products. As such, I think it is relevant here.

Paul and I recently went through the Arrested Development series on DVD, but other than that I had very little working knowledge of Portia de Rossi before coming across this book. I was a bit young for the Ally McBeal demographic back in the late 1990s and so I wasn't a spectator in the media circus surrounding her struggles with gaining and losing weight that eventually resulted in her eating less than 300 calories a day and weighing 82 pounds. However, I was attracted to this book because I have gone through similar (albeit far, far less severe) circumstances. Quite honestly, I can't remember a day since I was nine years old that I haven't been trying to lose weight in some form or another and my self-delusions all came to a boiling point somewhere around age 15 when I decided it was a good idea to eat a handful of blueberries and tons of water and nothing else each day four times a week. Over the years I lost, and I gained. Lost and gained. Sobbed uncontrollably on the kitchen floor after my first wedding dress fitting and subsequently decided to take six diet pills a day leading up to the big day. Some of which were so potent that I at one point went 36 hours without sleeping.

However, something changed in 2007 when I went vegetarian and even more so in 2008 when I went vegan. What happened was echoed at the end of Portia's book and it is the reason I am sharing all of this with you. Because believe me, talking about how messed up I am/have been in such a public way was not exactly on my "what I want to do with my day" agenda. I assure you that I am really not a proponent of oversharing via the interwebz and that I'm aware that this blog is supposed to be about the "lighter" side of veganism. All of these should be reasons why I should not hit POST when I am done with these embarrassing confessions.

But I'm going to hit it anyway. Because I want to tell you what veganism has done for me. And what it appears to have done for Portia too.

For 22 years of my life, eating was about me. About how thin or how fat I was and about how what I was putting into my mouth was going to contribute to which way the needle on the scale would go. That's it. Food wasn't animal or vegetable or mineral. I didn't think about where it came from or what happened to get it first onto my plate and then onto my hips. I generally took no pleasure from eating. I didn't enjoy a single bite of anything because it always felt like I was doing something wrong. I didn't work out, because I hated working out, because I hated my body. I gained weight. I became lethargic about how much weight I gained, which in turn caused me to eat even more, because what did it matter anyway? I would always be "fat" regardless of whether it was a time in my life when I was a size 12 or a time in my life when I was a size 3.

It was all about me. Me, me, me. Poor, self-obsessed me.

It was veganism that finally broke this ridiculous cycle. Because it made eating no longer about me and what food was going to do to ME.

I learned about the plight of farm animals first. The first pivitol moment came the first time I went to order food and looked at the chicken options and didn't think about how fat they were going to make me. I thought about the chicken. And only the chicken. And I stopped eating meat.

And then I stopped eating dairy.

And then this really cool thing happened where for the first time ever I started to feel good about the food choices I was making. Not because I was conscious of them being healthy. And not even because they were particularly healthy all the time. But because in whatever small way, I felt like I was contributing to the betterment of something. Something bigger than just me and the plate that was in front of me and the size of my jeans.

The health benefits came afterward. I started losing weight without even realizing that it was happening because I changed nothing other than abstaining from eating animals. I was so concerned with animal suffering and this new found passion of mine that I didn't even notice. My iron deficiency was eliminated. The blood sugar issues I developed that were no doubt a product of years of obsessive yo-yo dieting were eliminated. Rather than excessively fluctuating in weight like I had my whole life, I stayed the same basic size. I became inspired by food rather than frightened by it. I cooked vegan meals and I sat down to eat them and I enjoyed every single bite (right down to the licking of the plate) and I felt good about myself because I knew that I was taking great strides to not be a willing participant in the harm of another living creature. This blog is one of thousands of vegan blogs out there. But to me, showing the world what I eat everyday is a sign of progress from the person I used to be. Ten years ago I would have never willingly shared what I ate with anyone, friend or stranger, in fear of someone hearing it, glancing at my waist and judging me for it. When I was a teenager, the mere act of eating in front of other people terrified and mortified me.

Yet here I am.

While I can brush off most criticisms of veganism pretty easily, the one that continually gets under my skin involves equating veganism with an eating disorder or some sort of psychological pathology. Every once in a while I will come across an article in which "experts" draw parallels between anorexia and veganism or claim that vegans are more likely to suffer from body dysmorphic disorder or that feeding children a vegan diet is akin to starving them to death. And I think that it offends me so much because the exact opposite is least in my own example.

I went into veganism demanding nothing. I just didn't feel comfortable participating in the exploitation of animals anymore. Little did I know that veganism was giving me something in return - health, wellness, a sense of compassion and peace of mind. Peace of mind that what I'm eating is the right fuel for my body and not something I need to feel guilty about because it harms animals, the planet or myself. Going vegan gave me a chance to partake in something so many people take for granted - enjoying a meal.

I can't pretend like all my negative thoughts have disappeared just because I went vegan. It doesn't work like that. I'm a size 8 and still lie and say I'm a size 6 sometimes, all the while wishing I was actually a 4. I have a circa 1999 size 2 dress that I will never wear again that hangs in my closet. Mostly, it's there to remind me of how delusional I once was, thinking it was normal for someone who is 5'8" to weigh 103 lbs. But I admit that I sometimes treat it like a trophy. On bad days.

But these days, I let my clothes get a little tight, sometimes. I eat two cupcakes instead of one, sometimes. And then when I've had enough I stop and work at getting back to feeling good again. I try to, anyway. A size 6 would be awesome but most of the time I'm okay with a size 8, too.

Without divulging too much of Portia's story, I'm going to end off with a quote from her book in hopes that it might spark your interest enough to pick it up. I'm always so fascinated about the many ways that people come to be vegan.

"While I have never felt more healthy or energized, the most important thing that happened to me when I stopped eating animals was a sense of connectedness. When I was suffering with an eating disorder, my life was solely about me. I was living through my ego and didn't care about life around me. I was selfish and angry, and because I didn't care about myself, I also didn't care about littering in the street or polluting the environment. My decision to not eat animals was paramount to my growth as a spiritual person. It made me aware of greed and made me more sensitive to cruelty. It made me feel like I was contributing to making the world better and that I was connected to everything around me. I felt like I was part of the whole by respecting every living thing rather than using it and destroying it by living unconsciously. Healing comes from love. And loving every living thing in turn helps you love yourself."

Her book is a powerful documentation of her struggles with herself, as an actress in an appearance-driven environment and also a closeted gay woman in the public eye. It's honest. Sometimes brutally so. She spares no room for her ego, so I figured I had better not either. But don't worry, This is Vegan will return to its regularly scheduled programming shortly - with the awesome coconut curry rice recipe I found!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Leek & Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits

We tried another recipe from Veganomicon last weekend. I bookmarked the recipe for this cassoulet a long time ago, but everytime the cookbook came up in my rotation I skipped over it because the recipe is seriously long and honestly, quite terrifying to look at.

It takes up two pages.

And I have a sorry excuse for an attention span.

(In other news, Operation: Cookbook Rotation is such an organizational marvel that I am expecting a job offer from NASA at anytime now. Sup, NASA! You know you want me.)

So, a lazy Sunday came around. Paul was working and I had some time to myself. I put on a brave face, rolled up my sleeves and gave this recipe a try.

Truthfully, while at first glance the text is a bit intimidating, the meal itself comes together quite quickly and easily.

The first step is getting the veggies together. Boiling the potatoes, sauteeing the carrots and leeks. Tossing it all together with some veggie broth, beans, peas and herbs. And while that is simmering away on the stove you make the biscuits.

For me, white flour is reserved for sweets and treats only - never as a part of an actual meal. So, I tried to up the nutritional value of the recipe by using organic whole wheat flour.

This was a huge mistake.

Instead of being light and fluffy the biscuits were hard and dense. I knew this would happen and I did it anyway, so I have no one to blame but myself.

Lesson learned. If you do try this recipe, make sure you use the nutritionally useless but incredibly delicious white flour that you usually save for desserts.

Once the stew has thickened and the biscuits are formed, it all goes into one dish and then into the oven for a little baking time.

All in all, it was pretty good. The fact that the biscuits tasted like hockey pucks was no one's fault but my own, so I'll take the heat for that one. The flavour was quite mellow though, and we ended up dumping half a bottle of hot sauce on the finished product. Still, I suggest you give it a try next time you want to warm up on a winter night.

Here is a link to the recipe (although I really, really think you should pick up a copy of Veganomicon).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Macaroni and Cheeze Soup

By a show of non-wool mittened hands, who is sick of winter?

That's what I thought.

We are now at that point of the year where winter has completely lost its lustre. Snow is no longer "pretty" or "peaceful". Winter is now a colossal pain in the ass that causes us to throw out our backs while shoveling and spin our cars into oblivion on the freeway. And don't even get me started on the amount of energy that needs to be expended before even leaving the house on a winter morning. Hats, mittens, scarves, boots, window scraping. Enough already!

If you have been anywhere in between Texas and Nova Scotia over the last few days, you are probably feeling my winter rage tenfold by now.

Whether you are still snowed in or have managed to dig your way out, if you have some Daiya on hand you should definitely try and warm your frozen little heart with this Macaroni and Cheeze soup.

The recipe comes from Nava Atlas' Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons and although I have had the book for years now I forgot all about it. Years ago when I got the book Daiya wasn't even on my radar and I hadn't yet found a vegan cheese that didn't cause me to gag profusely. Although the recipe sounded interesting, I didn't bother bookmarking it because a delicious non-soy vegan cheese seemed like an impossibility at the time.

I have a bit of an addiction to post-its, particularly when it comes to marking recipes. My cookbook shelf is basically a sea of fluorescent pink, yellow and green so bright that you can't look directly at it without causing considerable damage to your corneas. A couple weeks ago while I was flipping through Vegan Soups & Hearty Stews I noticed the recipe for this soup didn't have a little marker on it. It was easy to spot because it was pretty much the only recipe that didn't have a little marker on it.

And I realized that with Daiya now in my life I could finally try some of these many long-forgotten recipes that I breezed over years ago! How exciting it was, doing the once-over on old cookbooks, trusty post-its in hand.

This soup combines two of my favourite winter comforts: macaroni and cheese and soup. Growing up, you were pretty much guaranteed to have one of these two options on a Snow Day and now you can have both - at the same time!

Here is a link to the recipe. You'll notice I added in a little broccoli along with the peas to up the vegetables per serving (and because I can't get enough of broccoli mixed with Daiya).

Just one more thing to make winter that little bit more bearable. And here's another:

Here in southern Ontario, "Snowpocalypse 2011" turned into "SnowMuchOverreaction 2011", but it was nice to get a little time off work to play with the mutt in the tundra that is our backyard.

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