Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Raw Chocolately Awesomeness

Man, oh man, do I have some good news for all of you chocoholics and dessert lovers out there.  There is an amazing chocolate cake that is not only vegan, it's actually - wait for it - good for you.  For reals.  Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking.  Either I'm delusional from eating too much holiday Field Roast or this so-called cake is going to be crappy tasting or hard to make or something.  NO!  Rejoice, dessert lovers.  This cake is full of awesome with a little bit of awesome spread on top to boot.  I know, right!

One of my new year's resolutions last year was to try to incorporate more raw food into my diet.  I really didn't end up eating raw nearly as much as I was originally hoping, but I have learned a bit more about it and made it much less scary to try.  I realized that raw desserts are a really, really good place to start.  I have a few raw food recipe books.  (It's hard to call them cookbooks when you don't really "cook" raw stuff.  hehe.)  The most recent one that I purchased is Ani Phyo's Raw Food Desserts book.

You know how most raw food books are kind of irritating because they all assume we all own a high-speed blender like a Vita-Mix (I wish!) and we all have a dehydrator (I do have one of these, but most people don't.) and we all have a juicer (again with I wish!).  Yeah.  It's annoying because the average person who is new to raw food will think it's all super hard to make and you have to buy all of these mega-expensive appliances to make it.  That's why this book is so great.  I have one of Ani Phyo's other books and almost every recipe needs a Vita-Mix and my food processor doesn't really get things to the same consistency.  This book, however, only uses one of those in one or two recipes.  Most recipes you do need a food processor or blender to get things going and lots  you only need your hands and a knife.  Cool, huh?!  I've made a few things out of here and all are super tasty.  The Almond Frangipane Kream is a favorite (though I really dislike that she spells cream and milk the way she does.)


This is the first time I've made the Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake and it certainly will not be the last.  The photo just makes it look so yummy that I've been wanting to make it ever since I got this book.  I thought this was a fitting dessert for a big holiday dinner, especially since most of us have been eating lots of cookies and cupcakes and chocolates and stuff for the last few weeks.

Don't be fooled by this being a raw cake.  This bad boy is rich and sinful tasting and sooooo good.  I've always been a bit skeptical about using avocado in desserts.  I've heard so many people say they do it with good results, but to me that just sounds weird.  I'm a convert, now.  Don't be scared by the avocado in the frosting.  Trust me on this, you won't taste it and it'll come out amazing.  One note when making this:  you really need to use raw walnuts.  Roasted ones will not give the correct texture.  They're not that hard to find, though, so don't worry.  Okay, I've rambled on enough.  Here's the recipe.  Go make it.  You can thank me later.

Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake from Ani's Raw Food Desserts by Ani Phyo

3 cups raw walnuts, dry (It's best to soak the nuts if you have time.  Overnight is best, but a few hours is okay, too.  Just dry them off before you start making this.)
2/3 cup unsweetened cacao powder or carob powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup pitted Medjool dates

1/3 cup semi-soft pitted Medjool dates (just soak them in cold water for a little bit to soften if yours are hard)
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup ripe avocado flesh (from about 1 medium avocado)
1/3 cup cacao powder or carob powder

1/2 cup raspberries

To make the cake, combine the walnuts, cacao powder and salt in the food processor and pulse until coarsely mixed.  Avoid over-processing.  Add the dates and pulse until mixed well.  Shape into 2 stackable cakes of desired shape and set aside.  (I found it easiest to use my smallest springform pan to shape these.  You might also want to use a cut circle of parchment paper in the bottom of whatever pan you're using so they're easier to get out.)

To make the frosting, combine the dates and agave syrup in the food processor and process until smooth.  Add the avocado and process until smooth again.  Add the cacao powder and process until smooth yet again.

To serve, frost the top of one of the cakes with half the frosting and top with the raspberries.  Stack the second cake on top and frost the top and side.  Serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to firm up.

The cake on its own will keep in the fridge for many weeks.  The frosting will keep separately in the fridge for 1 week.  The assembled cake with raspberries will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Everyone's Favorite Edamame Dip

Okay, for reals.  This is everyone's favorite edamame dip.  I'll bet you didn't even know that you had a favorite dip.  Or maybe you didn't realize that your favorite is this one.  I think the only way you didn't know is if you haven't tried it.  I swear this stuff is like magic or something.  Every single time I make it, I get umpteen people asking for the recipe.  And umpteen is a lot of people!

I wish I could take the credit for this awesome recipe.  I was watching Good Eats one day and it was the one about soy.  Alton Brown made a bunch of neat stuff and did a few crazy antics and spouted off some interesting facts, as per usual.  Then.  He made this dip.  I was intrigued and thought I might like to try it.  Holy frijoles.  This stuff is awesome.  Even better - pretty much all you do is dump a bunch of stuff into the food processor to make it.  Seriously.  It can't really get any easier than this.

Just get some crackers or some fresh bresh or heck, even just some carrots and celery and dig in.  It's delicious and nutritious.  You really can't beat that.

So do yourself a favor and go make your new favorite dip.  Then share it with some friends so they can try their new favorite dip.  Oh, and be sure to have the recipe on hand.  People are going to ask for it.  Umpteen people!


There are two variations to this recipe. You can either use lime juice and cilantro or lemon juice and flat leaf parsley. I'm sure you could use many other variations as well, but those are the basic two. I like them both, but prefer the lime/cilantro version, personally. I might also be a little heavy handed with the chile sauce. :)

Edamame Dip

12 ounces shelled, cooked, and cooled edamame, about 2 cups
1/4 cup diced onion (I usually use a small onion or half of a larger one)
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
1 large garlic clove, sliced (A little extra garlic never hurt anyone.  Add more if you're a garlic fan.)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon miso, any type
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon red chili paste (I use Sambal Oelek)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil

Put everything except the oil in your food processor. Process for about 15 seconds or until things are smoothish. Add in the olive oil and process again for up to 30 seconds. Enjoy!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

The holidays are a great excuse to make cookies. I don't make cookies that often for some reason and whenever I do make them I wonder why it's so infrequent. They're perfect little snacks for when you want just a little something or if you need something portable. And there really is no shortage of types.

During the holidays, I typically make sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies every year. I have such fond memories of going to my grandmother's house at Christmas and having her cookies. They were amazing. She would make sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, ranger cookies (think oatmeal cookies with raisins and chocolate chips) and jello cookies.

Okay, I know. That last one sounds really weird. There were these cookies she'd made that had a package of lemon jello in the dough. It sounds strange, but they were always my favorite. I've been trying for a few years to make a vegan equivalent but so far, I haven't had any luck. These were the kind of cookies that you need a cookie press for and then you'd sprinkle colored sugar on them before putting them in the oven. My favorite were always the wreath-shaped ones. They tasted a bit like shortbread, but with a nice tang of sweet lemon flavor. One of these days I'll figure out the secret and make cruelty-free versions of jello cookies every December like my grandmother used to.


Until I can get that worked out, I'll settle with making some other yummies like these chocolate sugar cookies. I got the recipe from the VegNews newsletter. I found the dough to be really, really dry and I had to add a lot of extra liquid so that I could even roll out the dough. If you make these, do it by the recipe and then at the end if your dough is super dry and crumbly like mine was, go ahead and add a bit of extra liquid until things are sticking together a bit better. I'd also suggest adding some more sugar. These weren't sweet at all, so calling them sugar cookies is a bit of a stretch. You really need the chocolate on top. I made a chocolate ganache by melting some bittersweet chocolate with a little bit of rice milk and spooning on top of the cookies. I wouldn't make these without doing that. They seem to need a bit of an extra punch.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies (from the VegNews Magazine Newsletter)

1-1/2 cups non-hydrogenated margarine
1 cup unbleached cane sugar
10 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla
4-1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder

In a large bowl, beat together the margarine, sugar, water, and vanilla until light and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to form a smooth dough. Cover and chill for 1 hour or until firm. Divide the dough in half, work with one half at a time, and keep the remaining dough covered.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to desired thickness (1/8-inch for crispy cookies or 1/4-inch for soft), cut into shapes with a knife or cookie cutters, and carefully transfer the cookies with a spatula to ungreased cookie sheets.  (I lined my cookie sheets with parchment paper so the cookies wouldn't stick.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Allow cookies to cool slightly before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Cover in melted chocolate or some kind of icing. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jalapeno Garlic Grits

"What's a grit?" is a question I get asked quite often. Well, dang. If you don't know what grits are, you aren't going to understand anything about me! Okay, I'm just kidding, but boy do I love grits. I'm a Southern girl so it's pretty much to be expected. You can take a girl out of the South, but you can't take the grits away from the girl.

I can't even find grits here in Vancouver.  It's lame.  When I was in Atlanta about a year and a half ago, I bought 6 huge bags of grits to bring back with me.  I still have a little bit left, but I'm almost out even though I try not to eat them too often.  I even took a photo of all of the grits in the store because I was so excited to see so many different boxes when I can't find them anywhere here!


Okay, so for those of you that are still wondering what the heck is a grit, here's a quick lesson. Grits are made from a type of corn called hominy corn. In the South we also eat hominy, but I've never seen it anywhere else. Click here to see what hominy looks like. So, the hominy is ground coarsely and then boiled and becomes grits. I have no idea why it's called that.

Keep in mind that polenta IS NOT the same as grits, no matter what the package says.  Polenta is also made from corn, but not the same kind of corn.  Polenta is awesome, but it won't taste right and you'll wonder what you did wrong when you cook them.

Usually you put lots of margarine and salt and pepper on grits and eat them like that. It's a savory food.  The omnivores will put things in it that I don't want to think about, but I like to eat it plain (Earth Balance and salt and pepper) or add some of Frontier's Bac'uns to it as well.  Yum!  Now, though, my favorite way to eat grits is the Vegan Brunch way.  It's a little rough for me to accept that a yankee could improve on a Southern staple.  (I love you, Isa, but still!)  No matter, I do love garlic like a cat loves sleeping.  I think you could even use this recipe as a bit of a side dish for dinner if you're having a bit of soul food or something, but it's also great for breakfast.


I like to add a bit of chili-garlic Cholula to this as well.  It adds such a nice extra flavor.  If you've never tried Cholula, I highly recommend it.  It's not actually very hot, it's got a really nice depth of flavor with just a hint of spiciness.  It's great for adding a little extra punch of flavor even if you're not someone who likes hot sauce.  If you can get it, try the chili-garlic flavor first.  I can't get it that particular flavor here in Vancouver, but I have an awesome friend who sends me a stash of a few bottles at a time from California so I can still have it.  It's just that good.  Even James, who doesn't like hot sauce, likes it.

Now, on to the recipe!  I actually make it slightly different than Isa does, but using the same ingredients, so I'm mashing up her way and mine in this.  This recipe makes enough for 4 people, so if it's just you, cut the recipe by 1/4 so you're not swimming in grits.  Unless you like that sort of thing, and then in that case, go for it.

Jalapeno Garlic Grits

1 cup dry grits
Vegetable broth (use the amount of broth in replacement of the amount of water your box of grits says to use, probably about 3 Cups for this amount of grits.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 jalapenos, seeded and thinly sliced (or you can use 1/4 C of jalapenos from a jar, chopped up)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (I usually add about 1-2 Tablespoons nooch per bowl of grits because I'm crazy like that)
1 teaspoon salt (if you're using broth with salt in it, you might want to skip this)
pepper, to taste

In a medium pot that has a lid, saute over medium heat the garlic in the olive oil for about 2 minutes.  Add the jalapenos and saute for another minute or so and then add the vegetable broth and grits.  Stir everything up, put the lid on the pot, and bring the grits to a soft boil.  As soon as it starts to boil, turn the heat down to a simmer.  Here is where the time varies - check your package of grits to be sure, but it's usually about 5 minutes that you want to simmer the grits with the lid on.  About halfway through that time, add the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, stir everything up once and put the lid back on.  You just want to make sure that everything stays mixed together and stays nice and creamy.  Once your 5 minutes are up, remove the pot from the heat and stir again.

At this point, taste the grits to make sure there is enough nooch and salt for your liking.  Add a bit more of that stuff if you need to.  Remember, the grits will thicken a bit as they start cooling.  Everyone seems to like their grits to be a different texture.  Depending what kind of mood I'm in sometimes I like them thicker or thinner than other times.  You know what's awesome about grits?  You can always add more water to thin them out or cook them a bit longer to thicken them up.  So add more water if things are too thick for your liking or cook them a bit more if they're too runny.

Dish those bad boys into bowls and dig in!  If you're feeling like adding a bit of extra awesomeness, add some of that chili-garlic Cholula I was talking about earlier.  Mmmmmm.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Guide to Cut-Out Cookies

It's holiday cookie time!  I'm doing my holiday baking this weekend and next week, but I bet some of you are doing it now. 


I made a post a few years ago on how to have success at cut-out cookies.  Those little buggers can cause epic baking fail!  Check it out and see what you think:

Let the baking begin!  :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

One of my favorite recipes from Vegan Brunch is actually something I usually eat as a late lunch.  The Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes are so good, there are never any leftovers.  Maybe I also like them because I grew up in a little town called Chesapeake in Virginia.  I don't know, but I do know these babies are so delicious, it'll knock your socks off.


For some reason I was a little bit intimidated when I first saw this in Vegan Brunch.  It's silly to think about that now because they're so easy to make.  I don't know, sometimes when I see a recipe that's recreating a vegan version of something I had never even considered attempting, my brain gets all wonky and can't compute all of a sudden.  These don't taste exactly like crab cakes, but they are a good vegan substitute.

These cakes are moist and full of flavor.  Even if you've never had or never liked the real thing, you should try these.  They're addictive.  Squirt a bit of lemon on them before you eat them and you'll get a nice pop of fresh flavor.  I usually find that I want a bit more of the sauce than the recipe makes so I make about a batch and a half of that.  I'm a bit of a sauce whore, so maybe that's just me.  If you're not, you'll probably be okay with just the regular amount.

I add a bit of dulse flakes to mine because I happen to have a huge never-ending bag of it.  I like the taste of seaweed, but if you don't, then skip that part.  I'm also a bit curious to add some Old Bay Seasoning to these next time I make them.  I remember everyone putting that on seafood of all kinds back in Virginia. I think there were even some Old Bay flavored potato chips.  Those were good.  You definitely can't get that flavor here in Canada.  I have seen some of the seasoning in a couple of places, though.  Mmmm... now I want to make these again.


Isa has the recipe up on the PPK blog, but since my copying and pasting skills are alive and kicking, you could also just read it here.

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes (Makes 10)

Make ahead: Make the entire mixture and the remoulade the night before. In the morning, form into cakes and pan fry.

For the cakes:
8 ounces tempeh (use the nori tempeh if you can find it, but plain soy tempeh is fine, too)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons Vegenaisse
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (stone ground Dijon works, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup very finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspooon salt
fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs, plus extra for dredging
Optional: 1 finely chopped nori sheet or 1 tablespoon kelp granules (I use dulse)

Oil for pan frying

For the remoulade:
2 tablespoons Vegenaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (stone ground dijon works, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons capers (try not to get too much brine)

Lemon wedges for serving

First we’re going to steam the tempeh to get the bitterness out and also to infuse some flavor with the soy sauce. Crumble the tempeh into a saucier or small pan in little bits. Add the water, soy sauce, oil and bay leaf. The tempeh won’t be fully submerged, but that’s fine. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let boil for 12 to 15 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated. Stir once during boiling.

Transfer contents to a mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and mash with a fork. Let cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to hasten the cooling process. Make sure the tempeh is barely warm before you proceed, or the cakes may fall apart when you cook them. Add the mayo, mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, chopped bell pepper, spices salt and pepper, and mix well. Add the bread crumbs and nori and use your hands to incorporate.

Once you are ready to form the cakes, preheat a thin layer of oil in a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet (cast iron is great) over medium heat. Pour a few tablespoons of panko into a bowl. Scoop a little less than 1/4 cup batter into your hands and form into a ball. Flatten between your palms and then roll the sides gently with your hands cupped to smooth them. You should have ten 2 1/2 to 3- inch patties. I do them in batches of five. Press them into the panko to lightly coat. They don’t need to be thoroughly covered, just a little bit for some texture.

Fry a batch of five cakes for 4 minutes on one side and flip when dark golden brown. Fry for 2 minutes on the other side and transfer to a paper towel or paper bag to drain. Do your second batch and in the meantime make your remoulade by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Lunch at Annapurna Vegetarian Indian Restaurant

Oh, look. Another post about what I had for lunch today.

Today I ventured through the rain over to Annapurna Vegetarian Indian Restaurant. Interestingly enough, I've never been here even though it's only a few blocks from work. Why? Because under the previous management (and in the old location just a block down the street) the place was never open! How the heck to people expect to get customers when you're always closed at lunch or dinner times!? I mean, seriously. Well, all of that's fixed now. Annapurna's in a new location and is open! For reals.


Lunch was that stuff! A really wonderful lentil dahl soup, even better than at Sejuiced along with an egglplant dish, channa masala, rice and a spiced mixed vegetable and potato type of thing. I was also brought some vegan bread in a little basket. It was like naan with nothing on it. I'm on a cleanse so I couldn't eat the bread, but I bet it was just as good as the rest of this.

For lunch there's just the lunch buffet, but that's fine. It's $9.95 for all you can eat, and really, that's quite reasonable for Kitsilano. More than half of the buffet is vegan, which is really exciting. Everything tasted really fresh. No reheated frozen vegetables here. Each of the dishes had identifiable pieces of fresh chopped herbs in them, too. It's not often you see that and especially not in buffet items. Nothing was OMG the best ever, I must tweet this!, but it was really delicious. I'm definitely going to start adding Annapurna into my lunch rotations.

The restaurant was clean and the host/server was very polite and friendly. I really hope that people start to realize that this isn't the same Annapurna as before. I almost wish they had changed the name just so people would think it was a new restaurant. There was only one other table of people when I came in for lunch and that's just really too bad. I haven't been in for dinner, yet, but I don't live far so I'm definitely putting that on my to-do list. I took a peek at the dinner menu and there are so many items with a notation for being vegan. I love Indian food, so this is pretty rad. James and I are constantly at a loss of where to for dinner on nights we don't feel like cooking or just feel like going out.

So, if you live in Vancouver, go check out the new and improved Annapurna. If you don't do it for yourself, do it for me. I need more awesome places to eat lunch so I definitely want this place to succeed.

Holy shamoly.  I just went to their website to link them and I noticed they have delivery.  Oh, man.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Broccoli and Tofu with Black Bean Sauce

There's a restaurant in Vancouver called Foundation.  It's one of those uber-hipster places that blasts hip hop super loud in a dark restaurant and all of the menu items have these weird names.  They have pretty decent food, though.  Most of the menu is vegan and the portions are usually so huge I can get two full meals out it.  People around here either love that place or hate it.  I get bored of their food sometimes but then I branch out and try something that's a bit different than what I usually order and I love it again.

That's what happened with this one particular dish.  I forget what it's called on the menu, but it's this broccoli and tofu thing with black bean sauce over brown rice.  I don't eat tofu very often anymore, but sometimes I get a craving on for this.  Last night was one of those times.  I just started a cleanse and this is something I'm allowed to have so I decided to try and make it myself last night.


I think I did a pretty good job, actually.  It's pretty darn close and definitely really yummy.  I'm kind of excited to eat the leftovers.  I do think that the sauce could use a tablespoon or two of soy sauce to liven it up a little and make it a tad saltier.  I can't have fermented things on my cleanse, so I just added some salt.  It was still good, but I think the soy sauce would have been better.

I also kind of screwed up the broccoli.  I started steaming it a bit too early so it got too soft.  You could probably just cut to the chase and saute it with the tofu if you wanted or just steam it for a few minutes and then add it to the pan with the tofu towards the end.  Either way, it was still delicious.  I think you could use this sauce for a lot of different veggies, actually.  It might be great as a base for a Chinese type stir-fry with some snow peas, baby corn and water chestnuts.  Yum!

Broccoli and Tofu with Black Bean Sauce

1 can of black beans, rinsed
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt to taste

1 block of tofu, drained, pressed and cut into cubes
1 head of broccoli, chopped
brown rice

Cook your rice and start to steam or saute the broccoli.  Saute the tofu in some olive oil in a pan, preferably a cast iron skillet if you have one.  You can saute the broccoli with the tofu if you want.  I usually saute the tofu over medium heat for 10 minutes or so until it's just starting to get golden brown.

In a medium-sized bowl, mash the black beans with a potato masher or a fork until there aren't any whole beans left, but not so much that it's a puree.  In a pot over medium heat, heat up the vegetable broth with the garlic, thyme, cumin, chili powder, cayenne and lemon juice.  Let that simmer for about 5 minutes then add the mashed black beans.  Stir everything together and mash the beans a bit more with the back of a spoon.  Simmer the whole thing over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to let the flavors blend together.  You can add a little bit of water if you need to keep the sauce from getting too thick.  Stir in the salt and remove from heat.

Put the brown rice on a plate and top with the broccoli and tofu and then some sauce.  Eat and enjoy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Ode to My Kitchen Helpers

Since most of the US is doing Thanksgiving today and probably not really thinking about food except for the awesomeness they just ate and the leftovers to come, I thought I'd do something a little different today.

This post is an ode to my kitchen helpers aka my cats.


Cats always love boxes.  Usually my three get tired of a box after about two weeks.  The exception is this Cuties box.  I think it's so appropriate that Phoebe loves this box so much.  Piper gets in it sometimes, too but not nearly as much as Phoebe.  Actually, she even loves being carried around in the box.  Whenever I have people over, they love seeing how much she likes that.  The cuties box is next to my kitchen island and has a great view of all of the action in the kitchen.  This is generally where Phoebe hangs out when I'm cooking.


This is probably about when something got dropped on the floor and eagle eyes is waiting to see if I'll notice it or not.


Paige prefers the heights.  We have these weird little side things on our counters that are perfect little cat perches.  Paige is very polite and doesn't usually try to bust in on the food preparation.  She just likes to supervise from her perch.


Piper, however is the mischievous one.  I frequently have to shoo her away from the counter when I'm preparing food.  She gets really excited thinking that surely this is going to be the time she gets some.  She usually sits either on top of the refrigerator or on a perch like Paige.  When she's not sitting and watching, she's usually doing things like hiding behind this plant hoping I don't notice her eyeing whatever I'm chopping.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tamales Rock Your World

I love Mexican food.  Even before I lived in Texas, it was one of my favorite types of food.  I think I would probably have something Mexican three to four times a week when I lived in the US.  Now that I've living in Vancouver I pretty much have to make things at home if I want decent Mexican food.  People are always telling me about this "really great" or "authentic" Mexican place in town.  Then I go there and it tastes horrid.  There are a couple of places I can tolerate, but they have more of Canadianized Mexican food, definitely not anything like what I was used to.  Luckily, I love cooking this kind of thing at home, too so it works out alright.

Tamales, still wrapped with fresh guacamole, salsa and nopalitos (cactus).

I do find that some ingredients can be quite hard to find in this city.  That's kind of odd because there are so many different ethnicities living in this city that usually it's super easy to find most food things.  It wasn't until I was in Toronto for a wedding a couple of months ago when I finally saw some corn husks and Mexican chocolate.   I was stoked.  I'd been looking for corn husks for a while because I love tamales.  Pretty much immediately after we returned from the trip, that's exactly what I made.

I'm kind of lame lately and I keep forgetting to take photos of my food.  When I made the tamales I also made the Chocolate-Chile Mole Sauce from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan and Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa, but neither of those are in the photos so just pretend.  These pictures are actually from reheating frozen tamales recently so I just put some salsa on top.  I froze some of the mole, too, but I had completely forgotten that I did that when I reheated these.  Oh well, more for next time, I guess.  I'm going to give you my salsa recipe anyway because it goes really, really well with these.  Just pretend that you know what it looks like.

That being said - tamales freeze very well.  Just put some in a container or a freezer bag and you're good to go.  When you want to eat them again, just take out however many you want to eat and steam them again.  Easy peasy.  I won't lie, making tamales can be a little bit time consuming, especially if it's your first time.  They're really delicious and totally worth it, though.  Because they freeze so well, you might want to consider making a double batch so you have lots in the freezer for later.  It's up to you.  This already makes 15-20 tamales depending on how big you make them.

Unwrapped tamales with plain old salsa, guacamole, tortilla chips and nopalitos.

Update: Daiya put my tamale recipe on their site! How awesome!!! Go check it out by clicking here.


A bunch of corn husks
1 lb large poblano chiles (It's okay to use canned green chiles if you want.  Keep in mind these are NOT hot like jalapenos)
2 Cups masa harina
6 Tablespoons Earth Balance or other vegan margarine, softened
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/4 Cups vegetable broth
5 Cups corn (fresh or frozen)
3 Cups, packed vegan cheese (I use Daiya)

Soak a bunch of corn husks in a big bowl of warm water for about 2 hours.

In a heavy pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally char the outside of the chiles.  This will take a few minutes.  You want them to be black in places.  Remove the chiles from the pan and set aside to cool for a couple minutes.  Immerse the chiles in a bowl of really cold water and begin to peel the charred skin away.  Once you've skinned them, deseed them and chop the chiles into a small dice.

In a food processor, blend the masa harina, Earth Balance, sugar, salt, baking powder and pepper until combined.  Add the broth, corn and 1 cup of vegan cheese and blend until a moderately smooth paste is formed.  It's okay if there are still chunks of corn.  You want that, actually.

Now, take the largest corn husks and set them aside.  Tear some of the thinner husks into little strips.  you're going to use these to tie the ends.  In each husk, flatten 1/3 cup of dough and make a little indention in the middle.  Place 1 tablespoon of chiles and 1 tablespoon of vegan cheese in the middle and press the sides over it so you've created a filled tamale.  Wrap the dough in the corn husk.  Pinch the ends together and tie them off with the strips you've made.  This might take a little bit of practice, but don't worry, you'll get it.  It's okay if you have to use two overlapping husks to fully wrap the tamales.  You don't want ANY dough to be sticking out or you'll have a huge mess later.

Once you've formed all of your tamales, get some water boiling in a large pot with a steamer basket with a lid.  Place the tamales inside the steamer basket and once the water is steaming, start the timer for 1 hour.  You might have to do this in two or three batches depending on how large your pot is.  Try not to lift the lid while the tamales are steaming, but please make sure to check that there is still water at the bottom of the pot a few times during the process.  You'll probably have to add more water once or twice.

Once the tamales are done, remove them from the steamer and let them sit for about 10 minutes before you start unwrapping them.  You need to let them cool a little first or else the tamale will stick to the corn husks.  Wait just a bit and they'll come out beautifully.

Don't eat the husk!  Unwrap, smother with mole and/or salsa and enjoy!

Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

12 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2-3 serrano chiles, seeded
2 avocados, diced
1/2 Cup fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoons lime juice (fresh if you can)

Preheat a heavy pan over medium-high heat, preferably a cast iron skillet if you've got one.  Cook the tomatillos, onion, garlic and chiles until charred about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a food processor.  Process until no large chunks remain.  Add the remaining ingredients and process a little bit more just to combine.  Chill for a bit until the temperature is to your liking.  Serve on top of tamales or even just on tortilla chips.  Yum!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seattle Loves Vegans

I love Seattle.  I wish I could meld Seattle with Vancouver so I could live in both places at once.  That would be rad.  Until I figure out how to do that, I'll have to settle for visiting every now and then.  Luckily, I have an awesome friend down there to give me an excuse for doing just that.  Every time I visit we always end up eating ourselves silly.  This past weekend was no exception.

I was really looking forward to going to Squid & Ink for lunch on Saturday.  That was always one of my favorite places.  I was so sad to find out they went out of business.  I'm crying little vegan tears over that one, let me tell you.  They had a flipping awesome menu at that place.  I hope they try and open up again in a better location.  I'll drive down for the grand opening.

Another of my favorite places is the Georgetown Liquor Company.  This is a great little vegetarian and vegan place that serves some amazing vegan tamales and lots of awesome sandwiches with field roast.  The Picard is a favorite.  They didn't used to open until 2 or 3 on Saturdays and it killed me to wait that long for lunch each time.  But, awesomely, now they're open at 10am for brunch!!!  And man, what a yummy brunch it is.  I wish I had remembered to take photos of the food before we decimated it.  It's not exactly photo-friendly lighting in there anyway, so maybe it wouldn't have worked.  Seth and I both had the Chicken Fried Steak.  That's a lovely piece of breaded seitan covered in delicious gravy with a side of roasted potatoes and toast.  I am SO going back for that.  James had the Vegan Eggs Benedict which he seemed to really like.  It was plated really nicely.  I had a forkful and it was quite tasty.  Almost all of the brunch stuff is vegan or easily veganizable by just substituting the cheese for vegan cheese.  Another cool thing for brunch is the make-your-own bloody mary bar.  Sweet.


Dinner was at India Bistro.  This was my first time eating there, but Seth assures me he goes there at least once a week.  I can see why.  I asked the waiter about an item on the menu containing dairy and he volunteered that it was a vegan item.  Big props to them for not only knowing what vegan is, but for having a bunch of vegan options on the menu.  Yay!  When you go, order the Bhindi Masala.  It's the seriously THE BEST Bhindi Masala I have ever had in my entire life.  Most places overcook the okra and it ends up slimy.  This was cooked to perfection.  James had something with dairy in it, so I didn't try his, but Seth had the Aloo Gobi and that was also really wonderful.  I will definitely not be sad about going back there again.  Oh, and the naan is also vegan.  Yeah, I know right.

A tradition for my Seattle trips is a trip to Mighty-O Donuts.  I go there every Sunday on my way back to Vancouver.  I always get a few donuts to eat there and a bunch to take home with me.  I got 4 of the chocolate raspberry donuts this time.  Those are my absolute favorite.  Such a moist chocolate donut with real raspberries in the glaze.  We also got a few of the seasonal pumpkin spice donuts.  So tasty.  I love that I can get lattes made with rice milk here, too.  I wish more places in Vancouver offered that as an option.  I still have two donuts left from my haul, but I'm not sure if they're going to last the night.


I still have two donuts left from my haul, but I'm not sure if they're going to last the night.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tofu Scramble and Herb-Roasted Potatoes.

I could eat breakfast all day long. I kind of love those days when I don't really much in the cabinets for dinner except breakfasty things. It's almost like a treat to have breakfast for dinner. It's kind of funny how that is. I remember even as a kid loving turning meals on their heads and having breakfast at the wrong time of day.


It's dinner time and all I want is breakfast, so here's a photo of tofu scramble and herb-roasted potatoes that I actually did eat in the morning last weekend. Both of these recipes are from Vegan with a Vengeance. It's funny because when making tofu scramble, I usually like to just fly by the seat of my pants and throw in whatever I feel like and any leftover bits of veggies that might be hanging around in the fridge. For some reason I wanted to go exactly by the recipe this time. I don't typically add nutritional yeast to my scrambles unless it's just a little sprinkle on top; for that matter, I don't usually add carrots either. The only thing I always require is hot sauce for the potatoes. And sometimes for the scramble, too.

This is a mighty fine way to start the day, though. If you've never made roasted potatoes or tofu scramble, I highly recommend checking out the recipes in Vegan with a Vengeance. That's actually where I learned how to make both of those things.

Now, if only I could figure out how to get my cats to make dinner for me for a change...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things That Are Awesome: Soy-Free Earth Balance

Earth Balance is one of the most awesome things to happen to margarine in like... ever.  I love that it's not hydrogenated.  I love that it tastes awesome.  I love that it comes in sticks and tubs.  And now, I love that there's a soy-free version!  I wish this also came in stick form, I have to say, but I don't really mind just scooping it out of the container to use in recipes.  It seems to work just as well.


I haven't done a side-by-side taste comparison, but it tastes pretty much the same to me.  I'm not supposed to be eating soy as often as I might like, so this is a product I was really excited for.  It came to the US before Canada and I was chomping at the bit waiting for the day when I could finally buy it.  I think I pestered the customer service people at Whole Foods at least once a month asking when it would be available.

If you're trying to avoid soy for whatever reason, this stuff is for you.  I think it's good to get more of a variety in the foods we eat, anyway.  My naturopath tells me that sometimes eating too much of a particular food can actually cause a sensitivity.  It's interesting how much soy there is in pretty much everything when you start reading labels.  Soy lecithin in particular is hard to avoid.   When I was doing an elimination diet about a year ago to try and get some of my food allergies sorted, the lack of soy-free margarine was a real kicker.  I was using coconut oil as a substitute for margarine on toast, but it's hard to replicate this flavor on things like baked potatoes and the like.

Soy-free Earth Balance, I <3 you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Organize It!

I've always had a ton of herbs and spices.  So many, in fact, that sometimes I can't find basil, for instance, and I'll think I'm out.  So I go buy more basil.  Then I discover I actually have 3 jars of basil and a bulk refill.  When I moved last year, this is exactly what I discovered was happening.  I'd been wanting to find a better way to organize my spices for ages, but just hadn't been quite motivated enough to do it.

I had one of those little round shelf things that turn shoved into one of the shorter cabinets that we all seem to end up with in our kitchens.  My herbs and spices were always overflowing from that, even.  I never knew if I was out of something or had 3 bottles of it.  It's so easy to accidentally shove a small jar or bag to the back of the cabinet.


When I moved last October, I was determined to fix the situation.  I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but there are 3 cooking stores within a few blocks of my new place.  I know, right.  It's rough not to go in there and just spend every penny I have on awesome gadgets and bowls and pots and things.  I did deem it worthy to spend money on these awesome spice racks, though.  Is spice rack even the right term for what this is?  It's more of a spice panel, I think.  This is actually 3 of them put together.  Each panel has 12 little containers on it.  I have one of those label makers you can get from the office supply store and I labeled every jar with a black on clear label of what's inside.  It's funny, the labels look like they fit with the whole setup so well that most people assume they just came with the spice rack (panel?).  That's kind of awesome.

I actually need one more to fit absolutely everything.  I still have a ton of things in the cabinet, but they're things I don't use quite as often like asafoetida and fenugreek seeds.  These weren't cheap, but they're so worth it. (No, they didn't come from Ikea, the Ikea ones have crappy magnets and are on these tiny little metal shelf things that sit on the counter).  I'm constantly admiring how awesome this looks in my kitchen.  Not only does it save space in the cabinets, but it's so easy to know what I have or need to refill.  And yes, everything is in alphabetical order.  I wouldn't be able to find anything otherwise!

You could probably rig something like this up yourself if you're so inclined.  I'm just a bit of one for instant-gratification sometimes so I let someone else do the work for me.  Cookworks, where I bought this, is always out of these.  The sales lady told me when I bought them that they'd been out for weeks and had only just got them in a few days before I came in to buy the last three.


Another cool idea for organizing the rest of the stuff in your cabinets is to use canning jars.  I went nuts and jarred up just about every single thing in my cabinets.  This is only one of my cabinets, I'm not sure what happened to the other photos I took, but dang, what a difference.  I had a similar thing going on with all of this stuff.  I had 3 different little bags of pecans and various bags of crystallized ginger hanging out, all in different parts of different cabinets.  I can find everything so easily now and nothing gets stored in plastic, which I love.  I started out using the labels that came with the jars, but as I wash them and refill them with something different than what the label says, I just use masking tape.  That works just fine and it looks kind of cute and homey, actually.

Now go organize your cabinets!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vegan Poutine

I had a big plate of vegan poutine for lunch today at Loving Hut.  It was awesome.  If you don't know what poutine is, it's fries with gravy and cheese.  I didn't know what it was before I moved to Canada, either.  It's super tasty and Loving Hut is the only place that I know of where I can get a vegan version.  I've found lots of places to get fries and veggie gravy, which rules even on its own, really.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Biscuits and Gravy for Brunch

Sunday is usually a day that we get a bit of a late start.  It's nice to get to catch up on the week's lost sleep and start the morning slowly.  We also tend to make an effort to have a nice brunch on Sundays.  Today we had some more awesomeness from Vegan Brunch.  That cookbook is slowly going the way of Vegan with a Vengeance.  I've made almost every single recipe in VwaV.  My copy is battered, and well-loved for sure.  It was actually the first cookbook I've ever owned that I've made that many recipes from.


One of the most fun things about Vegan Brunch is the varied options for awesome breakfast/brunch/lunch that I might not have thought of previously.  I used to make a standard breakfast of either muffins or tofu scramble and roasted potatoes for weekend mornings.  Not that those things aren't awesome, but sometimes you want to get out of the rut a bit, even if that rut is a delicious one.  I'm going to try and make something from that cookbook at least once a week for the next little while.  It's definitely becoming one of my favorites.


In the header for the Herbed Drop Biscuits recipe, Isa says that she can't be bothered to roll and cut out biscuits anymore.  I hear ya, girl.  I feel exactly the same way.  Even when I have a roll-out biscuit recipe, I tend to just shape them with my hand instead of going through the whole rigamarole of flouring the counter, rolling and cutting them and creating way more cleanup than is really necessary.

I used half spelt flour and half unbleached wheat flour in these.  I also had some fresh herbs on hand so I used those instead of using dried.   They're really easy to make and turn out so wonderful.  Nice and soft on the inside with a nice crust.  These biscuits are great for eating with just a bit of Earth Balance or smothering in gravy.

I've also made the Mini Chive Spelt Biscuits from Vegan Brunch and they're also really tasty and great with this gravy.  It's cute to have little biscuits, too.


Speaking of gravy, you really should try this Navy Bean Gravy.  It's super easy to make.  I use an immersion blender to blend mine, but if you don't have one, you can just use a regular blender or a food processor when it comes to that step.  The flavor is nice, and not too overpowering.  I tend to like to saute a few shitake mushrooms and add them to the gravy.  Sometimes I'll add a few at the beginning and blend them in with the rest and chop the rest and add them on top.

To serve, you can just put some biscuits on a plate and put gravy over them.  I like to put the gravy in a bowl and tear my biscuits into pieces and put them in with the gravy and eat the whole thing with a spoon. Whatever works.

A nice accompaniment is a faux mimosa.  Just add a mixture of half orange juice and half carbonated water (I use San Pellegrino) in a glass.  Very refreshing and sorta fancy looking, too.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


A few weeks ago while in Toronto for the weekend for a wedding, James and I discovered a hidden gem of a Mexican restaurant in Kensington Market.  According to Yelp, La Tortilleria is closed now, which is a bummer.  I suspect they just moved to a new location in the Market or else another Mexican place opened up using the same name.  Either way, the food was amazing, though admittedly a bit slow to come.


One of the things we had that we liked the most was called Guacanachos.  I know, right.  What a weird name.  I've never heard of anything called that before and let me tell you, I love Mexican food.  I loved it already, but living in Texas and a few visits to Southern California here and there cemented it.  Now that I live in Canada, I realize that most of the people up here have never actually had real Mexican food.  At least not in Vancouver.  I make things at home all of the time that I remember eating out and loving.  That fills the void a bit, but I really wish we had some good burrito places up here.  My favorite was always Freebirds in Dallas.  If you live anywhere near one, then you know what I mean.

Anyway, we loved these Guacanachos so much that they've been put into our regular rotation at home.  This might seem like a really boring recipe, but trust me, it's awesome in its simplicity.  Basically you have tortilla chips layered with fresh guacamole and refried black beans.  That's it.  Part of the key is to have salty black beans.  I'm already a guacamole fiend.  James makes the best, too.  We'll frequently make a bowl of 2 avocado guacamole to munch on while watching a movie or something.  I'm such a freak for it that he usually lets me have about two-thirds of it.  Soooo good.

If you're making this please, please, please make your own guacamole.  That weird stuff that comes out of a plastic tub is never good and then you'll think my recipe sucks.  It's super easy to make, so don't worry.  The hardest part is having patience while your avocados ripen!  Everyone makes guacamole slightly differently so don't get too hung up on being exact about things.  Just throw some stuff in and enjoy it.

The color is off in this photo.  I couldn't quite get the color right again.  I just put it up here so you can tell what kind of consistency you're aiming for.

James' Awesome Guacamole

2 ripe avocados
1 juicy lime
salt and pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients - Add one, none or all of these!

fresh tomatoes, diced (not canned tomatoes ever)
diced onion (I like to use red onion, personally),
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 Tablespoons diced fresh cilantro
1-2 Tablespoons orange juice

Remove the skins from the avocados. Mash the avocado up into little pieces in a small to medium bowl.  I usually use a fork, but James likes to use two butter knives.  His way takes longer but it always ends up with lots of chunks of avocado in the guacamole, which I have to say, I prefer.

Once the avocado is in little pieces, squeeze the lime into the bowl.  Add a bit of salt and pepper and mix with the fork or knives again.  At this point, taste the guacamole to see if you need to add a little more lime or salt.  Now add in any of the remaining ingredients that you're using.  We usually add diced tomatoes and onions.  I love the addition of garlic, but James isn't as much of a garlic hound as I am so he usually leaves it out.

 Home-Style Refried Beans (from Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero)

2 Tablespoons corn, peanut or olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced small
1-2 jalapeno or serrano chiles, seeded and minced (it's okay to use jalapenos in a jar, I usually do)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground chile powder, such as ancho or a blend
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans drained and rinced or 3 1/2 to 4 cups of cooked beans
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
salt and fresh pepper

In a large, heavy cast-iron skillet, combine the oil and garlic and cook over medium heat.  Allow the garlic to sizzle for 30 seconds, then add the onion and jalapeno.  Using a wooden spoon to stir occasionally, fry until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle in the cumin, oregano, and chile powder and fry for another 30 seconds.

Stir in the beans, bay leaf and water and increase heat to medium-high.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium again and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until more than half the liquid has been absorbed but about half an inch of liquid remains.

Remove the bay leaf and discard.  Use a potato masher to mash the beans smooth (I usually use my immersion blender), then stir to form a thick, moist paste, anywhere from 5-8 minutes.  If refried beans appear to dry out, add a little water a few tablespoons at a time, until your desired consistency is reached.  Serve immediately.



tortilla chips
refried black beans

Place chips on a plate.  Spoon guacamole randomly over the chips.  Spoon some refried black beans over that.  Add a few more chips and then another layer of guacamole and another layer of beans.

Eat and enjoy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vegan Omelettes: not just in your daydreams anymore

I love breakfast and brunch.  I mean, seriously, it's like the most awesome thing ever.  I especially love when I have a morning with nothing to do so I can relax and make something awesome for brunch.  It's great to just sit with a cup of tea and fool around on the computer or with Netflix for an hour or two before I have to actually be awake enough to feed myself.  Mornings like this are made for Vegan Brunch!

For reals, y'all.  If you don't already have this cookbook, run, do not walk and get it.  There are a few recipes in here that have changed my life.  And by changed my life, I mean turned me into some kind of crazy-excited to make brunch kind of person.  Some of the recipes in this book are even great as side dishes for dinners or even as a light lunch.  Dang, I just got all excited just now thinking of all the things I need to remake and photograph so I can blog about them.  I'll try not to do it all on the same day so I don't gain like a bajillion pounds stuffing brunch in my face over one weekend.


One of the first things I tried after I got this book was the recipe for vegan omelettes.  Say what?!  Yeah.  Mostly I was intrigued.  I had never even considered such a thing.  It's been years and years and years since I've eaten an egg, but I remember not liking them as a kid.  Thankfully these are flipping awesome, not yucky like the real thing that I remember.  You do need a non-stick pan for this, though.  You can always just use your cast iron pan like I do and that'll work just fine since they get worked in to being non-stick anyway.  Don't be intimidated.  I am completely incapable of making pancakes that actually resemble pancakes, but these look awesome every time.  The batter is fairly thick so maybe that helps them keep their shape a bit more.

The omelette itself is nice and light and fluffy and so full of flavor.  I don't know what I was expecting, but I didn't know these would taste so amazing.  The main ingredients are tofu, chickpea flour and nutritional yeast with a few other things added.  I think you definitely need to make sure you're using chickpea flour and not a different type of flour because that is where a large part of the flavor is coming from.  Don't cheat, go out and get some from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or where ever you can find that sort of thing in your area.  Chickpea flour is kind of awesome, actually.  You can use it instead of regular flour for a thickener when you're making gravy and sauces.  I've started using that in my gravies instead of wheat flour and it's really bumped the flavor up a notch.

But back to talking about omelettes. Isa gives you some options for fillings if you're stuck for what to put inside.  Try one or all of them and then start mixing and matching.  It really doesn't matter what you use, just get some veggies and saute or steam them a bit and you're good to go.  Heck, you could even make a Daiya cheese omelette.  Oh yeah, I'm totally doing that.  I typically go for the same thing every time.  I'm always happy to find a reason to eat asparagus so I saute some of that with some onions or shallots, garlic and tomatoes.  Add some freshly ground pepper and Himalayan sea salt and you're golden.


The recipe says to use black salt.  That can be very hard to find.  Even in Vancouver where I can usually find things like that with little problem, it took a bit of looking.  I finally found some, but honestly, I'm not sure if it's the real deal like what Isa means because it tastes just like regular salt to me, only... black.  My point is not to stress about it if you don't have it.  You can just use regular salt and everything will still be delicious.  You really should make some roasted potatoes to go with this.  It's like the perfect pairing.  Though I would probably say that about roasted potatoes with anything at brunch.

I find that this recipe usually makes 4 omelettes.  The cool thing is that they reheat well, so you can have one on your leisurely Sunday morning and then when Monday rolls around and you're grumpy and getting ready to go to work, you can just reheat one of these bad boys and your day has suddenly gotten better.  I haven't tried freezing them, so I'm not sure if that would affect the texture or not.  If anyone does that, would you mind letting me know how it went?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Soup and a Quesadilla at Sejuiced

Welcome to another edition of "What SaraJane had for lunch today."  But really, this post could work at least once a week.  I have this exact same thing at least once a week.  I apologize for the crappy photos, I was using my phone camera and it was a dark day.  I mostly wanted to hurry up and take the pictures so I could put this food in my tummy.

There is a great veg*n place near my office called Sejuiced.  I think Veg News actually added them to their write up about Vancouver when they profiled this city a year or so ago.  Sejuiced is awesome because they have tons of great stuff made with fresh fruits and veggies.  Most of the menu is already vegan or can be made vegan easily and there are quite a few raw choices.  You can order lots of awesome fresh juices and there is a small selection of raw and vegan dessert type things, too.  Every day there are two vegan soup choices and right now there is also a vegan chili!  I have yet to try the vegan caesar salad, but I want to.  I just keep getting drawn in by my longing for awesome soup.

I used to always get the Ananda Bowl (grilled tofu over brown rice and greens with tomatoes with an amazing tahini sauce) but now I always go for the lentil dal soup.  I like their soups because they're never full of salt or oil.  You can always tell that lots of fresh ingredients went in to making them.  I mean, look at this picture!  You can even see some of the cumin seeds hanging out on top.  There are usually a few good-sized pieces of yam in here, too.  Mmmm...

I find that just a bowl of soup sometimes isn't quite enough so I usually add a small salad or something to my soup.  Well, usually until I realized there is herion in the quesadillas.  Sejuiced will substitite Daiya cheese (yay!) for anything with cheese in it for just 50 cents.  Black bean quesadilla with Daiya, please!  Normally the quesadilla comes with a side of tzaziki, but since I'm getting all vegan up in this piece, they give me a little cup of diced veggies and citrus.  It's a salsa of sorts, I guess.  Who cares, it's good.

Vegan black bean quesadilla

This is a great lunch for a cold, grey, rainy, Vancouver day.  The food is always great, the staff is always friendly and I always feel pleasantly full after eating here.  You never know what kinds of perks you'll get with your food, either.  For example, the day I came in and took these photos they were playing the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.  It brought me back to junior high!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup

It was a bummer when I found out that Starbucks puts dairy in their pumpkin spice flavoring. Lame, Starbucks, lame! I always look forward to the holiday coffees, especially the gingerbread latte. A couple of years ago, a friend got me hooked on the peppermint mocha. (No dairy in the mocha chocolate!) It's funny. I don't even drink coffee on a regular basis. I'm more of a tea girl, really. Even so, I usually treat myself to a holiday coffee once a week when they're out. Usually on a Friday, just to make that day a little better.

Well, last year I found out that I have a bit of a sensitivity to soy. I can have it every now and then, but then I have to steer clear of it for a few weeks before I can have it again. I've noticed that some things affect me more than others. Soy milk is pretty much a no-go now. For some reason that gets me every time, no matter how long it's been. Not many coffee shops offer any other alternatives to dairy and soy so I spent last holiday season longing for my seasonal lattes.


Last week as I was walking home from work, I decided to poke around Williams-Sonoma since it's on the way. It's always fun to look at the gadgets and baking pans and dream of owning a full set of Le Creuset pans. As I was poking around one of the sales people told me that there were a couple of tables of clearance items at the back that I might want to take a look at. It's mostly Thanksgiving stuff that they're getting rid of since we had that holiday a month ago and it's encroaching on the winter holidays now. I spied a bottle of pumpkin spice latte syrup on the table. I was immediately suspicious, assuming it would have ingredients in it that I don't want. But no!


The main ingredient is pumpkin puree with nothing else but real ingredients. No strange flavorings or anything like that. Oh, man. I really need to go back and pick up a couple more bottles, especially since it's on clearance. It tastes so good, too! I had some espresso powder in the cabinet that I use for baking sometimes so I made a little of that, heated some rice milk and added a couple tablespoons of pumpkin spice latte syrup. Yum! It tastes so amazing, really warm and comforting. Like drinking a pumpkin pie or something.

On another awesome note, I found out this morning that Blenz has almond milk now! (For those of you not in Canada, Blenz is like the Canadian Starbucks.)  Now to find a way to make a peppermint mocha at home...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Buttery Sage Sauce

I used to have a subscription to Bon Appetit magazine.  I can't remember why I let it run out; I had been receiving that magazine every month for at least ten years.  I've been vegetarian or vegan for all of them, too.  I know there are some veg*ns that don't like reading some of the mainstream food magazines.  I totally get that.  For me, it's more of a source of inspiration.  As I'm reading the magazine, I'm not thinking that the thing on the page and in the recipe is beef, but seitan or tempeh.  I'm not reading about milk and cheese, my gears are turning with ways to make similar sauces and desserts and things using tahini and raw cashews.  The funny thing is that I actually stopped subscribing to Vegetarian Times because they were starting to really annoy me with how much cheese and eggs they were using in what seemed like every single recipe.  It just got old after a while.  Hey, guess what VT?  Eating fresh, whole fruits and vegetables is good for you and much less artery clogging than that crap.  Sheesh.


Anyway, I was at the checkout in the grocery store, waiting patiently in line.  I always read the magazine headlines for amusement while I'm waiting.  I don't usually know who the trash magazines are talking about, but it amuses me just the same.  There are really about 4 headlines, insert names here.  As I was scanning, I noticed the October issue of Bon Appetit had an amazing looking apple pie on the cover.  Yum!  The fall and winter issues were always my favorite anyway so I decided what the heck and on impulse, I bought it.  What a great decision.  I have made a bunch of recipes inspired by this issue.  A few of the recipes inside are already vegan, too.  Way to go, Bon Appetit!

One of the recipes that I've made my own that I've liked the most is the Butternut Squash Gnocchi.  I've only ever had gnocchi a few times and I've never tried to make it.  I try to eat with the seasons as much as possible so this sounded perfect.  Let me tell you, this is one delicious dish.  It was a bit time-consuming, but most of it was spent waiting for something to cool, not actually doing much of anything.  It's actually quite easy, too.

I'm going to give the recipe for the sauce I made here, too, but I have to say that I wasn't overly thrilled with how that turned out.  It was WAY too buttery for my liking.  I stayed pretty true to the Bon Appetit recipe for this part, but next time I'm going to make a creamy sauce using raw nuts or something instead of this.  I still have a bunch of gnocchi in the freezer so I'll be sure to post whenever I improve on the sauce.

That brings me to another point.  This is going to make a truckload of gnocchi.  I put half of it in the freezer so I'll have it for later.  You'll probably want to just half the sauce if you're doing that.  It makes a ton and unlike how I feel about most sauces, you'll want to go light on it.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

According to Bon Appetit, this makes 6 servings.  They also give a good tip: "For perfect gnocchi, don't work the dough too much and add as little flour as possible.  It's okay if the dough is a little sticky."

1 1-pound butternut squash
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 12-14 ounce russet potato, peeled, quartered

¾ cup nutritional yeast, divided
150g silken or soft tofu (about half of a Mori-Nu pack or one of these)
1½ teaspoons nutmeg (freshly grated if you've got it)
1 teaspoon salt
1¾ cups (or more) all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut the squash lengthwise in half; discard seeds. Place squash halves, cut side up, on baking sheet and brush with oil. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced with a fork and browned in spots, about an hour and a half.  Cool the squash a bit so you don't burn yourself.  Peel the squash as best you can.  Break it into chunks (either with your hands or a knife) and put it in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Transfer it all to a medium sized pot.  Turn the heat to medium and stir constantly until the juices evaporate and the puree thickens, about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  Take 1 packed cup of the puree for the gnocchi.  You can use the rest for something else.  Soup maybe?

Meanwhile, cook the potato in salted water until it's very tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain.  While the potato is warm, mash it using a fork or a potato ricer.  Don't use a processor or mixer for this step or the potato will get all gluey and you don't want that.  Take 2 cups of mashed potato for the gnocchi and use the rest for something else.

Process the tofu with a tablespoon of water in either a blender or food processor until it's smooth.  Mix the squash, potato, ½ cup of the nutritional yeast, tofu, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl.  Gradually add 1¾ cups flour, kneading the mixture gently in the bowl until it holds together and is almost smooth.  If it's too sticky, add more flour by the tablespoonfuls.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface; knead gently but briefly until just smooth.  Divide it into 8 equal pieces.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Sprinkle the parchment lightly with flour.  Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about a ½-inch rope. Cut the rope crosswise into ¾-inch pieces (I found that to be about the width of the back of a fork).  Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along the back of a fork dipped in flour, making ridges on 1 side with the tines.  Transfer gnocchi to the baking sheets.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and chill at least 1 hour.  You can do this up to 6 hours ahead if you need to.

Working in 2 batches, cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling, salted water until it's very tender, about 15 to 17 minutes.  Gnocchi will float to the surface before being fully cooked so don't be fooled!  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the sam parchment lined baking sheets.  Cover loosely and chill for up to 8 hours or go ahead and put it in bowls or on plates if your sauce is ready.

Buttery Sage Sauce

½ cup (1 stick) Earth Balance
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
A couple of handfuls of shitake mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the Earth Balance over medium heat.  Drop in the mushrooms and saute them for about 5-8 minutes.  Add the sage and pine nuts, cook for another minute or so.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and ladle over the gnocchi.  Alternately, you can drop the gnocchi in the pan and warm it up in the sauce and spoon it out all together if you want.  

Sprinkle with the remaining nutritional yeast and enjoy!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Apple Pie Muffins

Let's keep the apple pie thing going a bit, shall we?  Apples are the perfect fruit for fall, anyway.  I always find myself baking tons of things with apples at this time of the year.  Ooh, and how I love some hot apple cider.  (with or without a dash of spiced rum.)


If you're feeling like you want something awesome and appley (is that even a word?) then you should really make these Apple Pie Muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance. They're awesome. But that's not really a surprise. I've yet to have anything from Isa that I didn't like. I think the things I've made most in VwaV are the muffins and soups, actually. But I digress.

These muffins are wonderfully moist and full of nice apple bits. If you sprinkle the batter with a bit of sugar after it's in the muffin cups, you'll get a bit of yummy crunch on the outside, too. I did that to some of them, but I didn't take photos of those for some reason.

Now go. Start making the perfect muffin for fall!  Your tummy will thank you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lunch at Sha-Lin Noodle House

I changed jobs not too long ago and that has greatly affected my lunchtime choices. I'm not really that far away, but it's enough that lunch is a bit more boring now. There is one really awesome veg*n place just a couple of blocks from work, but I'm trying not to go there too often so that I don't get sick of it. Also, lunch in this area is about twice the price. Yikes. If I have errands to run at lunch, I'll usually try to fit in the time to at least pick up some food from some of my old favorites. Yesterday when I found myself at City Hall getting a parking permit for my neighborhood, I was quite excited to find myself in and out quickly. That meant I could actually sit and enjoy lunch. Yay!


The Sha-Lin Noodle House has quickly become one of my favorite places to have lunch, especially on a cold and/or grey day. Not only can I get a full meal for less than $7 including tax, but it's absolutely delicious and so fresh. I pretty much have the same thing every single time I go there. Dragging noodles in soup with vegetables (and sometimes with tofu, too) in vegetable broth.  I especially love the little pot of hot chiles in oil on the table.  I always use at least two spoonfuls, which, really, I should have done after I took these photos, but oh well. 

One note - you do have to specify that you want the vegetable broth or else you'll end up with something else you probably don't want. The menu has a little picture of a bok choy next to everything that can be made vegetarian to help you. :) Actually, the menu is quite extensive. I should almost be ashamed of myself for not ordering anything different. Next time, I'll have to try to branch out a bit.

Here's what's especially special about this place: They make the noodles right there. There's actually a glass wall separating one part of the kitchen from the dining room so that you can watch them do it. The vegetables that are in the food are very, very fresh. They usually still have a bit of crunch to them. The bok choy is always that gorgeous bright green color it gets from a fresh steam. It's so appetizing even to look at. The bowl is huge. Whenever I eat here, I'm always full until dinner time with none of the 4:00 hunger that I can be prone to.

Fast, delicious, fresh and cheap. What more could you want in a lunch?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Comments and Elephants

Okay so this post really has nothing to do with elephants.  But isn't there some saying about elephants never forgetting?  I am clearly not an elephant.

I just realized that I haven't been getting any notifications about approving comments on posts for quite some time.  Dang it.  No more brownie fail, but now I've got comment fail.  I'm fixing it now, so if you commented at some point in the last 6 months (yikes) I'm sorry!  I didn't realize I wasn't getting notified about them.

I missed a vegan mofo post yesterday!  Comment fail and posting fail.  Really, though I was just too darned busy yesterday to post at all.  I'm going to try and make a few extra posts this weekend and keep them pending so I can just publish a post if I'm having one of those crazy days.  I'm determined to be an every day mofo!  hehe

Now here is a photo of some fall leaves since I think all posts should have photos.  I actually took this photo on my walk to work one morning.  The colors in Vancouver have been just amazing this year.  If you're interested in the rest of the photos I took that morning, you can find them in my Flickr set here.

The End of Brownie Fail

There are two things that I've never been able to make successfully; brownies and pancakes.  The pancakes usually taste okay, but they look like a crazy person made them, so I don't really sweat that one.  No matter how recipe I use, no matter how hard I try, I end up with brownie fail.  Yes, before you ask, I've tried everything.  I've used glass pans, metal pans, turned the oven up, turned the oven down, used less liquid, used more liquid, baked them for shorter or longer.  You might wonder why I keep trying when I know how these things are going to turn out.  I don't know, I just always hope that one day things will be different. 


Veganomicon saved brownies.  Seriously.  I've made these awesome brownies a bunch of times and they always come out fantastic. At first I was skeptical of blueberries in a brownie.  I have no idea why, but I made these with the blueberries the first time.  The cool thing about that is that you can't immediately recognize what fruit is in the brownie.  You just notice how unbelievably moist it is.  The cool thing about using jam as part of the sweetener is that the brownie doesn't taste like plain sugar.  Some people might like that, but I'm one of those people that tend to scrape frosting off of cupcakes leaving only a tiny bit.  I actually had a coworker once that would take my discarded frosting and eat it by itself.  That's kind of hilarious.

Go make these awesome fruity brownies.  I've tried using blueberries, raspberries and cherries so far.  All of them have turned out wonderful.  I even did a blueberry/raspberry mixture once when I had some leftover berries of each in the fridge.  Yum!  I think I might try using blackberries or even loganberries when they're in season next.  Yum!

One thing to keep in mind when making brownies - I have learned that using a metal pan versus a glass pan typically works out better.  If you're having epic brownie fail like I was, you might try making these in one of those pans.  You won't be sorry, I promise.