Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Zucchini Spelt Muffins

I was feeling like I wanted to bake some muffins one morning last week. With no idea what kind of muffin I wanted, I started flipping through some cookbooks. That might have been a bit of a mistake because then I wanted one of everything just about. When I opened to the Zucchini Spelt Muffins recipe in Vegan Brunch, I started thinking about how much I used to like zucchini bread when I was a kid. Then it hit me that the last time I had zucchini bread was probably also when I was a kid. That just seemed wrong, somehow.


I've been trying to use different types of flours when I'm baking lately instead of just using plain old wheat flour all of the time. The fact that these muffins were made from spelt definitely didn't hurt. In fact, I think it made them a bit tastier. The spelt flour gave the muffins a bit more of a wholesome sort of flavor that went so well with the zucchini and spices. Oh, the spices! These muffins smell so wonderful when baking with the aromas of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg filling the air. I almost want to bake them just to smell them!

The recipe is pretty bare bones, just zucchini and the muffin batter, but I added a cup of chopped, toasted walnuts to mine. If you like nuts in your muffins and breads, I definitely think it's a welcome addition. I like the bit of added texture and flavor. The recipe says to let the muffins cool for 10 minutes before eating them. I recommend doing that. If you don't they'll likely stick to the muffin papers. Your muffins will still be warm 10 minutes after being removed from the oven, so don't worry.


Overall, the muffins were absolutely delicious. They turned out nice and fluffy and quite tasty all on their own. I did cut my muffins in half and add a bit of Earth Balance as I was eating them a few times. They seem quite good for that sort of thing if you're into it.

These freeze really well, too! If you're not familiar with this trick, here's what you do. (I got this from one of the side notes in Vegan with a Vengeance. Such a great idea.) Go ahead and put paper muffin cups in an entire muffin tray. Fill them up with batter just as you would if you were going to eat them all right now. Put the entire tray in the freezer. Once everything is frozen, take the muffins and transfer them to some sort of freezer-safe food container or a freezer bag. Now you have muffins ready to go whenever you want just one or two at a time! When you bake them, set the temperature to the same as you would if they weren't frozen and just cook the muffins for 10 minutes longer than the regular cooking time. I suggest labeling your muffin container with the kind of muffin, the baking temperature and the length of cooking time when frozen. That way you won't have to wonder what they are or go look it up every time you want to bake one.

It's a pretty sweet way to go if you want to make a bunch of muffins and you can't eat an entire dozen or if you want freshly baked muffins in the morning before work or something. I do that frequently. It's nice to have something freshly baked on a dreary Monday morning when you're not really feeling like going to work.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Upside-Down Lentil Shepherd's Pie

I'm not sure exactly what led me to make this shepherd's pie. I've actually never really cared for that dish before. I think that maybe I've just never had a good one. Shepherd's pie usually brings to mind overcooked vegetables topped with flavorless, gummy mashed potatoes. Even when presented with a recipe for a shepherd's pie, I'll typically pass in favor of just about anything else. Associations are hard to break sometimes, I guess.


Whatever possessed me to want to try the Upside-Down Lentil Shepherd's Pie in Appetite for Reduction, I'm glad for it. My mind has been forever changed. It's funny, too, presenting this as "upside-down" somehow makes my brain think it's less work than the other way. Really, I think it's pretty much the same amount, you're just not layering until you're ready to serve it. There's where the end of the overcooked veggies comes in, too.

This dish is full of so many good things: lentils, shitake mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, celery, peas, Caulipots. Oh, Caulipots. OMG, Caulipots. Seriously, Caulipots are like a revelation. It's pretty much just half and half cauliflower and potatoes mashed up together with a little bit of olive oil and vegetable broth mixed in. Much less fat than regular mashed potatoes and a truckload more flavor. I swear I could sit down and eat an entire bowl of Caulipots just by themselves.


I didn't feel like searching the city for du Puy lentils, so I just used plain old green lentils for this. I also added some beet greens because I had some that needed using and adding a few extra greens to a dish never hurt. You can conceivably make this using just two pots. One for the Caulipots and one for the lentils and veggies. Easy cleanup and easy to make. It's pretty quick, too. You could make this after work one night if you have everything on hand already. Who wouldn't like coming home to a nice meal like this, anyway? The thyme and tarragon simmering away with the veggies and lentils gives off such a wonderful aroma. That'll put you in a good mood if you weren't before.

This recipe calls for Worcestershire sauce. I definitely think it adds a nice bit of flavor to this dish. If you're having trouble finding a vegan brand, check the ingredients on the store brands. I was surprised to find that some of the local chain grocery stores around here have a vegan store brand Worcestershire sauce. That's kind of cool. If you can't find any or don't want to spend the money on something you might not use again, (what- you're not making a bloody mary for weekend brunches?) you can just use a bit of soy sauce and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar instead.

This is definitely a keeper recipe. I will for sure be making this again. It reheated really well and was a great leftover dish to take to work for the week. Your tummy will thank you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stuffing Our Faces at Edible Flours

Vancouver has an awesome new bakery! Edible Flours opened this past Saturday and boasts all vegan and some gluten-free items. If you're in Vancouver, I highly recommend making your way over to Kitsilano to treat yourself to a cupcake or muffin or scone or cookie or whatever. You won't be sorry. You'll find the bakery at 2280 West Broadway at Vine, right next to the London Drugs. They're open every day except Mondays. You can get more specific directions and hours here.


I really wanted to get down there on Saturday, but the day was chock-full of other things so we didn't get to help celebrate opening day. We did fit in a snack break while running a bunch of errands on Sunday, though. Sunday was such a warm, sunny, gorgeous Vancouver day that even running errands was quite pleasant. Stopping for a little sugar rush didn't hurt the enjoyment of the day, either, that's for sure.

Here's the deal. You can walk in and buy anything in the case and you can get a tea or a smoothie or a coffee or something to go with it. There are a few seats so you can eat inside if you want or take it with you. If you need a whole cake or a dozen cupcakes or something, you can also place orders for those things, which is super awesome.

We bought one of almost everything. In our defense, we were also picking up a few things for a friend who had to work and couldn't make it over. Also, I was just really excited and I wanted to try everything.


On this plate of yummies, you have a strawberry scone, a vanilla cupcake, Sunday's special - the maple glazed cinnamon doughnut and a bunch of chocolates. We'll talk about the chocolates in a minute.

First, I need to say that I am incredibly picky when it comes to eating other people's baked goods. Usually whenever I've been presented with a vegan cupcake that was purchased somewhere it's dry and dense and doesn't really taste very good. That makes me sad because that's not how the cupcakes I bake turn out and it's disappointing that there are people selling vegan cardboard and passing them off as cupcakes. The frosting is something I typically find full of sugar and tasteless. I usually just scrape it off because I'm not a fan of eating a pile of greasy sugar. No wonder the omnivores think our vegan treats won't taste very good!

None of those things are true about Edible Flours. I think this might have been one of the best cupcakes I have ever eaten. For reals. The cake itself was light, moist and fluffy and full of flavor. I can tell that maple syrup is being used to sweeten it and that gave it such a wonderful taste. The frosting had a faint lemon flavor. Not overpowering, just a hint that went so well with the vanilla-maple goodness of the cake. It wasn't just a greasy pile of sugar, either! The frosting was creamy and light and didn't taste overly sweet. So good! James got the cupcake for himself and gave me a bite just to taste. I kept making him give me more, it was so good. I actually spent most of the afternoon reminiscing about how good that cupcake tasted. Holy cow. There were a bunch of cupcakes, some gluten-free and some made with wheat flour.

The scone wasn't overly sweet and trying to be a muffin as I find most scones to be. It was a real scone with real pieces of freshly sliced strawberries in it. Delicious. The doughnut appears to be a baked doughnut if I'm not mistaken. It was quite tasty, a little bit like cake in itself with a nice maple glaze and a dusting of cinnamon on top. There were a few other flavors of doughnuts, but we only tried this one.


Yes, this is a picture taken inside the chocolate bag. James thought it was funny that I took the picture this way. I haven't eaten the chocolate yet. I'm saving these for an afternoon tea break today. The round one is a chocolate chai thing, the rectangular one is chocolate raspberry and the lumpy one is chocolate peanut butter. They look amazing, I can't wait to try them.


Here are some of the things we took to go. Another one of those glorious vanilla cupcakes for Erin, a chocolate gluten-free cupcake, a chocolate chip cookie and a lemon cookie. I haven't eaten the cookies yet, either. Those are probably going to be dessert tonight after dinner. They look fantastic, though. We'll see if I can hold out that long before eating them.

We ate the chocolate cupcake last night and it was also delicious. You won't believe this is gluten free. I mean, it is, but it doesn't taste like it. I can faintly taste a bit of rice flour in the mix, but just barely. This is a fluffy, flavorful cupcake. If you're avoiding wheat, you've just found the best thing ever about living gluten-free in Vancouver.

I will definitely go back here again and get some more yummies. It's funny, our old place was only a 15 minute walk from here and my old workplace was just down the street. Now I'm across town so I'll have to make a special trip to go to Edible Flours. It'll be so worth it, though. Yum!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Ricotta

Anytime I tell James I'll make anything he wants for dinner, his response is almost always lasagna. It's one of those great dishes that can hide so many veggies and usually makes leftovers for at least a couple days. I don't know why I don't make it more often. It's not really all that time consuming and it's definitely not hard.

The beauty of a lasagna is that you can make it however you want. I usually throw in whatever vegetables I have in the fridge that need to be used up. It's never turned out bad no matter what I put in there, either. My usual lasagna recipe is a culmination of different things. One thing that I think makes it really stand out is that I always make my own sauce. It not only tastes better than store-bought, it's really simple and easy to make.


I also typically use Isa's recipe for tofu ricotta from Vegan with a Vengeance. I've tried other ways to make the "cheese" part of the lasagna, but that one is always a winner. That's why I was really excited to try the cauliflower ricotta recipe in Appetite for Reduction. I'm in love with caulipots, and I've recently discovered pureed cauliflower to be an excellent secret ingredient in creamy sauces and soups. Why wouldn't cauliflower also be awesome in lasagna?! It's like I'm discovering the wonders of the cashew all over again or something.

I decided to make the lasagna pretty much exactly like the recipe in the book. I'm loving everything in Appetite for Reduction so far so I figured it couldn't hurt to change up my usual methods a bit since I was already changing up the ricotta. One note if you're doing the same - I was using dried thyme in the red sauce, not fresh and since I was trying to multi-task a bit too much while I was cooking, I added 2 tablespoons of dried thyme. Yikes. If you're using dried, maybe go for 2 teaspoons. Fresh is always better if you can get it, though. I just forgot to pick up some thyme when I was at the market.


All in all, I think this recipe was great! I will definitely be using the cauliflower ricotta recipe again. You pretty much just roast some cauliflower then mash it together with some tofu and nutritional yeast and a few other things and wham! you have cauliflower ricotta. I think it would also be good to add in some fresh basil leaves like the VwaV recipe. I always love fresh basil in pasta dishes; it adds such a wonderfully fresh flavor.

I added some zucchini, carrots and shitake mushrooms to the spinach as well. Again, you can really add whatever veggies you want, I'm sure it'll be fantastic. Though I'd be unsure how peas would go in lasagna. It would probably still be good, but maybe a little unexpected, I guess. I also added some sliced garlic-stuffed olives to the top since I couldn't be bothered to pit any kalamata olives that day. It was a really nice addition, actually.

One more thing: At our house, no lasagna is complete without some capers sprinkled on top. I highly recommend doing the same. You'll never go without again. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Brunch at Bandidas Taqueria

James and I are moving in a few days. Right now our apartment is full of boxes. Some are packed and taped, some are half-packed and some are still waiting to be filled. It's like a bomb went off in here or something. We're hoping to get the rest of the packing done today, which would be wonderful. If not, because of the packing and moving and waiting for the internet to be hooked up in our place next weekend, the blog might be silent for a week or so. I'm going to try and pre-write a few posts so I can just post them throughout the week. That all depends on how much time there is in between trying not to pack a cat in a box with the silverware and all that jazz.

I'm pretty excited to move for a few reasons. We'll be in a new neighborhood, which is awesome and we'll be closer to awesome brunch places like Bandidas Taqueria. I've become a bit addicted to that place lately. Now we'll be just a few short blocks away instead of across town. I can't even put into words how excited I am about that.


The last time we were at Bandidas we had brunch with a friend and in usual SJ style, I asked everyone to wait to start eating until I could get a few photos with my phone. I should have written down what everyone had, I'm just going to guess from looking at the menu online, but suffice it to say that we all thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

Everyone gets a teapot of their own. That's great for someone like me who will most definitely drink the entire pot.

One of the things I like best about Bandidas, besides that it's a cool vegetarian restaurant, is all of the great vegan options. I feel really lucky to live in Vancouver where there are a plethora of places that offer a tofu scramble as a breakfast option. But you know, sometimes you just don't really want to eat another tofu scramble. At Bandidas, you can replace eggs in any entree with a butternut squash-tofu combination. They also use Daiya cheese as a substitution for dairy cheese, as well. Always a bonus. There are so many different things to choose from, it's almost overwhelming. All of the plates are full of veggies, too. I feel like I've had a really healthy meal when I've eaten there.

The Alan's Breakfast, veganized

I'm pretty sure I had the Alan's Breakfast. It's pinto beans, corn tortillas, fresh salsas, guacamole, and butternut squash replacing the eggs with a bit of daiya in there underneath, purple cabbage and a little salad. I know, that's a lot of food. I ate every bite of it and loved it. I also got a side of the roasted potatoes and yams that James and I shared. I can't resist potatoes even though I only ate a few of them, James seemed to really feel like they added something to his meal.

The Vegan

The vegan. It's not just a label for people anymore, it's also a brunch dish at Bandidas. That's what James had. I should have tasted some of it. It looked really great. More of the yummy butternut squash-tofu combo over some daiya cheese and tortilla strips with some sauteed red peppers, onions and jalapenos with a red sauce on top. There are also some pinto beans in there on the far side of the plate next to the purple cabbage.

The Breakfast and The Vegan

Since it was a typical, rainy, grey Vancouver day, there wasn't much light over in our corner of the restaurant. I took a few pictures of Andy's plate, but none of them came out very well. You can see his over there with the cornbread stacked on top. I think he got what's called The Breakfast. That name kind of amuses me. You can see the potatoes and yams all piled up being awesome.

This was so good. It's not too bad price-wise, either. It's $10-11 for a plate piled up with food. Many times we end up taking leftovers home. This particular day we were  pretty hungry and ate every bite. Yum! If you're in Vancouver, I definitely recommend checking this place out. I like their lunch/dinner stuff, too, but I feel like Bandidas really shines at brunch, especially for having interesting and different vegan options. If you don't live around here, then maybe this will be a bit of inspiration for you. I know I would never have thought of having butternut squash for breakfast before this. Now I can't get enough of it.