Friday, December 30, 2011

Chocolate-Banana Itty-Bit of Peanut Butter Fridge Pie

Chocolate-Banana Itty-Bit of Peanut Butter Fridge Pie
On January 1st, I'm starting a 2 month long no-sugar challenge and as a last hurrah I decided to make a decadent, chilled dessert.  My intention was to create a chocolate-peanut butter pie but realized too late that there was only a scant tablespoon of peanut butter left in the jar.  What to do?  The crust was made, the chocolate melted and the silken tofu blended.  I spied the large bunch of bananas across the room and popped one in the food processor with the rest of the ingredients.  Yes!  It was a good call.

This pie is super rich, yummy and easy to make - even for pie challenged people like me.  I'm not including a recipe for the crust because I'm incredibly terrible at making them as you will see from the horrendous photo.  I didn't even intend on posting this but it was so satisfying and chocolaty that my quick snapshot of the mostly eaten pie will have to do.

1 package silken tofu
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large, ripe, banana
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
3/4 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 graham cracker pie crust.

Blend silken tofu, agave nectar, vanilla, peanut butter and banana in the food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.  Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler and add to the mixture in the food processor.  Blend until fully incorporated and smooth.  Pour into the pie crust and chill for at least one hour.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Eggplant-Garlic-Bean Spread

Eggplant-Garlic-Bean Spread


This is one of my favourite things to eat.  I am officially hooked on warm, comforting bean dip slathered on toast for a quick and healthy breakfast.  This version has a slightly smoky undertone from the dry-fried eggplant.  You can eat this simply like I do on toast, as a wonderful addition to any sandwich or wrap, or it can be dressed up with more toppings on rounds of baguette or crackers.  If I have a pot of this prepared in the fridge, I never go hungry.    

Eggplant-Garlic-Bean Spread

1 small Asian eggplant, quartered lengthwise and chopped
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can navy beans, rinsed
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat a non-stick fry pan on high for a few minutes while you are chopping the vegetables.  Add the eggplant into the dry pan and cook, stirring periodically.  Once the eggplant takes on a smoky, slightly brown appearance, add the olive oil and chopped onion.  Turn down the heat to medium and cook until the onion is softened.  Add the chopped garlic, cook for a few more minutes, stirring so the garlic doesn't burn and then turn off the heat. 

Place the navy beans, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, along with the veggies from the fry pan into a food processor.  Make sure you scrape all the oil from the pan into the processor.  Blend until you reach the desired consistency.   

Eggplant, onion and garlic frying.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Vegan Shortbread

Vegan Shortbread Hearts and Giraffes

I was determined to make shortbread today.  Along with my friend Farrah, I'm participating in another cooking challenge with the theme of food as gifts.  So, what better gift than home-made Christmas shortbread.  As a child, these were my favourite cookies to eat, make and decorate at holiday time.

I dug out the little booklet of family recipe cards given to me by my mom and found "Nummy Shortbread".  There was one small problem, it only listed three ingredients and not one of them was sugar.  And then I read the instructions which consisted of only three words.  "Mix, roll, cut."   Hmmmmmm, a bit cryptic for my comfort.  I called my mom and asked her about the sugar.  Her response was, "don't put in too much".

Okay, so it looks like I'll be winging it today but how difficult could it be?

I decided to use my stand mixer.  I may have baked these a few minutes too long so be careful you don't over do it or they will be dry.  The raw dough is a little crumbly but when you shape it and pat it down with your hands it sticks together just fine.  I don't think there's enough sugar in this recipe so if you try it, you might want to add a bit more.

Vegan Shortbread

1 cup vegan butter softened
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons corn starch

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add in the flour and cornstarch with the mixer on the lowest setting until just combined.   Remove the dough from the mixer and pat together.  Roll out the dough to desired thickness, approximately 1/4 inch.   Using cookie cutters, cut into shapes and decorate.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.



Saturday, November 26, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash with Coriander Seeds

Roasted Butternut Squash with Coriander Seeds

I was looking for a soup recipe to use up the butternut squash hanging around my fruit bowl and instead decided upon this appealing sounding dish from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbook Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook.  I really enjoyed the slightly exotic pairing of the crushed coriander with the sweetness of the squash and it's a nice twist on your usual roasted, root veggies.  The recipe only has four ingredients and I had fun bashing and smashing the whole coriander seeds in a baggie with my rolling pin.  I cut the squash a bit smaller than called for and forgot to flip or stir the pieces while they were roasting but it didn't seem to affect the outcome.  The squash was nicely caramelized and very tasty.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cherry-Almond-Poppyseed Muffins

Cherry-Almond-Poppyseed Muffins

Ooooooh, doesn't the name of these muffins just make you want to scarf down a whole batch?   I finally got my hands on a library copy of Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body and Soul by Julie Hasson and am super excited because this type of food is right up my alley.  It's a beautiful, fall, Saturday morning and baking a dozen muffins is just what I need to ground myself after a busy week.  Flipping through the book I became really excited.  If I can get my act together, I hope to be able to try more than a few recipes before it has to go back.

Okay, now on to the muffins.  I followed the recipe faithfully except for one small variation which I think works.  There were no dried cherries in the pantry but I did have a jar of maraschino cherries left over from when I made those beautiful chocolate-cherry cookies from Color Me Vegan in the summer.  I chopped the maraschino cherries in half and also added one on top of each muffin - don't they look adorable?  The smell of the almond extract while baking is divine!  The almond-cherry combination is yummy.  I think the muffins were quite good, maybe they need a little more fruit to jazz them up but they were moist and quite dense.

Cherry-Almond-Poppyseed Muffins

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Spicy Smothered Green Cabbage

Spicy Smothered Green Cabbage

After a few days of indulging in too much Halloween candy, my body was asking for something a little more down to earth and non-sugary.  A few friends and I are cooking from Terry Bryant's Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisineover the next month and today, I started with the simple but delicious Spicy Smothered Green Cabbage.  I don't cook cabbage all that often but this dish appealed to me with it's toasted mustard seeds, a hit of spice from red-pepper flakes and it's relatively few ingredients.  It was easy to prepare and would make a fantastic side dish for normal people.  Of course, I just ate it for breakfast with a cup of tea and my newly invented bean dip on ciabatta which I'll post next week.

Check out my cooking buddy Farrah's yummy dishes from the same book at  Carrot Top Vegan!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gingerbread Pecan Biscotti

Gingerbread Pecan Biscotti

As the light was dying in the sky, I scrambled to get my pecan challenge recipe complete, photographed and posted for today.  (I was slightly delayed by my immersion in Jane Austen's Persuasion and had to tear myself away!)  I found this recipe on veganbaking.net, a great website I had forgotten about until a Google search for "pecans","biscotti" and "vegan" brought it to my attention again after many months.  The spice levels seemed quite intense and unbelievably I actually had all the ingredients in my pantry, including candied ginger!  Wow!

I followed the instructions to a tee (okay, minus the parchment paper) and was pleased with my first attempt at biscotti making.  The house was filled with the scent of ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.   I'm not sure that these are too kid-friendly, the spice level is quite high and the hunks of crystallized ginger and pecans may not appeal to young palates but it makes a nice change of pace from chocolate cake.   Another perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea!

To see the other pecan dishes made by two of my blogging buddies have a peek at:

Farrah's blog - Carrot Top Vegan
Hilda's blog - The Triumph of the Lentil

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Soup and Vegan Buttermilk-Maple Biscuits

Spicy African Peanut Soup


I am happy to report that after a quick flip through Sara Matheny's new book Peas and Thank-You, I'm looking forward to trying many of the recipes.  This weekend we had visitors and I attempted to make the Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Soup.  Unfortunately, after a few hours in the slow cooker and just minutes before our guests were due to arrive for lunch, I noticed the soup was not even partially cooked.  I ended up throwing the whole thing into a pot on the stove and (accidentally) boiling the heck out of it.  Thankfully, nobody else seemed to detect the slightly burned at the bottom taste.  The soup had great flavours - smoky and savory with a touch of sweetness.  I didn't think it was particularly spicy as the name suggests.  The texture was stick to your ribs thick.  I made home-made biscuits to accompany the soup and my guests seemed very happy with the meal.     


Vegan Buttermilk-Maple Biscuits.  


¾ cup soymilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable shortening or vegan margarine
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.  In a small bowl add the vinegar to the soy milk and stir.  It will curdle.
Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Cut the Earth Balance into small chunks and using a fork or pastry cutter, blend it into the dry ingredients until the mixture breaks down into fine particles.  You can also use your hands to squish it all together and squeeze the flour into the Earth Balance bits.
Stir the maple syrup into the soy milk and add to the dry mixture.  Stir until the particles cling together. Turn out onto a floured bread board or countertop and knead for 1 to 2 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Add more flour as needed if the dough is sticky.
With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 3/4 inch thickness. Cut into rounds (you can use a drinking glass), place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.


Vegan Buttermilk-Maple Biscuits



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Vision for the World - A Reading Manifesto

Warning; this is a very long story, it's personal and it's not about food.  Feel free to stop reading if you're passing through as part of Vegan Mofo.  I am posting this here on my food blog because it's the publishing space I have available.  


Life is not linear but I will try to make sense of a long and winding road.  As a few of you may know, I've been struggling to implement some ideas out in the world.   It all started with the thought that I needed to help my family.  This is not a bad thing, but what I noticed is that when trying to source great ideas while coming from an inner place or feeling of "lack" and "need", all of my thoughts and decisions were based in fear and anxiety.  Not very inspirational or productive.  It kept me mired there in the mental muck for quite a time.


So, I began to make lists and notes, writing out and exploring my interests.  I've always considered myself to be a bit of a dabbler, interested in a lot of seemingly unconnected and diverse things.  As I dug into this process, I began to see clues embedded in the activities that I've been involved in for the last few years, apart from mothering.  I deconstructed these activities by asking myself questions about what made them important or fulfilling.  Personal values began to emerge from the answers to these questions.  I value friendship, community, connection, compassion, creativity, learning and diversity among other things.  This is what I'm all about and I now had the beginning of something.  But what?


Let me back-track a for a minute and tell you that one of my first Aha moments in this process came this past summer when our friends Patty, Chris and their son Biko paid us a visit from Washington D.C.  Patty is my oldest and dearest friend in the world and we had a conversation where I shared my ideas about a project I was working on at the time.  The discussion was a huge revelation to me.  I realized that my world was too small, that my focus was too narrow and that I needed and craved MORE conversations with wonderful people like these.  Conversations that produced new avenues of thought, from people who were experts in other areas, who could bring their experience to bear on my situation.  I was starving for conversational nourishment and stimulation.  I felt like a mama bear coming out of her cave after years.  


At the time I knew something important had shifted inside me.  I made a decision to begin reaching out for more contact with the people already in my life and those to come.  I didn't have to figure it all out by myself.  People were out there, some of them actually cared about me and wanted to help!


Okay, now back to our present day story.  In case you don't already know this about me I'm a bit of a bookworm.  One of the things I've been involved in for the last few years is a community called Goodreads.  It's basically a social networking site for readers and authors with a huge database of books.   Each user has a profile and can set up virtual bookshelves, public or private.  Just discovering this was enough to keep me busy for quite a while.  I cataloged all the books I could remember reading (why didn't I keep notes?) along with rating and reviewing quite a few.  It felt like heaven for a list freak like me!  It wasn't too long before I started to make friends from all over the world who shared my love of reading and conversation.  The site is very user friendly and interactive, allowing you to comment on other people's reviews and host discussion groups, etc   I had joined several of these groups but had not found my home and so two years ago decided to start my own.


I named the group Comfort Reads. My intention was and still is to welcome readers of all genres who share the pleasure of a good book to relax with and who also enjoy learning from many sources.  Book snobbery is not what we're about.  Reading has never been a chore for me.  My whole life it's brought me comfort and joy, understanding and appreciation for others.  I can bridge the gap between cultures by mentally and emotionally walking a day in the life of someone else's shoes. Allowing myself to be lost in the narrative voice of someone completely different.  I've been thrilled, inspired, moved and engaged and in some tough moments, books have kept me from feeling alone in the world.


The Comfort Reads membership has steadily grown and there are now over 1000 members.  I am thrilled and happy to welcome each new reader who joins us as does my ever helpful co-moderator Lisa.  The community is kind, fun, responsive and supportive.  Our daily chat thread is a great place to say hello and connect.  We have threads where members may suggest or recommend all types of books they've enjoyed.  We talk about our current reads even if they're not "comfort reads".  Friendships have been formed among members from all over the world.  The people are simply amazing.  I am organizing a reader convention for this community which has been dubbed "ComfyCon" and will be held in Toronto, October 2012.  I look forward to deepening friendships in real life that have been formed online.


This past year, my friend Lisa and I started a Vegan Cooking and Cookbooks group also hosted on Goodreads that has tons of beautiful and compassionate people.  They inspire me every day and the community is so supportive and fun.  I feel blessed with the new friends that have come into my life as a result of both groups.  


Inspired by the potential of these two communities and what I have seen grow, I birthed an idea.  To create an organization of readers with a purpose that manifests my core values.  I'm going to share my vision, mission and goals for that organization now.  This is somewhat of a work in progress (except for the vision) but you will get the idea.


Vision


A connected, creative and compassionate world


Mission


Our mission is to connect people through their passion for reading.  Building relationships and communities that foster a culture of friendship, diversity and life-long learning.


Goals
  • To encourage and foster friendship and international understanding
  • To promote reading as a bridge to peace, kindness and compassion for all cultures, creatures and the environment
  • To build a world-wide community of enthusiastic readers 
  • To promote the idea that reading can bring comfort and alleviate feelings of isolation – that reading other people’s stories and experiences is uplifting and humanizing
  • To promote and share the joy that comes through reading, discussion and life-long learning 
  • To support local and international outreach to encourage reading
  • To celebrate the written word and story-telling in all its forms
  • To encourage writing and reading as a way to express, explore and understand oneself and others
  • To support and promote responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources
  • To support organizations that protect old growth forests and promote the use of environmentally responsible alternatives in publishing                   


While I am inspired by my idea, one of the questions that plagues me is how best to implement this vision, this mission and these goals?  My intention is to form a membership organization, because people working together can do powerful things.  And I love people.  I love connecting people to each other, meeting people and talking to people.  Every conversation I have confirms this belief.  I am one person and my work has already started but I would like to christen this organization with a name that speaks to the values above.  


I've been reading all about non-profits, social enterprises, and regular companies that make a difference in the world.  I tell myself there is no hurry to decide - just start Lee!  I flit back and forth between all three models trying to understand what will do the most good for all of us.  My goals are in line with a non-profit but the form and bureaucracy does not thrill me or feel dynamic.  Where do I fit in?  I'm a human being who wants to create something wonderful, show my daughter what's possible, live a life of purpose, and help support my family at the same time.    


Now that I have unleashed myself, the ideas are coming fast and furious but I want to get into action.  I am not the most patient of people.  I am full of energy and passion for this project and it's driving me hard.  I don't sleep much.

I have a vision for a connected, creative and compassionate world.  I have a ton of project ideas that are manifestations of that vision but right now I'm running with this one.  If you would like to join me, understand what I'm trying to accomplish and have managed to read this far.  I'm asking for your help. This is what I need and this is what you can do.

1.  Be my business mentor. If you have experience in any field (marketing, strategic planning, financial stuff etc.) I need coaching and support in order to execute my plans.  I'm a hard worker and am learning as fast as I can but I could use some support and guidance.  


2.  I need partners, sponsors or friends to support and join this fledgling organization (as yet unnamed).    


3.  If we are not already connected, find me on Linked In, Google+ or Goodreads.com


4.  Leave a supportive suggestion, some feedback or a name idea below in the comments


5.  Email me privately with any or all of the above at leekaiken@gmail.com


6.  Donate any amount to help me start-up and work towards my goals.  I need a website, a logo and a few other things to begin operating.  There is a button in the sidebar on the right, below my photo, where you can do that.  Thank-you kindly.   


I would like to thank my friends, old and new, for listening to me natter on rather incoherently over the last few months.  Your ears and eyes allowed me to process my thoughts and  I am finally outing myself completely now, with the whole story.  Big, fat hugs to you all.  I won't name you because I'm bound to forget one person and that would be unforgivable   


And I thank Lisa PetrilliGini Dietrich, Valeria Maltoni and Deborah Ivanoff for being women in business that have inspired and resonated with me.  


Lee

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread

Tis the season for all things pumpkin!  Okay, so I had this giant tin of pumpkin in my fridge left over from making the Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Squares the other day and figured I better use it up pronto.  Silly me, I adapted a recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking and didn't write any notes because honestly, I thought it might not turn out.  And I didn't measure the pumpkin at all, I just dumped the remainder of the can in the bowl.  Of course the loaves came out of the oven and were perfect, not too sweet and a great snack with a cup of tea.  So, here goes.

Pumpkin Bread

3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/3 cup canola oil
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil two loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix flax seeds and water together until creamy.  Add the sugar, pumpkin and oil to the flax mixture and stir until well blended.  In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and combine but do not over mix.  
Spoon the batter into the loaf pans and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the loaves cool for about 20 minutes before removing them from the pans.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Squares

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Squares

It's pumpkin post day for a me and a few of my awesome buddies from the Vegan Cooking and Cookbooks group on Goodreads!   We are all posting pumpkin recipes and I have chosen these easy, moist and delicious squares that I wish I could take the credit for but actually found at another blog here.  I've altered the recipe somewhat, reducing the sugar by a third and adding my own mix of spices.  I've never purchased premixed pumpkin pie spice so I just Googled what was in it and added the amounts I wanted.  This recipe was really fast to put together and I was excited to try the peanut butter-pumpkin combination.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Squares

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon dried ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8x8 or 9x9 square cake pan with foil and spray with oil.
In a medium sized bowl, stir together all ingredients until well mixed.  Pat down into pan and bake for 25 minutes.   Let them cool in the pan before you attempt to remove and slice.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vegan Popover Muffins - An Interesting Experiment

Vegan Popover Muffins

I've been wanting to make vegan popovers forever!   I made traditional popovers for the first time a few years ago to serve at a mother daughter tea-party and ever since, I've nursed the idea in the back of my mind.  The originals tasted quite egg-y and here I've used chick-pea flour instead of eggs.

This recipe is adapted from one posted on the PPK forums combined with another recipe I found on the web.  As you can see from the photo, they came out looking more like sunken muffins.  When I checked on them half way through they were nicely domed but - oops maybe I shouldn't have opened the oven because they sank.  The insides were very moist and the outsides fairly crisp.  There were no large air pockets but several small ones distributed throughout.  I think they must be eaten with jam or something sweet because on their own I don't find them super appealing.  I would rate this experiment as semi-successful because while they didn't look like a traditional popover, they still taste pretty good and I liked the contrast between the inner softness and the outer crispness.  I would love to hear about anyone else's experience with this type of recipe. Please let me know in the comments if you've found a good one.  

Vegan Popover Muffins

1 1/14 cups flour
3 Tablespoons chickpea/garbanzo flour
1 Tablespoon baking soda
pinch turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups soy-milk
1/3 water
1/2 package silken tofu (mori-nu vacuum pack)
2 tablespoons melted Earth Balance

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Grease a muffin or popover tin.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add tofu, water, Earth Balance and soy milk to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Add the wet to the dry mixture and stir until thick and smooth.
Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and then turn down heat to 350 and bake for another 10 minutes.    Serve warm with jam.   Yields 12 popovers.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

White Bean - Red Pepper Dip

White Bean - Red Pepper Dip


I know this looks like another sandwich but peeping out from under the tomato is a quick and easy bean dip.   I hadn’t planned on a theme for Vegan Mofo but one seems to be presenting itself – food for people who have minimal time to cook!  Normally, I would love spending hours puttering around the kitchen, reading my cookbooks and browsing online for new recipes but lately other projects have been occupying my time.  This dip is great for sandwiches or simply slathered on a piece of toast or baguette.  

Red Pepper-White Bean Spread

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ red pepper, choppd
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the red pepper and garlic in the olive oil for two to three minutes on medium high.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  In a food processor, blend remaining ingredients, scraping down the sides once or twice.   Add the red pepper, garlic and olive oil to the bean mixture in the processor and blend until incorporated.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Lemony Birthday Cake

Lemony Birthday Cake

On my last birthday, I made myself a lemon cake with lemon butter cream icing.  At the time, I didn't post the recipe because I thought it needed a little work.  I am not an expert baker and the cake was fairly dense.  It's more of a homey-style kind of cake instead of the lightness you might associate with a traditional lemon sponge cake but the delicious icing made everything right.  It still could use some work but in honor of Vegan Mofo, I'm going to post it as is and hope that it's good enough.

My daughter decorated the top with raspberries for me! 

Lee’s Lemony Birthday Cake

4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
2/3 cup oil (I used coconut oil and canola oil)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 2 nine inch round baking pans.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.   Combine soy milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and oil.  Add wet ingredients with the dry, combining until well mixed.   Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

½ cup Earth Balance
3 cups icing sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice (one lemon)
1 tsp vanilla

Cream Earth Balance with electric beater until soft, add in icing sugar 1 cup at at time.  Add the lemon juice and vanilla before the last cup of icing sugar and beat until fluffy.  

Actually, this amount of icing just barely covered my cake so you might want to make a little more icing.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

One of the best things about being vegan is the shift in perception regarding vegetables that were previously and unfairly maligned or even completely undiscovered.  When you stop focusing on animal products and start exploring the big, wide, world of plant foods out there, it's really incredible what you can find that's been right under your nose all the time.  I'm talking about Brussels Sprouts, a vegetable that in our house, used to make an appearance once or twice a year around holiday time and usually boiled to within an inch of their poor wee lives.  Not very appetizing.  When I started to see recipes in my vegan cookbooks for roasted Brussels Sprouts, I was a little doubtful at first but decided to take the plunge.  Honestly, roasting them is quite simple and they are transformed into yummy bite sized morsels, tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside.  We make these on a fairly regular basis and they're so tasty they get eaten out of the pan like candy.  

There are loads of recipes on the web but the way I usually do it is by trimming the ends off, slicing them in half and then tossing them in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  You have to watch them near the end to make sure they don't burn.  I think it usually takes about half an hour.  Tonight I wasn't paying enough attention and the bottom pan got a little burnt.  If anyone has any tasty additions or variations, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Egyptian Inspired Fava Bean Mash

Egyptian Inspired Fava Bean Mash - before being mashed

This recipe is inspired by an Egyptian breakfast dish made from mashed fava beans and traditionally eaten with pita bread.  I've never had the original but came across a recipe on All Recipes that sounded simple and interesting.  I was a little unsure about the directions and an ingredient or two seemed to be missing so decided to do my own little riff on ful mudames.  I love discovering new comfort food that's delicious and healthy and this was my first time cooking with fava beans. I wasn't disappointed, the combination of cumin and lemon give this dish a wonderful, warm tanginess that will have you scraping the bowl clean with the last bit of pita (or any flatbread).  

Note: the original recipe called for parsley but I have used cilantro because I love it.  I think garlic would be good too but I left it out for personal reasons.  I first smashed the beans the old-fashioned way with a fork but then decided I wanted to pop the whole thing in the food processor to see the difference.  I liked the flavour of the more blended but still slightly chunky version better.  

Egyptian Inspired Fava Bean Mash

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion diced
1/2 red bell pepper diced
1 tsp cumin
1 large tomato diced
1 can fava beans (reserve liquid)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

In a large non-stick frying pan, on medium-high heat, cook the onions in olive oil for a few minutes until translucent.  Add the cumin, red pepper and tomato and cook, stirring, for approximately 5 minutes.   Add the beans, lemon juice, cilantro, salt and pepper along with a couple of tablespoons of the reserved bean liquid.  Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes until the flavours have combined.  Smash the beans with a fork or pulse in a food processor until you are satisfied with the consistency.   Eat with flat bread of your choice.

Totally Yum!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Apple Crisp - Vegan Mofo Day 2

Apples are beautiful!  
Apple Crisp

On the menu today is something I haven't made for a long time but is one of my favourite fall desserts - Apple Crisp!  And it's the perfect day, rainy and cool,  to curl up with a bowl of warm apple yum, a cup of tea and a good book.

As you can see from the photo, I am practicing thriftiness by using up my daughter's half eaten apples.  I hope that doesn't gross everyone out but it breaks my heart to toss out food that with a little creative paring, is perfectly usable in a dish such as this.  I was worried that my remaining one cup of oats would not be enough to create a topping but it seems to be the perfect amount.  I forgot to count the apples and grease the pan but it turned out okay, just a little sticky.  Thank goodness I snapped those apple shots!  As far as I'm concerned even a couple more wouldn't be a bad thing but I used what we had.  Many people enjoy this dessert paired with ice-cream but I like it fine just plain.

Apple Crisp

9-10 apples, cored, sliced and diced
juice from half a lemon
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2-1/2 cup Earth Balance

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.

Toss your cored and diced apples in the lemon juice while your preparing the crisp topping.

Mix together in a medium sized bowl the oats, sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Cut the Earth Balance into small pieces and add to the other dry ingredients.  Use your fingers to squish everything together until you get small clumps or large crumbs of topping.  See mine here to the right.

Bake for approximately one hour or until the top is brown and and the apples are tender.

Enjoy!    

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Grilled Cheese Comfort - Vegan Mofo Day 1

Grilled Cheese and Tempeh Bacon

Today is the first day of Vegan Mofo; the vegan month of food celebrated by hundreds of bloggers around the globe. If you want to see and read about some fantastic food that's cruelty free, delicious and good for you and the planet then check out the extensive list of bloggers at Mofo headquarters.  I committed myself to participating a couple of weeks ago, and now find myself desperately searching for something to make, as the sun goes down.  In the last two weeks, life suddenly turned topsy turvy or maybe I should just say my brain is undergoing a revolution.  I'm in the process of developing a few ideas that will change the direction of my days and I'm feeling the pressure of too much on my plate.  It is great to be completely in the zone, immersed in learning about something new.  Strangely, right at the time I'm required to write about food every day, (something I would normally be thrilled to do) all my attention has temporarily shifted away from food which is pretty much unheard of for me.  I would be extremely disappointed in myself if I got kicked out of Vegan Mofo for failing to post so I'll do my best in the coming weeks and we'll see what I can pull out of my hat while under pressure.

Today I'm going to share one of my favourite sandwiches.  We can't all be cooking up fabulous creations every day like my friend Betsy DiJulio of the Blooming Platter who really puts me to shame. :-)   Really, my true fave is a simple vegan grilled cheese with pickles and ketchup.  Today, I'll make something slightly more balanced and throw in a few slices of tempeh bacon and tomato along with that perfectly melted, gooey, vegan cheese.  Okay, I had to scratch the tomatoes, they weren't ripe.  And I guess pickles don't really count as vegetables?  To make up for it I made a delicious banana-berry smoothy to go with this comforting snack.  

This reminds me that there are quite a few vegan cookbooks devoted to comfort food, one of the most recent being Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body and Soul.  I have not read it or even cracked the cover but would love to get my hands on a copy, it appears to have stellar reviews.   Okay everyone, get out there, get inspired and help change the world with the food on your plate even if it's just a sandwich!

Tempeh bacon which my local grocery store carries!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Easy-Peasy Lemon-Squeezy Pesto Sauce

Pasta with Easy-Peasy Lemon-Squeezy Pesto Sauce

Lately, I've been making a ton of pasta with pesto sauce.  It's so fast and easy, especially on the nights when we get home from some event and I have little energy for complicated meal prep.  Shortly after running out of the traditional pine-nuts and walnuts a month ago, I stopped using a recipes and began to wing-it with the the one nut I always have stocked in my pantry - cashews.  There was also an abundance of fresh Italian parsley in my little herb garden so that's getting used up.  Paired with the parsley and cashews, fistfuls of my favourite herb cilantro get thrown into the food processor along with some lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.  That's it.  No measuring, no fuss, just whir everything up together with the olive oil being drizzled in at the end and you have a healthy, delicious sauce for your pasta.   Sometimes, if I have a little more energy I'll saute up an onion, red bell peppers, zucchini and a stray veggie sausage to top it off.  This is my new favourite, no fuss meal.

I'll attempt to give you measurements here but don't worry if it's not exact.  The whole point is to use what you have, especially whatever fresh herbs and nuts you have on hand.  Use the ratios that please your palate and experiment, you can't really go wrong!

Easy-Peasy Lemon-Squeezy Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh cilantro (a big handful)
1/2 cup Italian (flat-leafed) parsley or fresh basil
1/3 cup raw cashews (or whatever nuts you have on hand like walnuts, pine-nuts, etc.)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on how lemon-y you like it)
salt to taste
1 or 2 cloves garlic
pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/3 olive oil (or whatever amount gives you the consistency you desire)

Place all ingredients except for the olive oil into a food processor and blend on high until you get fairly small bits.  Scrape down the sides of the processor at least once during this process to incorporate all the ingredients.   While the machine is running pour in the olive oil and process until well blended and an even consistency. Taste for salt and the amount of lemon juice you prefer, it's easy to adjust.  Once your pasta is cooked and drained, pour on the pesto sauce and using tongs or a fork toss the pasta to incorporate the sauce evenly.

As I said above, I like to serve this topped with stir-fried veggies and vegan sausage which I cook at the same time as the pasta.  I love the sweetness of the slightly caramelized onions and peppers paired with the lemony tang of the sauce.

Ingredients ready to whir~!

Easy-Peasy Lemon-Squeezy Pesto Sauce

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sage-Scented White Bean Topping

Sage-Scented White Bean Topping

For the past month or two since making the acquaintance of the delightful and talented cookbook author Betsy DiJulio, I have been meaning to try some of the delicious looking recipes found at her blog The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes.  She is an incredibly creative chef and I'm always amazed at the interesting flavour pairings and dishes that come out of her kitchen.   My intention today was to make her Vegan Nachos with Sage Scented White Beans and Cheddar-Spinach Sauce.  I carefully prepared my shopping list yesterday and was sure I had everything ready.  But, I forgot one ingredient; the beer.  Crap.  I think this might be an essential element in the Cheddar-Spinach Sauce.  Okay, moving on to plan two, no problemo!

I simply love bean dip and so the bean dip portion of the recipe was made.  The orange pepper gives it a lovely colour and the fresh sage adds quite a unique flavour.  And best of all, it's really easy to make.  Just fry up some onions, garlic and pepper then add the beans, olive oil, salt and pepper and sage.  (See Betsy's recipe here)

I actually threw it all in the food processor instead of mashing it with a fork on the off chance my little miss would try it if she didn't see the onion chunks.  And now, I can't stop eating it.  I am bloated with happiness and have so far slathered four good sized hunks of toasted baguette with this bean-y wonder.  The rest of my brunch has gone by the wayside.  Bye-bye tofu scramble and greens, hello and welcome to one of my new favourite snacks.  If this is any indication of what's inside The Blooming Platter Cookbook then it's going to the top of my Christmas wish-list.

Sage-Scented White Bean Topping

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Asian Macaroni and Cheese

Asian Macaroni and Cheese

For the third time in two weeks I've made Asian Macaroni and Cheese from Kim Barnouin's new cookbook Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook.   I thought it was time I shared my obsession with my friends.  The recipe title is a bit of a misnomer because there is nothing cheesy about it but the secret to the mild, creamy flavour of this baked pasta dish is coconut milk.  I thought this sounded strange at first and wasn't inclined to try this recipe but a recommendation from someone in my cooking group on Goodreads (*waving at Laura) convinced me to give it a chance.  My only complaint is the number of pots necessary to prepare this dish - three on the stove-top plus your baking dish.  The sauce is very mild and consists of coconut milk, water, pureed cauliflower, miso, a tiny bit of mustard and soy sauce.  The top gets nice and crispy when baked with the Panko bread crumbs sprinkled on top.  Along with the tofu, I've tossed in some quick fried broccoli (in place of more cauliflower) to add some colour.  You could easily throw in more veggies to beef it up even more.  This dish is kid-friendly and a great meal that would probably go down well with most people.  We are certainly enjoying a lot of it.  :-)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Breakfast Veggie Jumbalaya

I was about to make my usual tofu scramble for weekend brunch but decided to try something a little different.  Instead of cooking 2 or 3 different dishes, I was feeling a little lazy and thought a one pot dish with veggies, protein and carbs combined was more my speed this morning. This is a great dish for using up odds and ends in the fridge. I found one lonely vegan sausage, cornered a few vegetables and some leftover cooked rice.  I don't know if this tastes anything like a traditional jambalaya but it was definitely tasty, a little spicy and pretty easy.  For the veg, I went with onion, green pepper and yellow zucchini but just about anything would work.  The chili sauce I used here and in most of my cooking is an Asian chili garlic sauce.  It's pretty potent so a small amount goes a long way but you can use whatever you have handy.  I didn't time the cooking of anything but added the ingredients in stages.  Again, no time for fancy plating because we were hungry, today you get another stove-top pot shot.  It may not be beautiful but it tastes great and the leftovers are just as good.

Breakfast Veggie Jambalaya

1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 vegetarian sausage sliced into half moons
1/2 block of firm tofu cubed (approximately)
1 green or red pepper chopped
1 small zucchini sliced into quarter moons  (I'm pretty sure that's not an actually cooking term but hopefully you know what I mean)
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp thyme
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce (or to taste)
1-2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tomato chopped
3/4 cup (approximately) veggie stock or water
2 cups cooked rice

In a large non-stick pan stir-fry the onions for 1-2 minutes.  Add the veggie sausage and tofu and cook until nicely browned.  Add the green pepper, zucchini, soy sauce, paprika, thyme, chili sauce and ketchup.  Keep cooking until veggies start to get tender and then add chopped tomato and veggie stock or water.  Cover and let simmer for a few more minutes.  Add the rice and continue to cook (covered) until the rice has plumped up nicely.   Enjoy!


Breakfast Veggie Jambalaya

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Brazilian Black Bean Stew

Brazilian Black Bean Stew

There’s something so fascinating about Brazil.  I’m really curious about their cuisine and definitely want to explore more recipes.  This one comes from Color Me Vegan by Coleen Patrick-Goudreau and was one of the first recipes that caught my attention when flipping through the book.  This week, my friend Merry and I are cooking soups or stews every night for dinner and our little challenge provided me with the perfect opportunity to make this dish.


The colours and fragrance from the pot as it cooked were enticing and spicy.  I must admit to being a total novice cooking with hot peppers and this is actually the first time in recent memory I’ve cooked with a whole, fresh jalapeño.  Of course it squirted me directly in the eye while I was carefully chopping so I won’t soon forget the experience but I’m slowly starting to incorporate more recipes with a little heat.   I know my daughter won’t be thrilled with this offering but I hope to distract her with a pretty green edamame soup and maybe some cupcakes?

Okay, down to the nitty-gritty.  Instead of 2 cans of diced tomatoes I used one can of fire roasted tomatoes and 3 fresh.  I also forgot the mango but I figured the ginormous sweet potato would add enough sweetness to balance out the spice of the hot pepper.  I couldn't find Mexican spiced veggie sausage in our local market so I ended up using tofu beer sausages made by Tofurkey as an experiment.  The one and a half cups of water called for in the recipe was definitely not enough.  I added at least another full cup, if not more, of liquid after the beans went into the pot. 

This is a definite make again.  It’s colourful, balanced, slightly spicy, earthy from the black beans and sweet from the yams.  I love the tomato base and the fire-roasted tomatoes added a smoky flavour and aroma while it was cooking.  A bit of cilantro to top it all off and you have the perfect stew.  YUMMY!  I ate mine with a bit of rice and some fried ripe plantains.  

Before I go, I must note that that the light in my kitchen at night is really awful.  I'm submitting this blog post and photo (as dark and bad as it is) to Nicole S. Young's giveaway contest on Google+ for her new book titled Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots because I would love, love, love to learn more about food photography and photography in general.   I take all my food photos on this super basic, digital pocket camera and one day dream of having a proper camera.   


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Zucchini-Raspberry Jam Muffins

Zucchini-Raspberry Jam Muffins

The inspiration for this recipe came from a Williams Sonoma Muffin book that mysteriously appeared on the library hold-shelf under my name.  I don’t remember ordering it and it’s not the kind of thing I’m currently researching but, since I’d never pass up the chance to look at attractive baked goods, home it came. 

The original version had marmalade in it, not exactly my favourite thing, so I decided to try raspberry jam and veganized the recipe.  The batter was quite thick and I may mess around with the ingredients a bit more so it will yield at least a full dozen muffins but the flavour and texture is quite good.  The muffins look rather humble and homely but when you bite into them, the sweet, raspberry flavour is a wonderful surprise.  I actually didn’t intend on posting this recipe until I took my first bite and the muffins changed my mind.   

Zucchini-Raspberry Jam Muffins

Yield: 10 muffins

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup canola oil
¼ cup raspberry jam
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 small zucchini grated (4 ounces)
¼ cup pecans (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray muffin tin lightly with oil or line with paper liners.

In a bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. 

In another bowl mix wet ingredients; oil, raspberry jam, vanilla and zucchini until well blended.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until evenly moistened.  Stir in the nuts if you are using.  The batter will be quite stiff.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups about ¾ full.  Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. 

Let muffins cool in the tin, on a wire rack for five minutes and then unmold.  Enjoy!  

Zucchini-Raspberry Jam Muffins

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Vegan Sloppy Joe Love


Vegan Sloppy Joes

I know it’s the middle of summer but apart from gorging myself on peaches I pretty much eat like I always do.  After not being shunned last week when I admitted to not being a salad person, I now feel comfortable coming out about my favourite type of comfort food.   The keywords are saucy and warm.  Last night before bed, I was craving sloppy joes and when I got up this morning I just had to make them for breakfast.  In the last few months I’ve enjoyed two recipes - one from Veganomicon using lentils and another featuring tofu from La Dolce Vegan.   I had a fairly lazy cooking week and definitely wanted to try a new recipe.  In the interests of time and my grumbling tummy, I decided on a recipe from another Sarah Kramer book - How it all Vegan and substituted tofu for the tvp.  It was really satisfying (read saucy) and for me, it had the perfect blend of spices.  And the best part is that no-one else in my little family of three likes sloppy joes so I only had to give up the heart-shaped toast to my daughter and the rest of the pot was mine!  I guess nobody else in the family appreciates the slop like I do.  Maybe it’s the dill pickle?    

The recipe consists of two parts; first blending all of the sauce ingredients – tomatoes, tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, onion and spices together and then frying up the green pepper, onion, tofu, dill pickle, spices etc in pan.  Add the two parts together and simmer for as long as you can hold off.  I served this with whole grain toast instead of the traditional bun but you can do whatever you like.  I stuffed myself.   

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Super Easy Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad
Okay, you may have noticed that I'm not a huge salad person by the lack of salad talk here on my blog.  I actually had to create a new label just for this post. ;-)  But, there is one simple vegetable salad that I do love to make and eat.  I was first introduced to this dish by an Austrian friend while backpacking around Europe over twenty years ago.  I stayed with her and her family for a couple of weeks in Vienna and let's just say that most meals were comprised of meat, with a side of meat, and the day she introduced me to this light, summery and refreshing cucumber treat my gut thought it had won the lottery.  She showed me how to prepare it and I have been making it off and on ever since.  It's basically just thinly sliced cucumber and onion in a vinaigrette dressing.  There are countless versions and variations of this recipe all over the place so feel free to play around with the dressing.  I don't usually measure but today, for the purpose of sharing, I made it as follows.

Ingredients:

1 English cucumber thinly sliced
1 small red onion thinly sliced
juice from half a lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons agave nectar (or sweetener of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Thinly slice the cucumber and place in medium sized bowl. (I don't like it too thin or it goes soggy after a day in the fridge) Squeeze lemon juice over the cucumber and toss. Add thinly sliced onion. (The onion I do slice as thin as possible because it's raw.)

Whisk together remaining ingredients, taste for seasoning and pour over the cucumber and onion.  Toss to mix and refrigerate.  I like to eat it right away but many recipes suggest leaving it to cool.  It's up to you!   The salad should keep in the fridge, tightly covered for a day or two.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peach Pie

Peach Pie

It's peach season and that makes me very happy!  I picked up two baskets of fresh, local peaches from the market and in honour of my husband's birthday, I made a pie. Simple, down home, slightly goopy, peach pie.  I altered the recipe somewhat from the original by cutting the sugar, adding cinnamon and using Earth Balance in place of butter.

This was not a sophisticated or difficult pie to make but it sure was yummy.  I'm not a pastry person, cakes and cookies are the usual dessert suspects around here. Pastry mastery is on the to-do list (kinda far down) but for the time being, using a pie shell from the market was fine.  The filling was a warm peachy mess and we could barely keep our hands and forks away while it cooled.  But oh, it was awesome.  Tender, juicy, peach goodness with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg.  This pie would be even more incredible with some vanilla ice-cream and if I knew how to make decent pastry, it would be out of this world.  Here is a link to the original recipe on All Recipes and you'll find my adaptation below.  

Peach Pie

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance (vegan butter), softened
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1 - 9-inch single pie crust

Instructions:

Cream together the sugar and Earth Balance.  Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and flour and mix until small crumbs form.  Add half the mixture to the bottom of your pie shell.

Mix the sliced peaches with the remainder of the crumbs and add on top of the bottom layer.  Or, you can layer in your peaches and add the remaining crumb mixture on top.  (I made it the first way)

Pop into the oven for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.  After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and bake for 40 more minutes or until the top is lightly browned.