Thursday, March 19, 2009

Skinny B*tch Rocks!

So I got a few new cookbooks from the library. I know it's not new or anything, but I got Skinny B*tch in the Kitch, as I never realized it is a vegan cookbook. I guess you have to be familiar with the preceding book or something, as nowhere on the cover does it suggest anything about vegan cooking! Anyways, despite it's lack of inspiring photos plus the fact that some recipes tell me I'm being a pig, I decided to give some recipes a try.

First up - Pecan-crusted French Toast. Eerily similar to Fronch Toast (which I love!), the addition of pecans is genius. And they actually stick! I'll definitely be making this one again.

I've been craving some tabouleh lately, and I found an easy recipe in here! I've never made it before, so maybe this recipe isn't so ground-breaking, but I never knew you just had to add boiling water to bulgur! I do have to say that I would have liked for the bulgur to have been more tender.

And Kyle and I have been meaning to eat more salads. The Edamame Three-Bean Salad was so easy and tasty. It only would have been more colourful had I had enough red pepper and red kidney beans (I subbed black beans). I'll be making this one again during the summer for sure!

And while it's in the appetizer section, I served up Crabby Crabcakes on top of the suggested spinach with the lemony dressing from Vcon. Now I've never had crab before, but the shredded parsnips in this tasted so darn good! I loved these! And since I made so many, I had lots of shaped cakes ready to be fried for the next night, making for a very easy dinner prep. As for the sauce, I didn't have the time nor all of the ingredients for the remoulade recipe, so I just mixed up some Nayonaise with ketchup and a dash of onion powder instead.

Still on the appetizer route, I had to make the onion rings. I can't tell you the last time I ate these, since we've never made them at home and I would worry that most restaurants would fry them up in oil used for fish, etc. These were great! I'll just be sure to use a finer grind of cornmeal (it wasn't specified in the recipe) and I'll be sure to buy a white onion next time.

Ah...dessert. We're supposed to be on a dessert strike, but I couldn't resist. And besides, this next recipe is so healthy - it's not even in the dessert section! When I saw the recipe for Homemade Granola Parfait I thought, 'meh, another boring granola recipe'. But I kept an open mind and made it anyways. This recipe is brilliant - I've never put brown rice syrup in my granola and boy, have I been missing something! It makes it so crunchy and adds a touch of sweetness - nothing like the maple syrup alone that I've been using for so many years! It was delicious with vanilla soy yogurt and yummy strawberries.

Well, since I made and served dessert one night, I had to do it again! I was also craving rice pudding, so I had to make that too. Now since there's only Kyle and I eating this, I didn't want to store the leftovers in a casserole dish so that next time we went to get a serving, we'd carve out a thickened hunk to put in a bowl. So I decided to throw the finished rice pudding in a pre-made vegan shortbread pie crust. After chilling in the fridge, it firmed up nicely enough to serve - and subsequent servings were still pretty and tasty! While it was a good healthy recipe with brown rice, I found it to be not quite 'saucy' enough, so I'll stick with my other recipe that is more creamy with soy yogurt. But I'll stick with this way of serving it from now on since it is also a 'thick' recipe versus the runnier rice pudding I had as a kid.

Finally, Dream Bars. I had scanned this recipe several times since it had so much stuff in it, and such a weird topping of coconut milk that I had a hard time envisioning how it would look and taste. While this pic doesn't do it justice, as I was supposed to let it cool a little more, it was heavenly. It made a whole 9x13 pan, so if you make this, make sure you do it when you will have lots of people around to help you out. You won't be a skinny b*tch if you eat this all by yourself, like the book suggests. Plus, you may want to mini-barf, as Kyle did when he set out to eat about 1/4 of the pan in one sitting.

All in all, a great little book! I'll definitely be buying my own copy of this one since it had so many standard and neat little recipes!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What I'm Making for St. Patrick's Day

I have no idea when I will get the time to post again, so I thought I'd be a little proactive in putting something up to share what I will be re-making for St. Patty's Day. Originally titled 'Tempeh in Hearty Mushroom-Lager Sauce', I subbed Yves Chick'n Tenders (what else?). Since it's from the March 2009 issue of VT, I can't seem to quickly find a link to the recipe :(

Anyways, it tastes like total pub fare. So darn good. I mini-hoped that the 2 1/2 cups of beer would somehow affect how Ash would sleep after nursing, but I think most of it cooked off during heating.

I'm super pumped to make this again! I just have to think of a side that's green to go with it that would be Irishy too...anyone have any ideas? I did steamed green beans last time I made this but I'd rather do something a little more exciting.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Treats for Kyle

Nothing says I love you like a bad leftover cake stored in the freezer, topped with leftover icing and chocolate mousse from making cuppies for a recent b-day party.

But I did well for Kyle's b-day. We started off with homemade Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns from MrsBadMouth's zine. I used canned pumpkin since we were all out of home-roasted and despite the brighter orange colour (almost neon!), I think canned pumpkin is waaayyy easier. Why have I been wasting so much time roasting my own? It's always too runny!

That night, I served up his other b-day request, for a cake that was like a Canadian Maple donut from the other major coffee shop in Canada. So here it is, based on an old Veggie Life recipe:

M"eh"ple Cream Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white potato, baked, with flesh scooped out
2 tablespoons Earth Balance
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup soymilk

1/4 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup cold water
3 ounces firm silken tofu (in asceptic package)
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon Earth Balance
1 tablespoon maple extract
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water, or more as needed

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray and line two 8 inch round pan with parchment paper on the bottom.
2. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
3. In a separate large bowl, cream potato and Earth Balance. Add the sugar and beat until fully blended and mix is fluffy.
4. Add the vanilla and lemon extracts to the sugar mix and continue to beat.
5. Slowly add soy milk, beating until fully blended. Then add flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, and beat until batter is smooth.
6. Pour into pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a rack for at least 1 hour.
7. To make filling, in a blender, grind cashews with 1/4 cup water until smooth, about 1 minute. Add remaining water, washing down sides of blender while doing so and then blend on high for 2 minutes. Add tofu, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Blend on high until mixture is completely smooth.
8. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture is very thick, about 2 minutes.
9. Remove from heat then stir in oil and vanilla. Allow to cool, stir occasionally. At room temperature, cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
10. To make glaze, stir together maple extract and Earth Balance, then add in icing sugar. Add 1 tablespoon at a time of boiling water until glaze is thick but still pourable.
11. To assemble cake, place one layer on serving surface, dump out filling in centre, then place other cake layer on top, gently pressing down, ensuring filling stays about 1/2 from the edge. Pour on a little glaze to test the consistency, allowing some to fall down the sides. If glaze is too liquidy, add a little icing sugar until right consistency is achieved, then try to pour on cake again.

Now I had doubled the filling since I love it so much and thought I could put it to good use. And I did! I made Boston Cream Cuppies using the same cake recipe, but using Isa's chocolate ganache topping from VCTOTW.

With still even more filling left over in my pastry bag, I decided to pipe it onto some tofu chocolate mousse that was hanging around in the fridge! I even had a little ganache leftover that I did a little decorative touch.

So with all of these sweets, Kyle suggested that we cut down a little. Probably a good idea. Despite our dessert strike, I did negotiate making Dream Bars from Skinny B*tch in the Kitch since they sound so heavenly. I hope to make those this week to cheer us up from our dessert drought!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Square Root Day

So Kyle calls me this morning to inform me that today is a very unique day requiring a unique meal - apparently it's Square Root Day. Believe me, I wasn't thrilled about cooking something up for a number of reasons. First, Ash is still nowhere close to sleeping through the night. I haven't seen a four-hour stretch of sleep in weeks, never mind a full night of sleep in more than a year. And last night was awful so I was completely groggy today. Second, I had made enough spaghetti and bland tomato sauce to unfortunately last us til next month. Third, my mind was so cloudy there was no way that I could even figure out why today was Square Root Day, never mind come up with something creative.

But alas, I surprised myself by coming up with the following recipe that was quite delectable:

Squared Root Gnocchi

1 package gnocchi
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1 cm squares (the shape is important!)
1 large parsnip, cut into 1 cm squares (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons Earth Balance, divided
1/2 large onion, cut into thin slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package Yves Chick'n Tenders, diced
1/2 teaspoon Spike seasoning, optional
1/2 package fresh baby spinach

Creamy Square Sauce:
2 1/2 cups soymilk
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon tamari
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons Earth Balance

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Add sweet potatoes, parsnips (if using), oil, thyme and rosemary and toss to coat. Roast for 40 minutes, and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp Earth Balance, onion and garlic and saute until golden, about 5 minutes.
3. While the onion and garlic cooks, be a true multitasker and boil a pot of salted water for the gnocchi. In yet another saucepan, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients (except for the Earth Balance) and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Once simmering, add the Earth Balance and cook the sauce for another 10 minutes, again, stirring often.
4. While the sauce simmers, add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until gnocchi rise to the top of the pot, about 4 minutes.
5. When you've added the gnocchi to the boiling water, add the chick'n tenders and Spike (if using) to the onion and garlic mixture and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minutes.
6. By this time, your gnocchi should be ready! Spoon it out of the boiling water and add it to the onion mixture. Add remaining 1 tbsp of Earth Balance and stir to combine. Toss in roasted veggies and stir gently.
7. Spoon gnocchi into a serving bowl and top with several spoonfuls of Creamy Square Sauce.

Confusing? Somewhat! Just like math can be! But actually rather easy!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

New Vegetarian Restaurant in Ottawa!

We heard the news and had to check it out. Last night we dined at the new Green Earth Vegetarian Cuisine restaurant on Preston. We especially wanted to scope it out before taking the girls there since on one of our recent excursions downtown to the organic pizza place rumoured to have vegan cheese, we walked down Kent in the freezing cold only to learn that it had recently gone belly-up.

Green Earth is a refreshing place - bright in a happy way, with two dining levels. There are no curtains on the front window, so we instinctively wanted to eat near the back. I noticed that most people that came in after us felt the same way. There are two flat screen TVs tuned into SupremeMaster TV, which was an interesting channel piping continuous world peace and vegetarian messages subtitled in at least six languages.

The menu is puzzling. It is mostly Chinese/Asian, but with a section of six different veggie burgers, and burritos, fajitas and tacos, and another section of spaghetti and fettuccine alfredo. "Brushetta" is an appetizer alongside spring rolls and crispy wontons, and if you are so inspired you can order "fresh fries". There are only a couple of items that are not vegan and they are marked on the menu. The word "aulacese" is used several times. Not sure what that means. Internet searches imply that it is a synonym for Vietnamese.

The staff was very friendly and we were promptly served a pot of hot tea. We decided on an appetizer of Crispy Wontons, followed by soup - for me, Hot & Sour Soup and Petey ordered Rainbow Soup. The wontons were tasty, but there wasn't much filling, so we'll pass on those next time. Both of the soups were very good. This is now my go-to place for Hot & Sour Soup - loved it! We ordered dishes called "Three Flavours" and "Asparagus with Crescent" as our entrees. They were served as individual plates with a small pile of brown rice on each plate, so we had to kind of divvy up the plate in order to share both dishes. The "Three Flavours" - pumpkin, eggplant, tofu, onions and sweet basil was reminiscent of a Thai dish and very tasty. "Crescents" was asparagus and vegan prawn made from yam which was garlicky, salty and tasty. The asparagus was fresh and cooked perfectly and I think the prawn are funny. It was supposed to be served with chili sauce but I never saw any of that.

I thought we would be full by the end but we decided to try the vegan cheesecake. It was to die for. Slightly lemony and creamy on a graham cracker crust. Again, a repeat order next time we go there, and we may not be sharing.

It took a while to get our bill and we ended up having to ask for it. I wonder if it is a cultural thing, because I have noticed this at the Barrhaven Vietnamese Restaurant and a few reviews of that restaurant have alluded to this. If you are in a hurry, just ask politely for it or head to the cash.

Ottawa veggies, check it out! Let's keep our local vegetarian restaurants in business.

Green Earth Vegetarian Cuisine
354A Preston St
Ottawa, ON
(613) 56-EARTH
Mon-Sat 11am-9pm
Sun 12pm-8pm