Sunday, August 26, 2012

Holy Hannah!

Ever since I received Vegan Desserts by Hannah Kaminsky for Christmas, I knew we had to throw a pool party just so I could make the Watermelon Bombe. Well, those parties were this weekend!

So this isn't a last minute dessert requires planning to make the avocado-mint, coconut vanilla and watermelon-chocolate chip sorbet layers. But every ounce of planning was worth it! Sooo yummy!

Btw - shameless plug for my biz...if you are in Ottawa, you can follow my BetterSweet Treats on twitter! @bettersweet613 - I'll embed a link when I get to a PC!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Diner Dinner

I've been feeling a bit retro lately - not sure if the logo design for the new biz influenced that or not - but I've been craving healthy junk food.

Dreena Burton's Spicoli Burgers (sans bun) with Chloe Coscarelli's Oven-Baked Fries and Sweet Tomato Ketchup are hearty and filling but not in a heavy, bloated way! A serving of crispy kale chips rounds out the meal.

Except I'm forgetting dessert! Thanks to a recent promo through VegNews, I got ahold of Mr. Nice Guy's recipe for vegan Lemon Meringue Pie. Check out the pile of vegan (no eggs!) meringue! Insane! This tasted great! Came together so quickly!  Might add this to my BetterSweet Treats lineup!  Although I might have to change my tagline to Cupcakes and Cookies and one super yummy Lemon Meringue Pie!

Monday, June 25, 2012

BetterSweet open!

My little home business is now taking orders! Vegan, allergy-friendly cupcakes and cookies! Made in my soy-free, peanut-free and tree-nut free kitchen!

Check out my website!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kyson Turns Two!

My little boy is getting so big!

Kyson loves monkeys so it was only natural to make Chloe Coscarelli's agave nectar-based chocolate layer cake into a monkey face (thanks Savvy Mom for the decorating idea!) and I made her Banana Cupcakes with my own buttahcream frosting (and a banana slice, of course!). So yummy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Nicer Krispie Squares

Dreena Burton's Nicer Krispie Squares...I subbed hemp seeds (shocker!) for the macadamia butter and they were great! Yum!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

More Chloe!

I seriously can't get enough of Chloe's Kitchen, Chloe Coscarelli's new cookbook. I swooned over it in a recent blog post, and have found myself making so much from it.

But I was trying to think hard about why I consider this to be one of my go-to books. I've realized now why it is: There is nothing 'weird' in this book. Honest to God, I turn each page and consider making each recipe (of course making necessary allergy subs where need be). I truly believe that this is one book that you can challenge yourself to make each item. And it's not just North American food fare - there are some ethnic-inspired dishes to help encourage trying something new, but they aren't weird! I also have alot of books that have either a million recipes or too many variations of one recipe that seem to complicate things. I find that overwhelming. Or they have a billion ingredients. This book doesn't! It's just so fab.

Anyways, to prove my fondness for this book, here are some more yummy things I've made this past week:

Tomato-Basil Bisque - Roasting the tomatoes, garlic and onion before blending adds such a yummy flavour! Love having the Vitamix since it makes soups so smooth compared to the immersion blender. I didn't make the pumpernickel croutons since I don't have a recipe that is Kyson-safe.

Rosemary Tomato Gallette with Pine Nut Ricotta - Delicious! I felt so fancy. I used Buttah to make the crust, and it was so flaky. Instead of using pine nuts, I used hemp seeds (surprise!). It was great! Would definitely use as a dip!

California Chipotle Chop with Agave-Lime Vinaigrette - Scrumptious! I just omitted the step where one would cook beans with garlic and chipotle since we cant do beans. I had added garlic to the salad but not chipotle so technically I don't live up to the title! Ash loved this and begged for more!

BBQ Pineapple Pizza - Sooooo good! I love her BBQ sauce! I have to admit that I didn't cook her own ketchup ingredients first - I just added those ingredients and cooked them as the BBQ sauce cooked. I just thought the flavours of this dish were so unique!

* Since I'm using mobile blogger, my pics are all shoved at the bottom! Will fix when I get to a PC!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pizza Roll Ups

I make pizza. Alot. While I can change up the topping, the shape is pretty consistent. I've thought about a calzone style, but it takes forever for it to cool and I don't need the stress of one of the kids getting a burned tongue!

I was happy to read about Pizza Roll Ups in Today's Parent ages ago, and have made them a few times.  Basically, you roll out the dough to a rectangle, top it, then roll it up like a cinnamon bun, slice, and place separately on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to bake (I did mine at 375 for about 15-20 minutes). The kids are actually super pumped about them mainly because they initially think they are having cinnamon buns for dinner, but they remain excited after they realize they aren't filled with sugar - hooray!  And I'm jumping for joy since I have them stuffed with veggies that are easily disguised in this format - double hooray!  They are too busy unwinding them and stuffing their faces to realize that there is spinach, red pepper, mushrooms and nooch in there!

Normally I stuff mine with some minced seitan for added protein.  But it's been nice out the past couple of days, and I've had my mind on ramping up the cupcakes and cookies home baking business, so I've been lazy and haven't made any seitan.  So - why not use my other go-to protein source...hemp seeds!  I figured why not - they made a great sub for lentils in my pasta salad the other night, and they turned out great in the cinnamon buns!  Each roll easily had 2 tablespoons worth, so it bumped up the protein by about 10g per roll!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Buns

I've been rather busy in the kitchen lately!

Still loving my new cookbooks! Made Chloe's cinnamon! Yummy!

When it came to the 1 cup of raisins called for in the recipe, I wondered what I could use - Ash would never eat raisins and my other idea for cooked apples and I'm sure Kyson would have turned up his nose at both too. I then dreamed about the good ol' days when I would have pecans in there...but alas those days are over.

So what else? Surprise - hemp seeds! And they turned out great! See for yourself!

Cinco de Mayo!

Have no real idea what this occasion is but it was an excuse to celebrate something!

From Chloe's Kitchen, I made Mini Potato Skins Stuffed with Avocado Salsa. Soooo good! I've never had potato skins before so now I'm wondering what else I can stuff these puppies with! I loved her method of roasted the potatoes whole with olive oil and S&P then slicing, scooping and baking again. Ash devoured these! They were so festive! I only cheated a little bit since instead of making salsa fresca I used Farm Boy fresh salsa - so good!

From Eat, Drink and Be Vegan, I made Lime Sucker Coconut Pie without the coconut. As I tweeted to Dreena Burton...sweet Jesus! This was way good. I made the crust using the Graham Cracker recipe from the ppk, crumbled it and used the crust recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky by my beloved Isa Chandra. Then I achieved something I have never been able to do...have agar that actually sets! And in just over an hour! This pie was so tasty - subbed vanilla rice milk and grapeseed oil for the coconut although I'm sure it tastes even better with the day I hope I can make it the real way! One month today until the next allergy test so we will see! Anyways, back to the pie...I topped with fresh raspberries and served with Chloe's raspberry sauce. Soooo good!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Protein-Packed Pancakes

So for years now, I've made pancakes with the usual ingredients - flour, nondairy milk, baking powder, a little oil - nothing special. Well, the other night was an eye opener.

Went through Dreena Burton's Let Them Eat Vegan and was happy to see two choices of pancakes for my planned pancake supper. The first - Apple Hemp - looked great, but I worried Ash would be upset at the chunks of cooked apple in there. The next option was Whole Grain Chia - looked good but I really wanted to try the hemp! So I did the latter with the added hemp! Delish!

I think next time I might try subbing the chia for hemp entirely - the chia gets gooey after awhile and despite thinning it with milk, the goo was hard for me to cook away. I love adding small amounts of chia to muffins and such but after attempting a chia pudding a few weeks back, I think I have an aversion to too much of it as it gets gooey.

But the thing I'm totally amazed about is why I never thought of adding hemp to pancake batter! Seriously! Just adding 3/4 of a cup adds a whopping 60 grams of protein! Dividing that across a batch of 12 pancakes, basic math skills tell me that adds 5 grams of protein to EACH pancake - that's in addition to the couple of grams from the flour. That's insane! It was especially insane because the kiddos each ate 4 pancakes apiece! I was one happy mama.

Here they are with fruit and my strawberry and raspberry sauces. Yum!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Let Them Eat Vegan!

My other new cookbook is by Dreena Burton. I really like how there is a variety of recipes, with variations to make it soy free, gluten free, and nut free. It's a big help! Stuff looks good, but I'm afraid I'll have to wait until Kyson grows out of something (notice I said 'when' and not 'if'...I'm trying to stay postive!) to be able to make most of it, since it's understandably full of legumes! *Sigh*

But I've been attacking the muffins! Pictured are Oat 'n' Applesauce and BF Blueberry and Chia Banana.

I'm making yet another batch since Kyson requests these daily and we are all out. Given that he's so limited and fussy regarding what he will eat, I can't afford to be out!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chloe's Kitchen in Sarah's Kitchen!

So I have purchased a few cookbooks lately - believe me, I hesitated, since I get mildly depressed when I see so many yummy tofu and lentil and bean dishes.  It’s the same feeling I got back in the mid 90’s when there were few vegan cookbooks, and I had to sort through vegetarian cookbooks with all their egg and cheesiness to find a few vegan recipes (no Internet widely available then like there is now!).

But I was ultra-pumped for Chloe’s Kitchen.  I have been a follower of hers since she won Cupcake Wars, and have tried nearly everything on her website.  Her recipes are simple and effortless, so I expected the same when I heard she had a cookbook coming out.

Boy was I right!  And the best part is...we can eat MOST of what is in the book!  It’s so exciting for me since many recipes are soy-free – just like my beloved Isa was one of the first to label recipes as being soy-free (I would be totally asking for too much for legume-free, since what vegan doesn’t eat those? Grrr...).  She also has a ton of tips for making stuff ahead of time, which is really convenient.  There are a ton of pictures which is really inspiring.  Somewhere (the ppk maybe?) someone made a comment that there are too many pics of Chloe – I think not.  I love her big grin!  I also love this dress:

I wish to God that I could wear something like this and actually have somewhere to go in it or host a fabulous appetizer party...but who am I kidding?

Anyways...So here is a synopsis – most with pics – of all the stuff I’ve made so far:

Garlic White Bean Dip – OK, this is not legume-free.  But I was used to making this on a daily basis as a snack after discovering the recipe on her website for Pizza with Roasted Apple, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onions. It’s to die for!  I think she used to make it with ½ cup of olive oil, so that’s what I do since I’m not overly concerned with fat – hey, it’s something we can eat so why limit it!

Cheesy Broccoli Soup – I didn’t bother with the bread bowl since I’m sure the kids would have tried to eat that with the soup still inside.  It was pretty good.  I pureed the crap out of it hoping it would get the kids to eat it.  So mine looks nothing like hers - as a result there is no pic.  But tasty!  

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip – Calls for tofu, I used Bryanna’s Hemp Mayo instead.  Worked great!  Very creamy.

Garlicky Greens – I used kale – these were so yummy!  If I wasn’t so busy putting handfuls of kale in our morning smoothies, maybe I would have some kicking around to make this more often!  But I can’t fit anymore kale in the fridge without it looking like an overgrown jungle.  I have them pictured below with the Seitan Scallopini.

Grilled Pesto Pizza with Sweet Potatoes, Kale and Balsamic Reduction – O. M. G.  Making this felt like I was a gourmet chef in a fancy restaurant.  First of all, I love Chloe’s pizza crust recipe.  It is foolproof and I use it to make every pizza (except I use half AP and half WW).  Second, I plan on making our weekly pizzas on the BBQ during the summer to avoid the oven from going on – the flavour these took on was incredible. Third, the toppings on this are so scrumptious.  I could have licked my plate (oh wait, I did...good thing we weren’t actually in a fancy restaurant!).  The balsamic reduction was so good (if you make it, don’t leave it unattended like I did – my first batch burned), and I could see myself using this on some other dish.

Moo Shu Vegetables with Homemade Chinese Pancakes – Another hit!  This was especially easy but you would never know.  Featured a great way to use bagged coleslaw mix for something other than coleslaw...I didn’t know that was possible!  The pancakes were super cool.  I will make those using canola oil instead of sesame to make homemade tortillas since we can’t buy storebought ones.  I used seitan instead of the tofu.  Ash begged for more!

Avocado Pesto Pasta – Another recipe from her website.  So ridiculously easy and delish.  The kids LOVE this one.  I use hemp seed instead of pine nuts.  Tastes yummy!  No idea how I don't have a pic of this since I tweeted about it some time ago.

Best Ever Baked Macaroni and Cheese – Really good, but I made it with canola oil so I wonder if it didn’t have that ‘buttery’ taste as a result.  Now that I have me some deodorized cocoa butter and have made a big batch of ‘Buttah’, I’ll be making this again.  It was a great to be able to make this in the morning for Kyle to pop in the oven while I was at my BodyPump class.

Mongolian BBQ Seitan – Ridiculously good!  Since every hoisin sauce I’ve seen has soy, I made up my own...I will try to find it but it was modified off the Internet.  I also omitted the chili garlic sauce (cross contamination with soy worries) and the snow peas and used bok choy (can’t do legumes...I totally thought it was a vegetable! Who knew?).  Even with my changes it was great, so I’m sure the original is fab! 

Seitan Scallopini – Of course I have to modify!  But this time I didn’t modify the ingredients– just the texture!  Ash won’t touch mushrooms with a 10-foot pole so I had to puree the sauce.  Sure, it didn’t have the nice texture that I’m sure was intended, but it was delish. And super easy!

Tropical Island Kebabs with Cilantro Rice – Another hit!  I made kebabs last summer and without this sauce, they were lame.  She recommends her Sweet and Sour Sauce, which is so easy, and it tastes great here.  The rice was quick and easy to make, and looked and tasted like there was way more effort involved!  I just omitted the slivered almonds since we can’t do nuts. 

Baked Sprinkled Donuts – Yummy!  I need excuses to use my doughnut pans so naturally I had to make these!  Since I seem to modify every recipe, I cut the salt in half.  I also learned to decorate the ‘pretty’ side.  Fun!

And finally...

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes with Warm Raspberry Sauce – Seriously.  You need to make these.  Ridiculously easy and look so special!  I originally used teacups to serve as the ramekins, but I went to IKEA to buy six real ramekins just for this recipe.  There are so many cool things – yes, the melty chocolate in the middle is way cool, but I love that this is a make-ahead dessert that goes from freezer to oven to being cooked in about 20 minutes!  So great when you need to serve something fancy and don’t have the time or energy to do something!  I just popped the frozen treat in the oven, turned it on and let it bake.  I actually made the raspberry sauce and I’m glad I did. I keep it in a squirt bottle in the fridge – it dresses up not only this dessert, but it’s great to drizzle on pancakes, decorate a cookie quickly or for a cupcake drizzle.  I’ve followed the same instructions to make a strawberry sauce too – I just pureed the strawberries before adding them to the saucepan (and didn’t have to put them through a sieve afterwards like I did for the raspberries).

Here are some freebie recipes from her website:

Vegan Cookie Dough Truffles - Make these now.  For next Easter, I will be shaping these into egg shapes, without the chocolate chips inside, and pretending they are vegan Cadbury eggs!

Vegan Goldfish Crackers - I have a picture of these on my phone, but mobile blogger is being a royal pain right now (it's taken me about 2 1/2 hours to get this post up since my phone and PC are being really irritating).  I have to craft these fast, since they get eaten fast, so I roll the dough onto parchment, slice lengthwise and widthwise with a pizza cutter and carry the sheet of parchment onto my cookie sheet.  As they bake, they separate.  Tastes the same!  Just really quick.  I used olive oil for these, since I hadn't made Buttah, but now that I have some, I will try it that way!  I also sneak in extra nooch.

In all, if you haven’t already bought this book, do so!  From what I understand it’s everywhere – even Walmart USA!  I would check here, but walking into that store is like the equivalent of walking into hell for me. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back to Basics

Way back, I remember buying the Joy of Vegan Baking only to return it days later - I was really annoyed that it seemed like a Betty Crocker style of book with simple subs like Earth Balance and tofu cream cheeze. Then, years later, I remember seeing Kathy Freston on Ellen encouraging folks to go vegan with the help of Gardein. Again, I found myself wondering what the point of being vegan was if it simply meant subbing meat with a processed soy product. And many of the tweets I receive regarding a vegan lifestyle are basically trying to promote a new and surely overpriced vegan junk food or convenience product.

Now I'm not trying to shun this advertising and rampant processed product availability - I'm a capitalist. But it just seems to be against what veganism is all about - at least for me. Some are vegan since they are disgusted about the treatment of animals; some take on this diet due to a health crisis of some sort; some do it since it seems to be the 'it' thing. For me, I never liked the taste and texture of animal products and how they made me feel so that was the initial driving force, then came the realization that cooking without animal products is more interesting, flavourful and more challenging. Please note that I find the 'challenging' part to be a positive; not something to be perceived as negative or frustrating. So, as a result, I'm disappointed that vegan food seems to be promoted more through packaged products and recipes that rely on those products.

Thank goodness there are some chefs/cookbook authors that are bucking the overprocessed stuff.  Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Chloe Coscarelli and Dreena Burton have cookbooks that don't always call for processed products.  It's refreshing!  The way we should be cooking!  So naturally those are the cookbooks that I tend to gravitate towards when preparing my meal plans.

Given our allergy situation, I can't go to the store and buy some products - purchased seitan and mayo always have soy; soy-free Earth Balance has pea protein, flax, sunflower, palm, coconut and more; bread has something in it or is produced in a facility that also processes nuts; crackers have soy, sunflower or safflower...the list goes on.  But I've found a few good recipes that I make loads of basics, so although there are a few things I need to make in order to be able to prepare many recipes, it's really not much effort.

So if you have a billion allergies like us, or want to go vegan without having to buy all the vegan products, or want to get to know what is in your food a little better, here you go!

Seitan - I prefer my recipe, as it doesn't make a spongy or squishy seitan.  It's more dense.  I make a loaf each week and slice for sandwiches, dice for casseroles and stir fries, use it ground in pasta sauces, bread name it.  Most normal people would have variety in their diets, but given that tofu and beans are out, this is it.

Blue Ribbon Bread - Love that this makes up 3 loaves at a time, so you only have to make it once and freeze them.  I tend to use cooked quinoa to bump up the complete protein factor.  I make my burger buns using this versatile recipe, and just shorten the baking time.  I can't believe I have no pic of this!  

Buttah - Was using Mattie's, now using Bryanna Clark Grogan's recipe.  It's awesome!  It stays soft at room temp, and makes a perfect sugar cookie, chocolate chip cookie dough, and buttercream.  Her write up about fair trade ingredients was really helpful, and I just received my 7lb order of deodorized cocoa butter!  Although I have to say I won't use UPS as the shipping method again - brokerage fee?  Anyways, I use IKEA silicone cupcake molds as each one holds 1/2 cup so it's easy to measure for baking.  I simply omit the lecithin since we can't do soy or sunflower, and I can't be bothered to order an obscene amount of canola lecithin.

Mayonnaise - I never was a mayo girl, but some recipes are just plain calling for it.  This one from Bryanna Clark Grogan is easy and reliable.  I think it tastes like the real thing!  I'm hoping to tweak it to use as a replacement for silken tofu in recipes like cheezecakes...that's the one thing that I haven't been able to make since the allergy diagnosis.

I hope this list proves to be useful for those in Ottawa looking to participate in the NCVA's Veg Challenge - good luck!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hempy Snaps

The kids love munching on candied hemp seeds - sugar + water + hemp seeds - they call it 'candy'! It's a little sad because I'm sure that when I was their age, I would only call brightly coloured pure sugar stuff candy. I guess calling hemp candy isn't so bad.

I devised this next recipe in an effort to make something a little more compacted in a bar format than just little itty bitty candied hemp seeds (which fit *perfectly* in the little cracks of hardwood planks). I was all super pumped until they tried some - they were a no go. Too sticky for nearly 2- and 4-year-olds? Ah well. I'll eat these while I chisel candied hemp seeds off the floor.

Here's the super easy recipe...

Hempy Snaps

1 cup hemp hearts
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup agave
2 tbsp water
Canola oil spray

Add all ingredients to a nonstick skillet.  Stir over medium heat constantly to dissolve sugar in water.  Heat for about 4-5 minutes, until hemp hearts smell a little toasty.

Scrape out mixture onto parchment paper.  Spray a little oil on the surface.  Using your hands, pat out to a 1-inch layer.  Using a rolling pin, roll the mixture until about 1/8 inch thick, spraying a little oil if mixture is sticking to rolling pin.  Using a large knife, slice into squares.  Keep refrigerated, using wax paper or parchment between layers.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Happy Easter! (And a Little Market Research Favour...)

Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter with food, family and friends. We had a great time!

As I described in a previous post, I made a few yummy things...

Fronch Toast - from Isa's Vegan with a Vengeance book. I used all flour instead of some of the chickpea flour called for since we have to be legume-free. Turned out great as always! Annoyed with myself since I made homemade raspberry and strawberry sauces that I forgot to put out with the maple syrup...argh.  Served with Buttah, which I will blog about shortly!

Smoky Maple Sausages - from Isa's Vegan Brunch recipe. Used my own seitan. Turned out ok - I think I forgot to add salt and maybe I would have preferred more of a sauce with them? I have no idea how regular sausages are even served.

Fruit Flowers - This was pretty last minute. I ran out of time! I had visions of something even more grand!

Bakery Style Berry Muffins - Tasted perfect! Kyson was stealing these from unsuspecting guests' plates.

Potato Spinach Squares - also from Isa's Vegan Brunch. Others liked it, I thought it was ok.

Hash Browns - I loved these ones! From Isa's Vegan Brunch. I love these! I only have one nonstick muffin pan, and after using a regular ol' muffin pan, we quickly realized I will need to invest in a second nonstick one if we decide to double the recipe again.

Quinoa Salad - cooked quinoa, grape tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, cilantro and parsley with Farm Boy Lemon Garlic dressing. Easy! Was yummy!

Carrot Cupcakes - Chickened out using the recipe from VCTOTW since I was nervous about subbing for the soy yogurt. Used a recipe from Happy Herbivore. Found them to be dough-y and gummy and stuck all over the muffin papers. Should have asked my MIL to make them since she does a way better job. Looked pretty though! Ash took charge of the coloured icing detail.  Here they are in their cute little basket wraps and then with the homemade tempered-Enjoy Life chocolate chunk Easter eggs (mold and wrappers from Bulk Barn).

Punch - bottled organic lemon juice and lime juice, two small bottles of POM, 1 bottle sparkling water, a few glugs of agave nectar and OJ. No pic :(

Takeaway - everyone got sugar cookies - making the icing was fun...spinach, turmeric, beet and blueberries were used. So pretty! Can't stand the thought of artificial colours. I enlisted the help of Ash and her older cousin Princess to decorate them all! Didn't get pics of that though.

So I think it went well.

Oh, doing a little market research - please comment if you are from Ottawa...any interest in vegan/soy free/peanut free/tree nut free cupcakes for events? I promise I wouldn't get Ash to decorate them :)  Awhile ago, I had thought about doing this on the side, but after being sidelined with the whack of allergies, I had to put it on the back burner.  Now that I've mastered this allergy stuff, I can make stuff taste great and even appeal to whoever else might need some stuff that's safe for those with soy, peanut or tree nut allergies.

And for those in Ottawa or outside of Ottawa (I can mail these puppies)...what about an order of vegan/soy free/peanut free/tree nut free/ refined sugar free/ridiculously healthy yet so yummy cookies as a great snack for work or packing in school lunches? Each cookie features a whopping 7g of protein, is chock full of fibre, packed with omegas, and contains 20% of the RDV of iron? I've developed them to serve as a meal replacement for my picky toddler. Will post more info soon, but hoped to gauge interest :). Thanks in advance!