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!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Realization: Peanuts Just Taste Like Salt Anyways

As I have been delving into the world of allergy-free cooking and baking, I'm realizing a lot of our forbidden ingredients - soy sauce, peanut sauce, canned tomato soup - just taste like salt. I am now baffled at why I never wondered what the point of adding one teaspoon of soy sauce in a recipe was for - I could have just added salt!

So I haven't been too upset about soy sauce as an ingredient in a recipe as it is easy to exclude (that being said I like Chloe Coscarelli's soy-free sauce from her cookbook, Chloe's Kitchen, for when recipes call for a more substantial amount). For canned tomato soup (mustard? Plus it's actually gross), I have been using strained tomatoes with - you guessed it! - salt. For peanut sauce, well, I was a little stumped. That is, until I decided to use my favourite seed!

I wanted a dipping sauce for some spring rolls. So here it went. The pic at the bottom is a little too runny. I have since modified the recipe to get it to be thicker. I based it on this recipe so if you are good with soy, coconut and sunflower, perhaps you would be more inclined to use that one.

Peanut-Free Hemp Seed Dipping Sauce

3/4 cup hemp hearts
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup rice milk
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp agave
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp roasted garlic or 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt or 2 tbsp Chloe's Soy Free Sauce (if on hand - will at least help justify why you took the time to make it)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Drop of molasses for colour

Blend in Vitamix until smooth and warm. Taste for seasonings - serve!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Easter Project

Getting ready to host the families on Sunday for an Easter brunch. I'll be serving Kyson-allergy-free food, so it will all be soy-free, nut-free and legume-free, among other things :) Excitedly, this has consumed my life right now. Ah, what a gripping life I lead! Really trying to make it as normal as possible for non-vegans while respecting all of the allergy stuff for my little boy. Want to prove anything is possible and that we aren't horrifically limited in our diet!

Here's the menu:

Fronch Toast - from Isa's Vegan with a Vengeance book. Using my homemade baguette from the Blue Ribbon Bread recipe from Vegan Lunch Box. I baked the bread and sliced it into 1-inch pieces and froze so they will be ready for Sunday morning!

Smoky Maple Sausages - from Isa's Vegan Brunch recipe. Used my own seitan - I'm pretty pumped about these little suckers. I put the dough in a pastry bag and piped it out onto sheets of foil (see pic way below...damn mobile blogger). Rolled about 36 of them and steamed for about 40 minutes. Since I made them ahead of time, I kept them in the foil in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. I'll thaw in the fridge the night before.

Fruit Flowers - I'll make these the morning of the brunch. I have some cookie cutters for the pineapple slices, and will use a cantaloupe ball as the middle. I'll have chocolate covered strawberries and strands of grapes and blueberries all on skewers. I have a tacky ceramic Easter-themed pot that my mom loaned to me and I'll fit it with homemade play doh, cover with leaf lettuce, then stick everything in.

Bakery Style Muffins - I might have the name wrong, but they are from Isa's Vegan Brunch book. One of my faves! I made them mini-sized so they are more suitable for a buffet and froze them so they will be ready to go!

Potato Spinach Squares - also from Isa's Vegan Brunch. Will make the morning of!

Hash Browns - I loved these ones! From Isa's Vegan Brunch (again!). I finally found some cheesecloth so Kyle will have the task of wringing out the potatoes on Sunday morning! Totally worth it since they are so yummy without all the oil! And since they are in muffin tins, they are nice little portions.

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

Carrot Cupcakes - using the recipe from VCTOTW except subbing extra rice milk plus vinegar for the soy yogurt. Given my history with making carrot-based baked goods, I am a little nervous about this necessary substitution. Will ice with a buttercream made from my butter (except I'm trying a newer, lighter recipe!) and top with slivers of carrots with parsley. I have some cute basket cupcake wraps that look like Easter baskets.

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.

Everyone will get a takeaway - a little bag with some iced Sugar Cookies (from VCTOYCJ) in Easter shapes with some crafts made by the kids.

I will for sure post pics of everything!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

What is that on the BBQ? Lettuce?

Ah, yet another attempt to recreate something from my beloved dinner at Zen Kitchen the other night: grilled romaine lettuce.

Yes, it sounds weird. My mom did a "say what?" when I told her about it. It's strange, but true. And oh so good!

So again we tried to re-create: I took a romaine heart and sliced it all the way down the centre lengthwise (sounds so cruel!). The most important part is resisting the urge to trim the bottom - don't!!! It holds the whole shebang intact! Submerge each half in a sink full of cold water - gently pull the leaves away to ensure its all clean in between. Shake out excess water and transfer to a 9x13 pan. Drizzle lemon garlic dressing on top. Let marinate for about 2 hours. Grill for about 4 minutes and serve!

Monday, April 02, 2012

I am no Caroline Ishii :(

Almost two weeks ago, Kyle and I FINALLY made it out to Zen Kitchen. It was embarrassingly too long - only more embarrassing was the fact that it was also our first date in more than four years! But I digress. Between watching them open their restaurant on the W network series to dealing with nursing and the allergy situation, we finally had a chance to go!

We were pretty happy to have a reservation. It was good to see how busy it was! The service was awesome, and I was really impressed how everything flowed. We never had to wait between courses - it flowed beautifully.

We decided to go with the chef's tasting menu. We would have several courses and had no idea what we would be brought! It was exciting! Mainly for me, since most vegan restaurants in Ottawa are self-serve, thereby eliminating the suspense. Also, unless something has changed in the last couple of years, I don't think they are all vegan - just vegetarian. So it was great to be able to eat everything off the menu!

Things got started with an amuse-bouche consisting of a cracker with crème fraiche with pickled ginger. Then a smoky mushroom soup, followed by a beet and lentil risotto. Our main consisted of a harvest vegetable pie with grilled lettuce and radicchio. Finally, we finished things off with a pecan pie topped with coconut ice cream. It was heavenly! We could have licked the plates. Kyle also had the wine pairing and he tried some awesome wines. Given the we are not wine connoisseurs at all, it was great that Dave educated us. Kyle was served Colaneri wine, and after he finished it, the winemaker herself presented him with an invite to their winery! It was a very cool experience!

I have to admit that I was eating so many things that Kyson is allergic to, and I felt guilty for it. Soy, legumes, nuts and coconut were prevalent in so many dishes and while it was great to eat them, I was sad that Kyse is missing so much and that our diet isn't as exciting as it could be.

In any case, I thought I'd like to try to replicate the risotto. 'Try' is the operative word here. It was tasty, but not like Zen Kitchen's - lentils aside.

Beet Risotto

5 beets, scrubbed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup white wine
2 1/2 cups broth
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp salt
8 ounces seitan, finely diced

Wrap each beet in foil, place on a cookie sheet and roast for 1 1/2 hrs at 425 degrees. Once cool, unwrap, peel skin and chop. Set aside. (note: I did this the day before).

In a pressure cooker, sauté onions and garlic in oil for about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat, about 1 minute. Add wine, stirring. Add broth, salt, pepper and marjoram. Lock lid into place and bring to high pressure. Once at high pressure, cook for 5 minutes.

Release pressure quickly. Stir in beets and seitan and warm everything through. Serve!