the taste space

Classic Cheesy Kale Chips & Choosing Raw Cookbook Review+Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on July 1, 2014

Classic Cheesy Kale Chips (Choosing Raw)

It is my pleasure to share with you Gena Hamshaw’s new cookbook, Choosing Raw. Named after her widely popular food blog, her simple, bright and healthy recipes shine through onto paper. Full disclosure, I have loved Gena’s recipes ever since I discovered her blog (and her infamous banana soft serve recipe). My previous gushings can be seen here and here and I was thrilled when Gena asked me to be a tester for her cookbook. The best part of help her test the recipes? She actually cared about my feedback beyond recipe bloopers, making this a truly phenomenal cookbook.

Just as her blog attests, the recipes are fresh and flavourful. All vegan, some raw, some cooked, some mixed, some with options for either raw or cooked. You might think you recognize some of the recipes from her blog, but they have all been reworked and rewritten based on reader feedback. With 125 recipes, spanning essential foundation recipes (including cashew cheese, chocomole, banana soft serve, lemon turmeric vinaigrette, ginger miso dressing and hemp parmesan) and breakfasts, meals and desserts separated based on the degree of raw components and familiarity to traditional meals. She includes a primer on making meal-sized salads, including a Dinosaur Kale and White Bean Caesar Salad and a Raw Cobb Salad with Eggplant Bacon.

Choosing Raw Cookbook Review

Gena’s level 1 or introductory recipes are truly tried-and-true. Breakfasts options include the (delicious!) Raw Vegan Bircher Muesli, and (even more delicious!!) Chickpea Tofu Tahini Scramble. Gena has different suggestions for lunch and dinner (for me, lunch is always dinner in leftover form) and I can highly recommend both her Curried Chickpea and Carrot Salad and Easy Red Lentil Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry.

Slowly, Gena encourages you to branch out from the familiar with a hybrid of new and old. Her Avocado Black Bean Scramble was fresh and bright, the Raw Falafels have a carrot base which was the first falafel recipe I liked, and I love that her Raw Pad Thai actually includes tamarind (although I recommend adding more tamarind… because, that’s just the way we like it!). The Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto with Pomegranate Seeds was a fun twist for an autumn side, although I added chickpeas for a heartier meal.

Within her level 3 recipes (aka Brave New World), Gena introduces you to chocolate açaí bowls, jicama fiesta rice salad, raw corn chowder, and coconut curry kelp noodles. From this chapter, I highly recommend the Zucchini Pasta with Mango, Avocado and Black Bean Salsa (I substituted peaches which was still glorious) and her Raw or Cooked Ratatouille.

Desserts are typically the star of raw cuisine, and her recipes do not disappoint. Her Simple Raw Vanilla Macaroons are flawless and her Raw Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting is spot-on. I cannot wait to try other dishes like her Cherry Vanilla Tahini Ice Cream (no ice cream machine required!) and her No-Bake Tartlets with Raw Vegan Chocolate Ganache Filling has been on my hitlist for a long time.

Choosing Raw Cookbook Review

For me, the most important part of a cookbook are the recipes (and the index so I can find the recipes), but the recipes are only a portion of Gena’s book. Her first chapters explain “The Why”, “The What” and “The How” of a eating a vegan diet that includes raw. Normally I skip over these sections, but Gena makes these sections practical, useful and insightful with her background in nutrition. Finally, a raw cookbook that tells you the theory of keeping your food “enzymes” intact will all get decimated in your stomach’s harsh acidic environment anyhow. Likewise, her focus is on nutrients from a plant-based diet.

Gena explains how to properly balance your meals, explaining the importance of fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. She debunks myths including “Eating spinach raw is bad for you because it blocks the absorption of nutrients”, “Soy disrupts hormones, causes breast cancer and should be avoided”, “You should always eat fruit alone and on an empty stomach”, and “It’s essential to separate proteins and starches, because they require different digestive environments and will cause bloating if you eat them together”. To top it off, there are 21 days of worth of meal plans along with tips on how to transition to a vegan diet.

Classic Cheesy Kale Chips (Choosing Raw)

For this review, I had a hard time deciding which recipe to highlight. I decided to share her Classic Cheezy Kale Chips. The mixture of cashews, red bell pepper, nutritional yeast and miso coat the kale leaves which are dehydrated until they are crispy and flavourful. I don’t usually bother with pretty photos while recipe testing, and I had good intentions of taking better photos. Until I ate all the chips. And then they were all gone. They were incredibly addictive.

Gena also has a higher protein kale chip that I am dying to try: Hummus Kale Chips (made with chickpeas)!

Classic Cheesy Kale Chips (Choosing Raw)

Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite vegetable. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!

Other recipes from Choosing Raw shared elsewhere:

Zucchini Pasta with Quinoa Meatballs

Raw Carrot Falafels

Hemp Seed Tabouli with Yellow Tomatoes and Mint

(more…)

Indian Chickpea and Spinach Curry (Chana Saag)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 23, 2014

It is all about the greens, lately.

After a week or so of salads and wraps, I turn the rest of my fresh greens into a soup, stew, or in this case curry.

I am sharing an Indian Chickpea and Spinach Curry (Chana Saag) at Laura’s blog, The Gluten-Free Treadmill. Please pop on over to check it out!

PS. And when I said I would be sharing another giveaway with you yesterday, I meant tomorrow. So stay tuned! ;)

Eccentric Caesar Salad & Straight From the Earth Review+Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on May 22, 2014

Eccentric Caesar Salad

This post is a twofer.

First of all, I have a gift for all of you! A free Beyond Meat product – click here for your coupon.

I don’t tend to get too excited about mock meats (it is a bit processed for my liking), but was really curious after it was selected as the “real chicken” on the Today’s Show. Some things are easier to find in the United States, so with a coupon for a free product (see above), how could we refuse? Beyond Meat isn’t new, but it was new to me and definitely uncannily similar to chicken, complete with the grill marks. You buy it frozen and just need to defrost it prior to serving. Thus, it was super easy to make and great source of protein.

Eccentric Caesar Salad + Straight From the Earth review +giveaway

Now for the book review, as advertised, with an eccentric Caesar salad. Eccentric because it is no standard Caesar. I mean, it is a vegan version of a decidedly un-vegan salad but the twist comes from the nutritional yeast and curry powder in the dressing and the mishmash of additional ingredients. The cashew-based dressing was simply delicious, aka awesome sauce. Paired with the fresh lettuce, buttery avocado, briny capers and hemp seeds, it was a superfood-packed salad. (And by superfoods, I mean super tasting foods!) Instead of the herby croutons, I wanted this to be a complete meal and thus added the chicken-less strips overtop. The strips look a bit too perfectly rectangular but they tasted great.

Eccentric Caesar Salad + Straight From the Earth review +giveaway

The recipe comes from Straight from the Earth, by mother and daughter team Myra and Marea Goodman of Earthbound Farm fame. Neither one is vegan but have created a gorgeous cookbook filled with tantalizing recipes. There is something for everyone between the two cooks. I found myself naturally gravitating to Marea’s recipes, who learned her vegan culinary tricks while living and cooking for fellow vegans in a co-op while at college. Her mother’s tastes are more classical. As an example, Marea has a recipe for chipotle-lime Brazil nuts and Myra has a recipe for double-roasted maple-spiced hazelnuts. OK, OK, both sound delicious. Lots of delicious recipes, including a nut-free crispy baked kale chips with nutritional yeast and shiitake mushroom, water chestnut and tofu lettuce cups.

Eccentric Caesar Salad + Straight From the Earth review +giveaway

Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the continental United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me what you think of mock meats. The winner will be selected at random on June 8, 2014. Good luck!

Other recipes from Straight from the Earth spotted elsewhere:

Raspberry Salad with Baby Greens and Raspberry-Golden Balsamic Vinaigrette

Wheat Berry, Baby Kale, Grape and Orange Salad

Heart of Palm, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

Cabbage and Carrot Crunch Salad with Agave-Dijon Vinaigrette

Thai Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Teriyaki Tofu Broccolette on Wild Rice

Barley, Quinoa, and Cannellini Bean Loaf (or Burgers)

Whole Wheat Biscuits

Blackberry Bran Muffins

Sesame, Orange, and Hazelnut Cookies

Banana Coconut Cake

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

PS. I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.

PPS. Stayed tuned because tomorrow I have another giveaway! (more…)

Thai Chickpea & Kale Salad Rolls with Peanut Dressing

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 17, 2014

Thai Chickpea & Kale Salad Rolls with Peanut Dressing

My lovely friend, Dawn, recently asked me to share my tips for food blogging.

As you know, I have a demanding full-time job and this is my hobby. After a few years, I think I have a great balance between managing the blog and the rest of my life. Mainly, the blog does not take over my life.

Some people wonder how I make and share so many different recipes without losing my mind.

I try to keep things low-key. I only take photos once. New recipe, snap a photo. If I come back and the photos suck, oh well… I will still post the subpar photos if the recipe is good.

This also means that I may make a recipe one way but find a better use for it afterwards as leftovers. Then my photos might not look like my recipe!

That is how this recipe evolved. It started out as a Thai Kale Salad with Chickpeas and a Peanut Dressing. I made it, I ate it. However, the next day, I thought rice paper rolls would be better.  So I wrapped them up… and decided I didn’t want to bother with new photographs and munched away. Of course, the wrap was better. There is something sensational when all the components of the dish hit your palate at the exact same time: the lemony kale, the sweet red pepper, the crunchy carrots and the chickpeas are not rolling around everywhere…. and how could I forget the delicious peanut sauce? It is light, thinned with vinegar but flavourful with the ginger and orange. Drizzled into the salad roll, it was delicious. So delicious, I gobbled up the rest of the salad before rethinking about a new photo shoot.

Want more advice on how to be an awesome food blogger? Check out Dawn’s round-up with tips from Joanne at Eats Well With Others, Alissa from Connoisseurus Veg, Susan Voisin from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, Cara Lyons from Cara’s Cravings and Alyssa from Queen of Quinoa.

Thai Chickpea & Kale Salad Rolls with Peanut Dressing

PS. I am sharing this with Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, No Croutons Required and Bookmarked Recipes.

(more…)

Raw Dolmas with a Cilantro-Tahini Sauce

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 18, 2014


Did you know March is
National Nutrition Month? While I celebrate proper nutrition every day (ok, 3 times a week here), I was encouraged by Erika to join Houston’s VegOut! challenge to eat 30 different vegetables in 30 days.

Thirty different vegetables in thirty days? Even as a veggie-loving gal, that’s a pretty huge feat. Look at my sidebar. I have favourites. Barring onions, my top ten are: garlic (227 recipes, and I don’t even tag all my garlic), tomato (139 recipes), ginger (121 recipes), carrot (110 recipes), red bell pepper (82 recipes), spinach (64 recipes), mushroom (50 recipes), kale (44 recipes), zucchini (44 recipes) and broccoli (36 recipes).


Erika
 may have won the first challenge with her black bean and veggie burgers (with 15 vegetables!) but I thought I’d try my best with their second challenge: my best jicama dish.

No stranger to jicama, I have enjoyed mostly in Mexican-inspired dishes: a raw burrito and as a cranberry-jicama salsa. This time, I decided to switch avenues and was inspired by Middle Eastern flavours. Packed with vegetables (7 if you include olives, but I think they are technically fruits), these are a fun twist on dolmas, stuffed grape leaves.


Instead of cooked rice, the jicama is riced into small pieces. Jicama is quite moist, so it needs a thorough drying before being incorporated with the cucumber, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. If you don’t have jicama, cauliflower would work, too. Dill and mint were used for the filling and cilantro for the green tahini dipping sauce. With all the fresh ingredients, the flavours really popped.

This was also the first time I tried grape leaves raw. I mean, without steaming them first. Steaming makes them more tender and less salty, but this was a quick and easy way to enjoy them.

Do you think you could eat 30 different vegetables in 30 days? How do you like to eat jicama?


PS. This is my submission to Raw Food Thursdays and to VegOut Jicama: #vegoutjicama #vegoutrfs

(more…)

Indian-Inspired Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds and Lemon

Posted in Sides by Janet M on February 27, 2014

Indian-Inspired Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds and Lemon
Do you pay attention to the predicted food trends? Vaishali’s post about  tapping into google trends sent my head spinning.

I pay more attention to the trends in my own kitchen. 2011 was year of the bean, but we all know that never stopped. 2012 was probably the year of curry, and that hasn’t let up, either. 2013 definitely focused on quick and easy meals and potluck-friendly foods. If I had to pick an ingredient of choice from last year, it was probably kimchi. It lends to quick and easy meals by offering a lot of flavour!

I can not claim that any of these are mainstream trends. Nor do I really care. One trend I am enjoying, though, is the “Cauliflower is the New Kale” bandwagon. Cauliflower is very versatile and I feel like I am being inundated with all.things.cauliflower (so many pins!).

Continuing with my simple recipes (2013 trend), Indian-spiced (2012 curry trend) with this year’s cauliflower love, I present to you a fun cauliflower side dish. It actually reminds me of the dish I learned to love cauliflower (and convinced my parents as well!): Roasted Cauliflower with Dukkah. However, this recipe is a bit different in that you pre-cook your cauliflower (steam it, boil it, your choice), and sear it with freshly toasted cumin and coriander with almonds. Only then do you roast it. Because you have partially cooked it already, you don’t have to worry about burning your spices. The final cauliflower is a mix of textures from the crumbly almonds and coarsely ground spices. Finish it with a squirt of lemon juice and you have a well-balanced vegetable side. Just be careful not to eat the whole recipe at once.

What do you think about food trends? Happy to see cauliflower in the spotlight?

Indian-Inspired Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds and Lemon

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

PS. The winner for No Meat Athlete is Dilek.

(more…)

Lemon-Mustard Glazed Carrots and Chickpeas (aka Yassa Chickpeas)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on January 30, 2014

Yassa Chickpeas

Based on my review of vegan nutrition books, you can tell why I always try to eat a lot of beans. So much so, that when I travel and people want to know what I eat, I tell them that something as simple as vegetables and a can of chickpeas would suffice. My family is actually really good about making sure there is food for me, but I still have fun cooking in the kitchen while travelling.

Yassa Chickpeas

During our trip back home during the holidays, not only did I make a delicious dark chocolate peanut butter pie (delicious, definitely check it out), but I made this dish a few times. Basically, it is a simple dish of mustard/lemon-glazed root vegetables and chickpeas but I experimented each time I made it. While I could count on everyone having mustard available, every time was a bit different depending on what was in the kitchen. I learned that this is definitely better with garlic, tamari/soy sauce is preferred and while this is nice with carrots, the addition of parsnip is a fun twist. This is a great comforting dish for anyone looking to warm their kitchen with your oven. ;)

What did you think of the nutritional recommendations from the review? Do you feel like you eat enough of the different areas?

Yassa Chickpeas

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

PS. The winners for the nutrition books are: Rachel with Vegan For Her and Moo with Becoming Vegan Express. Congratulations!

(more…)

Vegan Cheesy Chickpea Dip with Coconut Bacon

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites by Janet M on January 25, 2014

Vegan Cheddar Bacon Dip

I tried a little bit harder with this dip.

You had great suggestions for sprucing up my Mexican Black Bean Dip. It was all about the garnishes: salsa, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and tortillas were all great ideas.

This time I topped the dip with coconut bacon. (I will tell you about the delicious dip in a moment, but first: COCONUT BACON). This was not my first encounter with coconut bacon. I have tried it in many different iterations: lovingly inside a BLT at Aux Vivres, as a snack I brought to Burning Man courtesy of Phoney Baloney, and even a slippery, thick raw coconut bacon made from fresh coconut inside The Naked Sprout‘s BLT.

While I have made raw eggplant bacon before, coconut bacon had been on my hitlist for awhile. I even captured a picture of their ingredient list when I was at Aux Vivres. Definitely one of the benefits of them selling items to go. However, instead of using their ingredient list, I ran with Julie’s recommendation to add smoked paprika to the recipes floating around the web. It worked for the raw eggplant bacon so I was quickly sold on her smoked paprika pitch. It did not disappoint and I liked it better than anything else I had tried. The fact that it made so much is great because we are going to enjoy this for awhile.

Coconut Bacon

But don’t let me distract you from this dip. A cheesy chickpea spread with smoky undertones, it was a fun salty snack I served at our tamalada. We had some delicious chips that needed a dip and this was a great choice. Everyone approved and Rob is adamant about bringing it back into our dip repertoire. I won’t stop him.. and to give him due credit, I only crafted the recipes, Rob executed them with finesse… and then I cobbled together some photographs. :)

With the Superbowl, Academy Awards and the Olympics on the horizon, this may be the dip-friendly part of the year. If you would like other delicious dips, consider these, too:

Green Velvet Guacamole (aka Guacamame or Edamame Guacamole)

Edamame Miso Dip

Raw Zucchini Hummus

Ginger Lime Wasabi Edamame Hummus

Rosemary Pistachio Hummus

Hillbilly Hummus (Black Eyed Pea and Peanut Butter Hummus)

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Coconut Bacon

This is my submission to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge, this month’s Cheese Please, this month’s Spice Trail for paprika, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

(more…)

Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on January 2, 2014

Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

Or rather, How I Spent My New Year’s Eve.

I loved your comments after I admitted I likely would not be able to stay up to see New Year’s Eve fireworks. You guys are the best.

What did I end up doing?

1. Working late. Not by choice, I swear. I usually take 2 weeks off for holidays, but hospitals can be super busy during the holidays. I don’t know whether this is worse in American, as people are eager to use the most of their insurance dollars before they need to pay their next deductible. At a cancer hospital, I would hope that finances would not keep people away from seeking treatment, but I try not to jump into those kinds of politics. PS. Did you catch last year’s article in the Times about American medical bills?

2. Chatting with my neighbour. Let it be known that Texans are super friendly. Since my neighbour is also a Canadian transplant, I appreciate his perspectives. He told me not to be alarmed that night. If I tuned in closely, I may hear gunshots at midnight (celebratory gunfire), to ring in the new year. Not that my neighbours would be shooting their guns (according to him, 3 of my other neighbours harbour guns), rather the noise may echo from outside Houston. While I originally planned to go to bed like normal, that convinced me to try to stay awake until midnight.

3. Travelled through chocolate.  With the best intentions of staying awake, Rob and I feasted on some chocolate. Our friend gifted us a chocolate passport, which small bars of dark chocolate from around the world. We travelled to Ecuador that night, and it was delicious.

4. Cozied up to Netflix. After stumbling upon a list of movies soon-to-be discontinued on Netflix, I jumped at the last chance to watch a long-time bookmarked but never-watched Requiem for a Dream. Excellent. (And true to the list, no longer available on Netflix). But it wasn’t midnight yet. Bringing out the kids in us, we watched Pingu episodes. They were hilarious, especially Pingu’s Lavatory Story (watch it! it is only 5 minutes!). Sadly, while it was only 10:30pm, my eyes were heavy and I could not stay awake.

So, I missed my chance to hear possible celebratory gunfire (still illegal in Texas, mind you).. and I need corroboratory evidence from my local readers. Is it true? My neighbour said he heard 4-5 shots at midnight.

Despite my lack of collard greens for my New Year’s Day black eyed peas, I ended up eating tacos on New Year’s Day. Not these ones, mind you (cleaning out the blog backlog!), but I will tell you more about that in due time. Ever since going to Mexico City, I have been smitten by tacos. The fresh corn tortillas blew my mind and I am working on finding a suitable replacement. Until then, fresh collards will have to suffice. A bit non-traditional, these lentil-based tacos were delicious. I had been meaning to make them for a while, especially after Johanna had success with them, too. Cauliflower is riced and added to up the hidden veggie content.  Leanne cautions against baking mashed beans and cauliflower, but this was delicious. It is all about the spices. With a nod to my delicious Ancho lentil tacos, I added copious amounts of Ancho chile powder. I topped it with a simple tomato-oregano salsa, a variation from the cilantro-based tomato salsa from my raw tacos.

I know I promised the top reader recipes from 2013 today, but stayed for it tomorrow, instead.

How did you enjoy your New Year’s Eve/Day festivities?

Lentil & Cauliflower Tacos with Fresh Tomato Oregano Salsa

This is my submission to this month’s Cooking with Herbs, this month’s Extra Veg and to this month’s Feel Good Food for Tasty and Inexpensive.

(more…)

Pecan and Cranberry Cheese Log & Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Appetizers by Janet M on December 17, 2013

Pecan and Cranberry Cheese Log

A few months ago, though, I was treated to a wonderful girl’s night out: a vegan wine and cheese!

A vegan cheese party in Texas.

An oxymoron like no other?

I don’t buy processed vegan cheeses and while I have tried my hand at simple homemade cheeses, I was blown over by all.the.vegan.cheeses. There was a complete spread from Door 86 (the cheese ball was my favourite), Heidi Ho, and a bunch of homemade cheeses from Artisan Vegan Cheese (the sun-dried tomato and garlic cream cheese was fabulous). I have been intimidated by recipes requiring room temperature fermentation. My biggest kitchen disasters have been sauerkraut and pineapple vinegar from Mastering Fermentation. No fun.

Pecan and Cranberry Cheese Log

Enter The Cheesy Vegan. A bit more complex than cashew spreads, but recipes not as complex to require fermented rejuvelac. I started with this recipe for a vegan cheese log crusted in pecans and cranberries. Not hard to make, but with a few steps over the span of 2 days, you need a bit of advance preparation. Coconut and olive oil are blended with cashews, lemon juice, tahini and salt and then left to drain/ferment overnight. Instead of cheesecloth, my fine-mesh strainer worked like a charm. The following morning, a fair amount of liquid had dripped from my cashew spread.. and in case you were wondering, it looked mostly like oil. A bake in the oven at a low temperature is akin to a faster dehydration (I presume) and assists with getting the cheese to firm up. Refrigerate, top with the nuts and cranberries, and you are good to go. The salty/lemony spread paired really well with the buttery pecans and sweet cranberries.

I will confess that I did not bring any vegan cheeses to the original cheese party but was inspired to make the cheese log for a subsequent vegan potluck. It was a hit. With so many recipe requests, I knew I had to share it… and lucky for you, you can also win your own copy of the cookbook!

Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States (sorry to all my non-US readers). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite vegan cheese or cheese dish. If you haven’t made anything cheesy yet, have a look through the table of contents of The Cheesy Vegan on amazon and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 26, 2013. Good luck!

Pecan and Cranberry Cheese Log

PS. Other recipes from The Cheesy Vegan spotted elsewhere:

Bloody Vegan Mary

Lemony Parmesan Linguine

PPS. My other vegan cheese/dairy recipes:

Tofu Feta

Italian Cashew Cheese

Nacho Cheese Cashew Spread

Rosemary Cashew Cheese

Scallion Cashew Cheese

Cashew Sour Cream

PPPS. Other giveaways I am sharing right now: 30 Minute Vegan’s Soup’s On! and Indian Cooking Unfolded.

PPPPS. This is my submission to this month’s Feel Good Food challenge for cranberries and this month’s Cheese Please challenge for festive nibbles.

(more…)

The Best Chocolate Truffles

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on December 14, 2013

The Best Chocolate Truffle

I swear, I wasn’t planning on sharing yet another dessert. But once I made these (uber wonderfully, possibly, yes, confirmed, the best chocolate I have ever made) treats, I knew I had to share them. Chocolate in January usually doesn’t fly…. and I simply could not wait until Valentine’s Day to share this with you.

But, before I tell you about the chocolates, let me tell you where the recipe hails. While in Montreal last year, I explored a variety of vegan restos. I was initially wooed by Aux Vivres, a vegan resto with cooked foods, and quickly recreated their macro veggie and tempeh bowl and their raw vegan smoked salmon. I also stumbled upon Crudessence, a longstanding raw restaurant and really enjoyed my meal. I was *thisclose* to buying their cookbook. It had the recipes for many of the same dishes I had just eaten and loved at their restaurant: Kombu mojito, raw tiramisu and raw cinnamon buns. Many of their other highly praised dishes are included, such as their Om burger, pad thai, Caesar salad, Tibet fat-free dressing, maki rolls, eggplant bacon, raw parmesan (crumesan), chocolate banana pie, chocolate mouse, lime pie, banana split with chunks of raw brownies, blueberry un-“Cheese”cake and Hippocrates juice.

So why didn’t I buy the cookbook? It was in French only. I can read French but since it is not my first language, it would not be as easy to decipher all the cooking terms. So I put it back.

The Best Chocolate Truffle

Fast forward a year and their cookbook has been reprinted in English. Lucky for us, because this is a drop-dead gorgeous cookbook with delicious recipes.

The Best Chocolate Truffle

The first recipe I tried were these truffles. In the cookbook, they are called “dark nougat”. I am not entirely sure what nougat is supposed to taste like. I thought it might be kind of chewy and sweet (I am only familiar with the nougat that studs Toblerone bars), but this was nothing of the sort…. it was creamy, smooth and divine. Honestly, I had made the middle of creamy truffles. Akin to the middle of Lindt truffles.  YES!! And it was dead simple: whizz all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and then allow to set in the freezer.

The Best Chocolate Truffle

I tried to be a bit fancier by freezing them in silicone ice cube trays, but since they were still so creamy after setting, they stuck a bit to the molds. The light dusting of flaked coconut or matcha helped to make them less gooey for your fingers. I was rooting for the pretty matcha-dusted truffles, but they were still a bit bitter for my liking. The coconut-flaked ones were great and if I had enough coordination, the chocolate-and-hazelnut-coated truffles sound incredible. I think these are a bit too fragile to gift, unless you coat them in a hard chocolate shell.

There is one special ingredient for this recipe, I apologize. Lecithin. I plan on writing more about this ingredient in a later post, but I can definitely assure you that it makes the most creamy chocolate to date.

The Best Chocolate Truffle

PS. Other recipes shared from RawEssence:

Taboulleh Flower Salad

Madras Salad

Pesto Tagliatelle

BLT Sandwich with Eggplant Bacon and Caper Aioli

Meatless Meatballs

Island Lime Pie

Brazil Nut Goji Milk

PPS. The winners of the Simply Raw Kitchen giveaway was Jessica and 365 Vegan Smoothies was Phoebe. (more…)

Cucumber Avocado Sandwiches With Dill and Mint

Posted in Appetizers by Janet M on November 5, 2013

Cucumber Avocado Tea Sandwiches With Dill and Mint

Time flies. I have already passed the 4 month mark. One-third of my time in Houston.  I already know what I will remember the most. Mosquitoes and potlucks. The mosquitos are relentless and well, I am discovering the joys of vegan potlucks.

I have been to many a potluck, but usually that means I bring a dish I will be eating. It is usually the only vegan component and I try to make it a complete meal, like a hearty bean or whole grain salad. Even though that is my specialty, it kind of limits my repertoire.

All vegan potlucks are a whole other ballpark. I know I will find plenty of food (and they have been really tasty!) and therefore, I can branch out to try something new. Furthermore, some foods lend better to a buffet set-up than others, so I have been testing out new ideas.

Enter the cucumber sandwich. Not a tea sandwich, this one replaces the bread for cucumber, creating a crunchy bite-sized nimbler. Easy to add to your plate and no fussy sauce that can leach and contaminate the next dish over. (I have adopted the 2 plate strategy for potlucks- 1 plate for savoury and 1 plate for desserts!) Perfect for those who want a gluten-free and nut-free snack… and raw, to boot. For me right now, raw has become more synonymous with easy food prep.

This dish, while easy to prep, is a bit more fussy than my typical one-pot meals. Puree your cucumber and lemon juice into a mayonnaise-like consistency and pulse in the cool and crisp cucumbers and herbs. The lemon juice should prevent the avocado from oxidizing but try not to make them too far in advance. Hopefully they will be devoured and none will remain after they have been served.

What are your go-to potluck dishes?

Other dishes I shared at potlucks this year:

Peach & Hazelnut Kale Salad with Maple Miso Vinaigrette

Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice

Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

Raw Watermelon Candy

Rich Vegan Cheesecake with a Pecan Shortbread Crust

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, this month’s Cooking with Herbs, to this month’s Random Recipes, and to this month’s Veg Cookbook Club for Isa Does It.

(more…)

Rich Vegan Cheesecake with a Pecan Shortbread Crust

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on October 31, 2013

Rich Lemon Cheesecake with Pecan Shortbread Crust

What is better than a potluck with delicious vegan food? A potluck with delicious vegan food, complete with recipes!

Recently, some new friends invited me over for a Ripe-themed supper. Stephanie, the mastermind behind Ripe Cuisine, serves vegan eats at a few farmer’s markets in Houston but also has a recipe blog. I have gushed about her homemade coconut-almond ice cream before and since I knew her recipe for brownies was good, I was excited to see how her other recipes fared.

Broccoli “cream” soup with polenta croutons, baked zucchini chips, tahini mustard carrots, and cauliflower piccata were on the menu. Veggie extraveganza! Everything was delicious. I really enjoyed the carrots and polenta croutons.

My small contribution to the menu that evening was this cheesecake. I say small due to its size, not its taste. For my birthday, Rob surprised me with a smaller 6″ springform pan. I left my larger one in Toronto and brought this one so I could make smaller versions of dessert.

I love raw/no-bake cheesecakes. I have made them with cashews as well as tofu, but this time, I used them together. And I baked it. Both for synergistic results.

Rich Lemon Cheesecake with Pecan Shortbread Crust

This cheesecake is a combination of a few recipes and both are knock-outs. The filling is courtesy of Ricki Heller‘s new cookbook, Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free. Since these recipes are all gluten-free and sugar-free, they employ ingredients I don’t have in my (mostly) minimalist pantry. I tried to stay mostly true to her recipe, though, even scoping out lemon extract. I realized that having a concentrated lemon flavour without the sourness would be a good way to reduce the amount of sweetener needed, without resorting to Meyer lemons.

This was a delicious cheesecake. Possibly our favourite vegan cheesecake of all time. Very rich in a non-heavy sense, which can happen with raw cheesecakes, relying on cashews and coconut oil. However, sadly, after chilling in the fridge, it was no longer a lemon cheesecake; it morphed into a creamy, rich, vanilla cheesecake. Equally as good, just a different flavour. The lemon flavour disappeared considerably.  I really like the tang from lemon juice, so next time I would add more lemon juice in addition to more lemon extract. It was a very nice cheesecake, though. I also liked how I had the height to really get a good size piece on my fork with the smaller pan. You’ll understand when you look at my (much more flat) lemon cheesecake squares. Rob agreed, and we both thought this was the best, most “real” vegan cheesecake we have eaten (albeit a fluffier European-style cheesecake, which is our preference).

And the crust? A perfect foil for the rich, more mellow filling. A salty-sweet cinnamon pecan crust with oat flour that I snagged from Angela’s pumpkin pie adventures. She tasted a few crusts and proclaimed this the winner. Definitely one of my favourite crusts, too. I liked that it was sweet and salty (no dates) and the cinnamon spike brought it over the edge. I was worried the crust was a bit crumbly but it held together well when serving from the fridge.

I try to keep this blog real, and yes, this cheesecake was utterly delicious. However, it also cracked. This could be due to a few things, but next time, I will add a basin of water in the oven. I did that with the Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Squares, and it worked well. With some strategic slicing, you could hide the cracks. Or find a saucy topping. (Ricki suggested a blueberry compote which I think would have been divine!) But really, it doesn’t matter unless you are photographing it because it still tasted delicious. Do you have any other tricks for cracked cheesecakes? What is your favourite vegan cheesecake recipe?

Ricki has been travelling the interwebs with her blog tour and I have been enjoying seeing her recipes all over the place. With all the thoughtful Q&As, I feel like I am really getting to know Ricki, the chef/baker, but most importantly, the person behind her recipes. A trained chef with a former catering company, watching her on video is like a fun cooking class, with so many tips about ingredients and techniques. I also recommend these recipes from Ricki’s new cookbook:

Two-Bite Hemp Brownies

Cocoa Mint Nibbles

Ricki’s recipes from Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free shared elsewhere:

Easiest Almond Cookies

Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate-Flecked Pumpkin Seed Cookies

Sunshine Breakfast Loaf

Low-Fat Cinnamon Walnut Loaf

Fluffy Fruited Pancakes

Orange Oat Muffins

Grain-Free Autumn Oat Crumble

Butterscotch Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Goji Berries

Chocolate “Buttercream” Frosting

Ultra-Fudgy Gluten-Free Brownies

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Buns

PS. Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for Isa Does It.

Rich Lemon Cheesecake with Pecan Shortbread Crust

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and this week’s Health Vegan Fridays.

(more…)

Goan Black-Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on September 19, 2013

Goan-Inspired Black Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

Next on my hitlist of grocers to try was Canino’s. It is billed as a farmer’s market but I am not sure how much of the produce is local and sold by farmers. However, it doesn’t mislead you that fruits and veggies are at the forefront of this store. There are 2 components: the front portion and the back alley peppered with stalls selling mostly Mexican produce. The back alley is more akin to a farmer’s market and where the better deals lie. Come early and you can snag super specials. Like 4 bunches of kale for $1, 5 bunches of collards for $1, 30 limes for $1, 4 broccoli crowns for $1, 4 heads of cabbage for $1. BOOYAH! I liked how you could even mix and match the 4 for a $1 items so you weren’t swimming in produce. But if you know me well enough, you will know that yes, I bought 4 bunches of kale and 5 bunches of collards without a clue as to what I’d make.. in addition to the broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and fresh black eyed peas.

Fresh black eyed peas were new to me. I’ve tried dried black eyed peas before but trust me, there is a reason they call them black eyed peas. And no, I am not talking about their cute black mark. I am talking about the pea business. THEY TASTE LIKE PEAS! I never captured that flavour from dried or canned varieties. Not entirely sure whether this was a seasonal fresh bean, I snagged a bunch and ultimately decided to try this Goan black eyed pea curry. The tomato-coconut milk infused broth was tantalizing, spiced with ginger, coriander, cumin and tamarind with a bit of sweetness from maple syrup (use jaggery for a more authentic flavour). Exotic yet light, I served it with brown rice. Since fresh black eyed peas were new to me, I pre-cooked them beforehand (~30 minutes) but I think this recipe would lend well to cooking the fresh black eyed peas in the broth (adding the tomato to the end since it is acidic).

I have earmarked the fresh purple hull beans for my next visit. Rob doesn’t mind going to Canino’s because it is right next to a delicious Mexican bakery: El Bollilo. I get my fresh beans and he gets some fresh churros!

PS. I also love that Canino’s opens at 6am nearly every single day (the back stalls apparently have their own random schedule). It is great for us early birds! :)

Not only for New Year’s Day, other black eyed peas recipe here:

Mango BBQ Beans

Garlicky and Lemony Black-Eyed Pea and Kale Salad

Hillbilly Hummus (Black Eyed Pea and Peanut Butter Hummus)

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Goan-Inspired Black Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

This is my submission to this month’s VegCookBook Club for Vegan Indian Cooking and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays. (more…)

Kale Salad with a Raw Thousand Island Dressing

Posted in Salads by Janet M on September 14, 2013

While we planned our trip to Burning Man half a year in advance, it wasn’t until we bought our plane tickets that we decided to tack on a side trip to Portland and then roadtrip it down to the desert. Rob was worried that I wouldn’t like the extreme nature of the camping we’d have to do in the desert, so we planned for success. How could we not enjoy Portland?

Turns out that each part of the trip was better than the next. After Portland, we drove East through the Columbia River Gorge, stopping at the Hydro Dam and Multnomah Falls. The path to the top of the falls may only be 1.25 miles long, but you are basically going up and up. Kind of like Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. There was a 700ft elevation. It was a fun but tiring jaunt! If I lived in Portland, I could see this as a fun fitness bench marker (similar to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, which I have yet to do). How fast can you climb the falls?

The following day, we skirted along the gorge, through the Hood River Fruit Loop and stopped to pick up local sweet peaches and huckleberries (it was my first time trying them – they are similar to a tart wild blueberry).

Our next stop was the Smith Rock State Park. Since it took us a good 3 hours to get here, it was too late to begin the Misery Ridge trail. Because of the heat and lack of shade, you should begin this early in the day. In any case, we didn’t bring our hiking boots with us, so we had already planned to do smaller hikes and watch some of the mountain climbers.

Our next destination was the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Billed as the best lava park between Iceland and Hawaii, we had fun walking around the volcanic crater and the lava field below. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were volcanoes on the continental US. We didn’t have enough time to explore the lava tubes, but we will definitely be back.

The next day, we scheduled a whole day for Crater Lake National Park. You can drive around the lake and stop off for lots of smaller hikes. We hiked up to a great lookout, again on another side, to see some hoodoos, and some waterfalls. It was nice to get a variety of vistas from each hike.

The trip through Oregon was fabulous. I highly recommend it.

But I know you are here for the food. You see, we stocked up a bit with food from Portland. I wasn’t sure what lurked in the smaller towns. Turns out we lucked out in Bend, Oregon. We found a local brew pub (Rob’s mission was to try out local brews) that served vegan eats. I changed the tempeh reuben sandwich into a salad and I was blown away. It was really good. I haven’t had enough time to recreate the entire salad (now on my bucket list) but I started with making a raw thousand island dressing.

Originating from the Thousand Islands region (hola Ontario!), thousand island dressing is probably one of the most ubiquitous North American creamy sauces, as a mayonnaise dressing spiced with tomato/ketchup but may also have bits of pickle, olives, etc.

The creaminess of my raw version of dressing is from cashews. The deep tomato flavour comes from sun-dried tomatoes. Garlic and onion add further ripples, while the vinegar brightens the dressing. The acidic dill pickle brings this up a notch. The only trick is that the cashews need to be soaked a few hours for easier blending.

For my salad, I just used up the random vegetables in my fridge. I first wilted the kale with lemon juice and then tossed in cucumber, red pepper, olives and hemp seeds. I am not sure they were the perfect combination (and not the prettiest salad, either) but the dressing was perfect. Now I know where to start with my own tempeh reuben salad. :)

In any case, this vacation has spurred my love of Oregon. I am even more excited to try to schedule in Cycle Oregon next year!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Waste Food Challenge.

(more…)