Lately my meals have been a lot of random foods. I am holding out. I knew I had some staples waiting to be unpacked but quickly replenished my perishable staples (tahini, peanut butter, maple syrup, etc). As such, the last few weeks have had me cooking without spices, relying on strong-flavoured ingredients and let’s be honest, I bought some pre-made soups and added some beans to make it a complete meal.
I promise to share some of my fun meals once my home is back to normal. Until then, I will continue to unearth some oldies-but-goodies from my backlog. I chose to share this one because it is actually pretty similar to what I am eating these days: cooked quinoa, random vegetables, beans, topped with a creamy sauce.
What is your template for healthy lunches?
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.
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.
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.
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)!
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:
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.
PS. And when I said I would be sharing another giveaway with you yesterday, I meant tomorrow. So stay tuned! ;)
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.
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.
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.
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:
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…)
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.
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).
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
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?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
PS. The winner for No Meat Athlete is Dilek.
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.
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?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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!
PS. Other recipes from The Cheesy Vegan spotted elsewhere:
PPS. My other vegan cheese/dairy recipes:
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.
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 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.
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.
PS. Other recipes shared from RawEssence:
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:
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.
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.
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:
Ricki’s recipes from Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free shared elsewhere:
PS. Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for Isa Does It.
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: