Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011





We celebrate Halloween the exact same way every single year. Two weeks of horror movie marathons and then a costume-fueled dance party with our friends the Saturday before the big day. We gather at our place for drinks and snacks and then head off to Starlight for what is for sure the best Halloween party in Kitchener-Waterloo. Every year tops the one before it!

This year we drank Sewer Punch out of a pumpkin punch bowl...




...and ate super salty roasted pumpkin seeds, vegan candy and pretzels...



...and cupcakes too, of course!



I was Raggedy Ann...



...and Paul was Tobias Funke of Arrested Development fame!



Our friends had super cute costumes as well, and we danced the night away, first in my kitchen and then at Starlight!








And with the end of this entry I also find myself at the end of Vegan Month of Food 2011! 31 days straight of new recipes and blog posts and I am exhausted. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to pull it off, with October being the busiest month of the year for us and then halfway through having received heartbreaking news about our dog that pretty much took over my brain from that point forward. Mofo has been a fun learning experience and I've found so many new recipes that are destined to become favourites, but for now I miss cooking my old favourites. As a result, I think I'm going to rub my eyes, crack my knuckles, turn off the computer and head back out into the world of three-dimensional people. A mini-hiatus is in order, but don't worry, I'll be back soon!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Hummus




I tried to copy Susan V's Black Bean Hummus spiderweb. I failed miserably. Tahini doesn't like being in a pastry bag. Who'da thunk?

The recipe is here if you're still looking for something to spook-ify the big day tomorrow. I suggest taking her up on the soy yogurt option, which I didn't do because I didn't have any, but I think it would bring the flavour together a bit more. Plus it is more likely to cooperate with you when you are piping the spiderweb.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Potato and Eggplant Bake




I'm currently in the throes of making treats and halloween-ifying our humble abode for tonight's ghoulish festivities, so I'm afraid this won't be much of a post. Forgive me.

This is what we had for dinner last night.




Eggplants are pretty much the cutest item in the produce aisle. They are so cute that I actually considered being one for Halloween this year. As cute as they are, I kind of don't like how they taste. Unless they are fried. But isn't everything more delicious when it's fried?

Between this and my hatred for salads, they just might revoke my membership to Club Vegan.

I'm trying to eat more of things I don't like in hopes that I eventually develop a like for them. After all, there was a time when I hated cinnamon, broccoli and quinoa. And now these three things seem to make up the bulk of my diet.

I still can't get used to eggplant. Or cauliflower. Or mushrooms. But just like I learned to like quinoa, I have hope that I will learn to like them too.



This dish was a pretty good start. It has a very mellow taste to it, so I ended up adding some hot sauce and pepper flakes just before serving. When I make it again I'll put both right into the potatoes while mashing them. Either way, a pretty great meal, especially when combined with a side of garlic toast!

Recipe is from Fresh and Fast Vegan and you can find it online here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Vegetable Rundown




I have a slight addiction to buying cookbooks. I just love them so much! There is no way that I will ever live long enough to try all the recipes that I have bookmarked in my cookbook collection. I'm not even sure I will live long enough to try half of the recipes that I have bookmarked in my cookbook collection.

This is further complicated by the fact that I also have a slight addiction to vegan blogs. And emailing myself recipes from all these vegan blogs. I work through the recipes that I email myself from oldest to newest and I am currently making recipes that I bookmarked in 2009. I'm only getting to them now! There are just too many vegan recipes and too little time to try them all. It keeps me up at night.

This one here is from the Show Me Vegan blog, a really awesome blog that sadly hasn't been updated in over a year. We've loved everything every one of the Show Me Vegan recipes that we've tried, so I hope the author will come back soon with more great meal ideas.



In the meantime, give this Vegetable Rundown a try. A Jamaican-style stew-and-rice combo made with vegetables, habanero and coconut milk and seasoned with thyme and lots of allspice; it's off the stove and in your belly within a half an hour.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Mighty Tempeh Sandwich




I made the most amazing soup! And then I forgot to take a picture! Unbelievable. I even have a recipe for it that I can share. Mofo is seriously frying my brain - is it considered poor form to say how relieved I am that it's almost over? I love you Mofo, but I'm exhausted.

The soup will have to wait until I make it again. For now, my new favourite sandwich. Pan-fried tempeh with some leftover tomato sauce and Daiya melted on top. Topped with tomato and baby spinach and layered on 8-grain bread. All Paul's idea. What an amazing lunch!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Williamsburg Arms, Kitchener





Unfamiliar restaurants can sometimes be a traumatic experience for vegans. This is not our fault, even though it's sometimes framed to look like it is. I'm not demanding that all restaurants carry a supply of Gardein and make fresh cashew cheese for us. But I also really don't think it's too much to ask that dishes that don't require animal products (french fries, salads, vegetable pastas) don't have them. Unfortunately that's just not the case in a lot of establishments. It's even worse at restaurants that rely on pre-made and label-less items and have staff that can tell you that they don't think something has butter in it, but they don't actually know because they honestly have no way of knowing.

I'm vegan by choice but I know a lot of people who follow a plant-based diet because of severe allergies and it's for them that I get particularly irked in these instances. If I, through misguidance, accidently eat something with dairy in it I will live and experience little physical repercussion. Although if I did find out about it (as I have in the past), I would (and have been) right pissed off at the resto for a long time. Still, it's a lot more serious when someone who physically cannot have a certain food item has that certain food item because ingredients aren't made explicit.

I don't mean this as a jab to Williamsburg Arms or any restaurant for that matter. It's just sadly an accepted component of our society: as a collective, we don't care what's in our food. So restaurants have no reason to tell us.

I have a list of "safe" restaurants that I typically stick to because they are courteous enough to offer vegan options and don't treat me like a social deviant when I order them. All the same, there's a need to branch out sometimes, particularly when you're not the one picking the restaurant. I stick by my statement that vegans can eat almost anywhere, and this is how I handle it.

My "Unknown Restaurant" Protocol is as follows:

1) I always call the unfamiliar restaurant in advance and ask if they have anything vegan. I do this especially if I'm going with a group of people, so as to not hold up the ordering process once we're all seated. Maybe someday the restaurant standard will call for adequate labels of all dishes for ease of ordering, but until then, a five minute phone call never hurt anybody. I like to do this in advance because in my experience, I've found that you're more likely to get a straight answer if you're asking your questions ahead of time and not while your server is struggling to remember every person in the room's specific requests. Servers work hard, juggling so many different demands and requirements, and I think that helping them out a bit by analyzing your options in advance is the fair thing to do. Also, I've found that many restaurants that do not typically have vegan options will make something vegan for you as long as you give them adequate time to prepare (i.e. sooner than when you're sitting at one of their tables).

2) You will, at some point in your veganism, run into a restaurant that has no idea what is in its food. It's inevitable. A lot of restaurants rely on frozen, pre-packaged items sent from head offices and a lot of times these don't come with labels. I could rant and rave about this all day long, but it doesn't change that this is a 2011 fact of life. When this happens I usually avoid the restaurant entirely.

This isn't always an option, though. Sometimes you have to go to an Unknown Restaurant for work or some sort of family-oriented thing. Sometimes you go to an Unknown Restaurant to celebrate a friend's birthday or recent achievement. Just because you're vegan doesn't mean you shouldn't or can't go, it just may mean that you have to eat before. Or that you have to play a little Vegan Russian Roulette with the menu.

I've done both. I suppose "stricter" vegans may argue with my methods, and in the early days of my veganism I may have argued with my methods too.

This does not mean that I just order whatever and hope for the best. I can't stress that enough. It also doesn't give excuse to eat whatever random thing and then throw my hands in the air and say "Oh my God I didn't realize this three-cheese pasta had cheese in it!". Taking this route means that I analyze the menu as critically as I can (with the help of staff and Google) and look for my safest options - items in which it would be really, really weird to have meat or dairy. Typically this means steering clear of gluten too, in order to avoid potential egg product. The truth is a lot of places serve vegan food, they are just hesitant to guarantee that it is free of animal product.

My methods are not foolproof. God knows they put some really messed up animal products in things for no reason. I suppose in that sense my methods may be controversial - but the once or twice a year that I have to use them doesn't ruffle my feathers too much. For me, veganism has always been about intent - if you try everything in your power to avoid animal products and you somehow end up consuming one anyway, it has nothing to do with your veganism. It has to do with everyone else's lack there of. It's not something I think anyone should ever beat themselves up over, regardless of what the Vegan Police might say. Agonizing and quibbling over things like this is just not how I do veganism.

Honestly, I've found that most of the restaurants that we visit (chain or otherwise) are more than accommodating and helpful in terms of finding or creating vegan options for us, regardless of what's on the menu.

I put my methods to the test at a friend's birthday party at Williamsburg Arms this past weekend. We got a basket of plain waffle fries and then stuck with the Indian curry section of the menu. We got the vegetable plate, which is channa and ali gobi with basmati rice. It sounded safe and definitely tasted safe, completely meat-free, and I've never heard of anyone putting dairy in channa or ali gobi. Although stranger things have happened, I guess, so order with caution. One thing is for sure - their veggie burger is not vegan. They also have plenty of beer that you for sure can have if all this is making your head spin.

Williamsburg Arms
1187 Fischer Hallman Road
Kitchener, ON
N2E 4H9
519-745-6460

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not-Too-Dirty Rice & Citrus Collards with Raisin Redux





I always get uber excited when Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen comes up in my cookbook rotation. It is by far the most interesting cookbook I've ever owned. I haven't had much opportunity to try African-American cuisine so I don't have much to go by in terms of comparison to non-vegan versions of his meals, but his cookbook has given me the chance to try so many new meals and foodstuffs I probably would not have come in contact with otherwise.

Dirty rice is a Cajun dish that I would have never eaten, even before going vegan. What the hell is a giblet and why would someone eat it?




Bryant tones down the "dirty" in his vegan version, substituting tiny bits of seitan and crumbled tempeh in place of said giblets and the chicken liver that is also found in traditional dirty rice. Other than that, it retains the main components of dirty rice: The Holy Trinity (celery, bell pepper and onion), paprika, chili powder, cayenne, etc.



The Not-Too-Dirty rice is pretty hefty and filling on its own, so I just made some collard greens as a side dish.

I'm not even going to pretend like I know what the word "redux" means. Let's just say it means delicious.

This dish is a quick and yummy way to get some extra greens into your system. The collards are boiled until they are just bright green and then they are tossed with freshly squeezed orange juice, raisins and garlic. You can find the recipe in Vegan Soul Kitchen, or by clicking here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Birthday Pupcake




We celebrated our dog Dora's 6th birthday a few days ago, with a homemade vegan pupcake featuring two of her favourite things: peanut butter and apples. She will go cross-eyed over the prospect of both. When you put them together, she will seriously consider ripping your head off for a bite.



Good luck trying to get her to sit still enough for a nice birthday picture with the pupcake - it was borderline cruel, so we decided to just let her go for it. I have tortured her with photo opportunities for all of the nearly six years that she's lived with us - she deserves a break!

The recipe for this pupcake comes from Spoonful of Sugarfree. We just cut the quantities way, way down and made two little pupcakes for her. Her treats usually consist of spoonfuls of pumpkin and apple chunks - she was so excited at the prospect of getting something so fancy.



Dora's situation is a complicated one. You may recall that back in July we almost lost her to Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. While we have managed to get that under control, her health is still in a very questionable state. Her doctors have been working tirelessly to help her, but it is a very likely possibility that this birthday may be her last.

Destroyed doesn't even begin to describe the state we have been in since learning this information. But we are trying to be optimistic and are filling our days with lots of doggy cuddles, kisses on the snout and games of ball in the backyard.

And of course, a birthday pupcake fit for a queen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The TIV Breakfast Special




Before I was vegan, I was the girl begging the diner to make her something off the lunch menu at 8am. Bless the hearts of those who actually did it.

I was probably always meant to be vegan, because the texture of eggs has disgusted me for my entire life. I also tried bacon only once and promptly spit it back out and into a napkin. It's safe to say that breakfast food hasn't really been my thing.

I prefer to start my mornings with a kale smoothie, or a bit of last night's leftovers. Even so, I find savoury vegan breakfasts to be much more tolerable than their carnist counterparts and I've been known to enjoy a tofu scramble or two in my day.

For today's Mofo post I'm going to share with you our weekend breakfast specialty, because there's always something lovely about making a big breakfast on a chilly Sunday morning.



The TIV Breakfast Special

* Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 medium onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
Sea salt (I use spicy Herbamare) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups vegan ham, cut into 1 inch cubes*
1 teaspoon Braggs or Tamari
1 package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chives
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1-2 tablespoons hot salsa
3/4 cup vegan cheese**
Hot sauce, for serving

* Vegan ham tastes the best in this recipe, but it can be difficult to get your hands on. If you can't find it, substitute vegan breakfast links, tempeh bacon or even just your favourite vegan sausage/hot dog.

** I used mozzarella Daiya, because it's what I had in the fridge this morning. Their pepperjack flavour tastes the best in this, though!

Directions

1) Heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan or skillet. Add the onions and stir frequently, for about two minutes, until they look translucent. Add the green pepper and salt and pepper to taste and cook until softened, about two more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.



2) Toss the vegan ham with the Braggs/Tamari. Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the pan (if needed) and increase heat to medium-high. Add the vegan ham to the pan and saute until lightly browned, about three minutes or so. Remove from heat and place in the bowl with the onion/pepper mixture.



3) Mix the tofu with the turmeric. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and toss the tofu in, stirring frequently. As the pieces begin to brown, mix in the cayenne pepper and chives. Cook together until browned and crispy on all sides, about three to five minutes. Stir in the salsa and heat through.



4) When tofu is ready, add the onion, pepper and ham mixture back into the pan. Sprinkle with vegan cheese of your choice and keep it on the heat until the cheese begins to melt slightly and everything is heated through. Serve with additional hot sauce and a side of whole grain toast.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Broccoli Polenta & Braised Seitan with Brussels Sprouts, Kale and Sun-Dried Tomatoes




Here's another Mofo post that comes courtesy of Veganomicon. I chose it because I wanted a glass of wine and it gave me an excuse to open a bottle.



A little for you, a little for me

Polenta is one of my favourite foods but nutritionally it's usually kind of lacking. Not this one, though! I love how it has just as much broccoli as it does corn grits.

Polenta can sometimes be a real jerk to make. I find when I stir the cornmeal in, no matter how vigorously I whisk away at the water while doing so, it splatters all over the kitchen it seriously hurts when it hits your skin. My mom, who has been making polenta a lot longer than I have, recently gave me a trick of the trade: take the pot completely off the heat while stirring in the polenta or immediately afterward, at least until it's adequately combined. Recipes never tell you to do this and it always makes such a mess. Taking it off the heat definitely takes away the splatter potential and I do it regardless of what a recipe says.

After the polenta and broccoli have simmered on the stove for a bit you put it into muffin tins and let it set in the fridge for about an hour:



Once they have set enough that you can pry them out with a fork, they are ready to go onto a baking stone and then under the broiler. I only gave them about 40 minutes in the fridge - I was hungry last night! They sit nice and close to the broiler for 7-10 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned and crispy.



If you don't have a baking stone I urge you to get one - I have three and they are all practically black, I use them so much! In the meantime, feel free to use a greased baking sheet.



You can serve the little polenta tarts with whatever you want. I went with the Braised Seitan with Brussels Sprouts, Kale and Sun Dried Tomatoes recipe that is also found in Veganomicon (online copy found here). I don't know if it's the use of wine or what, but this meal feels so fancy and sophisticated - although that is coming from a girl who just this morning dipped tortilla crumbs into mango salsa and called it breakfast.

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