Wednesday, May 30, 2012

S'mores Cupcakes (& Paul's 29th Birthday)

Our amazing friends got married this past weekend, and I was the proud of maid of honour. Meaning last week was SO. SUPER. BUSY. So busy that I can't believe I'm only getting to this post now. But I figured that if I didn't do it now, there would be a good chance that Paul would turn 30 before I got a chance to tell you about the S'mores cupcakes I made when he turned 29.

Paul was born on May 20th. Meaning that he always celebrates his birthday on the May TwoFour, which is notorious here in Canada for cottages, camping, beaches and other types of summertime debauchery. Technically, we're celebrating Queen Victoria. But really, we're celebrating the end of parka season. It's the unofficial start to summer here in Canada and the weather is usually absolute crap.

Because it's always so cold, or rainy (on Paul's 19th birthday, in 2002, it actually snowed!) we don't usually bother trying to head to the beach. Plus, we're kind of old now and it feels weird making the trek to Grand Bend with all the high school and college kids. Instead, we make ourselves cozy on the patios of various local establishments as well as the one attached to our own house. Since it's his birthday, we're always sure to invite some friends, too!

I thought the S'mores cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World were fitting for a May TwoFour birthday boy, since so many people were spending the night around bonfires (not us though - we have yet to add one of those to our backyard but I can see it in the near future!) and they were super yummy. The recipe is available on Google Books, and you can find it here (just scroll down a little bit). The white bit is just the standard buttercream that I frost all my cupcakes with, but once you pair it with some graham cracker and melted chocolate it is so marshmallow-like!

Summer 2012 has just kicked off and this would be a great recipe for upcoming long weekends, cookouts and camping trips. Anywhere where there are shorts, campfires and sparklers, there should also be S'mores cupcakes.

Happy Birthday, PK! One more year til the Big 3-0!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Herb-Marinated Grilled Vegetables + New World Red Rice

My love affair with Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen continues. Especially now that grilling season is once again upon us. Bryant has great recipes for all seasons, but in my opinion, his work really shines in the spring and summer months, when cookouts are aplenty. Here in Canada, next weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer season with the May Two-Four (Victoria Day) weekend and our friends to the south celebrate their unofficial summer kick-off in two weeks time, with Memorial Day. It's time to start stockpiling some backyard grill recipes! And I've got a really great one to tell you about today.

We grill a lot in the spring and summer. We grill a bit in the fall, too. Lots of Canadians do it all year long, but we tend to skip the winter months since neither of us particularly enjoys being outside more than we have to in those months. Plus, abstaining from the backyard grill November thru February makes the return of spring all that more exciting.

We grill pretty much everything. Veggie burgers or giant portobellos in lieu of veggie burgers. Tofu and tempeh. Beans. Polenta. Quesadillas. And all the fruit and veggies you can imagine, to be served on their own or tossed with pastas, in salads or in wraps.

These veggies are good enough to eat on their own, so they are. You're technically supposed to peel the blackened parts off but for me, that is the best part! Bryant's recipe calls for summer squash, but we're a couple months off from having fresh local zucchini and yellow squash. Not the case for asparagus though, which is being pulled out of the ground by hard working farmers not too far from you as we speak. I couldn't resist using it instead.

I'm a Bryant Terry rice recipe fanatic, his Not-Too-Dirty Rice rice particularly blowing my mind whenever I have it. This New World Red Rice was a similar hit with me and I think it's all in the preparation. Bryant has you soak your rice before using it, and what results is a more sticky rice that reminds me of the way my mom's red rice tasted when I was growing up. Love it!

He doesn't call for beans in the rice, but I was pressure cooking my beans for the week the night I made this meal and made a little too much of the red kidney variety. So not to be wasteful, into the rice they went. Adding that extra protein made it okay for me to skip the tofu on the grill. Don't get me wrong, I love me some grilled tofu, but we had been eating a little too much tofu and tempeh in the days leading up to this grill night and our guts desperately needed a break.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to track down any legitimate digital copies of either of these recipes, so give Bryant Terry some support and pick up your very own copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen. I'm telling you right now, the Jamaican Patties alone are worth the price of the book.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Banana Everything Cookies (and a Bachelorette Party)

Later this month, I will have the privilege of standing up for my longtime friend Kathy on her wedding day, as her Maid of Honour. You may recall that I don't like being referred to as "Matron" of Honour, even though that is technically what I am, because I'm dangerously close to 29 these days and that in itself is enough age-related trauma for right now. Kathy is letting me have this one.

This weekend we celebrated her soon-to-be walk down the aisle with a bachelorette adventure in Toronto. The bride and 20 of her friends boarded a yellow schoolbus (seriously, if you're looking for an inexpensive alternative to a limo, try a charter from your local school bus line - less than half the price!) and danced the night away at Rockwood + Grass in Toronto after a delicious dinner here in Kitchener.

It was a bachelorette, so obviously there was alcohol involved. And what's the one thing that goes hand-in-hand with drinking? The need for food immediately afterward. Since our bus turned into a pumpkin at 2am, which is exactly when the clubs close up, we knew we wouldn't have time for Toronto post-club food. Instead, we put together a little care package for the bus ride home. Chips, pretzels, water and sports drinks - just enough to soothe the stomach during that bumpy ride back to Kitchener. And schoolbuses are seriously bumpy. Especially in the backseat spots that we used to fight over as kids! Sure, it's been fifteen years since I took one to grade school everyday, but all the same I really and truly don't remember them being that uncomfortable. So much so that I needed a chiropractic adjustment this morning.  There's old age, rearing its ugly head again!

I wanted to bake some sweets for the care package too, but decided against my usual sugary cupcake varieties and decided to go with something a little more dense. These Banana Everything cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar fit the bill perfectly! You can also find the recipe on google books by clicking here. I used whole wheat flour instead of white all-purpose and raw cane sugar instead of white refined. A perfectly hearty cookie for a bunch of party girls and oh so easy to make. I especially love that I have all those ingredients on hand pretty much always.

Ready to go!
Me and the bride-to-be and bellinis!

Me and Tracy, on the big yellow party bus!

Lisa and Kathy on the big yellow party bus!

Kathy, Shauna and me at the club
Sam and Kathy at the club
Dance party!
And that's about it that can be posted here on the blog without much repercussion. Don't worry though, it was good clean fun. Mostly.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

(Raw) Flax Pancakes with Coconut Cashew Pudding + Banana

You may recall that one of my new year's resolutions this year was to set aside one weekend morning a month to go out of my way and make a delicious breakfast. Something other than my usual bowl of goji berries + Ezekiel cereal, or green smoothie, or overnight oats. I grew up despising breakfast food but it turns out that it wasn't breakfast food that I didn't like as much as it was non-vegan breakfast food. Just thinking about bacon makes me gag uncontrollably and that is based on the tiniest bite I had once, about fifteen years ago, that I promptly spit back out into a paper towel. And I wasn't even vegetarian then!

Anyway, our special January breakfast was blueberry waffles. February was Strawberry Cream Cheeze French Toast and March was an old favourite of ours, Tofu Rancheros.

And then April rolled around and I was so busy that I completely forgot about my resolution! Luckily, I remembered on the very last day of the month. So instead of a leisurely weekend breakfast experiment, it was a quick Monday morning breakfast experiment. And this proved to be the perfect weekday breakfast because I was able to do the prep work the night before.

We have a little Saturday morning tradition that we follow through with every week that we can. A stack of traditional pancakes with maple syrup and four episodes of The Littlest Hobo, a really corny tv show about a stray German Shepherd that wanders around saving the day. He saves kidnapped children from their captors and farm animals from wildfire. He ruins mafia plans to steal precious jewels and stops bank robberies. It's 1980s Canadian television at its finest. We spend all week looking forward to Saturday morning Hobo and pancakes because we are nerds like that.

The concept of raw pancakes caused a bit of a moral dilemma in our household, because we love the traditional fluffy, gluteny pancake oh so much. But the clock was running out on my April breakfast-of-the-month and I already had all the ingredients on hand to make them so it was a real no-brainer. I'm so glad that I did! The recipe comes from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo.

These pancakes are mostly made out of flax, meaning they are an excellent way to get your omega-3 fatty acids on.

The topping I used is a raw coconut-cashew pudding, also from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen. I've used it in the past, when making raw fruit parfaits. I'm addicted to Ani's puddings, this one being my favourite. Her carob pudding, which I made as a dip for a fruit platter for a ladies' brunch potluck a couple months ago, would also be delicious with these pancakes.

And then the final touch is freshly sliced fruit of your choice. I can't wait until summer, when I can make this with fresh Ontario blueberries (my most favourite of all the fruits!)

Obviously, these are not the same as traditional pancakes. While traditional pancakes are fluffy and quite bland (in a good way, don't get me wrong), raw flax pancakes are dense and chewy. Calling them pancakes may offend pancake purists out there, which might be why Ani refers to them as "breakfast cakes" instead. I don't care though, I love 'em, and I'm calling 'em raw vegan pancakes - further proof that there is a perfectly adequate raw answer to just about everything under the sun!

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