Thursday, December 29, 2011

Poor man's taboulleh

Breakfast: Quinoa fruit pilaf

Lunch: Poor man's taboulleh with crusty bread and salad

Dinner: Vegan pizza with salad and a sugar-free vegan mocha brownie

There are certain things that I never even think to use in dishes. I only came around to making this as I'd ended up making it in Panama with a few bags of parsley that were thrown at me one lunch time. I can't remember the last time I voluntarily used parsley. This dish made me realise that I kinda love it and need to have it more

This is a poor man's version of this Lebanese classic as it uses cous cous instead of bulgur; not saying that cous cous is cheaper or anything, but it certainly costs less than buying bulgur when you already have about 3 kilos of cous cous in your kitchen.

Before anyone brings up the argument about this being Jordanian or Syrian as much as Lebanese, I consider this to be a Lebanese version as it uses more parsley than cous cous. Yeah, that's right, this girl does research!!

You'll need:
(Feeds 4)
1/3 red onion, diced
2 cups fresh parsley, finely chopped
6 large tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup cous cous
a squeeze of lemon juice

Place the cous cous in a bowl with 1/2 cup boiling water, cover and set aside for 5 minutes
Combine the parsley, red onion, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, mint and lemon juice in a bowl
Stir in the cooked cous cous and enjoy

Cous cous is one of the healthiest grains, and tomato and onion speak for themselves. Parsley is also pretty fantastic for you, although if any of you have a bun in the oven at the moment, don't go overboard with this salad; mad amounts of parsley can actually induce labour!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sugar-free vegan mocha brownies

Breakfast: Apple cinnamon porridge with chai tea

Lunch: Beans with spinach and rice

Dinner: Hungarian goulash followed by sugar-free vegan mocha brownies

When I was in Panama I wanted to make some treats for the lovely James, Melaney and Mackenze who'd let me basically move in with them for 2 weeks, and due to the fantastic coffee they enjoy in Panama (from Boquete...look it up!) decided to change this great brownie recipe into a mocha chocolate brownie recipe!

I've also been making an attempt to cut down the amount of processed sugar in my foods lately, so today I tried amending this recipe again, using molasses instead of sugar. This meant that the finished product was a lot less sweet and more fudgey than your average brownie, as well as being not quite as bad for you - but still as awesome.

You'll need:
(Makes 12 brownies)
2 cups wholewheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa (make sure its vegan)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup boiling water
5 tbsp ground coffee / instant coffee
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup pecans, chopped roughly
optional: 2 tbsp almond meal / ground almonds
optional: 1 tbsp ground flax

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a 8x8 baking tray with oil
Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder in a bowl and stir
In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, molasses and vanilla essence
Mix together the water and the coffee - if using instant coffee, just stir straight in, but if you're using coffee grounds, make in a French Press or similar
Stir the coffee into the oil mixture then stir the oil mixture into the flour mixture until just combined
Stir in the pecans, and if using, the almond meal and ground flax
Pour the batter into the pan and even out the top
Bake for 20 minutes, until a fork comes out clean

These are a lovely little afternoon snack with some hot spiced almond milk on a rainy winter day. The coffee gives a nice little kick and the chocolately goodness gives you some much-needed warmth. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vegan Tofu Benedict

Breakfast: Vegan Tofu Benedict

Lunch: Salad and toast with vegan chocolate hazelnut spread

Dinner: TVP and black beans in tomato sauce with brown rice

There are some things in life that are worth imitating. Eggs Benedict is one of those.

Ever since I had the vegan brunch at the Windsor Arms here in Toronto I've been fascinated by the idea of Tofu Benedict. The one we had there was phenomenal, and though I've only ever made hollandaise sauce once, it was fantastic and I wondered how a vegan hollandaise could be anything like it.

Well, I was lucky enough to stumble across this recipe for vegan hollandaise, and it worked out great! Though I can't swear to it tasting exactly the same as the non-vegan type, it was absolutely delicious and worked with this dish exactly as you would expect hollandaise too. In addition, it was much quicker to make and can be saved and reheated without giving yourself food poisoning! Win!

Don't be put off by the amount of instructions; this is relatively quick and easy to make!

You'll need:
(Serves 4)
4 wholewheat English muffins
about 12 sticks asparagus
300g firm tofu
2 tbsp vegan margarine
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups water
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 tbsp soy sauce
a little oil

Cut the bottom 1/3 from the asparagus and steam until done
While this is happening, cut the muffins in half and set aside, and cut the tofu into 8 thin "steaks"
Preheat your broiler or grill
Whisk together the flour and oil in a pan over a medium heat
After 5 minutes, start adding in the water 1/2 cup at a time until the sauce is thinner
Add in the lemon juice, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg and continue to heat on low, stirring often
Place all the muffins halves cut-side up under the grill / broiler
Heat the oil in a frying pan on high heat, then throw in the tofu steaks
The goal is to sear them, so allow them to very quickly brown / burn a little on each side then flip them
After they're cooked on the second side, throw the soy sauce into the pan. This should create a smoke, and the sauce should disappear within seconds
Flip the steaks again and remove the pan from the heat
Take your now-toasted muffins and coat the cut sides with a thin layer of vegan margarine
Place 2 on each plate, cut the asparagus sticks in half and divide between the muffins*
Top this with one tofu steak per muffin half
Slacken off the hollandaise sauce with a little water if it has become too thick, then drizzle over the tofu steaks
Season with black pepper, serve and enjoy!

*Alternatively you can just set one down on each plate, top with asparagus and 2 tofu steaks, then drizzle with hollandaise and top with the other muffin half. If you do so, it looks like this.

The most important part of this meal is making everything come together at once, and after one or two goes you'll have it down perfectly. This is a great breakfast or brunch to make when you're trying to impress guests or want to prove to non-vegans that you can have decadent dishes too!

Speaking of decadent, we had this on Christmas Day with a glass of Buck's Fizz, which was in fact a drink created to excuse early morning alcohol. In fact, we actually had Mimosas, as our drinks were definitely 50/50 if not 60/40. Hey, it was Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vegan xmas: Gingerbread!

Breakfast: Gingerbread is Christmas!

Lunch: Vegetable curry with brown rice

Dinner: Potatoes, steamed asparagus, tofu steaks and mushrooms in spicy coconut sauce

I don't know whether it's the state of economies the world over, a push against crap products or an attempt to be more personal and eco-savvy, but this year a whole bunch of people I know have taken to making presents for people rather than buying them. Though I am a consummate present buyer by nature, I have jumped on this train too, making mulled cider and choc chip cookie dough truffles to give out to friends too.

This gingerbread recipe came about as Putin realised he had nothing to give to his workmates. What better than gingerbread? These little piggies (what? it was the only cutter I had!) came out absolutely perfectly, and were an ideal balance of soft and crunchy.

You'll need:
(Makes about 20-24)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
Egg replacer: 2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp oil

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a baking tray with oil / vegan margarine
Sieve together the flour, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar and baking powder and stir together
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg replacer ingredients (baking powder, water and oil) until it becomes gelatinous
Add the vanilla extract, oil and molasses to the egg replacer bowl and stir to mix
Stir the wet bowl into the dry and combine well
Add as much of the 1/2 cup water you need to make a firm dough that is not sticky
Knead the dough lightly for a minute or so then roll out onto a floured surface at a thickness which will yield around 20 cookies (about 2 cms)
Cut out the shape of your choice and place onto the baking tray
Bake for 12 minutes
Allow to cool, ice, and enjoy!

Depending on the thickness of your dough, these may take a little more or less time to cook, so bring them out at 8 mins to check - they should be a little spongey on top still.

These are such a lovely treat for a cold day, and when cut into your favourite shape they make a great little gift for someone around you without breaking the bank. Go forth and make your own presents!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vegan xmas: Mulled cider

Breakfast: Granola and almond milk with grated cacao

Lunch: Mediterranean chickpeas with spinach and cous cous

Dinner: Veggie stir fry and rice with mulled cider

So here it is; our first vegan Christmas!

Christmas for me means good food, good drinks, good friends and some sort of cold outdoor activity. Unfortunately, Toronto has not dained to give us snow yet this year, so that's skating and snowboarding out. Better concentrate on the other three then.

Mulled wine and mulled cider are so festive to me that I feel they should come draped in tinsel. It's also lovely and warming on a cold day and might even make you feel better when you're ill. That's my excuse anyway.

This is a great recipe to bottle up and give as little presents!

You'll need:
(Makes about 2.5 litres)
2 litres cider
1/2 cup good rum (I used my Ron Abuelo from Panama!)
1 orange
1 orange peel
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp local honey (if you eat honey - if not, use agave nectar)
1/2 cup water
Place all ingredients together in a pan and simmer for 20 minutes
Run the mixture through a sieve before drinking straight away or placing into storage containers - 2 empty wine bottles work great
Warm again before serving!

This is a little stronger than some recipes, given the rum, but that all adds to the festivity, if you ask me. Always serve this warm, with lots of good friends, preferably in front of a roaring fire. Hooray!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bloomfield's Badass Foods: Staying healthy at Christmas!

Xmas = gluttony!
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas: time of presents, delicious food, and germ warfare!

It might be full of joviality and greeting card scenes, but is there a darker time of year for your body's immune system than the Christmas period? As the cold sets in and family and friends gather round for cheerful times roasted butternut squash over a roaring fire, so too do germs, bugs, and other malodorous maladies!

There are two routes to go when you realise that your Christmas is going to be a germ fest, full of exotic new flore and fauna just dying to explore your digestive tract and cause all kinds of hilarious and unfortunate symptoms. The first route is to seal yourself in a complete vacuum, allowing in no oxygen or outside agents with the added bonus and having little interaction with those pesky kin of yours! However, the downside is death, which the lack of oxygen tends to bring on, as well being in a hermetically sealed bubble. Never fear, there is a second option!

The other, and more sane, option, is to boost your immune system through a healthy and varied diet, and also by targeting specific foods to keep you healthy and hearty! I am going to run through a series of awesome booster vitamins and minerals that will help decrease the chance of getting sick this Christmas and keep your rippling muscles strong. Onwards to wisdom!

The season can be merry AND healthy!
1. Vitamin C.
That most famous of immune boosters! This has been researched deeply and extensively and has consistently been shown to be one of the keys of a powerful immune system. Vitamin C increases your white blood cell count (the infection fighters in your body!) as well as increasing levels of interferon, an antibody that coats cell surfaces, giving viruses less chance of successful entry into your healthsome body! 6 or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day are recommended, especially seasonal vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, satsumas (in your stocking!) and herbs like thyme and parsley. These are all things that are cooked regularly at Christmas so it's a great and easy way to get a quick immunity fix!

2. Vitamin E.
The less famous chum of Vitamin C doesn't get as much press as its more lauded companion but is equally as important! Vitamin E stimulates the production of the body's natural killer cells, that go on search and destroy missions for germs and cancerous cells. They also increase immune cell production, creating bacteria-slaying antibodies. It has also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, which is a pretty positive if non-immune relate benefit, cutting the risk of heart attacks by 50% in a study of 87,000 nurses! Foods high in Vitamin E include almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach and tomatoes. A good idea is to scatter nuts and seeds around as snacks for people; not only will this prevent snacking on corn syrip and sugar laden dirtsnacks, but it will also increase the casual intake of essential oils and vitamin E for all involved!

Almonds are your friend!
3. Omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega oils are an amazing and famous immune booster that increase the activity of phagocytes, those bacteria-munching white blood cells! If combined with Vitamin E, this provides a huge boost to the immune system as a tag team. Flax oil is your friend in this situation, vegan chums, as most other sources are from fatty fish. Pescetarians, eat your fill of salmon, tuna and mackerel too!

4. Garlic and onions.
Ok, I know they aren't vitamins or minerals, but they do contain them! Anyway, these bad boys get their own section because, frankly, I love them and am always recommending that people have more of them. I eat them with most meals and fortunately my girlfriend does too, so we can be pungent together! Seriously these two are nutritional beasts, with garlic giving you vitamins A, B, and C as well as selenium, iodine, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium. Eating garlic regularly should help prevent colds and other ailments, as well as reducing symptoms and recovery times when suffering from the dreaded lurgy!

Make some roasted garlic hummus!
P.S. If you really can't stand the garlic breath, chomp some parsley just afterwards. The chlorophyll in the parsley negates the bad breath, leaving you as fresh as the proverbial daisy...ish.

5. Zinc.
Back on track with this crucial mineral. Zinc helps produce white blood cells and anti-cancer cells. Zinc increases T-cells, infection fighters that help the immune system fight off infectious beasties! Roasted pumpkin, tahini and squash seeds are all chock-full of this powerful immune boosting mineral, as well as unsweetened dark chocolate, cocoa and peanuts. Now you've an excuse to eat some creative Christmas nibbles to boost that Zinc intake!

Anyway, those are a few brief rundowns of the things you can munch on to help stay strong and healthy over this potentially germy period! It can be easy to slip at Christmas and the combination of sugary, immune-crushing foods, new germs from visiting relatives and staying in a constantly well-heated bacteria-friendly home can all lead to health downturns. Have fun but try and keep yourself strong too - get some fresh air and try to keep in mind some of these tasty but nutritionally awesome foods!

Merry Christmas y'all, and hope that Santa doesn't leave you too many lumps of coal!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Black bean and brown rice soup

Breakfast: Fruit smoothie and grits!

Lunch: Black bean and brown rice soup

Dinner: Faux fish and fried plantains

Hello readers! Yes, I am back from my galavanting with a tan, some body painting and a lot of gusto. Did you miss me? I hope you've been eating well.

So I was lucky enough to spend 2 fantastic weeks in Panama, during which I stayed with an amazing friend of mine. We took the opportunity to cook some great meals, several of which had to be not only vegan but also gluten-free and not too sugary, due to my friend's Crohn's disease and a potential flare up. This was one of the recipes that was right on the money, AND tasted great too!

You'll need:
(Feeds 4)
2 red onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 red pepper, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped
1 tin black beans, drained
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp thyme
6 cups vegetable stock (make sure it's gluten-free)
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
olive oil
black pepper

Place the brown rice in a pan with 4 cups water and bring to the boil
Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked
While the rice is cooking, fry the garlic and onions in a little oil until browned
Add in the red pepper, orange pepper, carrot and celery, along with the cumin, cayenne pepper and thyme
Stir to coat and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes
Add the vegetable stock into the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender
Stir in the black beans and balsamic vinegar and cook for 5 more minutes
When the brown rice is finished, divide between 4 bowls, then divide the soup and pour on top of the rice
Season and serve!

This was a great and filling lunch, and not too hot despite the heat of the day. I'm excited to make it now I'm back home and it is simply too cold.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Vegan spinach and mushroom frittata

Breakfast: Apricot porridge with chai tea

Lunch: Vegan spinach and mushroom frittata with guacamole and tortillas

Dinner: Beet soup with crusty garlic bread and steamed greens

I've hit the comfort foods hard lately; it's always dark when I get in and I'm usually freezing cold of completely soaked from the journey home, so when I get in I want to make something hot, tasty and full of the noms.

I was getting a bit sick of goulash and casserole and stew and wanted something eggy, and so this was born! The turmeric and tahini bring an eggy-consistency to the tofu when it's cooked, and I scoffed my half of this down in about a second.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
300g firm tofu
2 1/2 cups spinach, torn
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
1/3 cup almond milk
1/3 cup water
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp mustard
1/2 tsp turmeric
oregano (to taste)
black pepper

Fry the onions and garlic in a little oil for 3-4 minutes, then add in the mushrooms
While frying, blend together the tofu, water, almond milk. tahini, mustard, turmeric and oregano until smooth
Add the spinach to the onion pan and cook for 2 minutes
Put the onions, garlic, mushrooms and spinach into a bowl and mix with the blended tofu mixture
Stir well
Heat a little oil in the frying pan again, then pour the entire mixture into it
Place a lid on the pan and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes or until the top of the frittata is spongey*
Season and serve with a salad or some sort of dip

*You can flip the frittata half way through cooking to make it the traditional way, but this can be difficult!

This would make a great winter brunch, paired with a carrot and soy sauce salad or maybe even home fries.

Note to self: must make home fries.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hot spiced almond milk

Breakfast: Hot spiced almond milk with a vegan muffin

Lunch: Seven grain salad and apricot cous cous salad (my new obsession)

Dinner: Leek and lemon linguine

It's very difficult, when you're sick, not to infect everyone around you. It's also near impossible not to infect everyone who lives with you. Though I'm mostly (touch wood) over my 2-day illness, and the kittens appear to have escaped unscathed, the poor Putin is now as weak as the aforementioned kittens, coughing and sneezing himself to sleep while I sit guiltily by. Sorry, Putin.

I am trying to make amends, though. I'm supplying him with oodles of spicymakegood and good, healthy foods, but Putin is a man who loves comforting treats, so something else was in order. This went down very well.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
2 cups almond milk
1 tbsp honey (local is best)
2 cinnamon sticks
a pinch of cayenne pepper

Pour the almond milk into a pan and simmer it on a medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes
Stir in the honey and cayenne pepper, and drop the cinnamon sticks into the pan
When the milk has reached the desired heat, divide between 2 glasses and place one cinnamon stick in each glass

You might be wondering about the Oreo sitting there. Yes, I did serve him an Oreo...and yes, they are vegan*! Due to Oreos being horribly processed, and due to it being cheaper to make foods out of crap that tastes things instead of those actual things, they don't actually contain any dairy. However, they are made from a bunch of not good things, including high fructose corn syrup which is the closest thing to a government-sponsored bio weapon to be used against the people that America has ever had. But he really wanted one.

*If you're living outside of North America, be sure to read the label properly. In some countries, Oreos contain whey products.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bean and potato casserole

Breakfast: A hot apple pie smoothie

Lunch: Bean and potato casserole with garlic bread

Dinner: Beet soup with baked eggplant

There's nothing in the world more comforting than a casserole - except maybe a stew, and they're in the same ball park. With illness creeping up on me and the rain beating down outside, I decided to throw a vegan casserole together to warm myself from the inside. It certainly worked.

You'll need:
(Feeds 4)
300 g new potatoes
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped,
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 large leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large tomatoes
3 cups mushrooms stock
1 cup kidney beans
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp flour
black pepper

Saute the leeks and garlic in a little oil for 5 minutes
Add the oregano and stir well
Chop the new potatoes in half and add to the pan, along with the carrot, parsnip, and mushroom stock
Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes
Add in the kidney beans, tomato, red wine vinegar and simmer for 15 more minutes
Season and stir in the flour, then serve with garlic bread or mashed sweet potatoes

This is a very hearty, satisfying casserole that's easy to make after a long day at work. Make heaps and keep some in the fridge for lunches and whatnot.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Vegan red velvet cupcakes

Breakfast: A beet and carrot smoothie

Lunch: Couscous and grilled veggies in a tomato sauce

Dinner: Tofu Penang curry followed by vegan red velvet cupcakes

It's the time of year that you get home from work and it's already dark, and all you want is a cup of tea and a treat. Well, to be honest, that's most of the year in our house, but nevertheless, it seems somewhat more justified at the end of November.

I made a vegan red velvet cake for my friend Jamool's birthday a couple of weeks ago, and it went down  so well that I decided to make the more lazy cupcake version for a meal again this week. Everyone loves a red velvet, after all.

You'll need:
(Makes 12 cupcakes)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp red food colouring
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Pour the almond milk and vinegar together in a bowl and set aside for 5 minutes
Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking powder
Stir the oil, vanilla essence and food colouring into the milk mixture
Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined
Divide between 12 cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean
Top with vanilla vegan buttercream frosting and serve to your hungry friends!

Interestingly, the red colour of these cakes originally came from the reaction between the cocoa and an acidic ingredient like buttermilk, although some have also used beets to get the colouring. The cheat's way, of course, is to use food colouring - and hey, it's winter. I'm cheating.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ultimate Cold Cure Drink, AKA spicymakegood

Breakfast: Heaps of The Ultimate Cold Cure Drink and apple oatmeal

Lunch: Brown rice avocado burritos

Dinner: Ukrainian feast! Marinated vegetables, stuffed peppers

I was hoping to end this winter with the enjoyable smugness of someone who had avoided the dreaded Lurgy (a cold / the flu, for those who aren't from Yorkshire) by becoming vegan. I was hoping it so much that this hope had manifested itself in a pre-smugness in which I thought my dairy-free body was impervious to germs - so you can imagine my disappointment this morning when I woke up dripping from the nose and with a throat made of sandpaper.

I should, of course, have realised that no diet can save you from a cold if you couple seasonal germs with a large Ukrainian family dinner with enforced champagne and vodka drinking, a hot tub party in November and a birthday night out, none of which ended at any reasonable hour. No; illness is illness, and I had got it.

Thankfully, I also have this: a drink, called spicymakegood in the worst times of illness, recommended to me by my fantastic holistic nutritionist friend Lisa. I've adapted it a bit from her original ideas, as I wanted to have something I could happily drink all day every day, and I swear it works. If you feel the sniffles coming on, or if you're throat starts to get a bit scratchy, or even if the whole office is sick apart from you, switch your usual tea or coffee for a few mugs of this and it'll help you stay illness-free - or at the very least, make you better much quicker!

You'll need:
Softcore version:
4 cups hot water
3 slices fresh lemon
2 ginger slices
1/2 tsp cinnamon
honey to taste

Hardcore version:
4 cups hot water
3 lemon lemon slices
4 slices fresh ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
honey to taste

Put all ingredients together in a teapot

I make a pot of this, hence the large amounts, but you can make as much or as little as you like. Unless you're of a particularly robust constitution, start out with the softcore version and work your way up to the hardcore one.

If you need a reminder of why honey is so great, check out David's post on the subject, and turmeric is great in this due to its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to pep you up a little bit. Cayenne pepper is fantastic at clearing out your sinuses, and ginger has long been used as a remedy all over the world.

I'm off to bathe in this stuff and feel sorry for myself for a while.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Flax breaded baked eggplant

Breakfast: Spicy rice and beans

Lunch: Cous cous salad with almonds and veggies

Dinner: Flax breaded baked eggplant followed by veggie noodle soup

So lately we've had loads of eggplant. Like loads. It just keeps getting bought, though I don't know why.

The idea for this came from the fried eggplant slices we used to have in the Ukrainian house, but with flax added to the breadcrumbs and a tahini mix instead of egg. The result was fantastic and a great little starter or side to any meal. The photos do not do it justice!

You'll need:
(Serves 2 as a starter / side)
1 large eggplant
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup ground flax
2 tbsp oregano
2 tbsp tahini
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Chop the eggplant across, so you get round slices
Mix together the breadcrumbs, flax and oregano in a bowl
Mix together the tahini, lemon juice and water in another - add more water if necessary. It should be a watery paste consistency
Dip each slice in the tahini mix then into the breadcrumbs mix
Make sure both sides are covered
Place the slices onto a baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, turning half way

These are great served with tomato slices or a thick tomato sauce on top, and topped with a drizzle of hot sauce. Of course, they're also great on their own!

It's good to get into the habit of putting flax into, well, everything. Ground flax is a great source of omega 3s, as well as dietary fibre and micronutrients, although full flax seeds are not so great as the body struggles to get the good stuff out. Tahini, too, is rich in omega 3 and essential fatty acids, along with calcium, iron and protein - so these are great for you on every level!

Fun fact: eggplant also contains nicotine - although in tiny amounts compared to even passive smoking, thankfully!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chana Masala

Breakfast: Scrambled tofu with toast

Lunch: Lentil shepherd's pie with salad followed by vegan red velvet cupcake

Dinner: Chana masala followed by Live's raw, vegan, gluten-free strawberry "cheesecake"

Yesterday was my first vegan birthday (well, Tuesday, as I'm writing this on Wednesday night, but let's not quibble). More momentously, I didn't cook once. I was treated to breakfast a la Putin, lunch a la Tea Tree Cafe (Erin, you're great!) and dinner a la Udapi Palace with dessert a la Live. It was a veritable cacophony of delicious dairy-free noms.

I enjoyed my dinnertime chana masala so much that I had to come back and make a batch up for the week. This recipe is adapted from a few sources, one of which is from the wonderful Madhur Jaffrey. I wanted to use fresh tomatoes and this gave the dish a great creamy tomato feel. And of course, it's vegan!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
1 can chickpeas
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup water
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 small red chili
juice of 1 lemo
fresh coriander

Fry the onion, garlic and chili in a little oil until the onion is browned
Add in the cumin seeds, ground coriander, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne pepper
Add in the tomatoes, water, chickpeas and ginger, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring often
If necessary, add in a little more water
Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and serve with fresh coriander on top

This is best served after you've allowed it to cool for 3-5 minutes, and serve on top of white rice with pappadoms and chapatis, if you have them.

I was really surprised at how great this turned out. It's nice to know that even though you can't eat out every night, you can at least recreate the experience back home on non-birthday days!

Oh, and how old am I? Well, let's just say I moved up a box.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vegan tutti frutti smoothie

Breakfast: Vegan tutti frutti smoothie

Lunch: Veggies patties with Moroccan cous cous

Dinner: Veganomicon black bean and veggies soup with garlic bread

You might recall that 2 weeks ago I was excited to find a way to include heinous carrot juice into my diet without making me retch. Well, now I've gone one better; I've found a smoothie recipe that includes carrot juice AND beet juice AND is totally nommable!

Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't lie to you. This smoothie is so drinkable it's crazy. The raspberries help to cover up any of the less palatable tastes and the whole thing comes out looking like you've blended up a bunch of tutti frutti sweets - and tastes like it too!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
1/2 cup carrot juice
1/2 cup beet juice
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 banana
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup raspberries
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ground flax

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy

You should put heaps of ground flax into this. In fact, you should put heaps of ground flax into everything. Flax has an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids that can be difficult for vegans to get, as well as fibre, and you can't even tell that ground flax is in most meals. Just used to throwing a tablespoon into smoothies, sauces and soups and your brain, heart and bones will thank you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bloomfield's Badass Foods: What the hell are we eating?

Good day, all! I hope that everyone has been feasting on some of the Everyday Veggie's delicious veggie side dishes this week. I've seen some seriously exciting real food here which got me wondering: what are we eating? Why do we have so much food choice and yet frequently vastly overeat a small number of foods? This contradiction made me keen and angry and exploratory all at the same time.

So, intrigued by the idea of quantifying everything we eat and showing it all in its gross glory, I went searching on the interwebz for something that I could you all to help display the results I found, and I have to say that what came up was an aesthetically pleasure doozy! Whilst this great graphic from visualeconomics looks beautiful, just remember that this is truly terrifying, especially if you are American; although Europeans, Australians and Canadians shouldn't be too smug as we aren't far off these figures either!

(link below for larger version)

Here's a rundown of the alarming facts and figures shown above, along with some additional information to really make you sit up and think about what the average person chows down on these days. I'm going to ignore the meat and dairy issues here (non-vegans, do email me!) but they are staggeringly large figures (110lbs of red meat! I fear for the colons out there!).

Let's start with the figure pertaining to vegetables. The average American, we are told, eats 415.4lbs a year. This figure seems huge at first, but it actually works out to a mere 1.1lb of vegetables per day. This is a really tiny amount, which is terrifying when you consider that vegetables will be the prime sources of vitamins and minerals for most people. What's even scarier is that an 1/8th of that figure is corn. That is a huge portion of the vegetable intake of the average person, and again doesn't count that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that Americans consume as a sweetener in thousands of products. This high sugar food, especially in its HFCS state, is very dangerous and likely one of the biggest reasons for the skyrocketing obesity rate. Corn syrup adds an additional 42lbs of corn into the diet, meaning that Mr Average eats almost 100lbs of corn every year.

Remember fruit?
Fruit is even scarier; only 273.2lbs a year! No wonder there has been more than double the cases of scurvy in recent years when people are eating only 0.74lbs of fruit a day. Not even a pound! This means we are missing out on huge amounts of Vitamin C especially, one of our best immune system boosters - necessitating us buying more "healthy" supplements to keep us at a decent level of health. Prevention is always better than cure, and a strong immune system is not created by using anti-biotics and pharmaceutical restoratives. It's not only Vitamin C that your body needs for essential running, but all the other vitamins and minerals too. You wouldn't try to start a car engine with a flat battery and no petrol in the tank, with no oil or window washer fluid either, so why treat your body that way?

Another alarming figure that stands out from this graphic is the amount of wheat that we consume: 134lbs a year. This is a huge amount, and this really does need to be addressed. Wheat is an irritant to the gut, causing bloating and swelling when the digestive tract is exposed to it, even to those without coeliac disease. When you eat 134lbs of wheat a year, you can consider yourself thoroughly overexposed. All this gluten-containing wheat means that our bodies struggle to cope with digestion, causing flatulence, indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea, to name just a few. The problem here is not that having a small amount of wheat is bad, rather that having wheat everyday will really hit you hard and eventually lead to you showing wheat allergy symptoms, when previously everything was hunky dory. Try to avoid eating it everyday, although this is tough considering that it is put into a load of products including (but not limited to) bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, pastries, biscuits, cakes and crackers!

Here are some more facts that aren't quite as they should be:

We eat 141.6lbs of sweeteners in our sugary bright new world. Per year. That is an astounding amount of brain-destroying, gut filtering sucralose, aspertane, and other horrible substances flooding our system. Oh, and more corn syrup, naturally!

We eat almost 2.8lbs of salt a year. This is one of the main reasons that blood pressures are soaring worldwide (and mine soared when I read that!). So much salt throws out our delicate balance with potassium, a balance which dictates many crucial workings of a healthy body such as blood pressure and regulated heart beat.

We eat 23lbs of pizza and 24lbs of ice cream. Again, a lot of this is sugary mush and our old friend corn syrup shows up again (uninvited, that party crasher), especially as a soft scoop ice cream ingredient in the form of HFCS.

We manage to consume 24lbs of coffee, cocoa and nuts in a year. I'm willing to bet that a large percentage of that is going to be coffee and chocolate, usually of a fairly poor quality to which we add sweeteners, sugars and - oh! - more corn syrup. Our besieged and hyper-stimulated adrenal glands simply can't cope!

Finally, we consume a truly scary 53 gallons of soda/pop/liquidised sugar filth each per year. That's a tenth of a gallon a day, or for us English folk, roughly a pint and a sixth! I don't need to say more; this stuff is evil.

The point of me raking over these facts is not to scare or intimidate people into apathy; far from it. I want to shine a guiding light on the path we should be taking. I want these facts to speak for themselves, so have a little absorb and feel free to ask questions, argue, or generally have an opinion on this. The future is not all bleak; up your intake of fruit and vegetables, and try to leave out salt, sweeteners and processed foods where you can, and seriously, drop the soda!



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: Vegan brunch at the Windsor Arms

I was unknowingly quite quick off the mark when Toronto's Windsor Arms started its new vegan brunch. In fact, we turned up on the first official launch day of the new menu, even though I'd already read a blog about it and been sufficiently stoked to make Putin come with me. It turns out that the reviewer had only been there the previous week for the soft opening, and upon finding this I was even more excited about being there.

The Windsor Arms is a very classy joint (being located in Yorkville and all) and one that I felt quite underdressed in with my scuffed purple canvas shoes, dirty hair and bearded boymanfriend*. However, this isn't like the Hilton Prague (yep, I still remember you, mate) and the second we walked in there we were treated warmly and got on instantly with the extremely professional servers, greeters and staff.

After being shown to our gorgeous booth by the lovely Andrei and handed the menu we both almost melted with joy at the range of stuffs therein. The best thing was that it didn't feel like a vegan brunch menu; it felt like a brunch menu.

Putin had decided before we got there that he was having the Veg Benedict (seared smoky tofu cutlet, sauteed garlic greens, cornmeal crusted fried tomato, sprouted grain English muffins, hollandaise sauce), but I couldn't turn down The Works, as it sounded perfect; scrambled tofu with greens and seared mushrooms, home fries, tempeh bacon, black bean chili, sprouted grain toast and home made sunflower miso butter. I of course had a black coffee too.

Our orders were taken quickly and the food came after that nice period of time which is just enough time to chat and get excited without getting too hungry. This isn't a fast food place, and I enjoy the feeling that my food is actually being made rather than reheated.

When my monster meal arrived Putin was a little worried about the size of his food - he's twice my size so when my plate's fuller than his it seems a bit wrong - but after a few bites he realised his meal was so nutritionally dense that it wasn't going to be a problem. Though I'm not a huge fan of tempeh bacon it was nice to have something was a little zing on the plate, although my favourite by far was the black bean chili. I enjoyed the fact that the tofu scramble wasn't the main focus of the dish and the home fries were cooked to perfection. The sunflower miso butter, too, deserves a mention of its own; tasting somewhere between mild hummus and soy butter, it added another dimension of flavours to the meal. This, I think, is what makes chef Doug's creations so great; they capitalise on every opportunity to bring something extra to the plate without overwhelming all the other flavours.

Putin's Veg Benedict was phenomenal; the tofu steaks were thick enough to feel like a meat substitute without shying away from the fact that they weren't (if that makes sense) and the hollandaise sauce tasted exactly like the real thing. When Doug came to chat I asked him how he made it and from the list of ingredients I can only remember coconut oil, lemon and nutritional yeast, but regardless of how the trick is performed, that man is a wizard. Putin was particularly impressed with the English muffins and the tomatoes, and the whole dish felt like a great mid-point between haute cuisine and a hearty meal.

We were both totally stuffed (though we almost licked the plates clean) and opted, from their menu of over 40 teas, for a pot of Darjeeling to let our stomachs relax, and even that was way beyond any expectations. We sat, feeling totally unrushed, when the vegan chef Doug made his friendly rounds to enquire how we enjoyed it. This, again, felt very natural and I got the impression that he was actually taking on board what we said. He also deserves kudos for having tattoos of vegetables and a big VEGAN stamp on his forearm. You are an inspiration in more ways than one, my friend!

I could honestly not say a bad word about my whole experience at the Windsor. From the friendly but amazingly professional staff, to the quality and quantity of the food, everything was of exceptional quality - and the whole meal, including coffee and tip and a decent tip, cost us $25 each. The crew have really raised the bar for great brunch food in Toronto as well as being pioneering in their choice to offer high-class vegan options too.

Now they just need to get that vegan high tea going and I'll be there every weekend. (Please, Windsor Arms, do!)

The Windsor Arms is located at 18 St. Thomas Street and is open 7.30am-11.00pm weekdays. Brunch is available on Sundays, from 10.30am-2.30pm.

*We have both decided that if we ever get rich we're going to dress even more scruffy just to annoy people.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Veggies Week day 5: Lemon Sauteed Parsnips and Leeks

Breakfast: Chocolate peanut butter smoothie!

Lunch: Mushroom burgers on quinoa with lemon sauteed parsnips and leeks

Dinner: Moroccan-style TVP with cous cous

For me, parsnips will always mean Sunday dinner - and me avoiding them, for the first 20 or so years of my life. Parsnips were Mum vegetables. I wanted no part of them.

Now, however, I'm all about the white carrot. They're easy to prepare and make any meal feel that bit more homely.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2 as a side)
1 large parsnip
1 large leek
olive oil
1 lemon
black pepper

Peel the parsnip then slice both the parsnip and the leek
Throw in a frying pan with a little oil and saute, stirring often, for 10 minutes until tender
Remove from the heat and squeeze the lemon juice over the vegetables
Stir everything around, letting the lemon juice evaporate slightly from the heat of the pan
Season lightly and serve

Surprisingly, the parsnip is more nutritionally awesome than its cousin, the carrot, with more vitamins and minerals as well as mad amounts of potassium. Leeks also have complex antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, as well as being totally delicious.

This is a quick and easy side that will banish the idea of over-roasted parsnips from your mind forever, and brings a little tangy side to any meal.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Veggies Week day 4: Garlic and soy greens with pumpkin seeds

Breakfast: Apple cinnamon porridge

Lunch: Leek and potato soup with garlic and soy greens and pumpkin seeds

Dinner: Curried chickpeas on brown rice with avocado

This is one of my current favourite side dishes. I've been a total convert to broccoli in the last few years (in my friend's words, "it's a sponge for the flavour!") and having a big bowl of greens next to any meal imbues you with a smug sense of healthiness that doesn't let go until it's time for dessert.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2 as a side)
2 cups broccoli, chopped
2 cups spinach, ripped
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
a little oil

Throw the pumpkin seeds into a dry frying pan and toast them for 10-15 mins, tossing regularly
In a wok, heat the oil on medium high
Add in the garlic and broccoli
Cook for 5 minutes then add in the soy sauce and spinach
Cook for 2 more minutes
Serve with the pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top

We all know the health benefits of spinach and broccoli, but it's lesser known that pumpkin seeds contain omega-3s and zinc, as well as iron, copper and protein.

You've probably still got a load of pumpkin hanging round for Halloween (if you're a total hoarder like me) and this is a great way to use the seeds. Halloween: the holiday that keeps on giving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Veggies Week day 3: Basic steamed asparagus

Breakfast: Vegan banana bread with nut butter

Lunch: Veggie Pad Thai

Dinner: Mashed potatoes with seared tofu and basic steamed asparagus

This is so simple I feel bad putting it up here - but it has become my favourite side dish lately and it's so easy to make that it's very easy to bring into your diet! It's a ten minute side with almost no effort.

You'll need:
(Makes a side for 2)
1 large handful asparagus
Small knob of soy butter
Black pepper

Cut the ends off the asparagus then chop the remaining asparagus into 3 sections
Place a sieve / colander over a quarter-full pan of water and place the asparagus in it
Keep the water on a medium boil, turning the asparagus
Keep doing this for 5-7 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender
Serve with a knob of soy butter on top and a dusting of black pepper

Asparagus is really high in dietary fibre and lots of lovely vitamins, and it's a delicious way to get a chunk of goodness into almost any meal.

And that thing about asparagus making your pee smell....I've been watching out for it and I don't think it's happened!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More Veggies Week day 2: Russian vinaigrette salad

Breakfast: Vegan flax cereal with bananas and blueberries

Lunch: Tofu burgers with Russian vinaigrette salad 

Dinner: Potato soup with crusty bread and steamed greens

Though I'm not Russian, this salad is a very 'family meal' dish for me, as it's my go-to dish at all Putin's family gatherings! Back when my vegetarianism was still pretty strange to his Ukrainian family I would eat tons of this, before wolfing down far too much of that awesome cake.

It's not exactly quick to make, but if you make a bunch it can keep you going as a side dish for 3 or 4 nights, and it's very mild in its flavours without being boring.

You'll need:
Feeds 4 as a side:
4 beets
5 potatoes
3 carrots, peeled
3 pickles
1 cup peas
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
Peel the beets, chop into quarters and boil for 60 minutes
Chop the potatoes into large chunks
In a different pan, boil the potatoes and carrots for 30 minutes
Drain all vegetables and allow to cool
Cook the peas in a pan for 3-4 minutes
When cooled, chop the potatoes, carrots and beets, as well as the pickles, into small uniform pieces and place in a bowl with the peas
Toss with the olive oil and white vinegar, and season to taste

This is a great way to get some beet-y goodness into your diet if you're not keen on beet soup or juices. Also, I absolutely detest pickles bur I love this salad, so if pickles had any nutritional value, this would also be a good thing. As it stands, I'm not sure they do.

Monday, November 14, 2011

More Veggies Week day 1: Red Cabbage Salad

Breakfast: Vegan crepes with almond butter

Lunch: Spicy black bean soup and a cinnamon vegan cupcake

Dinner: Mashed potatoes and mushrooms gravy with steamed asparagus, spinach and red cabbage salad

Now, don't let the words "red cabbage" throw you off here. I get it, honestly; I was cynical too. But with just a simple but brilliant dressing this is actually a fantastic addition to any meal. I have to credit Putin for the dressing here, and I love it.

This is an absolute no-brainer if you're looking for a quick and easy side dish to go with dinner.

You'll need:
(Feeds 4)
1/2 red cabbage
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
pinch salt
pinch pepper
a squeeze of lemon juice

Stir together the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and lemon juice
Chop the red cabbage thinly
Toss the cabbage in the dressing and serve as a side dish

Red cabbage is a lot more nutritionally dense than green cabbage, and is a good source of Vitamins A - mostly in the form of beta-carotene - C, K and Potassium, which is important for maintaining blood pressure. It's also rich in polyphenols, which have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Hooray!

Not-so-Fun fact: overdoses of red cabbage cause massive lack of co-ordination of muscle movements in terriers, pugs and beagles. Keep your dogs away from it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

More Veggies Week

Now, this might seem a strange subject for a vegetarian food blog to cover - after all, many people's perception of vegetarians is that all we do is munch carrots and raw broccoli. However, the reality is that it's as easy to eat badly as a vegetarian as it is as a carnivore. And it can be just as damaging to your health.

Even if your diet is fairly balanced and full of goodness, when it comes to this time of the year, when you get home from work when it's already dark and the wind is blowing in Arctic temperatures, all good intentions tend to go out of the window and you can end up eating carb-heavy foods 5 nights a week. Plus we all know that the national cupcake and pie consumption increases ten fold in the winter months. Well, mine does.

The easiest way to remedy this, I think, is to make a quick and easy vegetable side dish to serve with whatever you're eating. I've been doing this a lot lately and it can turn a comfort meal into a nutritious meal with minimum effort!

So, as fall turns into winter, this week on The Everyday Veggie is going to be More Veggies Week. We'll be focusing on tasty vegetable side dishes to make with your winter meals, so that even if you're determined to eat spaghetti carbonara on every day that ends in a Y, you'll still be eating a diverse range of veggies to get the most balanced nutritional profile out of your weekly diet. It's all well and good having steamed broccoli on the side of your Shepherd's Pie but changing up the side dish will help you get a greater range of all that good stuff that veggies give you.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Carrot cake super smoothie

Breakfast: Carrot cake super smoothie

Lunch: Chunky hummus sandwich and black bean soup

Dinner: The best vegan spaghetti bolognese ever

I wish I was one of those people who could get up and think "I'd really like a spinach / garlic / celery smoothie". I really do. But the reality is that I am most definitely not.

I'm not even close, in fact. Putin, with all good intentions, bought a bottle of organic carrot juice 2 weeks ago, and despite a couple of optimistic glasses full with dinner, we still haven't got through it because we've realised we both hate the taste of carrot juice on its own. And vegan though I may be, I'm not a culinary masochist.

This, then, is a way for me to get through a huge bottle of carrot juice in a manner I find delicious, AND a way for me to get away from the sweet fruit smoothies of the summer morning times and get something a bit more veggie in there. It's "super" because of the inclusion of goji berries and flax, as well as the cinnamon, which, as everyone knows, it amazing.

This really does taste like carrot cake and so you really don't feel like you're being that healthy at all. And it's really filling too! Perfect!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
1 banana
1 cup carrot juice
1 1/3 cup vanilla almond milk
1 tbsp flax seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp goji berries

Place everything in a blender and whizz until smooth

The goji berries in this are there for their iron and amino acid content, and because Putin finally took the plunge and bought an (expensive) bag of them last week. These are in no way necessary though, and can be replaced with raisins or left out altogether. The same goes for the flax seeds - I just put them in everything because they're so damn good for you!

As winter is fast approaching (ugh!) you might want to make this a hot smoothie instead. To do that, just warm the almond milk in a pan before blending. This makes a really good breakfast drink if you're struggling to get out of your front door and into the snow!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vegan ginger and orange cookies

Breakfast: Hot 'apple pie' smoothie

Lunch: Heaps of greens and tofu steaks on quinoa

Dinner: Vegan pesto and pasta followed by vegan ginger and orange cookies

The other day I got a bit of a craving for Ginger Nuts (no, that's a type of biscuit), probably due to the fact that it's getting cold here and gingery things make me feel much better. I decided to make my own and went scuttling about for a recipe, only to find not one that used real fresh ginger instead of ground ginger or that horrible crystalized stuff.

I thought this was a travesty, so here we are - a vegan cookie recipe that uses fresh ginger AND real orange juice!

You'll need:
(Makes 13 cookies)
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup vegan margarine
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
5 tbsp water
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp freshly-squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a baking tray or line it with greaseproof paper
Sift together the flour, cinnamon, and baking soda
In a separate bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth
In a cup, mix together the flaxseed and water til it becomes gelatinous
Stir this into the margarine mix
Stir in the molasses, grated ginger, orange zest and orange juice
Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir until totally combined
Roll the mixture into 13-15 small balls and place on the baking tray
Push down a little with a fork, but not too much
Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes
Allow to harden up by cooling, then enjoy!

I know I'll please all the Brits by saying that these are the absolute PERFECT consistency for dunking in tea. You'll need to pull them out of the oven a little bit before the look ready, as they firm up when they cool, but you'll be well rewarded for keeping your eye on the oven window.

The only problem is that now I can't stop eating them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jamaican pumpkin soup

Breakfast: Tofu bean scramble with toast

Lunch: Jamaican pumpkin soup with crusty bread

Dinner: Soy and garlic greens, steam asparagus and quinoa tarts

Remember I said that the pumpkin we had was outrageously massive? Well, it's November 8th and we're still going with it. Yep, that massive.

I was getting a little sick of coming up with pumpkin treats so I wanted a recipe that would use all of it up in a fantastic and healthy way. A bit of research came up with this idea! The banana in this really adds an amazingly different flavour and goes along perfectly with the coconut milk and spices. You can almost taste the Caribbean (which incidentally I'll be on the edge of in 3 and a half weeks....hooray!)

You'll need:
(Feeds 4-6)
5 cups fresh pumpkin
1 banana
1 cup coconut milk
5 cups veg stock
1 stalk celery
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 pinch ground nutmeg
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
If you're using a whole pumpkin, chop it into chunks (still on the skin) and place these pieces in a roasting pan. If you're using pre-chopped pumpkin, put these on a baking tray / roasting pan
Drizzle with a little oil then place in the oven for 45-60 minutes, until cooked through
In a pan, fry the onion, garlic and celery in a little oil until softened
Add in the banana and cook for 2 minutes
Add in the roasted pumpkin, stock, coconut milk, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg and stir well
Simmer on low for 25-30 minutes
Allow to cool, then blend
Serve with fresh coriander on top

This is so filling it's ridiculous. I'm tempted to say it's the banana, but it's everything, really.

Be sure to only use a small pinch of nutmeg here, as there are a lot of flavours working in harmony and something as potent as nutmeg can send it over the edge into a sort of flavour overdose if you use too much. Go mad with the fresh coriander on top though!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gluten-free lentil and spinach mini tarts with quinoa crust

Breakfast: Spicy beans and rice...little addicted to this.

Lunch: Avocado and cous cous salad with bruschetta

Dinner: Gluten-free lentil and spinach mini tarts with quinoa crust

The older I get, the more I want to have larger groups of people over to eat food and chat and generally have a nice time. When I do this, though, I sometimes find myself stuff in the kitchen, sweating, as I try to cook Thai curry for 8 while making about 4 side dishes, and this is a bit crap.

My newest quest has been to find inclusive dishes - so vegan and gluten-free ones - that can either be made in advance and cooked at the last minute or that I can throw together in a flash. These will definitely be added to that list; served with a cous cous salad, some oregano-roasted vegetables and some dips, they'd be perfect for a night in with some friends.

You'll need:
(Makes 10 mini tarts)
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water + enough to cover quinoa
2 tbsp ground flax
2 tbsp chickpea flour
1 tbsp oregano
black pepper
3 cups fresh spinach
1 cup red lentils
1 3/4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp paprika

If using dried lentils, soak for at least an hour previous to preparing the meal, and drain
Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celcius
Place the quinoa in a pan with just enough water to cover it and set aside for 5 minutes
Drain in a sieve, then place the quinoa back in the pan with 1 1/2 cups water and bring to the boil
Bring down to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed
Drain, cool, then stir in the ground flax, chickpea flour and oregano
Grease a cupcake / muffin tin with oil
Distribute the quinoa mix in 10 of the cupcake holders
Press the quinoa mix down with force; allow some of the mixture to go up the sides of the holders and press it firmly to create the crust
The quinoa mix should come up to the top of the cupcake holder
Place in the oven for 10 minutes, by which time the crusts should have started to brown
Set aside and reduce the oven heat to 180 degrees Celcius
In a pan, cook the lentils with the vegetable stock on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until the stock has mostly been absorbed, then drain
Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil until translucent
Add in the drained lentils, tomato puree and paprika, and heat on low, stirring often
In a separate pan, boil the spinach in water for 5 minutes
Drain the spinach then blend into a paste
Stir this paste into the lentil mix, then remove from the heat
Spoon the lentil and spinach mixture between the quinoa crusts; each should just reach the top of the crust
Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the top of the tarts is beginning to firm
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing gently from the cupcake tin
Serve with a salad or roasted vegetables

The consistency of these mini tarts is not crusty or solid on top, like a quiche. Instead they are more like
the kinds of things that would be taken around a gallery opening by miserable serving staff. They are delightfully creamy, and the quinoa crust is lovely and crispy.

I judge my recipes by the praise they receive when I'm not needling people to tell me their opinions, and when I left these out I came home to a note that simply said "AWESOME SPINACH TART!!", so I'm going to say that these are pretty good and leave it at that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vegan mint pesto

Breakfast: An almond butter smoothie

Lunch: Mushroom soup and crusty bread with vegan mint pesto

Dinner: Leftover vegan spaghetti bolognese

You know when you buy coriander, basil or mint, there's always heaps left over that goes bad really quickly? Well, I hate waste, so that proper bothers me.

I had to buy some mint for yesterday's tofu fried rice, and even after a day I could see it was just going to be thrown out without having been used. So I used it. This mint pesto is great on sandwiches or even just with bread, and you can even use it as an interesting pasta accompaniment. It's deliciously refreshing!

You'll need:
(Serves 2 as a pasta sauce or 4 as a dip)
2 cup fresh mint leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup olive oil
Place the mint, garlic, lemon juice and almonds in a blender and blend to a paste
Add in the olive oil a bit at a time, blending and then tasting
Stop when it reaches your desired consistency and serve with pasta or crispy bread
I love pesto and very much miss buying the store bought stuff, as most of it has parmesan in it. The almonds in this help to create the same texture and bring a little bit of goodness to the final product.

If you are a meat eater, this would be great rubbed into the outside of a piece of lamb just before it's cooked; or if you want to go the English route you could stir it into mushy peas and serve with a veggie pie!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tofu fried rice, AKA the Manchester Melee

Breakfast: Rice and spicy beans with spinach

Lunch: A quinoa and bean salad

Dinner: Tofu fried rice, AKA the Manchester Melee

This recipe has origins in the far-too-nice-for-us flat I shared with my great friends Elly (who taught me how not to use Angel Delight) and Phil (who taught me how to make sushi) in my final year of uni at Manchester. We decided one day to make something kind of like a Pad Thai, but with rice instead; sort of a Rice Thai. We loved it so much that we probably had it once a week from then on, if not more.

The original recipe had shrimp it in and egg, so when I remembered this recipe this week I had to make a couple of replacements. I replaced oyster sauce with miso paste and used the tofu instead of egg, giving a scrambled tofu-fried-rice sort of effect which was as good as the real thing!

You'll need:
(Feeds 4)
2 cups white rice
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small bunch spring onions, chopped
2 red chilis, deseeded and sliced
1/4 cup fresh coriander
1/4 cup fresh mint
2 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp water
3 tbsp soy sauce
juice of 3 limes
1 1/2 cups firm tofu
chopped peanuts to serve
Place the rice in a pan with 4 cups water and bring to the boil
Bring down to a simmer and place the lid on the pan
After 15 minutes, or when the rice is almost cooked, heat a little oil in a wok and fry the onion, garlic and chili
When the onion is starting to brown, add in the cooked rice, stirring continuously
Add in the lime juice and soy sauce, and mix the miso paste with the water then add that in too*
Place the tofu in a bowl and mash it with a fork until it resembles scrambled eggs
Make a well in the middle of the rice and place the tofu in this well
Allow the tofu to brown a little on the bottom of the pan, then stir into the rice
After 5 minutes, stir in the springs onions, coriander and mint
Stir well to combine
Serve with chopped peanuts on top, if you like
*Add more or less of each to your taste

This is quite a quick and easy meal, and it brings back a lot of memories for me. I had lots of culinary adventures with Elly and Phil, and one sobering morning in which I ended up in a dog cage pouring imaginary tea. None of these adventures tasted quite as good as this one though.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The best vegan spaghetti bolognese ever

Breakfast: Carrot juice and a vegan muffin

Lunch: An avocado and tomato sandwich on round bread

Dinner: The best vegan spaghetti bolognese ever

I remember first making this recipe back in my carnivore days at a friend's cottage on the lake. Back then I made it with ground beef, and it must have gone down quite well as when I found it in my recipe book I'd labelled it "BEST SPAG BOL EVER".

Yesterday I was in desperate need of some great pasta dish and decided to veganise this one. TVP replaced the beef and had a real meaty texture which is perfect for a comforting meal - and great for feeding meat eaters when they come over!

You'll need:
(Feeds 4)
1 cup TVP
1 1/2 carrots, grated
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 sticks celery
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup veg stock
1 large glass red wine
tabasco sauce / hot sauce
1 heaped tbsp oregano
4 servings spaghetti
black pepper
Place the TVP in a bowl with just less than 1 cup water and leave for 5 minutes
Fry the onions and garlic in a little oil until they're translucent, then add celery
Season with black pepper
Add in the rehydrated TVP followed by the oregano and the wine
Allow the TVP to take up some of the wine, then add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and the tabasco / hot sauce
Add the carrots and veg stock and stir well
Simmer for 1 hour or cook on a higher heat for 10-20 minutes. It will taste better if you leave it longer, but if you're in a rush you won't lose out
Stir often
10 minutes before you plan to eat, place the spaghetti in boiling water with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil
Heat on medium for 10 minutes, stirring well, and test if ready by throwing a piece of spaghetti at the wall. If it sticks, it's ready
Drain the spaghetti and dish out between the plates
Spoon the sauce on top and serve!

This is absolutely great for cold winter nights or after you've been skating / snowboarding / riding bike all day, as its full of carbs and very comforting. I will be adding it into regular rotation at our house now!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Vegan chocolate chip cookie dough truffles

Breakfast: Pumpkin porridge with chai tea

Lunch: Lentil and bean salad

Dinner: Soba noodle stir fry followed by vegan chocolate chip cookie dough truffles

I'm not afraid to say that I almost wet myself with excitement when I discovered the existence of cookie dough truffles. Everyone knows that cookie dough is better than actual cookies, and when I was a chunky teenager I used to top off my weekends at the shopping centre with Sarah (during which we would eat baked potatoes and balk at those going to McDonalds) by having one of those horribly unhealthy, sickeningly sweet Baskin Robbins milkshakes made with cookie dough ice cream. Getting those leftover little bits of dough at the end was heaven.

Now, I know I couldn't drink a tenth of that milkshake without being sick; I could, however, still eat the dough, especially if it was vegan and covered in vegan chocolate. Ta da!

You'll need:
(Makes 25-30 truffles)
1 cup plain flour
2/3 cup Earth Balance / vegan margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3-4 tbsp almond milk
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips / vegan chocolate chopped into small chunks
2-3 cups dark vegan chocolate
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, if using

Cream together the Earth Balance / vegan margarine and the sugars
Sift in the flour and mix well
Stir in the vanilla essence and almond milk to create a sticky dough
Stir in the vegan chocolate chips evenly
Line a baking tray with tin foil or baking paper
Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls and place them on the tray
Put them in the fridge for at least 1 hour to set
Chop the dark chocolate into chunks and place in a double boiler
Melt over a medium heat and remove from heat as soon as it has all melted
Using a fork or 2 toothpicks, dip the balls into the chocolate and make sure they're totally covered
If using the coconut, roll some truffles straight into the coconut after the chocolate
Place back on the baking tray and leave to cool for at least 1 more hour
Serve and enjoy!

You can also pipe lines and patterns of white chocolate on to the top of these, or roll them in hundreds and thousands, ground almonds or even dark chocolate shards after the first chocolate layer. Let's face it, the possibilites are endless - and when treats are as decadent as this you might as well go the whole hog!

I am obsessed with these, but I think that goes without saying. Who isn't?