Friday, September 30, 2011

Mediterranean Chickpeas

Breakfast: Apple oatmeal

Lunch: Mediterranean chickpeas with brown couscous

Dinner: Falafels in a wrap from Gazhale!

It seems that lately my mornings have been characterized by me not having quite enough time to make either breakfast OR lunch properly, so it's a good job that hectic meals like this exist. Even if you're on serious time constraints you can knock this out quick as a flash, and it has that lovely mediterranean tomato-y warmth that reminds you of holidays in Spain. Just what you need for fall.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup zucchini
2 large tomato
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Place zuchhini and chickpeas in a pan and heat gently for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring
Add in paprika and stir to coat
Add in the tomato and a little water
Heat for 5 minutes, stirring continuously
Add in the balsamic vinegar and stir for another minute
Serve on brown couscous

With the couscous, this is literally a ten minute meal. And its a tasty one too!

This would make a great tapas dish if you are so inclined, perhaps with some patatas bravas and roasted eggplant. That makes me want to have a dinner party.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Coconut and Papaya Smoothie

Breakfast: Coconut and papaya smoothie

Lunch: Leftover leek and potato soup

Dinner: Thai red curry with issan vegetables and rice

I'm clinging now to the summery feel, in these last few days of relative heat, and this smoothie has a touch of the tropics about it, as well as enough energy to get you through to lunch time!

You'll need:
(Feeds 1)
1 cup coconut milk
1 banana
1 cup chopped papapya
1 tsp honey
1/4 cup rolled oats

Blend together for a minute or so and serve!

The prefer my smoothies a little thicker than some people, and the oats in this help to bring a great texture and a punch of energy for the rest of the day.

Soon it will be porridge season, so grab all the smoothie days you can!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vegan chocolate and pecan banana bread

Breakfast: A great maca-almond smoothie from the Big Carrot

Lunch: Soba noodle stir fry a la Putin followed by vegan chocolate and pecan banana bread

Dinner: Leek and potato soup with home-made bread

Ingenuity often springs from desperation, and when you've a hungry head and not much in the house, you can come up with your best recipes. I didn't even have any almond milk yesterday, and since we were in need of some snack fodder, I went for this vegan chocolate banana bread recipe and it turned out better than I could have hoped!

You'll need
(Makes 1 loaf)
2 bananas, mashed
2 cups wholewheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa (the good quality stuff will be vegan)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Sieve together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and sugar
In a different bowl, mix together the mashed bananas, oil and water
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until JUST mixed
Gently stir in the pecans
Pour into a loaf pan and cook for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean

I have gone a bit mad on the old chocolate treats lately, mainly to ease Putin's transition from omnivore to vegan. I don't think you'll mind though.

Interestingly enough, some chocolate bars are, in fact, vegan. These tend to be the upper end of the chocolate bar market, because milk is generally only added to the cheaper brands. Green & Blacks dark chocolate is purportedly vegan, but always check before you eat!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Leek and lentil bake with quinoa crust

Breakfast: Scrambled tofu with greens

Lunch: The burrito bowl from Hot Beans Vegan

Dinner: Leek and lentil bake with quinoa crust and a tomato, carrot and lime salad

I really have gone a little overboard with my dedication to using quinoa in a plethora of different ways. I don't know what it is; it's unconscious. I just reach out for the stuff and before I know it, BANG! A quinoa crust!

Of course, this isn't like many addictions, which end with a negative impact on the addict. I'm just going to end up with a high magnesium level and too much dietary fibre. Oh hang on, that could be bad...

You'll need
(Feeds 4)
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 1/2 onions
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 leeks, sliced
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tbsp flax
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika

Soak the lentils in a bowl for water for 1 hr
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius
Cook the quinoa with the water for 15-20 minutes; this will leave the quinoa not totally cooked
Set aside to cool
Fry the onions and the garlic in a little oil until translucent
Add in the paprika and fry until fragrant
Add in the zucchini and fry for 5 minutes
Add in the lentils, stock, cumin and oregano
Bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pan and simmer for 20-30 minutes
While this is happening, saute the leeks for 5-7 minutes in a little oil
When the stock has been mostly absorbed and the lentils are mushy, take the lentil mixture off the heat
Spread the lentil mix on the bottom of a casserole dish, and top with a later of leeks
Mix the flax into the cooked quinoa, and layer this mixture on top of the leeks
Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, then switch to "broil", or put the dish under the grill until the top of the quinoa has browned
Serve with wedges, a carrot and tomato salad

I could harp on about the nutritional benefits of quinoa until the cows come home, but let's not forget that lentils are a great source of both protein and fibre, which is why they've been a staple of vegetarian cooking for the past 30 years. They're also a great source of iron, and the flax added into the quinoa topping bring some omega-3 fatty acids to the mix.

This is also very hearty and comforting for a chilly autumn evening - especially if you can have some tofu chocolate cake from Fresh afterwards!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Apple hummus

Breakfast: Kasha and avocado

Lunch: A sandwich and muffin from the fabulous Urban Herbivore

Dinner: Apple hummus and crackers followed by pasta and tomato-red wine sauce

I was wandering around Kensington Market on Saturday, taking in all the amazing food choices (especially for vegans!) and decided to make red pepper hummus when I got home. Then it struck me that that was the predictable choice, and I got the idea to instead go a new and exciting hummus route.

I took a little gamble on this one, but I really like it! It goes great with crackers as a bit of a nibble starter, and obviously goes nicely with some slices of apple too. There's a lot to be said for taking the weird route sometimes.

You'll need
1 500ml can chickpeas
2 small, sweet apples, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp tahini
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 - 1/2 cup water

Blend everything together in a blender until you reach the desired consistency. Add more water if you need to.
Enjoy with crackers or on a sandwich, or just with bread!

Stay tuned for peach hummus and ice cream hummus in the next few weeks*.

*Of course, I'm kidding. It will be hummus ice cream.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The South American quinoa salad

Breakfast: A strawberry and almond butter smoothie

Lunch: The Mexicana quinoa salad

Dinner: Leek and potato soup a la Putin with greens and the good bread

There's a lot to be said for just throwing leftover things together in a bowl and taking it for lunch; in fact, some of my best recipes have started out that way. I'm not exactly the best morning person, and if I do get up, I'm likely to spend my time pouring over the Guardian website than doing what I'm meant to be doing. This results in the aforementioned method of making lunch.

Thankfully, this method throws up some great recipes, like this one. The previous night's spinach and chickpea leftovers got thrown into the tupperware with some leftover quinoa and black beans and whatever sauce was on hand...and BANG! Top lunch!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
1/2 cup quinoa
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 handful spinach
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup chickpeas, tinned
3/4 cup black beans, tinned
soy sauce
sweet chili sauce

Put the quinoa in a pan with 3/4 cup water, bring to the boil then simmer for 15-20 minutes, until cooked
Tear the spinach and place it in a hot frying pan for 2-3 minutes, til just wilted
Drizzle soy sauce on the spinach
When the quinoa has cooled, place all the ingredients in a bowl then toss with sweet chili sauce to your taste

You don't need to cook chickpeas and black beans from the tin, and I prefer them cold. If you want this as a warm salad, then cook them together in pan for 5 minutes with a little soy.

This feels very decadent, and strangely like a burrito at times, but the combination of beans and the quinoa will leave you feeling satisfied until dinnertime. And of course, consuming quinoa is never a bad thing!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Putin's Delight: Raw vegan almond butter bars

Breakfast: Blueberry almond butter smoothie and a quinoa apple muffin

Lunch: Quinoa and kasha salad with avocados and vegetables

Dinner: Tahini tofu balls with spinach and cashew salad, followed by Putin's Delight bars

If you're ever on the Facebook page, you'll be aware that Putin and I have been eating vegan (not to be confused with eating vegans, a quite different pastime) for the last two weeks. This has been Putin's first time vegan, and as he was a full on carnivore just 14 days ago, it's been a bit of a journey for him. Though he's done amazingly, he has been clucking for treats like a particularly hungry hen. With this in mind, I created a bar that would hit the spot in a second!

These bars are not just vegan; they're also raw. I can't claim that they're sugar-free, but they are damn delicious!

You'll need:
(Makes 12-16 small bars)
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup oats, blended slightly to make them smaller
1/2 cup almonds, ground slightly
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup flax seeds
1 cup flour
1/2 cup 100% almond butter
1/2 cup blueberries
2-4 tbsp water
Mix the oats, ground almonds, pecans, flax seeds and sugar together in a bowl
Add the oil, vanilla extract and the cocoa, and mix well
Stir in the flour
Press this mixture into an 8x8 inch pan
Crush the blueberries with a spoon, and then mix them into the almond butter
Add the coconut and enough water until this mixture is spreadable
Spread the mixture on top of the base as neatly as possible
Place in the freezer and keep them there, taking them out only to eat!

These were specifically designed to hit the sugar, chocolate and nut butter needs, and they're meant to be eaten in small amounts: this website takes no responsibility for what happens if you scoff the whole tin of these and pass out afterwards. It would probably be quite enjoyable though.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kasha coffee cookies

Breakfast: Rice and beans with spinach

Lunch: Vegetable soup with a couple kasha coffee cookies

Dinner: Tahini pitta pockets

I've wanted to do something a bit mad with coffee for a while, and I managed to couple this with doing something slightly mad with kasha. Surprisingly, it turned out well!

Use uncooked kasha for this recipe, as it will cook when baking. The almonds and the flax seeds add both a nutty flavour and some much-needed health benefits as well as a gorgeous, gorgeous texture!

If you use vegan shortening, as I did, these will be vegan. If you eat butter, then use that, as you'll love the taste!

You'll need:
(Makes 12)
1 cup vegan shortening / butter
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup very strong coffee
1 cup crushed almonds
1/2 cup flax seeds
3/4 cup uncooked kasha (buckwheat groats)
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius
Cream together shortening / butter, sugar and molasses
Sift the flour into the mix
Add the almonds, nutmeg, flax, kasha, baking powder and baking soda
Stir in the coffee and mix well
Drop 1 tbsp of mix into a greased baking tray
Repeat until all the mix is gone (should fill 2 trays)
Bake for 20 minutes, or until they've turned dark brown and cookie-like
Allow to cool, then enjoy!

I imagine that by now you'll all joined the kasha fan club. No? Well, eat some more of these.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Vegan apple and date quinoa muffins

Breakfast: Vegan apple and date quinoa muffins

Lunch: Leftover Hungarian eggplant goulash

Dinner: Seared tofu with mixed veggies and potatoes

Yes! The lowly muffin is back! I can't figure out why I haven't yet made muffins on this blog, but the good ol' fat muffin is back, albeit in a slightly different form to the white chocolate and raspberry mountains that used to be a staple of my baking days.

My love affair with quinoa continues with this recipe. Really, I can't get enough of the stuff, and when I have it in the morning it sets me on a run of boundless energy all day. These muffins are vegan and also sugar-free, and if you were to use buckwheat or brown rice flour instead of wheat flour, they would also be gluten-free too!

You'll need:
(Makes 12)
1 cup cooked quinoa*
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup dates, chopped roughly
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celcius and line a muffin tray with paper cases
Mix the almond milk with the vinegar and set aside for 5 mins
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together
Add the oil into the milk recipe, along with the applesauce
Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just mixed
Stir in the dates and quinoa, but don't over mix
Divide mixture between the muffins cases
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean

You can brush the top of these with almond milk and then dip them in brown sugar if you're feeling particularly decadent, but I prefer to have them at the less sweet end of the scale when they're for breakfast - and these are an amazing breakfast choice with a cup of chai tea!

*Please note that this isn't the same as 1 cup of dried quinoa. 1 cup of dried quinoa will make about 3 cups of cooked quinoa. We don't need quite that much!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hungarian Eggplant Goulash

Breakfast: Flax Plus granola!

Lunch: The vegetarian tempura bento box from Aji Sai

Dinner: Hungarian eggplant goulash with steamed kale

Winter is a-coming, albeit with Autumn still in its way, and with the dropping temperature my need for warming food goes up. And I don't just mean hot; I mean spicy too!

When you think of goulash you probably think of beef, but don't be fooled; this spicy winter dish can be made vegetarian (in fact, vegan) without losing any of the taste or warmth. Plus this has a big fat splash of red wine in it, which vastly improves most meals, let's be honest.

You'll need:
(Feeds 3-4)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 cups veg stock
1/2-1 cup red wine (Cabernet Franc works really well with this)
3 nests rice noodles
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp flour
Fry the onion, garlic and paprika in a little oil until very it's very fragrant and the onion is translucent
Add in the eggplant, mushrooms and tomatoes and coat in the spices and oil
Add the veg stock, oregano and wine, and stir well
Stir in the flour
Put the lid on the pan and simmer for 30-45 minutes
Cook the rice noodles in water for 5 mins, then drain
Serve the goulash in bowls on top of the rice noodles

This goes really well with bread or potatoes, and in fact you can throw diced potatoes in there for a nice variation if you fancy it. I like to put coriander on the top if we have any, and a side of steamed kale brings a bit of lightness to dinner. This one will be in heavy rotation through November I think!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Full Ukrainian Breakfast

Breakfast: The Full Ukrainian Breakfast

Lunch: A burrito bowl with all 3 toppings at Hot Beans Vegan

Dinner: Soba noodle stir fry with tahini sauce, a la Fresh

The title of this recipe has two meanings (ex-English students love ambiguity): it's what I see as the Ukrainian equivalent to the Full English breakfast, and it's a breakfast that can keep my Ukrainian full, and given his size, that's quite the achievement.

I learned to love kasha (otherwise known as buckwheat groats) living in the Ukrainian house, and I've learned to REALLY love it since then, because it's ridiculously good for you. It contains all the essential amino acids, making it a whole protein (awesome!), it acts as an antioxidant and extends the benefits of vitamin C. But it doesn't end there: there's also loads of fibre in buckwheat, and the high magnesium content combines with other good things to fight off cholesterol. Not bad for one of the staple foods of a nation that is often considered synonymous with only oil, salt and pork!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
1/2 cup kasha
1 large handful spinach
1 avocado, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
balsamic vinegar
Place the kasha in a pan with 1 cups water and bring it to the boil
Turn down to a lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the kasha grains are soft
Fry the onion in a little oil until translucent
Add in the mushrooms and fry for 5 minutes
Move the onions and the mushrooms to one side of the pan, tear the spinach and throw that into the other side*
Cook the spinach for 2 minutes, until just wilting
Drain the kasha, and serve with the mushrooms, onions, spinach and the sliced avocado
Splash a drop of balsamic vinegar on the spinach and enjoy!

Despite its name, buckwheat is actually a fruit seed, so it's fine for those with coeliac disease (hi Hilary!). The flour can also be used for awesome gluten-free brownies - and keep your eyes peeled for that recipe later this week!

*This saves more washing up...which in turn saves the planet! Woo!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vegan lentil shepherd's pie

Breakfast: Vegan blueberry muffins

Lunch: White rice salad with almond meal and veggies

Dinner: Vegan lentil shepherd's pie with kale salad

I used to love shepherd's pie when I was a little Yorkshire kid, and when I gave up meat I was always a little sad that I couldn't have it. That was until I went to Tea Tree for the first time and had their wonderful lentil shepherd's pie. Given that this is the perfect food for a Toronto winter time but unfortunately I can't afford to go eat there every day, I created my own version while living at the Ukrainian house.

A combination of beans and lentils is always good for you, and using vegan margarine instead of butter for the mashed potato topping gives a lovely creamy texture. Win!

You'll need:
(Feeds 6)
1 1/2 cups red lentils
1 can diced/crushed tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 large onions, diced
2 carrots, chopped
1 small can sweetcorn
2 cloves garlic, crushed
700g potatoes
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp paprika
soy milk
vegan margarine
black pepper

Soak the lentils in water for 1 hr, then drain
Place in a pan with water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes
Peel and chop the potatoes, boil in a pan with water then simmer for 20 minutes
Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil til they're browning
Add in the carrots, the cooked lentils and the tomatoes
Stir well
Add in the paprika and oregano
Add the kidney beans and sweetcorn and cook for 5 minutes
Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes
Turn down the heat
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
When the potatoes are soft, drain then place in a bowl
Mash the potatoes, adding in little bits of soy milk and vegan margarine - just enough to make them creamy
Season the potatoes with salt
Take the lentil mix off the heat and pour into a casserole dish
Spread the mashed potatoes on top and even them out
Cook for 20-30 minutes, til the top of the potatoes is turning hard
Serve with a salad

In case you ever wondered, shepherd's pie and cottage pie are pretty much the same thing these days, although the story goes that one used to mean a beef pie and one used to mean lamb pie. Is this true? Who knows; I do the cooking, not the thinking.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Breakfast spicy beans and rice

Breakfast: Spicy beans and rice

Lunch: A sandwich, blueberry and apple vegan muffin and black coffee from Urban Herbivore

Dinner: Vegetable curry with brown rice and naan

As a culture that likes to jump on healthy food ideas from other countries (acai, quinoa, etc) it's unusual that we've not taken more wholeheartedly to rice and beans for breakfast. A popular dish in South America, rice and beans is actually one of the best breakfasts you can have.

Let me say that again: rice and beans is one of the best, healthiest breakfasts you can have.

When eaten together, they contain a whole protein (all the essential amino acids), shedloads of protein, lots of iron, fibre, vitamin B and starch, which is an excellent slow-release energy source. If that wasn't enough, it also sets your blood sugar on a healthy path for the rest of the day. Though it might seem odd to us, for whom breakfast foods are generally sweeter, rice actually tastes fantastic in the morning, and if you add a little spice to the beans, it's got the perfect kick to get your day started.

You'll need
(Feeds 1)
1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup basmati rice
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 handful spinach

Bring the rice to the boil with 1 cup water, then turn the heat down and put the lid on the pan
Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is evaporated
Put the kidney beans, tomato puree and paprika in a pan, stir well and heat gently for 5-10 minutes
When the beans are soft, serve with the cooked rice and torn spinach

Another thing about this meal: it's cheap! I like to throw some spinach in there too, to get a bit more calcium and iron. Students have no excuses for eating chocolate pillows ever again.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Isobel's super-fudgey vegan brownies

Breakfast: Oatmeal with pecans and cranberries

Lunch: Pasta and pesto

Dinner: Soba noodles with steamed veggies and nuts followed by Isobel's super-fudgey vegan brownies

Putin and I are coming to the end of another vegan week, Putin's first, and though we were both feeling awake and alive and full of energy, Putin was suffering from the lack of baked goods especially over the weekend. It's funny, realising that almost everything you eat has butter, milk or eggs in it, and it makes you reflect on the reality of that situation. But none of this could help assuage Putin's treat-lust.

The wonderful Isobel came to the rescue, all the way from Sydney, by sending me this easy vegan brownies recipe. It's perfect for when you're transitioning over to veganism or having a vegan week, as the sugar still gives you that buzz you get from non-vegan treats and they feel very decadent. The only thing I changed was the addition of pecans. They're mad tasty too - thanks wifey!

You'll need:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa (make sure it's vegan)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup pecans

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius
Mix all the dry ingredients together
Mix the wet ingredients together
Combine the two and stir til combined, then stir in the pecans
Oil an 8x8 inch baking tray and pour the batter in
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is hardening and a toothpick comes out clean
Leave to cool, then serve

I dare anyone, meat eater or not, to have on of these and not love it. Vegan baking is fantastic because in most cases it tastes as sinful and comforting as non-vegan baking, while being a little healthier. Not that I'm kidding myself that the oil and sugar in these are particularly healthy, but hey, at least they're not butter!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vegan avocado stuffed peppers

Breakfast: Blueberry and banana smoothie

Lunch: Seven grain salad and sweet potato and cranberry salad from the wonderful Sun Valley

Dinner: Vegan avocado stuffed peppers on a bed of spinach

Don't you love those meals that not only fill you up and give you tons of energy, but make you go "Why don't I make this more often?" when you're done? This is certainly one of those.

I'm not sure if I've ever made stuffed peppers before, but this was a recipe just thrown together on the spur of the moment and it turned out beautifully. I will definitely be adding it into regular rotation.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
1/2 cup brown rice
2 red peppers
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup sweetcorn
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
1 ripe avocado, cut into chunks

Cook the brown rice according to packet instructions
Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celcius
Cut the tops off the peppers (but don't throw away) and discard the insides
Dry fry the zucchini in a pan until it goes a little translucent
Drain the sweetcorn and add it to the pan
Add the cooked rice, tomato paste and paprika to the pan and stir it all together
Take off the heat, stir in the avocado, and then spoon into the peppers
Put the stuffed peppers, with the lid back on, onto a baking tray and cook for one hour, until the pepper skins are browning
Serve on a bed of spinach or couscous with the lids still on!

A little cheat's tip: I cook these by standing them up inside a loaf tin and then putting that in the oven. It encourages them to stay stood up!

You might have noticed there's no oil in this - that's due to a conscious effort to use less oil in my cooking. Not only am I trying to break a bad habit, but it also means I don't get half as many oil burns, because I am innately stupid and never learn my lesson about hot oil being bad.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quick and easy vegetable rice noodle soup

Breakfast: Apple and cinnamon oatmeal - for the first time in ages!

Lunch: Vegetable rice noodle soup

Dinner: Simon Sushi....again!

It never ceases to amaze me that I can spend literally days planning a cake only for it to inexplicably turn out wrong, whereas when I'm already ten minutes late for work and am just throwing things in a pan to take them for lunch, they somehow turn out amazing.

This started off life as a barley soup, before I got half way through and realised we didn't have any barley. Never fear; rice noodles are here!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
3 cups vegetable stock
2 nests rice noodles
10 baby carrots, chopped
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
black pepper

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until translucent
Add in the carrots and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes
Add the vegetable stock and cook for 5 minutes, until the carrots are soft
While this is happening, boil the rice noodles in water for 5 minutes until soft
Drain the noodles
Stir the cumin into the soup, and add the spinach
Cook for 2 minutes
Put the noodles into a bowl and pour the soup over the top

This was a massive lunch and kept me so satisfied that I didn't do my usual "choose the most hectic thing on the menu!" process at Simon Sushi, leaving me to enjoy some veggie tempura for the first time in ages.

This is also really quick to make when you're rushing for work in the morning, which is good for us perennially late people.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Featured product: Nud Fud

Breakfast: A vegan brownie (don't judge me) and some wicked coffee from Bisogno

Lunch: An Indian feast, a Sweets From the Earth cupcake and some Nud Fud Green Energy Snacks from the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival

Dinner: Too much buffet at Frankie Tomatto's. And that's how they spell it, not how I spell it.

I don't usually do this on this blog, but I was so impressed by this product that I had to do a post about it.

Yesterday I went down to the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival by the Harbourfront. It was a gorgeous day, everyone down there was ridiculously happy and friendly, and the amount of amazing veggie food down there was beyond impressive. We had some great Indian food, some Sweets From the Earth treats that never disappoint, and chatted to some lovely people.

Most impressive to me though was the little company run by a young holistic nutritionist that we stumbled upon. Nud Fud (pronounced Nude Food) produce organic, raw, vegan and gluten-free snacks that are also very good for you, and when chatting to the owner of the company, it was easy to see how passionate she was about her products.

We tried a few flavours, including the vanilla chai, but my favourite was the Green Energy, made of dehydrated coconut, banana, sesame seeds and spirulina. That I preferred the green snacks over the others is impressive for two reasons: 1) I LOVE chai flavoured things, and 2) anyone who can make spirulina appetizing is a genius.

Spirulina is made from algae, and is quite amazingly good for you, being a whole protein and containing loads of good things including potassium, iron, calcium and zinc. We used to put it into smoothies at my old job, and even then, it didn't taste good.

I've already eaten the whole bag that we bought, and I'm thinking of going back today to get some more. Nud Fud products are already being sold at St Lawrence market, but do yourself a favour and get down to the festival today and try some yourself.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Make Your Own Week day six: Baked Beans

Breakfast: Boston baked beans on toast (The British Way)

Lunch: Avocado, seven grain salad and edamame salad from Sun Valley

Dinner: Spicy bean patties and salad a la putin!

The baked beans that we consume like they're going out of fashion (in the UK at least) are a far cry from the baked beans that people used to eat Back In The Day. Traditionally in the US, navy beans would be baked in a heavy pot overnight.

There are many different types of traditional baked beans, and this one is based on the Boston Baked Beans style, although I've taken the baking time down significantly, because who has time to leave beans to cook for 7 hours these days?

You'll need:
(Feeds a few)
2 cups dry kidney beans
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup molasses
1 inch piece ginger, grated
1 tsp salt

Soak the kidney beans overnight in water
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius
Fry the onion in the oil til browning, then add in the kidney beans, tomatoes, molasses, sugar, salt and ginger
Cook for 30 minutes, or until the beans are softening
Transfer the whole lot to a ceramic dish and cook for 1 hour

If you're using dried beans, don't use beans that have been hanging around your kitchen for a year or more. These will almost certainly not cook up properly.

You can double cheat by using canned kidney beans for this, but it does defeat the purpose a bit. However, if you're making your own beans to avoid the mad amounts of sodium in your average tin of beans, then a tin of no-added-salt kidney beans can work fine (yes Andy, I mean you!)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Make Your Own Week day five: Basic Vanilla Ice Cream

Breakfast: Vegan crepes

Lunch: Sweet potato soup with crusty bread and dips

Dinner: Simon Sushi followed by not eating the amazing looking basic vanilla ice cream

I know the first thing that's going to cross your mind when you read this: don't you need an ice cream maker? No, you do not. Much like bread and pasta, you can make ice cream without the incredibly expensive piece of equipment that you've been convinced you need. And much like making bread (ok, pasta was a bit more of a hassle), it's beautifully easy!

We're starting off with basic vanilla ice cream...because that's the way it should be.

You'll need:
(Makes a tubful)
600ml whipping cream / thickened cream
300ml condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the metal bowl, whisk and the cream in the freezer for an hour before you start - this will help the cream to stiffen without you killing your arm
Take them out, then whip the cream until it forms peaks
Stir in the vanilla and the condensed milk
Pour into a container and freeze for at least 12 hours

From this point, it's very simple to make your own flavours; you just stir in the flavour before you freeze. My favourites are almond and matcha, so watch out for those recipes in the next few weeks.

Those of you who know me will know I'm currently having a vegan week in solidarity with Putin, so I just want to reassure you that I did not actually eat that ice cream. And do you know how difficult it was, taking those photos and NOT licking my finger after wiping round the side of the glass? Torture, my friends. Pure torture.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Make Your Own Week day four: shortbread biscuits

Breakfast: Nature's Path Peanut Butter Granola with yogurt and blueberries

Lunch: Sushi followed by proper tea with home-made shortbread biscuits

Dinner: Lentil shepherd's pie with salad

Are biscuits a kitchen staple? For many people, yes - in fact, a cup of tea without a biscuit is as close to heresy as an atheist can get. But shortbread? Well, shoot me, I'm British.

I'm not going to pretend that these biscuits are any healthier than the shop-bought ones (though of course they will be if you use good quality butter and non-bleached flour), the value in these is in the making and in the eating, not the being smug about the nutritional values (although that is one of my favourite hobbies).

The fun is also in the icing. Who doesn't love pink pig shortbreads?

You'll need
(Makes 18 pigs)
1 cup butter
1 cup icing sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
splash of almond milk

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius
Grease a baking tray or cover it in greaseproof / baking paper
Cream the butter and the icing sugar together until they're thick and creamy
Stir in the vanilla extract
Stir in the flour to make a moist dough
Add in the almond milk if necessary
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to your desired thickness
Use awesomely-shaped cookie cutters to cut out your cookies. I had pigs and skulls!
Put these on the greased / lined tray and bake for 20 minutes
Allow to cool

You can decorate these as you like - just mix icing sugar with almond milk until it's the right consistency then add a couple of drops of food colouring and ice to your heart's content!

A couple went not so well. We call these our 'special' skulls.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Make Your Own Week day three: Pasta

Breakfast: A blueberry and oats smoothie

Lunch: Vegetable and barley soup

Dinner: Home-made wholewheat pasta with tomato and zucchini sauce and wilted spinach

Ah, pasta: the mainstay of the lazy. Countless times I've come in hungry with no desire to cook anything fancy, and thrown together some pasta and pesto dish in about ten minutes. It is joyous, and we always have it in the kitchen.

But why do we never make our own? Two reasons: it's cheap, and it's supposedly difficult - don't you need a pasta machine? No, no you do not. The reasons TO make it, however, are manyfold: it's quite easy, it's fun, fresh pasta is better than dried pasta, you can make it in any shape you fancy and you can make it with whatever flour suits you. Plus, telling people "Oh yeah, we just had some pasta I made" makes you sound like some kind of kitchen god, with the spirit of an old Italian woman in you.

You can make any shape pasta you like, but this is to make fat linguine.

You'll need
(Serves 2 hungry ones)
2 1/2 cups white or wholewheat flour (I prefer wholewheat)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl
Make a well in the middle and pour in the eggs
Beat the eggs lightly then stir into the flour
Form a moist but not sticky dough (add some water if necessary) and knead for 5 minutes
Cover with cling film and let rest for 30-60 minutes
Roll out onto a floured surface with a floured rolling pin
Flatten out to as thin and long as you can manage
Cut into 1-2 cm wide strips
Hang to dry if you're storing them OR boil water to cook them straight away
They should cook in 10 minutes or less

This is definitely more effort than opening a packet and boiling them, but look at them - they look so tasty! The consistency of the pasta is great, and sitting there with both pasta and sauce that you've made from scratch is ultimately very rewarding. Plus, the wow factor: it's definitely there!

You can find inventive places to hang dry in your house!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Make Your Own Week day two: Almond Milk

Breakfast: Home-made almond milk!

Lunch: Brown couscous salad with nuts and veggies

Dinner: A fantastically spicy veggie Pad Thai from the Red Room

I am lucky enough to be in Toronto, where you can't swing an anti-soy-milk banner without knocking over ten litres of almond milk. However, if you're not living in a city where almond milk is both cheap and ridiculously available, a good option can be to make your own. And it's easy!

You'll need:
(Makes 8 cups / 2 litres)
2 cups almonds
8 cups water
Soak the almonds in the water overnight
Put the whole lot into a blender and blend
Strain through a sieve lined with a cheesecloth - leave for strain for 15-20 minutes
Save the almond pulp to make into something along the lines of delicious like almond biscotti
Enjoy the almond milk!

You can make vanilla almond milk by adding 2 tsp of vanilla essence to the water, and if you prefer your almond milk to be a little sweeter, you can add 8 dates to the water while it drains. If you're hardcore, you can have it just like this.

The pulp that you'll find left in your cheesecloth can be used in smoothies, biscotti, or anything else almondy that you'd like to try. I used mine in a smoothie and I still have loads left!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Make Your Own Week day one: Bread

Breakfast: Toasted home-made bread with home-made jam. Ultimate smug breakfast

Lunch: Brunch wrap from Tequila Bookworm with salad and their awesome coffee

Dinner: Vegetable curry with brown rice

This week on the Everyday Veggie is going to be Make Your Own Week. Yes, it's technically always Make Your Own Week (duh) but this week is going to show you how to make your own kitchen staples; the things you buy without even thinking about making your own.

Why? Well, the things you buy in the store are often full of salt and sugars to make them last longer, and so can be quite unnecessarily bad for you without you even knowing - baked beans are notoriously bad for this, and so is anything tinned. Sometimes, they're unnecessarily expensive in the stores, with a litre of almond milk in Sydney costing an unbelievable ten dollars. Sometimes, though it's just more fun to make your own and be in control of the flavours - and we'll be making ice cream simply because it is fun.

First up though, bread. There need to be no reasons for making your own bread beyond these two: it makes you feel like some sort of kitchen master and it leaves that amazing just-baked-bread smell permeating your house all day.

You'll need
(Makes 1 loaf)
1 kg whole wheat flour
6 tsp instant yeast
6 tsp honey / sugar
2.5 cups warm water
2 tsp salt

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl
Stir in the yeast
Dissolve the honey / sugar into the water
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the water mix, then stir to make a moist dough
On a floured surface, knead the dough - pull it, rip it, slam it down, fold it over roughly
When it rips less and moves back together when pulled, put it in a large bowl with a tea towel over
Leave for 40 minutes in a warm, moist place
It will have doubled in size; knead again for 2 minutes and leave again for 40 minutes
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
Place gently into a loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes
When it's ready, it should sound hollow when you knock on it, and should smell gorgeous!

I can't tell you how much of a sense of achievement you get from making your own delicious bread. It has such a dense flavour and feels really hearty. Leave it to cool then coat a slice with a thick layer of home-made cherry jam, and enjoy it with a cup of tea and the paper. Pure farmhouse kitchen joy.

I'll never go back!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Welsh Rarebit

Breakfast: Banana cinnamon smoothie

Lunch: Pesto scrambled eggs with chickpea salad

Dinner: Welsh rarebit with spinach and red peppers followed by Bailey's chocolate cake

Happy National Welsh Rarebit day! Well, it was yesterday, but there you go, that's the nature of time: it passes.

Anyway, many of you poor folk won't be aware of what a Welsh rarebit is. Some naysayers may tell you that it's basically cheese on toast; but dear reader, if you're being cynical even vichyssoise is basically potato soup. No, rarebit is so much more than that; it's a culinary delight, combining some very different flavours and even, in some recipes, beer (never accuse the British of passing up an opportunity to include alcohol).

My version is a bit of a variation on the traditional, because that's always fun. It's also very subtle in some of the flavours, letting the cheese take centre stage while the rest of the ingredients play important bit parts.

You'll need
(Feeds 2)
2 thick slices of brown, crusty bread
2 cups grated mature cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 spring onions, chopped
sprinkle of oregano
sprinkle of paprika
small splash of balsamic vinegar
small splash of tabasco sauce / hot sauce
black pepper

Put a little oil in a pan, put it on a medium heat, then add in the mustard seeds and put the lid on
They'll pop and hit the lid; take them off the heat before they burn
Beat the egg in a bowl
Stir in the cheese, onions, mustard seeds, oregano, paprika, balsamic vinegar and tabasco sauce and combine well
Toast both sides of the bread
Cover one side with the cheese mixture, making sure it's spread right up to the crusts
Grill (broil) until the top of the cheese is browning and bubbling
Serve with a light salad

Interestingly, the name of this dish is a corruption of the phrase "Welsh rabbit" and the whole thing has many legends attached to it. My favourite story is a bit of a diss on the Welsh: it's called Welsh Rabbit because if the Welsh went rabbit-hunting, this is what they would have to eat that night. DISS!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Vegan rice bowl with coconut-miso sauce

Breakfast: A coconut bun from the Asian bakery

Lunch: Spicy sweet potato soup with home-made bread

Dinner: A Fresh-inspired vegan rice bowl with coconut miso-sauce

I've harped on about Fresh before, but they really are the king of veggie restaurants in Toronto. There are definitely other ones, possibly better ones, but Fresh are always consistent, always have at least 10 things you want, and are never boring.

They're most well-known for their range of rice bowls, which are always great no matter what the season. This is a simplified version of that concept, with uncooked veggies to keep the maximum nutritional value in them. The sauce is, I'm not gonna lie, amazing...and so easy!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 avocado, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 cup snowpeas, chopped
2 tbsp miso
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp rice vinegar
fresh coriander
Boil the rice with the water, then simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed
Stir the miso into the coconut milk and heat over a medium-low heat
Stir in the paprika and rice vingear
Allow to thicken then remove from the heat
When the rice is cooked, spoon it into a bowl, and layer the vegetables on top
Drizzle the sauce on top and tear a little fresh coriander on top

If you had some alfalfa sprouts this would be even better. This is great for the turn of the season, when you still want fresh, healthy food but you need a little warmth with it too. Coconut-miso sauce is the bomb. Seriously.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Breakfast: Banana and apple smoothie

Lunch: Chino Locos Juicy Vegan burrito - Pressed tofu, eggplant, shittake mushrooms, glass noodles, guacamole, tomatoes, edamame beans, red onions, black beans, green peppers, cilantro, chipotle sauce, rustic rice. NOMS

Dinner: Spicy sweet potato soup with home-made bread!

It's getting colder in Toronto at the moment, and I am glad about this for two reasons: 1) I can wear jeans without losing some of my leg mass to sweat and 2) it's soup season again!

To celebrate this, and because the impending turn of the season is making everybody be on the verge of illness, I made this for the first time. The chilis in this open up your airways and can actually help to thin the mucus that's building up in your system, and the ginger is great for staving off illness before it starts. Plus, it's sorta sweet, sorta spicy, and really smooth and delicious.

You'll need
(Feeds 4)
1 giant sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 large onions, diced
4 chilis, diced
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground paprika
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large piece ginger, grated
4 cups vegetable stock - more if necessary
fresh coriander
black pepper

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until they're browning and soft
Throw in the chili and ginger and fry for a minute or so
Add in the cubes of sweet potato and stir for a minute or so
Add in the vegetable stock - you've got the right amount if the water just covers the vegetables
Stir in the paprika and coriander
Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the potato is soft
Take of the heat, allow it to cool, and then blend
Stir in the black pepper
Serve, and garnish with a spring of fresh coriander

This is one of my new favourite soup recipes and can be made in under 30 minutes. The spices and the heartiness of the potatoes really help give you some energy and a little boost when you're feeling not your best. Add in the home-made bread and it's killer  - and stay tuned for that recipe next week!