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.