Tag Archives: soy-free

Recipe: The Big Stuffed Squash

I’ll admit I was a big worried when we went up to my cousin’s wedding in Wawa, ON. Of course, my cousin assured me that Jarrod and I would get a vegan meal, but when our plane landed in Sault Ste. Marie and we prepared for a two-hour drive up a beautiful but very remote highway without even half a dozen truck stops, I realized that the weekend was not going to be easy.

When we got to Wawa, the first thing we did was go to the grocery store (yep, the one). Jarrod and I found some cereal and soy milk for the mornings and some healthy snacks (and some not-so-healthy because duh, it’s a party weekend). I gnawed on potato chips and Bark Thins while my cousins ate pulled pork at the Friday night party and ate Tim Horton’s oatmeal for lunch. Then, finally, when we sat for the reception, we were greeted with the most beautiful creation.

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Five-minute BBQ chickpea mayo

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When I was a kid I hated mayonnaise. I couldn’t tell you why — I was one of those kids who would wake up one day and decide they hated something they once loved. One time I even decided that with my mom’s meatballs and I went almost a year without eating them (at this point I guess that was a good thing?). Anyway, even though my mom insisted that mayonnaise was in tons of things I liked, like her vegetable dip, I couldn’t stand the sight of mayonnaise on a sandwich or burger.

How things have changed! I’ve even become one of those people who puts (vegan) mayonnaise on their fries or (un)chicken fingers.

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Crispy cauliflower tacos with avocado slaw

cauliflower tacos

Is there anything easier, more fun and more colourful than taco night? Probably. But dammit, I’ll still get hella excited for taco night, because the possibilities are always endless with tacos.

A couple months ago in Toronto we went through a cauliflower crisis. Scary stuff. Basically, cauliflower, one of the cheapest (and most nutritious) vegetables out there became impossible to find and very expensive when you could find it.

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Roasted cabbage with creamy sriracha dressing

roasted cabbage

One thing I love about travelling for work is all the new food to try. This year was my second time travelling to Santa Monica for our company’s conference and marketplace, and I was lucky enough that Jarrod came with me, too!

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Red ranger beet and berry smoothie

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A couple weeks ago, I did something I haven’t done in almost a year.

I took a sick day.

Well, not a full-sick day (or, I guess a sick full-day). I took only the afternoon off, after we got our daily newsletter out, and went home to sleep and retire my voice for awhile. It was more or less a nasty head cold, which I can normally get through just fine (I don’t get sick all that often, and when I’m stuck in the “getting sick” stage for about a day and a half but never really get to a point of needing to go home from work). But it completely drained me, and I was at a point of being in utterly yucky pain and misery. I needed three things:

  1. Blanket
  2. Cat
  3. The sympathy of everyone around me (which, I guess, was limited to my precious kitty cat)

Anyway, after that I was on a big fruits and veggies kick (I mean, what else is new?), specifically trying to to shove as much colourful produce down my food-hole as humanly possible because damn, dat placebo effect. My super-saturated colourful smoothie concoctions probably didn’t actually do anything to relieve my cold, but I’ll admit, when my temperature shot up, I was pretty damn comfortable sitting out on my balcony with Ben (note for those who are unaware: we actually have balcony netting installed so Ben can safely enjoy the bacony) with my boxers on, sipping on an ice-cold smoothie watching all the suckers navigating the unseasonably cool streets.

And then I straight-up died.

But if this smoothie were to be the last thing I ate before I died (it wasn’t) I’d be pretty cool with that. And that’s something considering it features my once-despised worst enemy, beets! This smoothie also features the crisp, almost sticky-sweet taste of mango combined with the just-tart-enough taste of raspberries that’ll really have you envisioning summer and all of the long walks, parties and nudity that comes along with it.

Red ranger berry smoothie

  • Prep time:
  • Cook time: N/A
  • Yield: One 2.5-cup serving
  • Allergen info: Gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, soy free

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mango chunks, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 cup beets, peeled and chopped*
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup water or, if feeling fancy, coconut water**
  • Splash of non-dairy milk (optional)

* If you don’t have a super-powerful blender, I’d recommend steaming your beets prior to preparing, as they will be way easier to blend.

** I’ve since made another version of this that had ginger ale instead of coconut water, and the results were… interesting, to say the least, but I didn’t entirely hate it by the end.

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. You may need to add more water/coconut water as you go depending on how hard/frozen your fruit is.
  2. Add a splash of non-dairy milk, or even a bit of ripe avocado flesh if you like a creamier smoothie.

I’ve found this smoothie is best enjoyed wrapped in a blanket sitting on your balcony in your boxer shorts hoping the kids at the elementary school 11 stories down and across the street don’t notice the crazy lady on the balcony. But, like, you could also enjoy it with a light breakfast (as much as this is a nice big smoothie I don’t consider a meal in itself, unless you’re one of those super-light breakfast-eaters) like some toast and avocado or a small muffin.

What’s your comfort routine like when you get sick? Do you turn into a garbage disposal like me, or do you hate food? Do you become a big, attention-starved baby, or do you lock everyone out of your apartment and convert it into a blanket fort/quarantine tent? Let me know in the comments, and share any variations on the smoothie you think I should try!


Peppermint mocha brownies with white chocolate drizzle (vegan and gluten-free)

Brownies

When I went back to Starbucks after my two weeks off, I saw that they had switched over to their holiday drinks (I know, apparently I missed the whole grossly-offensive cups thing). And of course, they have those wonderfully cute snowman cookies and donuts and all those other great things I can’t eat.

So I made these brownies, because fuuuuuuuck that.

These peppermint mocha brownies have a moist but light texture, and a flavour that’s chocolatey without being so overwhelmingly sweet.

Best of all, since the holidays are all about sharing, I also made these as allergen-friendly — they’re free of gluten, soy, nuts and are fructose-friendly. Wahoo!

I’ve been asked a few times, mostly by people I know in real life and not in Internet-land, why I occasionally make things like gluten-free and nut-free recipes despite not having any intolerance to those things myself, especially because I’m a huge proponent for not giving into fad diets if you don’t have a diagnosed health reason to do it. The reason I do this is actually the same reason I started my blog in the first place: I love to share.As a vegan I know exactly how it feels when there’s food around that I can’t eat because no one took the time to consider me. I’ve been the one person bringing my own food to potlucks for years now. For that reason, especially around the holiday season, I like to make sure that I can create yummy food that we can all share. The best way you can show someone you care about them during the holidays is to think about them when it comes to planning, and I show that in my food.

Peppermint mocha brownies

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, fructose-friendly, soy-free

Brownie ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free flour blend
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand is soy-free, gluten-free and nut-free)
  • 1/4 cup-1/3 cup hot brewed coffee plus one pinch of extra coffee/espresso grinds
  • 1 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup ripe avocado flesh
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 extra large flax egg (2 tbsp flax meal+3 tbsp water)
  • 1/3 cup crushed candy cane bits

White chocolate drizzle ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cocoa butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup, brown rice syrup or other liquid sweetener
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Prep your flax egg and let sit for at least five minutes
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together your flours, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt and a pinch of your coffee grinds (we hand-grind our coffee in our home, so we can always just whizz up a few beans for situations like this).
  4. In another large bowl, add your cocoa powder and your chocolate chips. Once your coffee is hot (and I mean piping hot), pour it over the mix. Hand-mix this thoroughly until it is mostly-liquid (a few chunks is fine).
  5. Add in your coconut sugar and continue mixing until all is incorporated.
  6. Add in your flax egg and avocado flesh. If your avocado is a little underripe (you can easily scoop it out with a fork but it’s difficult to mash) I’d recommend whizzing it through the food processor in order to give it that whipped, buttery texture, or else you’ll have avo bits all over your brownies.
  7. Once that is all mixed, add in your extracts, give ‘er one last mix, and add to the flour bowl.
  8. This is where it gets tricky. It’s going to be a texture similar to heavy mashed potatoes, but don’t give into the temptation to use an electric mixer. Over-mixing this will not result in a nice texture for the brownies. Strong-arm the crap out of this, folding and mixing until everything is nice and soaked up. Fold in your candy canes, spread throughout a pan lined with parchment paper, and pop in the oven for 25 minutes.
  9. After you pull the brownies, let them cool while you mix the white chocolate drizzle. In a double-boiler (I rigged up my own using a Pyrex measuring cup in a pot of boiling water), melt down your cocoa butter, extracts and syrup. Pour in whatever shape you like (if my sister’s reading this: yes, I fully expect you to pour it in the shape of a penis) and sprinkle on any last candy canes you wish!

Enjoy these unique little treats. My suggestion for how to best enjoy them would be to feed them to a baby boomer and them softly whisper “happy holidays” and watch them lose their shit. Heh.

Oh, so I’m now three days into my vacation! On Monday I wrote two recipes, saw a huge surge of traffic on my blog (thanks, Reddit), biked 29.9 km, did a few boulder problems, bought my first batch of carrot lox (gotta say, I’m not a big fan) and chilled out at my favourite Toronto vegan haunt, Bloomer’s. So warm and comforting and jackfruity. I swear, I’ve never eaten a jackfruit sandwich where everything didn’t fall out from between the buns and onto the plate, but that’s the best part! You get to eat it twice!

What are some of your favourite holiday tastes you haven’t been able to have in awhile? Perhaps I can work some of my vegan magic and make a good cruelty-free snack for everyone!


Vegan vanilla buttered bourbon

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One thing I absolutely love about winter is ducking into a pub after the sun has gone down and enjoying warm, orange-hued lighting, sipping warm boozy drinks with my partner and eating comforting food. Last week, I shared our awesome loaded lentil pie, something inspired by our favourite Toronto pub, Porter House. It was so nice to feel like we were in our own personal little vegan pub (we also did up some shoe string fries, because yummm).

Even though I don’t drink a ton of alcohol (I can’t remember the last time I got drunk-drunk), to me no nice homemade meal is complete without a cocktail — probably because it’s just another opportunity to experiment with tastes! I recently picked up a book, Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers and Cocktail Party Snacks. love a good winter cocktail! The thing is, a lot of the drinks actually aren’t vegan. I knew there was a good chance most would contain milk or cream, which is no problem for substitution, and a lot contain honey (again, no problem), but some contain egg white (ewww!) and, of course, there’s plenty of butter.

Buttered rum isn’t something I had a lot of in the peak of my drinking days. Why? Well, surprisingly, as a university student, I went four years without buying a stick of butter (odd, because my partner and I go through Earth Balance with a lot of vigour and enthusiasm). What can I say, I was a sucker for cheap Pam sprays.

You’ll also notice that this isn’t buttered rum, it’s buttered bourbon. Blame us for not having rum around — but it actually tasted really nifty. Mind you, I’m a bourbon fan. You could ditch the bourbon for dark rum if you like.

Vegan vanilla buttered bourbon

Prep time: <10 minutes
Yield: 4 drinks

Ingredients

  • 6 oz bourbon (or dark rum if you’re into classics)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup or agave (more if you’ve got a sweeter tooth/need to take the boozy edge off)
  • 4 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter
  • 1 vanilla bean

Instructions

  1. Put on the kettle like you’re makin’ tea!
  2. Divide your syrup and bourbon evenly into the mugs
  3. Make your vanilla butter: Cut open your vanilla bean, scrape the insides, and add it to your Earth Balance. Using a fork, whip the butter slightly until all is combined and even.
  4. For extra fun, add the pod to some vodka for infusion adventures!
  5. Pour your hot water into your mugs, stir, then add one TBSP of the vanilla butter to each!

What I love about the vanilla bean butter is it’s so versatile. Because there’s only two of us and we aren’t big drinkers, we ended up using the rest on toast in the morning — so good! Something about early winter is so comforting but still lighthearted: warm oatmeal, peppermint treats… yeah, I can live with that!

What are your favourite winter drinks? Anything you’d like to see me make? They don’t have to have alcohol (like I said, I’m not a big drinker myself). I might try a cool new hot chocolate recipe soon. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of inspiration this whacky weather gives!


Sweet and spicy sweet potato latte syrup

SP Latte

Before I talk about this syrup, I want to talk about what it represents: indulgence.

This past weekend, I started a cleanse of my own. Nope, not the juice kind. Nope, not even the food kind.

I’m going through a bit of a material cleanse right now. Not in terms of getting rid of stuff (I actually do that quite a bit). More in terms of re-evaluating the things that I spend my money on and buy/consume without thinking too much about it.

Ever since I moved away from downtown Toronto and especially since my career took a better turn last year, I’ve never really struggled financially, and I’ve never been particularly foolish with money. I’m in a position where if something were to randomly happen to my car, or if Benny were to need some sort of emergency surgery, I’d be fine.

But I’ve realized that I could be doing so much better, and because I’m in a good position, I tend to occasionally plunk down money on things that I might need, but not immediately.

For example, clothes — for a long time, even when I was working full-time, I couldn’t justify buying new clothes because I didn’t have a ton of money, so I was stuck wearing the same crappy, poorly-shaped, faded, low-quality clothes I wore in university. Now that I’m in a better position, I buy clothes more frequently (and, to my credit, always get rid of old clothes). The thing is, I still haven’t learned the art of keeping only a small number of essential pieces. I owned a lot of clothes in university, so I’ve felt a need to replace my crappy, collegiate style at a 1:1 rate, but it should probably be more like 1:2 or 1:3.

Another thing is, to sound totally cliché, my daily Starbucks indulgence. I usually use Starbucks as nothing more than an excuse to get out of the office on my lunch break and do some writing. Why can’t there be a library or something close by? I’m not so into coffees/lattes that I feel an actual craving for them on the daily, so I really need to stop going to Starbucks out of boredom/convenience.

Okay, and another thing I need to stop doing: expanding on my collection of Lush pots. For someone who likes to tote a minimalist skin routine, I actually have a tendency to fall in love with a new soap scent long before my last one has run out. I work really close to a Lush and sometimes I just go in at lunch to smell all the smells and get away from everything, and I usually feel way too guilty to walk out without buying something.

I feel like I’m portraying myself as a spend-o-holic here. Don’t worry, I’m not over-the-top. But I definitely think everyone, even those of us who are financially comfortable, need to look at our spending habits a little bit more and wonder how much we’re actually spending on what we need.

Here’s my current vow:

  • No Starbucks for two weeks (I’m not ruling out coffee shops in general, but I go to Starbucks out of convenience and out of not actually wanting coffee.)
  • No Lush or any other toiletry product for two months.
  • No clothing purchases — not even an accessory — for one month.
  • Since the big seasonal clothing transition is approaching, I will be getting rid of no less than 20 clothing items and not replacing them.

I’ve also made a few vows for my at-home habits — no playing The Sims or 2048 for one month, and no watching The Office for one month. I know those sound like strange things, but those are probably the two things that, once I’ve done everything for the day — cooking, blog work, workouts, cleaning — that I fall into. I mean, you can argue that if you’ve tended to all your other responsibilities, what’s the problem? But I think by always falling into those habits, I’m limiting myself from trying something different, like reading a new book, playing piano or even doing a puzzle. Again, I’m not giving up TV, I’m giving up the show that is most convenient for me to watch reruns of (I have every episode) because I know that 99% of my drive to do those things is not out of genuine desire but convenience.

That’s it. Is it sad that I’ve felt a need to do this? I actually don’t think so! What this comes down to mostly is an exercise in self-discipline and also teaching me how to better use my time.

One of those better uses of time is coming up with cool original recipes (see the segue I did there) and knocking things off of my list of fall goals. I’ve actually accomplished a few so far and I might detail some on the blog. Here’s one of them, which started out as an attempt to make my own pumpkin spice syrup.

With it being October, pumpkin puree wasn’t actually available in stores, and damned if I felt like carving a pumpkin all by myself (I try to avoid mentioning this, but I have the visual artistic talents of a drunken sloth, and carving pumpkins would surely result in me accidentally painting my walls orange).

But then I saw sweet potato puree for about 50 cents cheaper than pumpkin puree, so, like, why not?

Sweet potato is, after all, sweet, and I have enjoyed a good sweet potato pie in my day. It doesn’t quite have the smooth, soothing taste of pumpkin, but that’s kind of what I like about it.

Here’s the sweet and spicy sweet potato latte, so you can possibly differentiate yourself from the #PSL crowd.

Sweet and spicy sweet potato latte syrup, makes about 3/4 cup of syrup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sweet potato puree
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup, maple syrup or agave (I don’t recommend a thicker sweetener like molasses or coconut nectar)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar, turbinado sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon or one cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, or one vanilla bean, seeded
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and slowly warm on medium heat, stirring to ensure no burning on the surface.
  2. Once the sugar is dissolved and all elements are combined thoroughly, remove from heat. Strain out any solid pieces like the vanilla bean and/or the cinnamon stick.
  3. Let cool before transferring to an airtight container.
  4. Store in the fridge, but I recommend removing it for at least 30 minutes before using it in a drink!
  5. This also makes a great drizzle over vegan ice cream — mm!

So what are some of your indulgences that you might need a bit of a break from? What are your worst habits? What’s something you think you could be doing better with your time? Let me know in the comments below.

 


Ten vegan treats to bring to a holiday party (plus, an important announcement)

Gyoza

Thanksgiving has already come and gone here in Canada, but this is just the start of “get-together” season. And why not? It’s indoors time! It gets dark early! Whisky suddenly goes with everything (side-note: I ended up putting Crown Royal Maple whiskey in my coffee at my Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner and woah. Pleasant).

I was never a huge fan of potlucks in my younger days (think high school/university) because they always ended up being really unbalanced. I would put a whole lot of effort into making something awesome and someone else would be like, “I brought paper plates!!” or “I brought a bag of cookies!”

Now I’m actually more likely to offer to bring food for parties that aren’t even designated potluck parties (although every time I see the episode of The Office where Michael brings a potato salad to a catered party I cringe because I wonder if that’s how I come off). It’s mostly out of self-interest, wanting to have something that I know I can eat, and wanting to impress people/promoting my blog.

And that’s as good of a time as any to share some exciting news about my e-book plans. After a successful Tilt campaign, my next step has been designing the content of the book. I’ve decided that instead of just a regular, general recipe book (maybe someday when I do a print book, that’ll come) to go with something more specialized. Here it is: vegan party food. Food to bring to a party if you are a vegan, know a vegan, are veg-curious or simply want everyone to have a good time regardless of dietary restrictions. It will consist of 15 recipes ranging from apps to desserts that will make everyone go, “Really? This is vegan?”

The title? Don’t Invite the Vegan.

I’ve already started on recipe testing and planning the art direction. More details will be released in future blog posts (I promise)!

In the meantime, here is a collection from my favourite places around the web for apps and share-able treats that are vegan or can easily be made vegan — so the next party you attend, try switching it up and bringing something straight from the earth!

I’ve also included quick notes on dietary restrictions. I will notes that all of these are obviously vegan as well as fructose-friendly, since I don’t eat anything that isn’t fructose-friendly.

  1. No Whey No Cow’s crispy polenta bites (nut-free, gluten-free if you sub the bread crumbs)
  2. A Beautiful Mess’s veggie gyoza (nut-free)
  3. Oh She Glows’ crowd-pleasing Caesar salad (gluten-free, soy free — can be made low FODMAP by subbing buckwheat groats for cashews)
  4. Nourish Not Punish’s three-layer peanut butter bars (gluten-free)
  5. The Cashew Chronicle’s luxury lazy blueberry cobbler (nut-free, gluten-free if you sub the flour)
  6. Martha Stewart’s shiitake nori rolls (nut-free, soy and gluten/grain-free if you sub coconut aminos for the soy sauce/tamari)
  7. Lunch Box Brunch’s fried risotto balls (dietary variances depend entirely on your own risotto recipe)
  8. Fork and Beans homemade vegan Doritos (gluten-free, soy free and nut-free)
  9. The Minimalist Baker’s sundried tomato basil pinwheels (nut-free, gluten-free option, soy free if you use Daiya cream cheese and nooch instead of vegan parm)
  10. Thug Kitchen’s badass bean dip (nut-free, gluten-free, grain-free)

Perfect kale and lemon pesto

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Nobody’s perfect. Nothing is perfect. Perfection is an unattainable ideal designed to keep our self-esteem low and our personas malleable.

Except that this pesto is actually perfect.

Jarrod and I attended the Toronto Garlic Festival this weekend and we tried a wonderful kale pesto. We instantly fell in love, but because the festival didn’t have an ATM on site, we weren’t able to buy it. Rather than let that get us down, we took a trip to our local market, went home and made our own.

It gave me the chills.

Now that things are cooling down a bit, it’s more fun to get a little saucy in cooking — but still keeping it on the light-medium side. No creamy sauces yet, but not that barely-blushing kind of “sauce.” Pesto is the perfect medium. And this switches up kale for typically sweet basil, and adds in lemon juice and nooch for tang.

Perfect kale and lemon pesto, makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 10 leaves black lakitano (dinosaur) kale
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Four large cloves of garlic
  • One green onion
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds or pepitas
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

Instructions

  1. Remove the stems from your dinosaur kale and add it to a colander or fine-mesh sieve.
  2. Boil a kettle of water and douse your kale in hot water, blanching it and making it easier to shred.
  3. Add the kale, garlic, green onion and lemon to a large food processor. Pulse several times until everything breaks down to a manageable size.
  4. Add in your seeds, nooch and salt and pepper. Pulse again to let everything break down.
  5. Now start drizzling your olive oil in as you need in order to make everything flow easier. We didn’t take specific measurements for this, you should just be able to tell by the texture. If the pesto is flowing nicely and doesn’t just seem like a lump of nuts of vegetables, then you know it’s enough!
  6. The Pesto will keep for about a week in an airtight container. Pour a bit of extra olive oil on top to preserve.

Serve with pasta, like we did,  or on fancy burgers, with crackers or in a grain bowl!