Tag Archives: tacos

Quick “fish-ish” tacos with two-minute slaw

Let’s talk about let-downs.

Jarrod and I have been following our New Years Resolution to cook more at home and we are loving it. Every day I tease him about being a “salad guy” at work because he’s always so proud of bringing in a big, colourful salad full of tomatoes and zucchini and carrots and greens. Then at night we come home and usually have a nice big grain and veggie bowl, or some soup for our souls.

But the past couple weekends have been a bit stressful — Jarrod’s train club had its winter open-house two weekends in a row which meant that I didn’t really get to see him all weekend, including on the long weekend.

Missing Jarrod on weekends is hard. We are both so busy during the week that our weeknights together end up being pretty quiet, but we love taking walks, making food and going on dates during the weekend. So on the third day of Family Day weekend, we decided that Jarrod would leave his train show early and we’d go to Bloomer’s for a limited-time special they were hosting — eggplant “fish” and chips.

Jar’s British, so as you can imagine, he was pretty excited for the idea.

So excited, in fact, that we forgot to check the time that Bloomer’s was open until. After about a half-hour subway ride, we emerged from the underground to find Bloomer’s in darkness, having closed before we even left our place. With no one to blame but ourselves, all we could do was laugh all the way back home.

Fortunately, when you have a well-stocked fridge and a good imagination, there’s no telling what you can and can’t do. Could we make a facsimile for breaded fish and chips? Well, not quite yet. But we did manage to pull together an easy, slightly “fishy” flavoured tofu filet and a classic purple ‘slaw to make what I’m calling “fish-ish” tacos without the heavy breading. I’ll leave that to Bloomer’s!

Fish-ish tacos with two-minute slaw

Prep time: 20 minutes passive (tofu pressing), 10 minutes active
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: Four tacos
Allergen info: Nut-free, gluten-free (depending on choice of taco wraps)
Alternate options: For a grain-free option, use lettuce wraps instead of wheat or corn tortillas
Kitchen tools required: Knives and cutting board, mixing bowl, frying pan and spatula

 

Ingredients

  • 2/3 of a block firm or extra-firm tofu
  • 7.5 ml (1/2 tbsp) onion powder
  • 0.62 ml (1/4 tbsp) kelp granules
  • Dash of Old Bay seasoning (optional)
  • One lemon, cut into wedges
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) shredded carrot
  • 250 ml (1 cup) finely sliced purple cabbage
  • One shallot, finely chopped
  • Scant 63 ml (1/4 cup) vegan mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Press the tofu (about 20 minutes) and slice into eight “nuggets” down the short side of the block.
  2. Rub the tofu lightly with a lemon wedge.
  3. Sprinkle on the onion powder, salt and pepper, kelp granules and Old Bay Seasoning if using.
  4. Cook in a frying pan over medium-high heat using only a bit of oil for five minutes per side or until golden and crispy.
  5. Make the slaw: thinly slice the cabbage and grate the carrots, toss with the chopped shallot and mix thoroughly with vegan mayonnaise and salt and pepper.
  6. Assemble the tacos — two tofu nuggets per taco, a generous heaping of slaw and whatever else you feel like. We added avocados and cilantro, but get creative!

You want my advice? Enjoy this on a patio if you’re one of the lucky Torontonians experiencing above-10-degree weather! Okay, bring a sweater, but still — don’t let these sunny days pass you by!


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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Oyster mushroom and kimchi tacos

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Happy spring, friends! Boy, that took awhile. In celebration of spring, I’m going to talk about Christmas for a second.

Bear with me.

See, I’ve always had a hesitation around company Christmas parties. Aside from being nervous about drinking around my co-workers, I hate being that vegan who asks ahead of time “Will there be anything vegan?”, then spending the night guarding the hummus (the only vegan thing) so everyone else doesn’t eat it or you’ll be forced to endure company-compensated G&Ts on an empty stomach (I mean, you don’t have to, but if it’s paid for…).

This year, though, I’m actually friends with a lot of my co-workers, so I went, knowing that there was only one vegan option.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to worry about guarding the vegan apps. Everyone was piling them in front of me.

Because they were fucking awful.

Good concept: a small tofu steak topped with kimchi, raw cabbage and some sorta runny, faux-sriracha sauce. In theory, this should have been the best night of my life.

But they were essentially little piles of salt disguised as food. Every single taco left my mouth abrasive and briney afterward. Of course, I also had three free drink tickets (and had put a few away at the office too), so I had to keep eating.

It was horrible. Fun, but horrible.

While the tacos weren’t exactly a highlight of the night, I’ve spent the last few months thinking about how to do my own, less-gut-wrenchingly-awful take on the tacos.

First solution: swap out the tofu. Tofu is awesome, but I think there are so many other awesome things you can do with tacos that a li’l wedge of tofu seems, you know, laaaaame.

I’m a big fan of oyster mushrooms, as you may recall from my spaghetti squash stir-fry. So I used those as my base, added the kimchi (of course), cilantro (of course, motherfuckers) and a spicy, lime-ish version of my homemade vegan mayo.

These tacos are not only easy to make, they make your place into an instant taco party. This recipe makes six fairly well-stuffed tacos but it’s dang easy to double it and under-stuff the tacos like some cheapskate restaurant and make all your friends happy!

Oyster mushroom and kimchi tacos

    • Prep time: 20 minutes
    • Cook time: 10-20 minutes
    • Yield: Six medium-sized or eight app-size tacos
    • Allergen info: Nut-free, gluten-free option

Ingredients

Smoky oyster mushrooms

  • 2 cups oyster mushrooms, sliced the long way
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth or water (more as needed to cover mushrooms fully)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce, tamari or Bragg’s (the latter two are GF)
  • 1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Spicy lime aioli

  • One cup vegan aioli/garlic mayo (here’s my own recipe)
    • If you don’t have aioli onhand, simply add about two cloves of garlic to regular vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp sriracha or other thick hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • Juice and zest from one lime

To assemble

  • Your favourite vegan kimchi (I buy a local Toronto brand, but making your own is a cool adventure)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • Suggested toppings: onions, carrots, cabbage, whatever!

Method

  1. Combine all marinade ingredients save for the broth/water (broth will obviously make it more flavourful, but water won’t actually dilute the flavour too much since it’s a fairly strong flavour). Sit the marinade in a shallow dish, add the mushrooms, and add the water/broth to cover the mushrooms. Let sit for about 20 minutes while you prepare your sauce and chop your veg.
  2. For the sauce: simply combine all your ingredients and mix thoroughly, or blend. I like my sauce to have a bit of texture, so I shredded the cilantro but didn’t blend it. Your choice. Blending will obviously leave you with more of a clean-up.
  3. To cook the mushrooms, warm a very small amount of oil in a medium-sided frying pan (medium heat). Once warm, add your mushrooms and a few tablespoons of the marinade, and stir occasionally.
  4. As your mushrooms warm and the marinade is absorbed, continue to add the liquid gradually, letting it absorb for super-flavourful mushrooms!
  5. Once the last bit of marinade is absorbed, remove the mushrooms from heat
  6. Warm your tortillas in the oven, a skillet or microwave and top ’em with the mushrooms, kimchi, sauce and all that other fun stuff!

On a side-note: it feels great to be getting back to recipe mode again. I’m not putting as much pressure on myself regarding the blog, but I’m still trying really hard to maintain some sense of regular posting. I am growing my audience very, very gradually, but I’m trying not to focus on that kind of “success” at the moment. I’m considering starting an FAQ feature — I actually get a lot of questions about veganism on my Tumblr blog, and that might be a great way to direct more people here.

More importantly, I’m starting to have a lot of fun outside of work these days (wow, who would have thought sunshine and warm weather had positive impacts on your life??). We’re spending a lot of time on the balcony (it’s slowly becoming a little piece of paradise), taking walks around the neighbourhood, shopping the local businesses and going to the park. Sometimes I really seriously contemplate getting a cat harness and a leash for Ben to see how he would handle a walk… but I think that would be more for my own enjoyment than his. That said, he really loves hanging out on the balcony. I’m so glad we got that netting!

I sadly can’t continue running this year as I have too many bone injuries in my feet, but I’m trying no to let that get me down too much. I still have my bike and my skateboard, and those are good enough for me! So while I may not be running a marathon anytime soon, I’ll still be out and about. Just not at the same speed.


Taqueria-style seitan tacos with cilantro-lime aioli

Tacos

In Toronto, taquerias became “the” thing in late 2013. So I assume, since food trends move pretty quickly in Toronto, that taquerias are officially “out.” But that’s in Toronto. Go to a place like Waterloo or Hamilton (two of my favourite cities, probably more-favourite than Toronto!) and taquerias are still totally fresh and cool there.

Recently, I went to Hamilton’s Supercrawl art crawl for the first time (yep, I missed last year when my favourite band, Arkells, played) and we met up with a friend of Jar’s at a new taqueria in Hamilton. See, I like when a city moves more at my pace. New taqueria in late 2015? Just fine by me. And, because it’s not Toronto, the tacos seemed downright cheap.

The most popular vegan option at most places appears to be fried/crispy cauliflower tacos. At the Hamilton place, I had a crispy cauliflower taco with a garnish of mint, which was a very interesting combo. I’ve gone back and forth, considering re-creating this, or trying my hand at a fried Brussels sprouts version, but deep-frying is a real pain in the ass (we don’t have a deep fryer, so we rely on our giant pot).

So I went with something totally original I haven’t seen at any taquerias yet: seitan.

Hail seitan.

I mentioned in my recent post about fall projects that one of my goals is to better develop our home seitan recipe. This is the first time we used the simmering method (adapted slightly from Amy’s recipe at No Whey No Cow), which gave us seitan that’s a little more tender than chewy. Jar still prefers the steamed loaves, I think, but I like the simmering method. Could this be the wedge that drives us apart?

Probably not.

Anyway, this seitan, combined with the aioli, is a bit of a “dedicate an afternoon to this” kind of recipe. You can’t just decide you’re going to make it and it’s done in 15 minutes. That said, it’s not as complicated as it seems. Remember, lots of steps and ingredients don’t necessarily mean something is complicated. I find a lot of seitan recipes are written in ways that overcomplicate the process and make it seem too intimidating to try, so I’m going to try and make it seem as simple as possible!

I’d like to note for seitan newbies that while I normally try to offer alternatives for people with nut or gluten allergies, seitan is basically pure gluten and is not at all safe for someone avoiding gluten. There is no gluten-free alternative for seitan. Sorry, friends!

Seitan tacos and cilantro lime aioli

Simmered seitan

Yield: three batches of cutlets
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vital wheat gluten (can be found at any bulk store or health food store; Bob’s Red Mill sells a pack)
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin (we use the McCormick’s roasted variety, which is even more flavourful)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or faux-meat broth (you can use water, but it makes it really plain)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • For broth:
    • 6 cups water
    • 1 tbsp Vegemite, Marmite or Bovril (most Canadian/US versions use yeast extract and not meat, but always check to make sure)
    • 3 tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
    • 1 large clove garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the dry ingredients for the seitan and whisk to combine
  2. Add in the vegetable broth and the olive oil
  3. Begin kneading the dough. Kneading is key — you must knead for about three minutes in order to really get that nice, doughy texture. I cannot emphasize how important it is to not blow this part off or half-ass it.
  4. Set aside for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Create your broth and bring it to a controlled simmer.
  6. Knead again for about one minute, really flattening it out. Go ahead and punch the dough. Punch it!
  7. Cut into medium-sized chunks and add to the broth.
  8. Simmer the seitan for at least one hour.
  9. Remove from the broth and let cool. If storing, store in a little bit of the broth so the seitan does not dry out and become bread-like.

Cilantro-lime buckwheat ailoi

Yield: One cup
Soak time: 1-8 hrs
Prep time: Less than five minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked
  • 1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats, soaked
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (as needed)
  • Juice and zest from 3 limes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Soak the cashews and the buckwheat in water. If you’re using a high-powered blender like a Vitamix or a Blendtec, you shouldn’t need more than an hour of soaking.
  2. Add the lime zest and squeeze in the juice (note: I’ve found a citrus juicer to be the best teeny-tiny investment I’ve ever made)
  3. Add your salt, pepper, cilantro and just one tbsp apple cider vinegar — only add the second if you’re having trouble blending.
  4. Blend until smooth. This requires a lot of patience, and may require you to scrape down your blender every now and then.

To assemble tacos

Ingredients

  • Six small corn taco tortillas
  • One batch of seitan cutlets
  • Dollop of aioli (or squeeze from a plastic bag like I did for the illusion of fanciness)
  • Purple cabbage, tomatoes, red onions and fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Slice the seitan into slightly smaller pieces (about 1″)
  2. Warm some olive oil in a pan
  3. Toss on medium for about 7-8 minutes or until crisping
  4. In an oven or on a stovetop in a skillet, warm your tortillas for no more than 2 minutes on each side
  5. Assemble your tacos.
  6. Eat the tacos!
  7. As for leftovers, the seitan will keep for awhile if sealed in moisture (close to a week) and, if dried, can be frozen. You can also freeze or refrigerate any dough you don’t end up cooking. The aoili will only last for about three days in the fridge, and should be kept airtight.

Did that seem complicated? I swear, it’s actually not an incredibly frustrating process. Involved? Yes. But it’s not going to drive you crazy in the kitchen. In fact, I’d highly recommend this for one of those chilly Saturdays when you come right home after your mid-day adventures and want to have a fancy night in instead of a night-out.

What are some of your favourite trendy restaurant foods that you’d like to try veganizing or doing an at-home version? What are your favourite restaurant styles to go to? Comment below — let’s talk about food (seriously)!


BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Tacos with Cilantro Corn Salsa

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I mentioned recently that I’ve become obsessed with jackfruit ever since I had Porter House’s jackfruit sandwich. It’s funny, I was never a big pulled pork girl when I ate meat, but I don’t eat jackfruit because it has a texture like pulled pork. I eat jackfruit because it’s amazing at holding a lot of really good flavour and goes down easy while filling up my hungry tummy.

In short, jackfruit is one big serving of “awww yeah.”

Now, it was shortly after I went vegan that I noticed pulled pork was everywhere. It was, like, the newest foodie thing, to not just have pulled pork as the main event but pulled pork as a topping, on top of a burger. My old publisher used to say you know a food trend is over when fast food places like Harvey’s bring it in. And yes, Harvey’s (for yanks, Harvey’s is a Canadian burger chain) did, at one point, bring in pulled pork as a burger topping.

Excessive.

Of course, the only thing excessive about these babies is the flavour (okay, that was a really terrible segue, but I’m still new to the whole food/blog writing thing). And I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is probably the best dinner I’ve ever made that was a 100% original recipe.

First off, I want to settle one thing: where does one find jackfruit?

Well, for those unfamiliar with what jackfruit actually is (I’m sure you’ve all figured out it’s a fruit, right?), it’s incredibly large. And because jackfruits are not native to anywhere near Canada (obviously), they cost a lot — at about $3.99 a pound, your average full jackfruit will cost you around $120 (yes, jackfruit are about 30 lbs). So, what did I do? Did I run around trying to find a jackfruit? Hell no. You probably can’t find a full jackfruit in Toronto. And even if you could, carving them is basically surgery. Or so I’ve heard.

You can, however, find canned jackfruit. It’s easiest to find these in Asian markets or grocery stores. If you live in a large city with a diverse population (I do!) these should actually be relatively easy. Here’s the other kicker: get jackfruit in brine, not syrup. Jackfruit in brine has a relatively neutral taste, which is what lends it to being so absorbent and adaptable to all sorts of flavours.

Next step — you should press jackfruit a little bit, just to soak up some of the excess moisture and get them to crumble more easily. They don’t need to be bone-dry, but just press them with a paper towel or a sparkly clean dish towel and pull/shred as you go.

Now, for the actual recipe, one that is very grown-ups-on-a-patio.

BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Tacos and Cilantro Corn Salsa, makes six tacos

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • BBQ Beer Jackfruit
    • One 20 oz can young green jackfruit in brine
    • 3/4 cup light tasting beer (I used Sapporo — check that it’s vegan-friendly)
    • 1 oz apple cider or rice wine vinegar
    • 1 oz soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos
    • 2 tbsp tomato paste (reserve the rest of a 5.5 oz can)
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
    • A dash maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
    • Juice from 1/2 lime
    • A few drops of liquid smoke (this is optional, but if you want to really give this a hickory, BBQ-like flavour, this is where it comes from)
  • Cilantro Corn Salsa
    • One 12 oz can whole kernel corn (low-sodium)
    • 1/4 finely-chopped red onion
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup packed cilantro
    • Juice from 1/4 lime
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Easy Spicy Tomato Rice
    • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
    • The remainder of your 5.5 oz can of tomato paste
    • 1/4 finely-chopped red onion
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 2/3 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
    • One chopped small hot pepper (I used a Scotch bonnet)
    • Lime wedges and chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • To assemble (really whatever you want, but this is what I used)
    • Corn tortillas (or you could try green lettuce wraps for a grain-free option)
    • Kale
    • Easy guacamole (I just mashed one large avocado and added one tbsp of hot salsa — easiest guac around!)

Instructions

  1. Using paper towels or a fresh, clean dish towel, press the jackfruit to remove the excess moisture and shred with your fingers or a fork (the texture is similar to a pineapple, so it should shred very easily).
  2. Prepare your sauce — stir together the beer, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, tomato paste (set aside the rest of the can), spices, sweetener and lime juice.
  3. Place your jackfruit in the sauce, cover and let marinade while you prep the rest of the food. This, by the way, is what it looks like. Mmm!
  4. Combine all your ingredients for your corn salsa, cover and let the flavours develop in the fridge.
  5. Prep your rice. I used a rice cooker, so didn’t have to worry about a timer, but in total to let the rice soak up all of the moisture it should take about 20 minutes, covered. We didn’t use quite enough liquid the first time (only about 1 1/2 cups of water on top of our tomato paste) so it turned out a little al dente, so when in doubt, add more water. Once it’s finished, fluff with a fork.
  6. While the rice is cooking, heat the jackfruit, along with any excess sauce, in a nonstick pan (if it’s high-quality, you shouldn’t need any oil).
  7. You’re done! Time to put it all together and wow your friends with this crazy-good meat alternative.

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