Archive for March, 2010

Husband and I saw a package of Gardein “marinated breasts” at our local grocery store and thought we’d try it out, hopeful we’d find at the very least an acceptable “quick” dinner ingredient.

No such luck! I’d heard some mixed reviews on the product; some vegans I know found the texture off-putting, others thought it was delicious. I would have to say I fall into the former category.

Husband and I tried the Gardein for two separate meals, using two different cooking methods to see if maybe the method could affect the texture.

The first time we made it, we used the stove top method to cook the “breasts”. I thought the marinade was passable…nothing special but overall, nicely flavoured. It was exactly what I’d expect from a pre-packaged product. I compared it to bottled salad dressing: sure, it’s tasty; but, a homemade one is just as easy and has way more personality. Husband just outright did not like the marinade. He thought it was really bland and did nothing for the product.

As for the texture, that’s where I had a problem. It was way too reminiscent of actual chicken for me…granted, it’s been years since I’ve consumed chicken; but, the texture was exactly what I remembered chicken to be like. And it really freaked me out. I don’t even want to describe the texture because it gives me the creeps. That being said: if you liked eating chicken and have missed it, I’m sure you would go crazy for this product…the texture is that similar to the real thing. Husband, for example, went veg by association and used to really enjoy meat and he thought the texture was just fine.

The second method we tried was the oven method. I enjoyed this version slightly more than the first. Cooking the Gardein in the oven dried out the “breasts” enough for the texture to improve a little for me. It reminded me less of the real thing this way, which was a vast improvement in my mind. Husband liked this method least. He felt it became too dry and that the marinade was overcooked and added a slightly burnt taste to the outside of the “breast”.

I have to say, we couldn’t give Gardein a rave review. We hoped to; but, the product just wasn’t for us. I’ll take well-seasoned broiled tofu or tempeh any day over pre-packaged faux meat.


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A Delicious Mishap

My one year blog anniversary was on Friday. Happy birthday, café karma!! I had this wonderful plan for a shoot involving this amazing cake I’ve been dreaming up since December…yup, I like to plan that far in advance. I went out and bought the few props I needed for the shoot and gathered the ingredients I’d need for my dream cake.

I had this wonderful plan for a dense, deeply coloured date cake with coconut cream filling flavoured with orange and a brown sugar frosting generously slathered on the cake. I was going to shoot it on a pretty crystal platter with a shimmery gold background. Are you picturing it?!?! Doesn’t it look marvelous in your imagination?!?! It did in mine, too.

Unfortunately, my filling went bust and I had a culinary meltdown (a kitchen hissy-fit, if you will) and I decided to put my precious camera away before it got damaged by the flying rage foam that was coming out of my heavy-breathing mouth….how’s that image for a pretty imaginary photograph?!?!

I wanted to make a coconut whipped cream with just a pinch of orange zest for flavour. I chilled my can of full-fat coconut milk for 12 hours and when I opened it, no separation…there was no solid coconut cream on top. I gave whipping the full can’s contents a go and that was disastrous. On a lark, I opened up a second can of coconut milk, a different brand, and still no solid cream on top. No filling for this girl’s date cake…

What killed me about this is I’ve never opened a can of coconut milk and not had a solid coconut cream on the top before. I normally shake my coconut milk violently to ensure no solid top…and, now, this one single time I’m relying on having that solid cream…the coconut gods frown on me. Tsk tsk, coconut gods…shame on you for denying a girl coconut whipped cream for her blog-birthday cake…

Fortunately, the cake and frosting were delicious. Husband and I very much enjoyed breaking off giant chunks of cake and consuming it with equally giant spoonfuls of frosting. I have several birthdays to celebrate in the next little while; so, that gives me plenty of reason to try, try again to achieve perfection with the coconut filling.

In the meantime, I leave you with the recipe for the date cake. It’s moist, dense, smoothly flavoured and such a wonderful hue…almost a shade of redwood. The brown sugar frosting was a basic penuche frosting recipe that I veganized using Earth Balance and soymilk…if you’ve never had penuche frosting before, be warned…it is essentially fudge. You’d have a difficult time finding a sweeter frosting, but, mmmmm….if it isn’t the most delicious thing ever…*drool*

Date Cake

1 cup pitted dates

-1 cup soymilk

-3/4 cup sugar

-1/4 cup oil

-1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

-1 tsp. vanilla

-1 cup all-purpose flour

-1 tsp. baking soda

-pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one loaf pan. Set aside.

Combine the dates and milk in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, just to soften the dates.

Pour the dates and milk into a blender. Add the sugar and blend till smooth. Add the oil, applesauce, and vanilla and blend again to incorporate. Pour contents into a mixing bowl.

Sift together all the dry ingredients. Add the flour mix to the date mix a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cake is set in centre and the sides begin to pull away from the pan. Let cool completely before removing from pan.

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Tomato soup cake: those of you that have tried it are probably salivating in content nostalgia right now…those who haven’t may be wrinkling their nose up in disgust. I know how it sounds…gross and dated and how could it possibly be any good at all?!

Well, let me tell you, it’s just perfect. My beloved Mémère used to make a delicious version of this cake-always with raisins-and everyone adored it. To this day, it’s always one of the first things anyone mentions when we’re remembering her fondly. And of course she made this cake…she was, afterall, a quintessential 1950s housewife…perfectly coiffed hair and stained apron included!

Every once in a while, when I’m thinking about my Mémère, I get an urge to make a tomato soup cake, just so I can inhale the spicy sweet aroma deeply and be taken back to her small kitchen where I would sit at the table, tiny feet dangling above the floor, and wait for her to present me with a piece while she hummed Patsy Cline songs to entertain us.

This cake did just that. I channeled my inner 1950s housewife while I stirred together the simple batter and when the cake came out of the oven, I was not disappointed. That tell-tale rich orange hue and the tiny flecks of cinnamon and nutmeg were exactly as I remembered.

I basically used this recipe.

I left out the egg, added 2 tsp. baking powder, used 2 cups of flour, and baked it in one 9×13 inch pan. Oh, and the raisins aren’t optional as far as I’m concerned…it really isn’t the same cake without them. Try it! It’s the perfect snack cake with a strong cup of tea or you can easily dress it up by topping it with a dollop of tofu whipped cream and a sprinkle of freshly ground nutmeg.

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Everyone’s Irish today! St. Paddy’s has got to be one of my very favourite holidays. No one is ever in a bad mood on March 17th; have you noticed? People get melancholy around Christmas, I have an aunt that is petrified of Hallowe’en, I myself complain of the commercialism of Valentine’s Day; but, on this day, the universal party mentality is switched on in our communal brain and we rejoice with perfect strangers over a pint of Ireland’s finest (or a vegan substitute, please and thank you) and sing Danny Boy with linked arms and swaying bodies.

I always celebrate by making a traditional Irish dinner; this year was no exception. I decided against a veganized “bangers and mash” or a warming bowl heaped with colcannon and decided to try something a little different…Irish stew stuffed potatoes. I love me some stuffed potatoes and make them a hundred different ways (even going so far as to serve buffet-style potato bars for dinner on occasion) and last night when the inevitable “what do you want for dinner tomorrow?” question was posed to dear Irish Husband, I cut him off before he could even open his mouth to answer…”I’m going to make baked potatoes and stuff them with Irish stew!” I never did find out what Husband wanted…

He certainly didn’t complain when his dish was served to him this evening, though. He even ventured off the couch a few times to lift the lid off the pot of simmering veggies and tempeh in rich broth while I chopped garnishes. With a bottle of Harp to wash it down, this dinner hit the spot completely! The fresh herbs lightened the heavy potato base and the filling was just that…filling and delicious. Sláinte!

Irish Stew Stuffed Potatoes

-4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed, dried, and pierced with a fork

-3 T. olive oil

-10 oz. tempeh, cut into 1/2″ cubes

-1 cup quartered cremini mushrooms

-1 large onion, peeled and chopped

-4 small carrots, peeled and sliced

-2 stalks celery, sliced

-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

-3-4 T. flour

-1 bottle Irish lager

-4 cups vegetable stock

-salt and pepper, to taste

-1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

-1/4 cup frozen peas

-fresh chives (for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and bake the potatoes till soft, about 1 hour. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T. oil in a large pot over medium heat and sauté the tempeh till golden brown. Set aside. Add 1 T. oil and the mushrooms to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms have browned. Set aside. Add the last tablespoon oil and all the veggies to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, till the veggies begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour over the veggies. Stir to incorporate and cook for 1-2 minutes, just so flour isn’t raw. Add the reserved mushrooms and tempeh and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add the liquids, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in the parsley and peas and simmer an additional 2-3 minutes, just till peas are heated through. Cover and keep warm.

Once  the potatoes have cooled enough to handle, scoop out the flesh in the centre of each to form a deep bowl. Mash the removed potato flesh into the stew. Ladle stew into the bowl of each potato; it’s okay if it overflows. Serve garnished with fresh chives.

As a note, you’ll have lots of stew left over…it’s delicious the next day!

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I know I’ve been MIA for this entire month so far and I apologize profusely…I won’t go into the details; but, it has been a very trying month in our household and we’ve been just barely surviving on toast, cereal, and fresh fruit. The worst seems to be behind us now and to celebrate, I thought I would post the only thing I have made this month that was worthy of praise…not to mention a photograph.

That gorgeous salad up there was restaurant calibre and was so simple to put together, it’s embarrassing! Each ingredient I used was a personal favourite…I’ve just never put all of them together in salad-form. I was reminded of a traditional mediterranean antipasto platter as I gathered the colourful produce.

The end result was so pleasing: rich yet refreshing, chewy and a little crunchy, simple but deep in flavour. I, as usual, did not measure any of the ingredients. When I make a salad, I let my eyes be my measuring cup…adding ingredients and tossing until it looks right.

The ingredients:

-a small jar of chopped, marinated artichoke hearts

-chopped, oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes

-black olives (whatever your favourite may be)

-whole toasted hazelnuts

-thinly sliced red onion

-lightly steamed asparagus spears

-chopped cucumber

-field greens

Gently toss everything with some of the marinade from the artichokes and serve immediately. As a note, it won’t keep very well and it’ll serve at least 4 as a main dish salad with a little crusty bread on the side.

It was the perfect dish to welcome the unseasonably mild temperature and bright sunshine we’ve been fortunate enough to have for the first half of March here in Northern Ontario. I hope you’ve been lucky enough to enjoy similar weather so far this month!

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