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Archive for the ‘Isa’ Category

Something Sweet

I just wanted to share this photo with you. It makes me smile every time I look at it and thought it would be a nice way to wish everyone a super sweet weekend (teehee)!

And yes, they are Cherry Crème Chocolate Cupcakes from the infamous Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. And yes, they’re as perfect as they look. I had to give most of them away so I wouldn’t be tempted to just stand over the cooling rack and scoop the filling and cherries out of each and every one of them with my tongue. I only did that to two of them…such restraint!

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Few things make me happier in the morning then a freshly baked scone. Having a couple to chew on between sips of strong Earl Grey tea gives me immense pleasure and starts my day off in such a way that I am assured that the rest of my day will be as enjoyable as my breakfast was, if for no other reason than I can simply recall how wonderful my breakfast was throughout the day and maintain my euphoria.

I let Husband sleep in this past weekend and puttered around the house while he stayed curled up under our down-alternative duvet. I worked out a little, did some tidying, caught up on some reading and decided it was the perfect morning for scones. I figured it would be a marvelous way for Husband to wake up…the aroma of fresh-baked goods luring him from slumber.

Naturally, I turned to Vegan Brunch to find a new recipe to try. I went to the scone recipe and discovered a variation on the page that seemed heavenly: apple rosemary scones. The combination was just too enticing! I was powerless to resist it and started prepping the ingredients and preheating the oven immediately.  A little over a half hour later, I was pulling a sheet of the most fragrant scones I have ever had the pleasure of smelling out of my oven. The aroma woke Husband and he stumbled into the kitchen like a zombie in search of food.

We enjoyed them immensely for breakfast that morning, still warm and torn roughly in half so I could smear the steaming interior with a little Earth Balance, you know…to ensure they weren’t too dry *wink*. The apple rosemary combination is nothing short of brilliant. The rosemary adds a wonderful, unexpected dimension to the simple treat. I brought a couple to work later that morning for my co-workers and those boys inhaled them! One of my co-workers told me he couldn’t believe a vegan baked good could be so decadent and he’d never heard of the flavour combination before. I’d call that another win for vegan baked goods everywhere!

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Now that the Xmas season is over, I have spare time back at my disposal. My shifts at my part-time job have dwindled a little, which hurts my bank account some but helps my sanity much more, and that leaves me with more time to spend in the kitchen! To celebrate the extra few hours I have, I thought it would be really nice to treat Husband to a dish I’ve been wanting to try forever but just never seem to have the time to prepare. Enter Veganomicon! I talk about this cookbook a lot (a lot); but, I truly cannot help myself. I love it that much! I love how it has a good blend of favourites and adventurous dishes; and Isa and Terry’s writing is always entertaining. I’ll stop gushing now before this gets uncomfortable for everyone.

So, on to the dish. I decided on Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream. I mean, just look at that plate up there. Doesn’t that look divine? Don’t you wish that was your fork up there, heading for your anxious taste buds?

As involved as the recipe is, it is not at all difficult. It’s not going to be a quick weeknight throw-together; this is something you serve to someone you really want to impress (or someone you like a whole lot!) The smell as the casserole is baking is tortuous…I was salivating the entire time it was in the oven. And that pine nut cream! Oh, that pine nut cream! If it was anatomically possible, I would have tried to lick the bottom of the blender to get every last bit of its deliciousness off the blades! Just be prepared to wash some dishes after your prep work is done. My kitchen was a disaster.

As is the case with most casserole dishes, it tastes even better the next day. 

Veganomicon FTW!

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Weather-wise, it has been just dreadful in my neck of the woods the past few days…cold and windy and gray and rainy and just plain blah. I like a rainy day every once in a while (nothing like curling up with a good book and a cup of tea while listening to the rain!); but, I am very easily swayed emotionally by the weather. It’s just another thing that convinces me I should have been born in a warmer climate. However, I am a true Northern girl and could never really be that far away from home. So, I make the best of what I’m given!

When I wake up to a really nasty view from my bedroom window, I generally roll over and cover my head with my (faux) duvet! Once the sulking is over and I must get out of bed, I turn my thoughts to ways to brighten the awful morning…and of course, that means food! I’ve mentioned before that breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and I could (and sometimes do) eat breakfast foods for every. single. meal. Well, this past weekend was a perfect example. Husband and I finally rolled out of bed at a very respectable 9:30am (we’re up by 6:30 all week long so 9:30 is a blessing for us!), and I went right over to my cookbook collection to decide on something exciting for breakfast.

Naturally, the first book I reached for was Vegan Brunch. I’ve been on a bit of a waffle kick as of late, having made them 3 times in the past month. I flipped right to that very section and stopped on the very first waffle recipe: Old-Fashioned Chelsea Waffles. These looked like the exact kind of waffle I was looking for! But, would Husband go for them?

See, we have an interesting dichotomy in our house. Husband does not like condiments. He has this silly (and wrong!) idea that his food should taste like what it is and that if you have to add something to it, you didn’t flavour it correctly. I, on the other hand, could pretty much subsist entirely on condiments. We have a fridge and multiple cupboards full of condiments and I use at least one condiment on everything I eat. Because of this, when I make things like pancakes, French toast, or waffles…you know, vessels for maple syrup, jam, melt-y Earth Balance…I usually have to make loaded versions containing chocolate chips, berries, or other flavourings.

I decided to try them anyway. Isa’s write-up about the waffles was so appealing to me that I took the plunge. I’m so very glad I did. They ended up being just lovely and were the perfect thing to brighten our dreary morning. The texture was right on…soft interior and a much crisper exterior with an almost nutty flavour and a golden colour. Served with fresh blueberries (and plenty of Earth Balance and maple syrup for me), they were stunning! We ended up with almost double the yield that the recipe called for which was fine with Husband…he had waffles for breakfast the following two mornings!

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I wasn’t alive in the 70’s; but, I’ve always been intrigued with the entertaining favourites of decades past. I collect vintage cookbooks and pour over them, soaking in the entertaining ideas and recipes. I tend to lean towards the ideas that engage the entire group as a whole….things that are extremely interactive and communal, like fondue parties! Or its second cousin, the very quickly overlooked raclette!

Another thing about the 70’s entertaining scene I love is how there was a strong emphasis on making things that looked and tasted very impressive, things that gave the impression of you slaving all day in the kitchen to satisfy your guests when really, it was something you whipped up in about a half hour. Enter quiche! Quiche is always something that people seem to become very impressed by. And, in reality, it couldn’t be simpler to make, especially if you use a store-bought crust.

I make quiche occasionally when Husband and I have little bits of things in the fridge that need to get used up or if I open the freezer and realize I have some pie dough still sitting in there from who-knows-how-long-ago. The first vegan quiche I made was years ago and I remember it being really delicious…however, it was one of those kitchen experiments where I came home after work starving and just threw things in a blender and hoped for the best…to this day, I can’t even remember what flavour that quiche was. That’s quite a shame when you get a craving for quiche and are trying to find an appealing recipe.

It was time to turn back to my copy of Vegan Brunch and try out Isa’s Classic Broccoli Quiche recipe. I even tried my hand at her Basic Pastry Crust recipe. The pastry was really difficult to work with for me and I think I’d just use my old stand-by crust recipe next time around. Although, it did bake up very nice and flaky. I didn’t change a thing about the filling at all…and after eating it, I wouldn’t! It was a great quiche; it had strong broccoli flavour, it was seasoned very nicely, it set up wonderfully, and I just loved the roasted cherry tomato garnish. I’d have to agree with Isa, too; it was great at any temperature we served it at. Try it out! You’ll long for the days of avocado-coloured appliances and polyester pant-suits!

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Oh, how I wish I had my computer already so I could have uploaded some photos of last night’s dinner. It was so colourful and crisp and summery! Alas, no computer of my own means no photos yet. *Sigh* Okay, mourning period over…on to the food!

And while I’m on the subject of food I ate yesterday, I have to get sidetracked by the pound or so of cake I shoved into my gullet thanks to Isa’s amazing East Coast Coffee Cake in Vegan Brunch. I followed the recipe exactly, adding 1 cup of chopped rhubarb as a substitute for berries. It was the most intensely delicious coffee cake I have ever eaten. Husband actually groaned when he tried his first piece! If you haven’t already bought/borrowed a copy of Vegan Brunch, do so immediately! It’s worth it for that cake recipe alone. The cake actually tastes a little like an old-fashioned cinnamon donut…how could you NOT eat a pound of it?!

Anyway, back to my very healthy dinner. It was crunchy and chewy, crisp and cool, refreshing and absolutely delicious. And because it’s essentially a sandwich, you can substitute ingredients at your will. It’s almost silly to include the recipe for such an easy meal; but, it was so tasty I had to share.

Baked Tofu Salad Wraps with Peanut Sauce

First, prepare the sauce. It will be used as the tofu marinade and also as a sandwich spread. Whisk together until smooth:

-1/2 cup natural peanut butter

-1/4 cup water

-1 T. + 1 tsp. rice vinegar

-2 tsp. tamari

-1 tsp. brown sugar

-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

-1/2 tsp. garlic powder

-a 1/2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated

Slice a pressed brick of tofu in half horizontally. Then slice each half into five approximately 1/2″ strips. Lay the tofu in the marinade and cover. Marinade for at least 1 hour (I recommend longer), turning over halfway through. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the tofu pieces to a baking sheet, reserving leftover marinade. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until they are slightly golden and firm. Cool completely.

Once the tofu is cooled, begin assembly. You will need:

-4 full leaves of cabbage (I used a small Chinese cabbage)

-1/2 of a red pepper, julienned

-1/4 of a small field cucumber, julienned

-1/2 of an avocado, sliced

-2 T. fresh mint, chopped

Spread a little of the leftover marinade in the centre of each cabbage leaf. Fill the leaves with the tofu and veggies and garnish with fresh mint. Wrap the edges of the leaf around the ingredients as much as you can. Serve immediately.

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When I first flipped through my copy of Vegan Brunch, I just couldn’t wrap my head around all the delicious recipes Isa had come up with. I didn’t see a single recipe that I thought “meh” about. In fact, I had to just put the book aside and forget about it for a little while so my brain had time to digest everything and make an intelligent decision about which dish to try first.

Enter necessity. I was digging around in the fridge around dinnertime…looking for vegetable inspiration…when my eyes came upon the ruby-red pearls at the back of one of the veggie crispers…fresh cranberries! Then I thought about it a little while longer and realized that those fresh cranberries have been in the fridge for a really. long. time. I gingerly removed the package and inspected the berries…they looked fine. I opened the package and gave them a very cautious sniff…they smelled…okay. I knew if I didn’t use them within the next day or two, I’d have to toss them and you know how I feel about food waste.

I knew I’d end up with some sort of breakfast bread. I mentioned the cranberries to Husband and he immediately requested cranberry-lemon loaf or muffins. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that classic combination…I love it under normal circumstances…but these cranberries needed a resurrection, you know?!?!

I tried thinking of an ingredient that had more oomph than lemon and it hit me…orange! Of all the citrus fruits, the humble orange with the horrible misfortune to be named after the colour of its fruit (very unimaginative, I must say!) is by far my favourite. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about the orange I love so (perhaps it’s simply because it’s my favourite colour); but, I reach for it more often than any other fruit. I always say that oranges are the reason I could never live by a 100 Mile Diet. With the decision made, I immediately began pulling out ingredients for my standard muffin recipe…then I remembered my brand new copy of Vegan Brunch sitting upstairs.

I flipped to the index and grinned when I discovered that Isa didn’t let me down…naturally! I went directly to her Cranberry Orange Nut Muffins recipe and skimmed it over…similar enough to my standard recipe that I had all the ingredients handy, I was finally able to crack the spine of Vegan Brunch! Due to a household allergy, I omitted the nut ingredients from the original recipe and to ensure I didn’t have leftovers, I increased the amount of cranberries (which I left whole).

They were perfect! I inhaled one immediately out of the oven…cursing the steam that singed the roof of my mouth and then had another once they’d cooled…you know, for comparison’s sake. The flavour was wonderful. The orange was bright and coloured the muffin such a tropical yellow; the cranberries were tart and exploded a little in your mouth and added such a lovely colour contrast.

Isa mentions in the book that the orange juice caramelizes the tops and, although that was my mother-in-law’s favourite part, I loved that they weren’t a sweet muffin. I prefer my muffins on the tart side…it tricks my brain into thinking that it’s a healthy breakfast when it tastes more of fruit than of sugar. I’m sorry I couldn’t try them with the nuts; once Husband and I are back into our own place, I’ll try them that way. Until then, I certainly won’t complain about eating them nut-free!

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