Thursday, 31 May 2012

This week I'm cooking from...

Image from Amazon, obviously, and there is lots to choose from in this one, so watch for the review next week!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Book Review - Eat Raw, Eat Well

Firstly, this is a big book! I mean, 400 recipes - all of them raw, gluten-free and vegan! I felt to do a review of it justice I would have to make a decent number of recipes, as there were just so many to choose from! I did find that as I don't have a dehydrator that a number of recipes were excluded from the ones available to me, which did make the choosing a little easier. The other problem (issue?) was that all the recipes sounded so very delicious and easy to make that it was hard to pick the ones to go with! Nice problem to have.

The book has 2 colour photo inserts, I feel they could have done with less photos of produce and more of the actual dishes, but nice to have all the same for those who really like photos. The recipes are all laid out in a logical manner, introduced with relevant info, and serving suggestions are given on many of them. There are lots of tips and variations, the tips especially handy, but no nutritional info. I did like the introductory section about raw food, and equipping a kitchen for raw food, as I don't know much about this style of food.

I did feel that this book is a little geared to those who have committed to eating raw, and have the dehydrator, juicer, high powered blender, spiral slicer, etc. However, for those of us who are maybe putting toes in the water there was still a lot of choice, and a lot of temptation too actually go and get those things! Recommended for sure, as everything was super delicious, easy to make, and who wouldn't like to have more hot weather options for meals! If I can make the recipes I did with my regular blender, and very old food processor, then anyone can get good usage out of this book!

The recipes I made -
Page 57 Pear and Almond Smoothie
Not too sweet, lovely and creamy.

Page 82 Avocado Spinach Dip
Green and creamy, this was lovely with barbecued vegetables, not raw, I know, but still yummy!

Page 97 Lemon-Ginger-Dill Sunflower Seed Pate
Made into raw sushi as mentioned in the introduction! Very nice, though mine was not perfectly smooth (aforementioned old FP).

Page 105 Cashew Feta Cheese
Use on the Greek Kale Salad. Nice, but a little salty. (Which was probably the point!)

Page 117 Cream of Spinach Soup
Lovely! Bit strange to be eating spinach soup cold, but this was so tasty. Perfect summer lunch stuff.

Page 134 Thai Coconut Soup
Another great soup - full of flavour and nuances of the herbs and aromatics. Far too easy to eat loads of.

Page 142 Simple Marinated Kale Salad
Not so much a massaged kale salad, just left to marinate and soften. Nice and easy to make.

Page 143 Greek Kale Salad
Overall a little salty with all the salty components, but very tasty. Can see my making this one on a regular basis, with less salt.

Page 144 Kale Waldorf Salad
(Recipe and official photo follows this blog post - thank you to the Publishers!) This one was pretty awesome, with the different textures and flavour notes. Really enjoyed.

Page 155 Avocado and Cucumber Salad
Served over Simple Marinated Kale Salad in the photo. Creamy, cooling and refreshing, this one was a delight, and it is far to easy to eat far too much of it!

Page 174 Spicy Miso Dressing
Spicy, salty but very more-ish this one certainly elevates a salad with hints of Asian flavours.

Page 177 Lemon Avocado Dressing
Used on the Greek Kale Salad, but I would make for use on regular everyday greens too.

Page 233 Curried Chickpea Stew
The flavours in this one were awesome, complex and vibrant, really giving interest to the dish. My only problem is that I didn't digest the chickpeas all that well and had some "side-effects".
Page 273 Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
It did look like mashed potatoes, and while it tasted nice I was missing the warmth and comfort of regular mashed potatoes. With Marinated Kale Salad.

Page 280 Cauliflower and Hemp Tabouli
Refreshing, vibrant flavours from the herbs, and you don't miss there not being a grain.

Page 348 Coconut Macaroons
Oh, my. Yum. Very decadent tasting, but so very simple to make with very few ingredients!

And here's the recipe.....

Excerpted from Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish © 2012 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Kale Waldorf Salad (page 144)
This version of the classic American salad replaces iceberg lettuce with heart-healthy kale and the mayonnaise with a delicious oil-free blended dressing. The key is to cut the kale very finely to allow it to soften properly.
Makes 1 to 2 main-course or 3 side salads
14 cup      raw cashews, soaked (see Tips)          60 mL
2 cups         thinly sliced trimmed kale                  500 mL
                      (see Tips, left)
2 tbsp         cold-pressed (extra virgin) olive oil  30 mL
14 cup      freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided 60 mL
1 tbsp         apple cider vinegar, divided                  15 mL
2 tsp            fine sea salt, divided                                 10 mL
1 cup           thinly sliced tart apple, divided        250 mL
12 cup      thinly sliced celery, divided               125 mL
12 cup      filtered water                                            125 mL
12 cup      walnuts, halves or pieces                     125 mL
14 cup      raisins                                                             60 mL
1.            In a bowl, toss together kale, olive oil, 2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice, 1 tsp (5 mL) cider vinegar and 1 tsp (5 mL) salt. Set aside to soften for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.
2.            In a blender, combine 12 cup (125 mL) apple, 14 cup (60 mL) celery, water, soaked cashews and remaining lemon juice, vinegar and salt. Blend at high speed until smooth and creamy. Pour over softened kale. Add walnuts, raisins and remaining apple and celery and toss. Set aside to marinate for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Over the years I’ve made many different versions of this salad. I like to make it using chopped dried fruit such as prunes, dried apricots or dried cranberries instead of the raisins.
In addition to walnuts I add 14 cup (60 mL) whole raw almonds to increase the protein and calcium content.
To soak the cashews for this recipe, place in a bowl and add 12 cup (125 mL) water. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. Drain, discarding soaking water, and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear.
Before chopping the kale, remove the long stem that runs up through the leaf almost to the top of the plant. Use only the leafy green parts.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Restaurant Review - Chomp Vegan Eatery

In a matter of about 10 days I had 2 people, both not vegan at all, tell me about this place, raving about the child friendliness, the decor, and the food, so I must say I was intrigued. As it was we were going to be in the area for a dance recital rehearsal so I felt it was a visit that was meant to be.

We visited at about 4pm on a weekday, so the restaurant was quiet. My elder daughter said it was less of a "restaurant" than a "cafe", but both girls (and myself) were impressed by the cleanliness, the bright and cheerful decor, the cute mismatched colourful chairs, cool art work (all for sale for charity), books, board games, and comfy seating area with little kid friendly toys. I didn't have reason to visit myself but I was imformed the bathrooms were clean as well.

Service was very friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. I asked about allergen free options (a friend of R's has multiple food allergies) and they were able to recommend dishes. The girls shared a Mini Cheese Pizza (Daiya) - menu is here - and had a Monster Cookie each. I think they could have shared the cookie too as it was about the size of the pizza! I had the Fiery Thai Tofu Bowl, and it was very tasty. The rice noodles were a touch glumpy, but this didn't detract from my enjoyment of the (not too hot) fiery peanut based sauce and tender tofu.

If you're in the area of Port Moody I heartily recommend a visit to Chomp Vegan Eatery, where everything is not only vegan, but gluten free (and delicious) as well. If you're in downtown Vancouver its not too hard to get to on transit (skytrain to Lougheed Town Centre then the 97 B Line bus to Port Moody), and is walkable (a longish walk but not too far) to Rocky Point Park so you could make a day of it.

I recieved nothing free for this review - though would be happy to do so!!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

This week I'm cooking from....

Or rather "un-cooking" from...
Looking forward to a bit of an adventure this week......

Anyone raw all the time?
Anyone any favourite recipes from this book to recommend??

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Product Review - Orchard Bars

From the folks at Liberty Orchards in Washington State who bought the world the delight which is Aplets and Coplets, comes a new line of treats, Orchard Bars, and I've been lucky enough to try them!

But first, let me digress with a wee memory. When I was in my late teens my family took a trip from New Zealand to BC to visit some of my Mum's family, and we took a side trip (one of many) into Washington and visited the orchards. We all (but my Mum in particular) adored the Aplets and Cotlets, and for many years afterwards Dad would arrange for some to be periodically shipped from the US to NZ so we could enjoy them. I think I was pre-programmed to enjoy their new line, which is why I leapt at the chance to try them!

There are 5 flavours in the range (though for some reason only 3 are on the website link), and all are vegan, gluten free, and free of artificial preservatives, flavours, colours. I tried them all.

My favourite was one of the new flavours, Banana Mango Macadamia, as it was not too over the top sweet, with a lovely deep banana mango flavour enhanced by the creamy macadamias.
I also really enjoyed the Blueberry Pomegranate Almond as the blueberry flavour was intense, but not too sweet, as well as the Strawberry Raspberry Walnut, and the other new offering Cherry Almond Crunch for similar reasons.
I found the Pinneapple Coconut Macadamia bar to be a little too sweet for me, but it was very flavourful and you could certainly tell that it was pineapple and coconut!

All in all, if you have a chance to try one of these bars I would heartily recommend you do so - start with the Banana Mango Macadamia!!!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Book Review - Spork-Fed

I had trouble with my camera this week, so only have a few photos of the dishes I made to share. I'm thinking I just need to empty out the memory card properly so there will be space.
This book is inspiring. The recipes all seem very do-able for the home cook, and even those with multiple components are easy, and many of the components can be made ahead so you're not keeping an eye on three or more different things at the same time. There are loads of pictures on shiny pages, so for those of you who like to see exactly what things will turn out like this is a good one for you.

I like the suggested menus section in the front, I like how they've done this with photos to illustrate the recipe inclusions. The language (definitions are given in a section in the front too) is a little cute-sy for my taste, but I'm guessing its the way the sisters talk IRL which has been attempted to be captured on the page, however, I don't  think it translates overly well to a written format. Each recipe is introduced with relevant hints, and descriptions to get you mouth watering, and on the whole lived up to the hype.  Recommended? Yes, for pretty much everyone, I enjoyed the food I made from the book (on the whole) and would like to try more recipes in the future.

The recipes I made - in page number order as always;
Page 4 Tofu Satay with a Decadent Peanut Sauce
This sauce had a real Japanese inspired vibe to it, a little different to any peanut sauce I've had before, but very tasty, more-ish to the point of licking out the pot (I didn't do that but was tempted!) Tofu was a little plain, but the perfect vehicle for the sauce!

Page 16 Nachos .....
My Mum loved this, she'd never had a Nutritional Yeast based sauce before so I was a little hesitant, but she really liked it! So did I, the balance of creamy, crunchy and tart was a nice one.

Page 26 Caribbean Salad....
Loved this. I'm a sucker for fried plantains, and the Mango and Avocado Salsa was divine with the salty crisp plantains, on top of the generously dressed salad.

Page 30 Velvety Carrot Soup
Velvety is 100% correct. So divine, creamy, luscious - I will run out of superlatives - with a little carrot sweetness, lifted by the lime and mint.

Page 48 Spicy Corn Fritters
These were a little delicate, and a little dry for my tastes. I'd also make the fritters smaller and make more of them for ease of eating. OK, but I'm not going to rave about them.

Page 64 Asparagus with a Herb Pine Nut Sauce
Another one where the sauce is the star, and you'll be licking the plate too get all the last drops. Would be good as a salad dressing, over rice or pasta or mashed potatoes too.

Page 72 Twice Baked Potatoes...
One of the more simple recipes, tasty and filling.

Page 110 Creamy Pistachio Pesto over Brown Rice
Lovely. Loads of flavour, with depth and interest in every bite. It looks simple and not too exciting but it looks wrong - make this for sure.
Page 124 Ginger, Maple and Mustard-Glazed Tempeh
Easy to make, lovely flavours, with a sticky coating. Perfect for a rushed night.

Page 134 Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse....
Rich and chocolate-y for sure, with a background note of the peanut butter. Very nice, and hard to stop eating.

Page 158 Chocolate Mint Truffles
Rich and refreshing at the same time. I would make the truffles smaller as I felt they were too big as written, but otherwise a real winner!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Book Review - 150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes

Little known fact - the initial idea I had for Vegan Bake Sale was a muffin book - not too unlike this one - with familiar muffins, savoury muffins, and also some around the world and taste bud challenging muffins. This is almost the book I never wrote! Could I have done it better? We will never know.......

I made 5 muffins recipes from this book - not a huge number I know but I am trying to limit the amount of baking I do these days. I found all the recipes easy to follow, with simple steps and they are well laid out. I had a small issue with one of them but it was an easy fix (and more on that later). The recipes I chose had easy to find ingredients (most already in my kitchen). The only negative thing I found with the recipes on offer (for me and where I live - it may not apply to you) is that a large number of them used vegan yogurt, and for me this is a special trip to buy. Not a big negative by any stretch, and if I wanted to make one of those recipes I could have easily make a thick buttermilk, or blended silken tofu, sub.
Recommended? if you're a muffin fan - for sure!

The recipes I made - in page number order, as always -
Page 27 Cranberry Orange Muffins
I subbed Hazelnuts as I didn;t have Walnuts or Pecans. These were lovely muffins. Burst of bright tartness from the cranberries went well with the orange and texturally different nuts.

Page 40  Gingerbread Muffins
Would be lovely around the holidays for breakfast these ones. Not super spiced, but nicely warming. Great with coffee.

Page 42 Dark Chocolate Muffins
mmmm. Chocolate with chocolate and chocolate...... need I say more??

Page 59 Banana Blueberry Muffins
A favourite combination of R's so I had to make them for her. Enjoyed? but of course. Nice fruity balance.

Page 99 Carrot Cake Muffins
Like carrot cake, but not as pretty! You could make some cream cheese frosting if you wanted to make them a little more cake like.

Page 157 Rum and Coconut Muffins
This one I did have to add a bit more liquid to get a muffin like batter, but all worked out in the end and these tasted so very good!
I also have the recipe from one of these muffins I tried to share too - and the "official" photo. Please enjoy with the compliments of the publisher -

Dark Chocolate Muffins (page 42)
Makes 12 muffins

A double dose of decadent chocolate renders these muffins irresistible. They're amazing plain, but try them with a spread of peanut butter or raspberry jam, too.

•    Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
•    12-cup muffin pan, greased
11⁄2 cups all-purpose flour  375 mL
1⁄2 cup   unsweetened cocoa powder     125 mL
     (not Dutch process)
11⁄2 tsp  baking powder 7 mL
1⁄4 tsp   baking soda   1 mL
1⁄4 tsp   salt 1 mL
3⁄4 cup   vegan granulated sugar or    175 mL
     evaporated cane juice
1 cup     plain non-dairy milk    280 mL
+ 2 tbsp  (soy, almond, rice, hemp)
1⁄4 cup   vegetable oil 60 mL
1 tbsp    cider vinegar 15 mL
1 tsp     vanilla extract    5 mL
3 oz vegan bittersweet chocolate,      90 g

1.   In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2.   In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, milk, oil, vinegar and vanilla until well blended.
3.   Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just blended. Gently fold in chocolate.
4.   Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups.
5.   Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 3 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool.

Tip: To chop chocolate bars in no time, lightly loosen the wrapper, then whack the bar in several places with a rolling pin. Unwrap the chocolate to check your progress. If you need smaller pieces, just rewrap the bar and continue hitting it with the rolling pin.

Excerpted from 150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2012 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

This week I'm cooking from...

Looking forward to being fed by the Spork Sisters!
I've been making some muffins over the past few weeks, so will have this review as well..

Monday, 14 May 2012

Book Review - Quinoa Cuisine

This book is not vegan, it does however have a huge range of recipes which are either vegan or easily veganisable (swapping out honey for agave, or using non dairy milk for instance) so does actually offer quite a lot of choices for a "handy in the kitchen" vegan. I found the wee icons for "vegan" don't always correspond exactly (some recipes which are vegan don't have the icon) so you do need to read the recipes through to check if the recipe is vegan already. I completely skipped the "Meat and Fish" chapter so can't comment on how easily veganisable these recipes would be. All in all, if you're a quinoa fan then there will be lots here to tempt you, and even if you aren't (yet) you may be happily surprised!

There are no pictures in the book, other than the cover, which isn't a biggie for me. The recipes have dietary icons (mentioned above) to make choosing an appropriate one easier. The recipes also have season icons to give you a guide as to when the produce used in them is in season, or when the authors feel they would be best served.

The book starts with a handy "Introduction to Quinoa" reference section, including standard cooking tips, the varieties you can find, nutritional information, and history of the ingredient. I actually lent this book to a (non-vegan) friend whose daughter has recently diagnosed numerous food allergies and she especially appreciated the information as she had never used quinoa before.

The recipes I made, as always in page number order -
Page 18 Quinoa Porridge
I have made quinoa this way before, and as always I'm not convinced its the best way to showcase the ingredient. It was OK but not my favourite in the book.
Page 39 Honey Cinnamon Granola
(made with agave not honey) Nice, though without the big clumps of granola I do like. Very easy to eat, lovely with almond milk.

Page 49 White Bean Dip
The roasted garlic laced dip part is rich, creamy, smooth, and delectable. It is topped with herbed quinoa, which is a little strange, and I am unconvinced it is needed. I would make the dip part again for sure, though without the quinoa topping. (The dip has quinoa flakes in it so the topping is not just there to make it a "quinoa recipe")
Page 51 Hummus
So silky smooth and creamy, this is one luscious hummus. The quinoa flakes lend a really lovely feel to the resultant dip. Worth trying for sure!
Page 66 Green Mango Salad
Refreshing, vibrantly coloured, tasty, this salad is a winner.
Page 69 Tabouleh Salad
I'd have liked a little more herb action, but that is an easy fix - next time I'll just add more. Nice flavour profile.
Page 74 Black Bean, Corn, and Quinoa Salad
I made 2 black bean salads (other one coming later) and this was my number 2 choice. It was a perfectly nice salad, I just liked the other one more.
Page 90 Mushroom Soup
Very smooth. Very Mushroom-y. The blended quinoa added texture and did not detract from the mushroom intensity. A good soup.
Page 148 Balsamic Baked Tofu with Asparaguus Caper Quinoa
A little disjointed, this one didn't do a lot for me I'm afraid.

Page 149 Dal with Kale Quinoa
Lovely. The dal was richly spiced, with a little heat, and counterbalanced by the fresh green of the kale quinoa combination. Filling and hearty but not heavy.

Page 187 Falafel
Bit of a fail for me. Tasted great but the patties fell apart easily. Maybe an hour in the fridge prior to shaping and cooking would have helped.

Page 188 Apple Cherry Trail Bars
I didn't like this one. Recipe worked perfectly fine, just not to my taste preference.

Page 199 Spicy Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
Lovely combination, nice black bean salad, with interest from the additions.

Friday, 11 May 2012

This week I'm cooking from -

Review to come on Monday!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Product Review - Pur Gum

Gum: but vegan, gluten free, GMO free, and very flavourful gum!
I was sent free samples of all the flavours in the range - Spearmint, Peppermint, Pomegranate Mint, and eXitemint (blast of mint really) - and have tried them all over the past weeks.

First thing I noticed about this gum is that you really have to chew it, and that chewiness lasts, doesn't become all loose as you chew. You start with a huge burst of flavour, and that flavour lasts well. not fading as I remember gum doing. I liked all the flavours, though if I had to pick a favourite it would be the Pomegranate Mint (the one I was most hesitant about trying to be honest) as you get a slight sweet under tone to the mint, adding interest to the flavour.
Recommended? For sure, if you like gum. It may not be as widely available as "regular" gum but to ensure vegan, GF, and GMO free it is worth hunting down. I can get this locally from Karmavore.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Product Review - Surface Hair Care

I was sent a free sample of the Trinity Protein Cream, part of the Trinity Strengthening line from the Surface Hair Care, an all vegan hair care company based in Saskatoon (yay for Canadian vegan companies!!) to try. The products in this line are made from 3 proteins - those from Amaranth, Soy, and Keravis (a mineral) - and claim to "repair damage, strengthen, and protect while imparting luxurious condition and shine". I had to send info about my hair (short, coloured, fine but lots of it, tends to dry) and lifestyle (busy, not a lot of time of inclination for fancy styling) to the company and they picked a product they felt would benefit me. They made a good choice. You mist the cream into your hair, distribute and style as much or as little as desired. I don't spend a lot of time on my hair, and like the idea of being able to spritz and go, doing a double duty of both conditioning and styling. My hair does feel smoother, behaves itself better (even without other styling products) and is shinier when I use this spray cream. Its easy to use and smells lovely.
Recommended? Absolutely - so much so that when I come to the end of the other products (shampoo, conditioner and styling) I am currently using I will search out Surface products to replace them with. Thanks Surface Hair Care!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

This week I'm cooking.....

Random things! Next week I will have a couple of product reviews, then will be back to cookbook reviews the week after.