Monday, 29 October 2012

Review follow up - Return to Chomp

I blogged a review of Chomp Vegan Eatery a wee while ago, and since then we have been back a number of times - mainly at the request of the children, both of whom love the kids pizza (one likes the kids grilled cheese too), so I thought I would share those experiences with you as well. Nice to support a local-ish vegan business and all that. We go at weird off peak times (like 4pm for dinner before racing off to dance or something else) so the restaurant is usually quiet, but we were there once a little later and all the tables were full.

All my comments on my previous post re décor, cleanliness and service still apply, its just that I have tried more of the food options since then and would like to comment on those. I have made it a point to get something different each time we go so I could do this. I have found that while the serving sizes do not look large, they are a perfect fill up the belly size - maybe, like many people, I am conditioned to see a huge serving size as standard! So, what have I tried from Chomp's menu?

Creamy Caesar Salad -
Tangy dressing, crisp lettuce and crunchy GF bread cubes. I asked, and the dressing is Vegenaise based so I must try to re-create at home. I would happily have drunk the stuff!

Grilled Cheese Madness -
This combo sounds strange (pear on a grilled cheese??) but is so yummy. The flavours really do work together well. I really really liked this sandwich, and the side of tasty coleslaw which came along with it

Full-afel -
This is a lovely wrap, maybe a little heavy on the raw red onion if you are sensitive to that sort of thing (I'm not but my Mum is which is why I mention it), with a lovely creamy sauce, and tasty falafel patty. A little messy to eat, as is often the case with loaded wraps.

Mac'n'Cheesy -
Hearty and warming comfort food at its best. Easily a dish you can make at home, yes, but the convenience of having someone make it for you on a cold wet day is lovely!

Chomp's Loaded Nachos -
Simple and tasty. I do like nachos, and these bring it with the addition of the vegetables and olives (I know, but good) so I really enjoyed this! I would not share these.

My recent experiences of Chomp have been nothing but positive, from food quality to service to taste, and because of those good experiences I would recommend you taking the time to head out to Port Moody and give it a try.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Book Review - Cookin' Crunk

Biana Philips, who blogs at Vegan Crunk, has put together quite a collection of Southern recipes to share with everyone (dare I say y'all?) - and hits the spot on so many levels. There is something in this book to appeal to everyone - from breakfasts you want to wake up to, all the way through to decadent desserts, and I enjoyed cooking from it, and devouring the results!

The book is cute - laid out well with one recipe per page, with good recipe introductions, and easy to follow directions, but it is the photos of truly Southern scenes which are my favourites at the start of each chapter! There are also photo inserts to give you an idea of some of the recipes. I did find the use of Southern slang terms a little too cute-sy, but it does work within the framework of the theme of the book as a whole so it wasn't necessarily something I would change.

This is a book I would heartily recommend, and will revisit at some stage to make the recipes I marked but didn't make for the purposes of this review. What I did make -
Page 11 - Creamy Tahini Sauce
Something I make is similar so I knew I would like this. Not all that Southern as I would imagine it, maybe southern-fusion? I served over mixed greens.

Page 15 Tofu Chicken
Used later as you will see - a simple way to give a decided chicken-y lean to tofu.

Page 25 Bringin' home the Tempeh Bacon
A little too salty and not enough smoky for my preference, but perfectly good to use as a salty accent in salads and other recipes.

Page 26 Cheesey Tempeh Bacon Grits
I would make these grits without the bacon just to enjoy the grits, they were so very good, rich and heavenly.  I added the optional vegan cheese and was glad I did. But for sure I will make again!

Page 36 Garlicky Black-eyed Pea Hummus
I could not find tinned BEP so I used a tin of that other Southern bean staple, Lima beans, instead. This was a very good hummus, smooth and creamy, and ye, very garlicky but I like that!

Page 50 Southwestern Corn Salad
Good, though a little sweet for me. I would leave the sugar out next time as I find corn quite sweet as it is.

Page 52 Creamy Poppysedd Coleslaw
Nice. Basic type coleslaw, but very good.

Page 53 Broccoli Salad with Spicy Citrus Vinaigrette
Tasty. Spicy though not too much, the broccoli stands up well.

Page 54 Dill Weed Potato Salad
Nice salad - dill does go well in potato salad, and the jalapeno adds a little lift.

Page 55 Eggless Tofu-Olive Salad
Lovely rendition of the tofu egg salad. Really good.

Page 76 Chipotle Chickpea Chili
I have never made chili with tofu in it before. I don't know if I would again, but it was a nice change from the usual. The chipotle was the star, which was good.

Page 84 Creamy Cashew Mac and Cheese
Good Mac and Cheese. Reminds me of others I have had before but I did enjoy it a lot.

Page 91 Cornmeal-crusted Tofu Stix
Nice flavour, though a little dry once baked. I would like to try deep frying these as I think that would be nice, if a lot less healthy!

Page 121 Caramelised Brussels Sprouts with Pecans
Oh, my, I could have eaten these all by myself. I love Brussels and these were good - sweet and spicy.

Page 126 Cheesy Twice-baked Taters with Leeks and Dill
I baked the potatoes once and stuffed them one day then did the second bake the next day and they worked great. Nice flavours, and I used the optional vegan cheese.

Page 151 Tipsy Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie
I used a chocolate pecan pie crust (not in the book) for extra chocolate love for this pie. It was awesome! H said it was the best pie I have made for a long time, that is how good it was.

Page 167 Mississippi Mud Cookies
Something between a candy and a cookie these. Tasty and chocolatey but not the texture I was expecting.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The winner - Artisan Vegan Cheese

Using the Random Number Generator, the winner of Artisan Vegan Cheese is .... Comment number 3!

Blogger Beth said...
I'd love to make a delicious vegan mozzarella -- perfect for a margherita pizza!

Beth, please email me at the address in the sidebar with your details by Wednesday 24th to claim your book!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Book Review (and Giveaway!) - Artisan Vegan Cheese

Yes - a giveaway!! See the end of the post for details!

This book is not one you can pick up Thursday afternoon after work and make dinner for that night (unless you already have the cheese already made, of course) as most of the recipes are a little time consuming. Firstly, for many recipes you need to make Rejuvelac which is about 5 days, and then many of the cheeses, once processed, need time to firm up, or to cure further. The recipes using the cheese are sometimes a little lengthy too, but if you are aware going in you can allow for that. This book does work best when you menu plan!! That said, pretty much everything I made was worth the waiting times, and I would recommend you pick up a copy to try making your own cheese!

Most of the ingredients needed are relatively easy to find, though not relatively inexpensive. Lots of cashews are the base of many of the recipes, and where I am raw cashews are not cheap. I personally found the recipe results to be worth the expense. The only ingredient I would have liked to be able to use but couldn't find locally was Carageenan Powder - and I should have been more organised and ordered some from the internet, but I wasn't so... I had to make do with the substitution suggested in the introduction.

The recipes are logically laid out, with one to a page, and detailed recipe headers including hints as needed. The chapters follow in a sensible order, and there are picture inserts. I noticed no typos of anything that was unclear in any of the recipes or information introductory section.

The recipes I made, with a dearth of photos I'm afraid. I had a bad week with remembering to pull out the camera -
Page 6 - Rejuvelac
Of course, seeing as it is an ingredient in many of the other recipes! It took 6 days for mine to be ready. I did use a short grain brown rice as my grain of choice, and had no issues with it, though, having never made it before I just hoped all was OK! Seemed to work fine.

Page 13 Soft Gruyere
I made both the soft and hard variations to use in recipes in later chapters, and loved the taste of both. I wasn't overly keen on the texture of the "hard" cheese but that may have been as I had no carageenan.

Page 20 Cashew Cream Cheese
Made specifically for the Cheesecake recipe (follows) the leftovers where pretty good spread on crackers and topped with tomato slices too!

Page 28 Air Dried Gouda
I tasted some prior to attempting to air dry and loved the flavour. However, the air-drying didn't go too well for me - my cheese cracked badly and ended up smelly off so I didn't eat any, I was to scared to.

Page 50 American Oat Cheese
I had no Caragenan Powder so used Agar as suggested in the Introductory chapters. The cheese was easy to put together and tasted lovely - rich and hearty.

Page 62 Rich and Creamy Alfredo Sauce
One of the more immediate recipes - easy to make, luscious over both pasta and vegetables.

Page 78 Porcini, Leek and Gruyere Croquettes
A time consuiming recipe with many stages once the cheese is made but so very very worth it. These were delicious. Seriously. Crunchy crust, smooth creamy centre, flavours of leek and mushrooms.... One to make for sure.

Page 104 Cauliflower Gratin
My cheese topping didn't melt (no carageenan again) but was lovely taste wise, and perfectly matched the cauliflower for intensity.

Page 118 Chocolate Cheesecake
the ultimate highlight of the book for us, and for friends lucky enough to have a slice shared with them.So creamy, with a lovely tangy backnote to accent the chocolate. Really very good. I will make this again. Also the crust is very simple, and GF, so could be used for a number of other pies if so desired.

Now, the giveaway. Due to a mix up with being sent my copy for review, I ended up with two copies, so I am giving one copy away to a lucky reader. Please just comment on this post before end of day October 20th letting me know what type of  vegan cheese you'd like to make! I will choose the winner and post shortly after that!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Book Review - The Complete Idiot's Guide to Low-Fat Vegan Cooking

This books starts with a detailed look at fat. In context of good vs. bad, and how much your body needs of the good ones to be healthy. It also looks at some of the myths surrounding both protein and carbs, then moves on to tackle the low fat premise the book is based on, all with a vegan view point. The introductory chapters are very interesting, and informative, so read them!

The book, like the others in the "Complete Idiot's" series, is well laid out, with a recipe to a page, basic nutritional data, (which you would expect from a low fat book, right) and tips and facts for many of the recipes or ingredients. The recipes start at breakfast and take you through the day to finish with dessert and drinks. There is also a substantial appendix of terminology, and resources - which is helpful if you're new to many of the ingredients, veganism, or cooking! However, there are no pictures, which I know some people really like too have. There are loads of recipes, and many of them really appealed to me, so choosing the ones to make was not easy!

The recipes I made - page number order as always -
Page 95 Warm Garlic Greens Salad
Tasty - though not very large if going by the serving size in the header. I did use regular kale in place of the collards as we don't get them here often.

Page 99 Lemony Lentil Salad
A little too much dressing, so the salad was a little moist, but a lovely flavour profile - sharp yet balanced, with great texture.

Page 103 Raw Relaxed Kale and Carrot Salad
Again a little too much dressing which I drained off prior to serving, but really tasty - I could eat much more than I did if I had made more!

Page 108 Garlic Tahini Dressing
The beans really do make this super creamy. It is rich and flavourful, while being totally fat free! I liked this dressing an enjoyed it over raw and cooked vegetables.

Page 110 Maple Lime Dressing
A little sweet with a sharp sour kick, this was an nice basic salad dressing. I was surprised by the amount of sesame oil used, but it does give a lovely richness!

Page 149 Pad Thai Sauce
Used to make the Pad Thai (obviously). A little too heavy on the tamarind for my taste, I'd up the lime and the maple next time to balance.

Page 181 Raw Cheesy Hemp Spread
I found this a little too salty for my tastes, though it was very easy to make, and quite tasty (and packed with protein!). I will make again with less salt so I can enjoy it more.

Page 184 Zucchini Spread
Luscious. Rich, creamy, more-ish, and made with zucchini! I have made something similar before but that did not stop me from enjoying this spread!

Page 185 Salt and Vinegar Kale Chips
I had to cook the chips for twice the time stated to get them evenly crisped, but these were worth the wait. The mix massaged into the kale ends up so more-ish - like a tangy, salty chees-y coating that it would be easy to eat the lot in one sitting!

Page 194 Tofu Pad Thai
Not sure if I like broccoli in my pad thai - and as I said above the balance of the sauce was not exactly to my tastes. I still enjoyed this, and left the table full and happy, but to make again I would tweak.

Page 208 Spanish Cacao Chili
Oh, yum. This was super - with a depth of flavour and myriad nuances which delighted the taste-buds. I did cook a little longer to thicken it up so it was less soupy, but other than that, lovely.

Page 223 Hemp Lentil Burgers
These were wonderful burgers! They did need the twice cooking, and a little resting time after the first cooking, to get that crust on them, and firm up so as not to be too soft and falling apart. I will make these again as we all enjoyed them very much.

If you're looking for a low-fat vegan recipe book, then this may be the one for you! Even if you're not keen on the "Idiot's Guide" series, you will enjoy the taste sensations offered in these pages.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Book Review - Vegan for the Holidays

Just in time for Thanksgiving! (Canadian version anyway). Hopefully you'll get a few ideas from the recipes I made in this review. Thanks to the author, Zel Allen, for the copy to review.

Many of the recipes in this book are special event recipes so you couldn't necessarily pop home after work and throw them together, some yes, but not all, so bear that in mind, the focus really is on holiday meals. As such they make a lot, as it is assumed you are cooking a holiday meal for a bunch of people. I scaled the recipes in half, and had plenty of leftovers. Doing so had no negative result on the final dishes that I could discern, so feel free to do the same.

There are 5 main chapters, one for each of the holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year - with photos representing each chapter included in the photo sections. Each chapter presents a selection of dishes to fit each holiday - from starters and soups, through main courses, side dishes and desserts. There is a great variety to choose from, and I'm sure you could mix-and-match to your preference. I know I did! Even though the recipes are holiday themed and focussed there really is no reason you couldn't use any of the recipes for any gathering, or any meal. The recipes are laid out well, and the recipe chapters flow logically.

Onto the recipes I made -
Page 11 Butternut Squash, Beet and Apple Soup
Unfortunate that this is the first recipe up, as it is the recipe I enjoyed the least of all the recipes I made. I felt sure I would like this as I do like all the component parts, but the overall result was too sweet for me, and I would have liked to have seen more spice or chile to give a lift and other flavour dimension. Maybe you'll like this better than I did!

Page 12 Lemony Carrot Soup
This was a lovely soup, creamy from the nuts, sweet from the carrots, with an intense lift from the lemon. Enjoyed very much.

Page 16 Pistachio and Sweet Pea Torte with Roasted-Tomato Aioli
This is very green in appearance so be warned! It also is very filling and tasty, so worth making. The sauce is rich and creamy, the perfect foil to the savoury torte. I ate this both warm and cold, and enjoyed it both ways. It is also good sliced and pan fried until the outsides of the slices are crispy!! I shared with a number of friends and they all enjoyed it also.

Page 28 Mashed Potatoes with Onion-Chardonnay Gravy
To us, the gravy was very dominantly carrot-y, more of a carrot sauce than a gravy, but it was really very tasty and went well with the potatoes. I'm not sure if I would make again, but am glad I tried it.

Page 35 Williamsburg Pumpkin Pie
This was wonderful. The crust a little like an oatmeal cookie, and the filling, so creamy, with a perfect spice balance. Enjoyed by all immensely.

Page 49 Maple Dijon Salad Dressing
Great combination of sweet and tart, this dressing was especially enjoyed by H.

Page 50 Tahini Dijon Salad Dressing
I preferred the creamy smoothness of this dressing, without the sweet notes, but with a richer texture!

Page 65 Garlicky Roasted Cauliflower
I did roast the cauliflower for longer than indicated as I do like my roasted cauli to be well caramelised. I really enjoyed the olives and pepper in this dish, the flavour accents were wonderful.

Page 72 Chocolate Truffle Mousse
My mousse never really set up all that firm, but it was very tasty. Daughter 2 ate quite a few helpings of this!

Page 99 Jamaican Jerk Tofu
This one needs a lot of advance planning - pressing the tofu for 24 hours (something I had never done before) then another 24 for marinating. I'm pleased I took the time and made this one as it was delicious! Not as spicy as I thought it may have been, so I would likely up the chile if making again, but good all the same.
Page 100 Jamaican Rice and Peas
I did use the optional spices, and they really made this sing. Tasty and filling, a good side dish for the tofu as in the photo.

Page 101African Pumpkin Stew
Loaded with vegetables this was a nice, warming dinner on a cool Autumn evening. The peanuts add nice texture.

Page 128 Old-Fashioned Chili
Enjoyed by everyone, this is a not to spicy chili that is "meaty", hearty and filling. Perfect for serving in a bowl, on nachos (as in the photo), with taco shells, over baked potato... Very good.

Many of the recipes in this book have the added bonus of being oil-free, starting with a water-sauté instead of using oil. I imagine, if you so chose, you could use a little oil to cut down on the browning time, but if you are reducing the fat in your diet this is a good option to try.