Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Book Review - Crazy Sexy Kitchen

Sitting here finishing off a huge bowl of Kale Chips (pg 255) for my lunch and I have such a happy tummy!

This book was a Christmas present, and while I wasn't super keen on Crazy Sexy Diet when I got it from the library I went into it with an open mind, and have found the recipes very pleasing. The book is written by Kris Carr, along with Chef Chad Sarno, who from what I understand is responsible for the majority of the recipes. Some of the recipes are contributed from guest chefs, most of whom are "names" in the vegan world. I tried to choose recipes from a variety of sources.

The book itself is hard cover, and loaded with full colour headings, backgrounds, and photos, so if you like bright, beautiful books then this will catch your eye for sure. The book is divided into 5 sections, Introduction: info about Kris, Chad and the guest chefs mainly, then a section on the philosophy behind the "crazy sexy" thing, and even if you don't buy into that terminology the information is quite interesting, and worth a read. The third and fourth sections are "how to" stuff, from buying your ingredients through kitchen skills. Very handy for the less experienced cook. The last section is the recipes. It really is more than just a recipe book - more like a guide to the whole philosophy. It really is a very pretty book, and while I don't usually bother too much about those things it is nice.

The recipes themselves are logically grouped, laid out mainly one to a page, many with photos, and all with indications as to how easy (or otherwise) they are, and what sort of dietary restrictions (gluten- or soy-free for example) they would suit. These codes are all different colours which makes them at a glance handy. The recipes are introduced appropriately, and are logical in their steps and layout. No complaints. The photos in the recipe section are actually of the recipes too - not of Kris, or random produce or anything else.

The recipes I made -
Page 91 - Chai Latte - Very nice, sort of milkshake-y, not too sweet, but filling.

Page 111 - Morning Glory Gluten-Free Pancakes
I left out the banana as I am not a huge fan of them in pancakes. The mix was very thick, so when it said pour, that really didn't happen, I had to spread the batter on the skillet. Tasty, and filling for all that and I would make again.

Page 119 - Coconut and Red Lentil Soup
Oh, man. I could eat this soup every day! It is really simple to make and really, really delicious to eat. Creamy, little bit spicy, warming and comforting all at the same time.

Page 133 - Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Burger
My burgers never really firmed up. I'm guessing my sweet potato was that little bit too too big. Tasty though, and simple to make.

Page 153 - Walnut Falafel
Probably my least favourite. They weren't bad by any stretch, just not my thing. I'd have liked more garlic, lemon, and tahini flavours. I did have with the Tahini Sauce (see below) which was lovely, and added some of the flavours I was looking or. Also I don't have a dehydrator so maybe they'd have been better "cooked" that way instead of the oven.

Page 155 - Cabbage Hemp Salad
Really good, though I used Savoy cabbage as that is my favourite.

Page 155 - Simply Green
I added avocado to the salad to oomph it up a bit and that went really well. The dressing was divine (see below), and H even said it was the best salad I've made for a while!

Page 175 - Caesar Pleaser Salad
I made the raw and GF version, and it was OK, not as great as the caesar from last week. Nice background salad. Photo with the burgers above.

Page 207 - Garlicky Mushrooms
I used shiitake, and they were lovely, chewy yet tender and very very garlicky, as promised. Photo below with the sprouts and potatoes.

Page 208 - Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Shallots
So very good. I adore roasted Brussels and this did not disappoint. Very easy and very good.

Page 222 - Supah Good Mashed Potatoes
OK, they're mashed potatoes. Herby and garlicky mashed potatoes, but mash all the same. Comfort food. Photo above.

Page 227 - Lemon Oil
Awesome salad dressing as mention in the Simple Green above. Very easy to make, very flavourful without being too sour or bitter.

Page 227 - Garlic Tahini Dressing
Awesome dressing as mentioned above in the falafel. Great on regular salads, even as a dressing for a slaw which is how I used my leftovers.

Page 229 - Nana's Marinara
I used this as a sauce for tamales one night, and pasta the next. Great both times. Little bit spicy but not too much that it would be too hot for the kids. Easy to make used tinned tomatoes, even ones which weren't Italian!

Page 230 - Garlic Herb Buttah
Used in the Mashed Potatoes. Tasty enough, lot of time to get it done. Nice as a spread too.

Page 234 - Dijon Vinaigrette
Simple salad dressing. Nicely balanced and easy to make.

Page 255 - Kale Chips
I made mine in the oven (just winged it @ 250 C for a couple of hours) as I don't have a dehydrator (is there no company out there wanting one reviewed??) and enjoyed muchly. The easiest way to eat a whole big bunch of kale in one go.

Page 261 - Tartlets etc (but I just made the Tarlet part)
Quick, easy, tasty; a sort of healthish dessert treat, and lovely with the next recipe...

Page 261 - etc with Maple Vanila Glaze (again I just made the glaze)
Super creamy, Maple-y and flecked with vanilla bean seeds. Not too sweet but still quite decadent. I can see this being used on top of all sorts of things, not just the tarts!!

Recommended? Yes, I did enjoy the recipes I made, and will make more. I found much of the "how to" info a little irrelevant for me, but can see the benefit for others.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Recipe of the week - Slow Cooker Haggis

This is the weekend for Burns' Night Suppers. Maybe you are attending one and freaking out about what to eat. If that is the case then set up this to cook in your slow cooker and sit back to enjoy the Highland Dancers and Scottish poetry you can barely make out.

I make this at least twice a year, on St Andrew’s Day in November and on Robbie Burns’ Day in January. I often make it in August too, for my husband’s birthday request. Traditionally served with “bash’d Neeps and mash’ed Tatties” a puree of Rutabaga (or Brown Turnip) and mashed potatoes on the side. This is a rendition of Haggis which truly captures the taste of the traditional dish without all the body parts. My father-in-law (Scottish to the core) prefers this to the “real” thing. 

SC Haggis + Not Quite Neeps and Tatties

Serves 4 to 6 
  • If your slow cooker insert is stovetop safe use that instead of a skillet so no transfer is required. 
  • If you have leftovers this is good sliced and pan fried until the outsides are a little crispy.
  • Before you ask, yes, that is the right amount of pepper! And, in case you were wondering, not all haggis is stuffed into a casing. This is how you’ll often find it presented in Scotland.

Preparation Time – 25 Minutes

½ cup Rolled Oats
½ cup Steel Cut Oats
½ cup small Walnut Pieces
1 tablespoon Margarine

1 tablespoon Canola Oil
1 medium Onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup

2 cups finely chopped Button Mushrooms, 8 medium

1 ½ cup roughly chopped cooked Red Kidney Beans (14-ounce can) if tinned; drained and rinsed 
1 cup grated Carrot, 1 large
1 ¼ cups Vegetable Stock
¼ cup Whisky
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon White Pepper
1 teaspoon Marmite
1 teaspoon ground dried Sage
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 teaspoon dried Rosemary
½ teaspoon dried Oregano
¼ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Onion Powder
¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder

In a large skillet sauté the oats and walnuts in the margarine, over medium heat, until toasty and golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker and hold until required.
Heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and sauté until just releasing their liquid, about 5 minutes.
Transfer to the slow cooker with the oats.
Add the kidney beans, carrot, stock, and remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir well to combine.
Set heat to low and cook for 8 hours, if possible stirring occasionally, if not (if you are out for example) then give it a good stir whenever you can.
Uncover, turn heat to high, and cook for a further 30 minutes, stirring frequently to evenly brown, remove excess water, and get a little bit of crustiness.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Book Review - Whole Foods to Thrive

I was a little worried going in that this book would be one great big advertisement for Brendan Brazier's Vega line of smoothie powders etc, but be assured its not. Far from it. These products barely get a mention, and when they do its in the drinks section of the recipes (of course) and in a section after the appendices. The focus of this book is whole foods, whole plant foods, providing tip top nutrition. It really is about getting the most nutritional bang for your calorie, buck, and environmental footprint.

The book is divided into two parts really, the first half which is the theory, and gets a little scientific-y at times (claims are sourced and noted in the end notes), and some of the sections are also a little math heavy. I'd have preferred that the math be referenced in an appendix a little more for those who are truly interested to browse through. These parts did make me go a little glassy eyed and I must confess to skimming over them a little, which means I probably missed some important info.

The second half of the book is all recipes. Many contributed, and all based on the philosophy set forth in the first half of the book. The contributed recipes are from well known sources, mentioned in passing in the first part of the book, referenced at the head of each recipe and in the recipe list, and with in more detail in an appendix at the rear. The recipes are laid out in an easy to read manner, and are grouped into logical chapters. There are no photos, sorry for those who like them.

I did notice the odd typo on my way through, but as this is an older copy and it may be an old print run, so I do hope these errors have been fixed in later runs. For example, in some (I think I spotted 2) of the math-y bits the numbers indicated in the diagrams (which is what I mainly looked at truth be told) didn't seem to match up with the numbers indicated in the text. Then in the recipes, the page number references for sub-recipes are not always accurate, for example the Roasted Garlic Dressing for the Roasted Vegetable Salad is indicated in the recipe to be on page 205 but in reality it is on page 211, and also in the New Caesar Salad the Flatbread is on page 186, not page 180 as indicated. A couple of the recipes were not the best written either - missing cooking times, ingredient lists a little vague (how are the onions to be chopped for example), but nothing that I couldn't take an educated guess at.

The recipes I made from this book, in page number order -
Page 139 New Potato Pancakes
Simple to make, I think I made mine a little too thick as the insides were a little underdone. Tasty as a side dish. Photo below with the Spicy Lentil Salad.

Page 146 Roasted Vegetable Salad (Contributed)
Everything took on a lovely pinkish hue from the beets, and was super tasty. The arugula wilted a little which was nice. I had some leftovers cold, and that was nice too. Good balance with the dressing (which I will touch on in a bit).

Page 148 Spicy Lentil Salad (Contributed)
I love loved the sprouted lentils in this. Such a refreshing crunch, lovely texture and flavour. I have been inspired to sprout more things!

Page 151 New Caesar Salad
So delicious. H is not usually a fan of sea veggies, so I didn't tell him they were in the dressing and he went as gaga for this as I did. I did use chopped nori sheets instead of wakame as that is what I had. Worth the price of the book for this recipe.

Page 168 Black Bean Soup (Contributed)
Not impressed with this one. I felt it had too much water so once blended the soup was too dilute and bland. Once I strained off the bulk of the water off it was better - flavours were nice, but I felt lie it was a little bit of a waste.

Page 179 Garlic Thyme Sweet Potato Oven Fries
Another wonderful recipe. I did add cooked chickpeas to ours as I had some to use up and I do love roasted chickpeas. The flavours are intense but balanced, with interesting texture from the pumpkin seeds.

Page 186 Rustic Sweet Onion Flatbread
I made it using the oven method as I do not have a dehydrator. I preferred these the next day - I found the flax flavour a little overpowering straight out of the oven. After a day the flavours had melded and were more in tune. Super easy to make - great as "bread" for an avocado and arugula sandwich too. On photo for the New Caesar Salad, above.

Page 187 Roasted Garlic Quinoa
Simple, nice way to make quinoa, if a little bland. I would add more garlic, but I am a fiend.

Page 195 Zucky Hummus (Contributed)
Not super reminiscent of hummus, but a darn tasty dip / spread in its own right. I had mine with veggies but this would be good on the flatbread (above) or nacho chips etc. Have to remember to soak the seeds!

Page 211 Roasted Garlic Dressing (Contributed)
I found this by itself to be a little heavy tasting on the balsamic, and less punchy with garlic than I was expecting. However, when used on the salad as directed it comes into balance and is great. On Roast Vegetable Salad above.

Page 213 Sweet Mustard Dressing
Genius to use almond butter to emulsify and add creaminess without an overpowering flavour. Really thick and so good.

Page 239 Spicy Black Bean Chili (Contributed)
Not the most well written recipe - you have to read it through to know that the 1 tomato, crushed and 1 tomato, diced in the ingredients list are actually tins of tomatoes, and then guess at the tin size. Also you have to guess as to how long to cook the chili to meld the flavour nicely. That said, it was really tasty, nice and thick once partially blended, I enjoyed it very much.

Page 268 Sour Cream and Onion Kale Chips
Again I used the oven method. The flavouring mix smells so potent and lovely when you are rubbing it into the kale, but looses some of that potency as it cooks. A super tasty snack, and the easiest way I know to eat a whole bunch of kale in one sitting!

Would I recommend this book? absolutely - if you are interested in eating for health, and looking for tasty recipes to help you on your way, or even if you just want a great vegan Caesar Salad recipe!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Recipe of the Week - Squash, Apple and Parsnip Soup

Visiting the slow cooker for soup this week! Perfect for mid January!!

If you like parsnips (as I do) you’re sure to like this soup. Enhanced by the spices, and the squash and apple, the natural sweetness of these under-loved roots really shines in this thick, creamy, and very warming, soup. It really is a shame how overlooked parsnips often are. I really adore them roasted until slightly caramelized too!

Squash, Apple and Parsnip Soup

Squash, Apple, and Parsnip Soup
Serves 4

Make this in two parts if you won’t be home for the second step, complete step one (the high cooking) one day, and assemble for the second step (the low cooking) on another day. Alternatively roast the vegetables in a 400°F oven for 45 minutes instead of cooking on high, but they won’t be as moist if cooked in this manner.

Preparation Time – 25 Minutes, divided

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 medium Parsnips, peeled and chopped in ½-inch cubes, about 12-ounces or 2 cups
2 medium Dessert Apples, such as Gala, chopped in ½-inch cubes, about 12-ounces, or 2 cups, peeling optional
½ medium Winter Squash, such as Butternut, chopped in ½-inch cubes, about 1-pound or 2 cups
1 teaspoon rubbed Sage
Salt and Black Pepper

¼ cup White Wine, see Notes

1 stalk Celery, finely chopped
1 Shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Bay Leaf
1 teaspoon Cumin
½ teaspoon ground Ginger
½ teaspoon Salt
2 cups Vegetable Stock

Salt and Pepper to taste
Additional stock as required

¼ cup toasted Pumpkin Seeds, optional

Toss the oil, parsnips, apple, squash, sage, salt and pepper together in the slow cooker. Cover, set heat to high and cook for 2 hours until vegetables are soft, and the apple has released its juice.
Add the white wine, stir well to deglaze.
Add the celery through stock, stir well.
Cover, set heat to low and cook a further 5 hours until thick and vegetables are very tender, almost falling apart.
Blend to smooth using an immersion blender, using additional stock to achieve your desired texture.
Taste and season as required, and serve garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds if you wish.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Book Review - Veganissimo A to Z

I have an advance copy of this book which is available for pre-order right now, for a February 5th 2013 release date. I am glad I have a copy as after reading it through I really do feel it is a great resource to have on your shelves.

The book is an updated, English language, US focused, version of a German book - which lists pretty much every food (and not just food) additive / ingredient available, and shows the source of each - you can see at a glance whether the ingredient is from an animal, plant, mineral, or if it is synthetic or microbial. Where varying sources exist these are all noted - enabling the individual to make the call as to whether they will contact the manufacturer for more information, or decide to consume or otherwise.

The introductory sections are short and provide a brief how-to of the book, however there are extensive sections at the back of the book which look at issues such as product labelling (Part 2), touch on vegan alternatives (Part 3) and supply a resource section (Part 4). The book is very much a reference book, and does read a little like a text book you'd have from school, but really, that is what it is so the tone and style is appropriate.

The book is full of information which is handy to both new and "older" vegans so is suitable for all! One caveat though, reading through you do get an overwhelming sensation of how pervasive animal ingredients are in every single part of modern life, and this could be a little depressing for some people - and as the book is written as a reference book there is not a balance of "do what you can as you can" or "control what you can control and don't beat yourself up over what you can't" type statements, which I personally feel every vegan needs to bear in mind so as not to become completely discouraged. I do believe that the little steps everyone takes every day do make a difference, and that used in the manner it is written, this book will enable more people to make those little differences which add up to big differences.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Recipe of the week - Herbed Garlic Waffles

Taking a break from sweet treats this week.

This is a beautifully balanced savoury waffle. This one makes use of that lovely mellow aromatic garlic-y goodness that comes with roasting the bulbs first. Serve with sautéed mushrooms, lightly cooked vegetables,  with a dipping sauce, as a dinner side, or even alongside soup in place of toast or crackers. 

Poached Garlic Waffles

Herbed Garlic Waffles 
Makes 6

Each waffle iron varies in how it should be used, so check the little booklet that came with yours. Generally speaking you turn it on, and choose your heat setting, wait while it heats, mine beeps and a light comes on once it is to temperature. You then add the batter, close the lid and allow it to cook. The machine may indicate once the waffle is cooked with a beep or a light, or both. My waffle machine uses to ¾ cup of batter for each waffle.

Preparation Time – 10 Minutes, not including roasting the garlic
Cooking Time – Varies but no more than 30 Minutes

10 cloves Roasted Garlic (like in this guide)

1 cup + 2 tablespoons Soy Milk
1 ¼ cups Vegetable Stock
¼ cup Canola Oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh or freeze dried Chives, or Spring Onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

2 ¼ cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Onion Powder
½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper

In a large bowl mash the garlic to a paste with a fork.
Add the soymilk, stock, oil, chives, and thyme. Mix with a fork to distribute the garlic as you combine the ingredients.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, powders, and pepper into this bowl, and mix until just combined.
Stand the batter while your waffle machine heats, according to instructions for your machine.
Spray the inside plates of your waffle machine with non-stick spray prior to making each waffle and cook according to the directions for your machine and your preference.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Book Review - Forks over Knives, The Cookbook

The follow up to the best selling Forks over Knives book, which is the companion book to the awesome documentary Forks over Knives. Recommended viewing (and reading) for sure.

The book has a nice substantial introductory section (which I've you've read any of my prior reviews you'll know I enjoy), which very briefly recaps a lot of the issues brought up in the film and companion book, then looks at preparation and cooking techniques, stocking the pantry, tools and the like. Worth taking the time to read.

The recipes are well laid out - with mostly one to a page (excepting smaller ones, or those that go together), are mostly logically grouped into chapters (there are some noodle salads in the noodle section not the salad section where you might expect to see them, but things like that do fit into either category), and the recipe are interspersed with colour photo inserts. There is a dessert chapter (thanks to Isa Chandra Moskowitz), which you may not have been expecting in a no-fat, healthy whole food cookbook, bonus!

In reading the Amazon reviews for this cookbook I see there were issues with errors in some of the recipes. I must have a later print run as I came across no typos or errors in mine, so it looks like that is a problem solved - everyone can enjoy the book now with peace of mind that everything is good to go!

The recipes I made - in page number order as always -
Page 29 No Cheese Sauce
I made this twice, once as a "cheese sauce" for cauliflower, and once as part of another recipe which I will touch on in a bit. Very quick, easy, and quite tasty.

Page 40 Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Super yum. Thick and sweet but not too sweet, just like pumpkin pie filling!

Page 63 Quinoa Corn and Black Bean Salad
Tasty, simple, and easy to make. I did use tinned corn as it is not the season.

Page 72 Orange Fennel and Black Bean Salad
OK, but not my favourite of the salads I made. A little bland - which may have been me going too easy on the cayenne.

Page 79 Kale Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing
I do like kale salads usually, and I liked this one too. Next time I would leave out the broccoli florets and probably even the chickpeas (which for me is almost blasphemy) as I didn't feel they melded with the rest.

Page 90 Curried Cauliflower Bisque
Lovely texture, thick and creamy.

Page 128 Lentil Chili
Nice chili, flavoursome and hearty, though I would leave out the carrots next time as I am not a fan of carrots in chili. I'd also thicken it prior to serving.

Page 142 Macaroni Salad
Very nice, if basic, macaroni salad. I did cheat and use a commercial mayo as I couldn't be bothered making my own.

Page 213 Chana Saag
I didn't like the spices in this one, a little harsh and overwhelming on the palate. (to me anyway)

Page 217 Spicy Chickpeas and Fennel
Super comfort food-y. So quick and easy to throw together and really hits the spot on a cold night.

Page 231 Mushroom Olive Sauce
Used as a sauce for roasted vegetables, not with polenta as written. Enjoyed very much.

Page 279 Peanut Butter Granola Bars
In the photo the chocolate chips are my addition not the recipe! Nice, though not super peanut-y, and even without the addition of the chocolate chips, quite sweet.

I did find the portion sizes to be generous and filling.

Looking forward to making many many more recipes from this book! Go get yourself a copy of you haven't one already.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Recipe of the Week - Soy Nog Cupcakes

The first recipe of the week for 2013! Yay!

This sweet treat is a nice Christmas-y tasting cupper utilizing that wonderful seasonal soy (or other) milk variety you only get at the winter time of the year. There still should be some in your local store – but not for much longer! I like the texture the ground almonds gives these, however, if not having nuts is a consideration then use an equal amount of plain flour instead. I’ve used Rum Extract instead of the more traditional Brandy as the Rum is easier to find. If you have Brandy Extract then use that – yummy!

Xmas Soynog Cupcakes

Soy Nog Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

Preparation time – 10 minutes
Cooking time – 20 minutes

1 ¼ cups Soy Nog (or other Nog flavoured non-dairy drink)
¼ cup Canola Oil
¼ cup Agave
¼ cup Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon Rum Extract
½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract

2 cups All Purpose Flour
¼ cup ground Almonds, (aka Almond Meal or Almond Flour)
2 tablespoons Cornstarch
2 ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon ground Cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground Nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground Allspice

Buttercream, made with Rum Extract and substituting Soy Nog for the Milk or Creamer, or made as Vanilla, optional
Nutmeg to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 375°F and line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl whisk together the soy nog, oil, agave, syrup and extracts.
Sift in the dry ingredients, (flour through allspice) and mix to combine with no large lumps.
Spoon mix into the prepared tins to the top and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until tests done.
Cool in tins for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.
Once completely cool, spread, or pipe with Buttercream made as noted above, if using. Try to spread so it looks fluffed up (like the top of frothy soy nog) and sprinkle with a little nutmeg.