Thursday, 27 June 2013

Restaurant Review - Buddha-Full

I had to head over to North Van the other day for an appointment, and popped in to Buddha-full Cafe for a bite of lunch.

Buddha-full is a quaint, and quite charming vegan cafe located just off Lonsdale on West 1st Street (really easy to get to from the Sea Bus) which offers an all vegan menu, many items of which are gluten-free and raw, and loads of juices and smoothies too. Menu here.

I sat outside in their small seating area enjoying the sunshine and my Raw Nut Burger, which came served on a lettuce "bun" with a side salad. It was tasty, hearty, and filling, and the side salad dressed with a really nice light and vibrant vinaigrette. I also ordered a Common Ground Smoothie (strawberry, banana and orange) and found this to be a little orange heavy for my tastes - would have liked more strawberry I think.

I'll go back to Buddha-full next time I have to go to North Van and will try something else from their menu as I really did enjoy my burger - I'd also like to try something from their extensive range of juices.

Anyone else been to Buddha-full and have comments or recommendations???

Monday, 24 June 2013

Book Review - Soak your Nuts.

This is really two books in one. One way up you have a collection of raw recipes, and the other way more traditional cooked vegan fare. The books each draw from Karen Calabrese's many restaurants for their recipes, and the restaurant the recipe is from is noted on each, which I like.

The raw recipes start with an introduction to eating raw, and a list of the recommended equipment, and some ingredients which you may not be familiar with. It is a short introduction, but helpful. The cooked section has similar introductions, but without information on equipment. Karyn really brings a huge amount of experience to the recipes.

The book has a number of full colour photo inserts, showcasing both the food and the restaurants. I would liked less pictures of the restaurants and the author and more of the food. The recipes themselves are clearly laid out, easy to read, short but relevant introductions and grouped into logical chapters (for both halves).

The only thing I didn't enjoy about this "two books in one" idea is that the index for each book is separate and in the middle of the book, and they are upside down to each other. A much better idea (or I think) would have been to have had a combined index where you could search for an ingredient and been directed to either book, instead of having to flip and then flip again. Actually now that I think of it, it would have been nicer to have the two books both in the same direction and really presented as one book with one index, but differentiated from each other with a shading or colouring on the pages. So the raw section could be first and have shading on the top half of the sides of the pages, and the cooked half shading on the bottom half following on. Anyhow, that's not how it is and the layout of the book didn't really stop me from enjoying the food I made from it!

I made the following from the cooked half -
Page 26 - Creamy Sweet Potato-Cashew Soup
Super simple recipe, with a lovely texture and taste.

Page 53 - Falafel with Tahini Sauce
I had problems with these falling apart in the frying stage so I gave up and baked them. They held together much better and I really enjoyed the flavour and the sauce! Writing it off to user error!

Page 56 - Caesar Salad
Interesting dressing, quite unusual, but very tasty.

Page 65 - Mac and Cheese
Quantities for the sauce were a little off for me - I ended up with mac swimming in a too liquid sauce. Taste was great but maybe the recipe has been downsized from a restaurant recipe and not carefully checked that the quantities work for the home kitchen. ??

Page 70 - Gluten Free Berry Cobbler
Good with ice-cream! I wish the flour to use had been specified. Just stating "gluten-free flour" is not really specific enough.

From the Raw side -
Page 27 - Sweet Salad Dressing
Nice over a simple green salad. Not too sweet.

Page 44 - Fresh Corner Gazpacho
Nice and light. Refreshing and really summery.

Page 50 - Almond Pate
Made for the California Roll, this was a nice nut pate. Simple and a little spicy, but good.

Page 54 - California Roll
I do like raw sushi and this one nice. I always add loads more avocado as I love it.

Page 65 - Sesame Lime Hummus
This one was a favourite with carrot sticks to dip. Will make again for sure!!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Product Review - Kaeng Raeng Detox Smoothies

Kaeng Raeng is an all natural detox programme, with products available to suit novice to experience "detoxers". I was sent some samples of their beginner product line to try. The product itself is a range of naturally flavoured powders which can be added to fruit smoothies, or to water and shaken, which is used as a meal replacement as part of a detox programme for 3 to 6 days. It is recommended that new users combine the powders with fruit as smoothies, which is what I did as well as trying them with just water to get a full taste of the actual flavour.

 I was sent samples of all three flavours to try, and I'll share my tasting notes in a wee minute. I did try all the samples I was sent, but I did not use them as part of a detox programme, which maybe defeats the purpose of the product a little, but I wasn't sure if I'd like them so didn't want to commit to eating nothing else for 3 days until I'd tried them all.

The flavours I tried -
Juu Juu "into the blue" - blueberry banana

Glai Roong "daybreak" - mango peach pineapple
This was probably my least favourite flavour, which was a little disappointing as it was the one I was looking forward to the most. The flavour was very subtle, and I think I was hoping for an intense mango burst, and to me was a little artificial tasting.

Reunn "joyful" - strawberry raspberry pineapple
Probably the one I liked the most, though when I made the smoothie with fruit I did add fresh raspberries which were quite sour and had to add a little agave to round out that sourness, again not really following the detox rules!

While the smoothies, especially those with fruit, where very thick and filling, and not overly sweet, I didn't enjoy them very much. I found they all had an almost gritty powdery residue which coated the mouth, and an after taste which wasn't all that pleasant to me. Not really artificial in flavour, just an after taste. I think I prefer my smoothies to just be made with fruit.

Have you tried Kaeng Raeng? what were your thoughts??

Monday, 17 June 2013

Book Review - The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

This one isn't vegan, though there are loads of vegan-, and vegetarian-friendly recipes (marked as such) and often all that is needed in the vegetarian-friendly recipes to make them vegan is a non-dairy milk switch.

The book is substantial, has many pictures (though of course some are not vegan-friendly), and a nice introductory section. This looks at both gluten and whole grains in general; touching on soaking and sprouting as well, and includes a nice section relating to each of the grains used in the book in detail; going into forms, history, how to cook and store, as well as nutritional profiles. Interesting reading, and helpful information.

I do like that this book does give recipes for a huge range of gluten-free grains, going beyond just quinoa and rice, and that it offers recipes for all meals and snacks. Pity that they aren't all vegan, but I just skipped over the chapters which were completely meat centric.

The recipes themselves are laid out one to a page (mostly), with nice introductions, a side bar of tips and hints, and both cup and weight measurements. Each recipe also has a nutritional analysis bar, and notes what the recipe is a source of, for example; an excellent source of iron, a good source of B vitamins and contains high amounts of fiber. Helpful if that is important to you.

The recipes I made were a little hit and miss, though with more hits, and the misses were more along the lines of personal taste preferences than anything wrong with the recipe. The recipes I made -
Page 74 Fennel-Scented Tomato and Wild Rice Soup
This was OK, but I felt the earthiness of the wild rice didn't really shine with the tomato, and the lovely anise flavours of the fennel got lost a little too. I think the wild rice and fennel combination is a good one, but not to sure about the tomato.

Page 88 Cold Soba Noodles
Loved this one! Super simple to make and very tasty. I could see the addition of finely chopped vegetables not going amiss either.

Page 95 Cranberry Pecan Millet Salad
Simple and tasty. I did need to add a little salt, and also tossed in a few red pepper flakes as the flavours were a little neutral. Nice base to add things too, and the citrus under-notes were nice.

Page 158 (Soba Noodles with) Broccoli Sauce
Though I served the broccoli sauce part over rice not soba noodles. It was very tasty, and I'm sure would be lovely with soba noodles too, but it wasn't very saucy. The sauce on the broccoli was very thick, stuck mainly on the broccoli, I would have liked double the amount to get a really saucy feel.

Page 168 Khitchuri with Tomatoes and Green Peppers
Comfort food this one. Warm and hearty, with just the right amount of spice, this one wraps you in a hug of warm goodness. Very easy, and tasty.

Page 184 Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
I liked this one but H was not so keen. The crust is quite thin, and while most crisp is a little bit chewy and he prefers soft pillow-y pizza crusts. I'm stoked to have a GF pizza crust recipe which is so simple to make!!

Recommended? For the gluten-free, yes, indeed, especially if there are some meat eaters and some vegans in the mix as there are recipes for both. This book would make a great gift for someone who is GF but not vegan, to introduce them to vegan options (and so they can cook for you!!).

Monday, 10 June 2013

Book Review - Power Vegan

This is more than a recipe book, it is a well written guide to a healthy active lifestyle. More active than I am most of the time truth be told!

The book is pretty big on self assessment - thinking about the food you eat, why you eat it, how it makes you feel, what the barriers are to your eating better, to exercising, to being the best you you can be, and the answers are more like a guide to finding the answers for you yourself. I think the author really gets that everyone is unique and that there is no one size fits all diet / eating style / exercise regime etc. I like this about this book.

I like too how it isn't preachy, and doesn't make the reader feel bad if they perhaps are not eating a vegan diet (yet) or perhaps have a vegan diet which is less than perfectly healthy. There is lots of nutritional information presented, and while many long term vegans know a lot of this stuff, it is presented in an easily accessible way for those who may be new to the information, or need a refresher.

I did like this book, and will read it again I am sure - as I found the points touched on and explored to be relevant to my life, and I think, relevant to everyone's lives. Everyone who is trying to eat more healthily, or exercise more, or whatever.

Towards the rear of the book there are some healthful recipes, the ones I tried noted below, and there are also a series of exercises, none of which I tried as they all seem a little beyond me. I'm more of a walk everywhere sort of exerciser. However, if you are athletically inclined, or wish to be, then these exercises, which are all illustrated with photographs showing the correct technique, will be a handy guide for you.

The recipes I tried -
Page 195 Basil Hummus
Nice hummus variation. Not low fat if you're a low fat eater, but very tasty. I served with crudite and the whole bowl disappeared very quickly.

Page 196 Black Bean Quesadillas
This was OK. I think I put too much bean and tomato mix in my quesadillas as they didn't hold together well.  I also used a brown rice tortilla which fell apart a little too. Taste was good.

Page 197 Chickpea Red Pepper Salad
Very simple - so much so that you'd wonder how this could taste good, but it does. Really good.

Page 207 Mac and Cheese
A little disappointing. Not super creamy or rich like some vegan mac and cheeses I've had.

Page 209 Power Chili
Liked this one a lot. So did my younger daughter (I omitted some of the spice) scooping it up with nacho chips. Made a great dinner.

Page 215 Sweet Potato Fries
One of my favourites from this book. Really very good - loaded with flavour and interesting texture.

Page 220 Almond and Sunflower Seed Granola
A simple granola. Easy to make. I added some dried cranberries to mine, to increase the interest.

Page 229 Chocolate Greens Smoothie
Like a big old chocolate milkshake. Really good.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Book Review - Nut Butter Universe

I loved Robin Robertson's earlier work Peanut Butter Planet, so felt sure I'd love this one too. I was right!

This book has a photo insert showing a range of the recipes in the book, so not as shiny and photo laden as Peanut Butter Planet, but still nice. The recipe chapters are logically laid out , the recipes orderly, easy to read and follow with both soy- and gluten-free options indicated, (nice for me) hints are given in the introductions as well. The introductory chapter looks at all different types of nut butter, including buying, storing and the like, also giving some basic recipes in case you don't want to run to the store and have a stocked pantry.

I tried to steer away from making some the recipes which appear to be repeated here from Peanut Butter Planet which I made when I reviewed that book (such as the Peruvian Peanut Potato Soup page 14, the Southern Peanut Soup page 21, and the Too-Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge page 132) follow the link above for my comments on those recipes. I made -
Page 31
Sriracha-Spiked Hummus
If you love Sriracha you'll love this one. Not overly spicy (you can always add more) but with an intense flavour profile this one is not for wimpy hummus lovers. Enjoyed greatly.

Page 32
Asian Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
Little more work, rolling the spring rolls, but worth it. Tasty, refreshing, and spicy all at the same time.

Page 42
Cold Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Which now that I look back I made last time too. oops. Still good.

Page 80
Buckwheat Noodles with Ginger-Peanut Spinach
Love the combination here. The soba noodles hold up well to the gingery-fresh sauce and the spinach completes the dish.

Page 121
Lemon-kissed Chocolate Cashew Mousse
Like a regular chocolate mousse but with added interest and intensity from the lemon zest and juice. Not 100% sure I'd make again as H was not a huge fan, but enjoyable all the same.

All said, this is a very nice offering from Robin Robertson, showcasing more than just peanut butter this time. If you're a nut for nuts then I would heartily recommend this one!