A can of coconut milk is something my pantry is never without. I love that stuff. I use it a lot especially when I’m cooking vegan; it is an admirable substitute for whipping cream. I add it to pureed vegetable soups to give them that rich, creamy mouthfeel, I make ice cream, panna cotta and creme brûlée out of it. It’s also amazing in an Indian or a Thai curry.
The problem with coconut milk is that the quality of the milk varies from can to can. I maybe just need to do more research, but I’ve not yet found a brand that I really have bonded with, so I usually just end up buying whatever’s on sale at the Asian Supermarket. Some are waterier, some are creamier… but it’s kind of a crapshoot. There is also some concern about BPA from tin cans.
So, for just as cheap, or maybe even cheaper, you can make your own. It’s incredibly simple–you just need two ingredients, a blender, and some cheesecloth.
I am fortunate enough to live on Canada’s Pacific rim. Here, because of the ocean, and our proximity to China and Japan, we get to enjoy a huge variety of delicious, and often cheap, sushi. I love sushi, and I eat it at least once a week.
Edamame is another gift from Asia. This tasty young soybean bean is often served as a kind of bar snack: it’s salty and something you eat with your fingers. The vast majority (99%) of all the edamame we eat in North America comes from China. Until now.
Top right, Jacob MacKellar, “Prince Farming.” Bottom right, the edamame he picked for me from his farm in Ontario. Left, the final result…
Jacob MacKellar is a 26-year-old farmer from Ontario, and he’s the first Edamame farmer in Canada. Canada’s own “Prince Farming” has committed to Edamame that is 100% Canadian grown and harvested. In addition, his Edamame are non-GMO (or genetically modified. On their website, they say, “Non-GMO indicates that we do not use genetically altered soybean seeds, nor do we modified the structure of the bean at any point in our research, development and production process.”
These tasty li’l beans are also super good for you! Like all beans, they have lots of fibre, are low in fat, and rock the protein.
Many people like to serve them just as they are–blanched in boiling water for about 5 minutes, and then sprinkled liberally with salt. You just pop them out of the shells and enjoy.
I decide to do something a little more complex with mine, and turn them into a hummus. Hummus is one of the world’s most perfect foods. It’s vegan, gluten free, and is full of protein. You can serve it as a dip, or you can put it in a sandwich or a wrap. This is my version, made with Edamame instead of chickpeas. It creates this beautiful, bright-green coloured dip that you can enjoy in so many different ways.
I’m craving fresh, cool, crunchy vegetables, instead. Minced green herbs that pack a punch. And a dressing that has a fiery afterglow.
This is one of my go-to salads in the summer. I make a batch of it, and leave it in the fridge, and then pull some out for lunches. You could also serve this alongside BBQ-grilled (look, Ma, no oven!) chicken or skewers of prawns.
I made this with Japanese Soba Noodles, which are a buckwheat-based noodle (sadly, they also have regular wheat, so they are not gluten-free), but if you could also easily substitute ramen.
The dressing is inspired by a Satay Sauce. If you’ve ever had delicious grilled skewers of meat at the Richmond Night Market, or a Thai restaurant, you’ll get the direction I’m headed in. It’s a peanut-based sauce with the sharpness of vinegar, the saltiness of soy, the heat of chilies and fresh ginger, and the sweetness of a little brown sugar.
You can put whatever vegetables you like with this–I like sweet red bell peppers, scallions, shredded carrots and snow peas. They all add sweetness and crunch.
Asian-Inspired Soba Noodle Salad
For the salad:
1/2 package soba noodles, cooked in gently boiling water for about 5-6 minutes, then drained and held under cold, running water
1/2-1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3-4 scallions, green parts only, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 package of sugar snap peas, sliced into 1/2″ sections on the diagonal
2 large carrots, shredded
1/2 cup finely diced cilantro (optional)
For the dressing:
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced (or shredded on the smallest setting of your grater)
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp hot chili flakes (optional)
In a small saucepan, place all the ingredients, and heat gently until everything comes together. If the dressing is too thick, you can add water, vegetable oil, or more sesame oil to thin it. Toss dressing with the noodles and all the salad ingredients. Refrigerate until cold. Garnish with sesame seeds or chopped peanuts, and freshly-chopped scallions or cilantro.
Let’s face it: nothing quite says “summer” like a good burger done on the grill. If you are a carnivore, your first choice will likely be a big ol’ slab of beef, but if you are vegetarian or vegan, sometimes choices can be, shall we say… less than tasty?
Despite the fact I don’t eat a lot of meat, I’m not a huge fan of tofu. I’ve never been able to cook it so that it didn’t taste like anything but tofu, so I don’t buy it often. There are certainly commercial veggie burger brands on the market: Yves, Money’s and Morning Star (available at Trader Joe’s in the States, or at Pirate Joe’s on 4th), all make palatable varieties. I’ve been known to buy the Costco packs and pull them out of the freezer as needed.
But I was curious: if I want to make my own. what is the best veggie burger recipe? There are a bunch of options out there, like a tofu, or TVP-based burger, a grain-based burger made with rice, oats or quinoa, a bean-based burger, a nut-based burger, or a mushroom- and vegetable-based burger. Often, recipes will combine a few or all of these together.
The challenge with veggie burgers is often with texture and how well they bind together or hold up to grilling. And they can sometimes be dry.
I gathered four of the finest culinary palates in the city (okay, not really, but they were hungry and willing and honest, and most had been, or currently were, vegetarians), and four veggie burger recipes. I didn’t tell the subjects what the basis of each of the burgers was, or where I had gotten the recipe from. I just made them and served them. They were required to try each burger naked, and then they could add whatever condiments they liked. The tasting team was rounded out by my 11-year-old son/food critic. Each of the tasters scored each burger on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the greatest), rating it on Taste, Texture and then gave it an overall rating. I will add some additional comments on each about how complicated the burger was to make.
Let me say for the record (and I know I’m not alone here), but The Kitchn is one of my all-time favourite go-to food blogs. They seldom steer me wrong.
This burger is a beet-based burger, so we immediately called it “Pink Delight.” For obvious reasons. The beets pair with hearty brown rice and black beans, and are flavoured with onions, garlic, smoked paprika, mustard, cumin and coriander.
“A little soft, liked the cumin.”
“Nicely moist. The colour’s a bit much, though.”
“Works great with the pesto, cumin was great, too.”
“Since I hate beets, I can’t quite love this one. But otherwise good. Moist.” –this last comment from Jen, who sucked it up and took one for the team and tried the burger, despite having a serious beet aversion.
My note:SO MUCH WORK (yup, in capital letters). You have to roast the beets. Then you have to peel them. Then you have to grate them. Then you have to sauté the aromatics. Finally, you puree everything together in the food processor, but yeesh. A lot of work. And my kitchen ended up looking like a scene from a Tarantino movie.
The basis of this burger is chickpeas, so we dubbed it the “Falafel Burger.” It’s filled with Mediterranean spices, like cumin, coriander, and fresh cilantro. I also made a pesto/mayo/yogurt spread that went really nicely with this burger in particular. Reactions were unanimous: we all like Falafel. We just don’t want to eat it in a burger.
“Too much like falafel. Not enough ‘heft’.”
“It’s tasty. Reasonably moist. But it’s a falafel, and I wouldn’t want to eat it in a burger bun.”
“Tasty, but a tad mushy. Overall, not bad!”
My note: easy–just huck stuff in blender.
Total Score: 50 (every single person gave this one a 10)
Everyone took one look at this burger, and immediately agreed it needed to be called “The Hippie Burger.” Not shocking. Tofino is hippie central, and this burger is totally vegan. I was completely smitten with Sobo when I ate there a few months back, and have been avidly cooking from this book since I got it. This is the heartiest of all the burgers–there’s quinoa, portobellos, pumpkin and flax seeds as well as carrots, spiced with cumin, coriander and chilli.
“Lacks moisture. A bit too crunchy. Better with BBQ sauce. Good in a bun.”
“Best in a bun. Needs sweetness. Exactly what a carnivore thinks vegetarians eat.”
My notes: also a lot of work. Not quite as much as the beet burger, but still a lot to do and many, many steps. Wish I’d pureed it more. The recipe said to leave it chunky, but I don’t think that worked.
This burger is a nut-based burger, in this case, walnuts. You add some breadcrumbs and eggs to bind, blitz it in the food processor, and bam! Burgers.
“Tasty and satisfying. Goes with a bun and burger condiments.”
“Too pasty. Needs seasoning.”
My notes:While it was probably the easiest one of the four to make, it was my least favourite to eat. The insides were mushy and pasty and not a very pleasant texture. It didn’t taste good. However, two of my tasters, Jen-the-beet-hater and Michael, said it was their favourite, and the most “burger like” of the four.
Total Score: 46
The Best Veggie Burger?? By a hair, TheBest Ever Veggie Burger. I’ll be making these again, but this time, instead of cooking the beets, I’m going to juice them, and use the pulp to make the burgers. I’ll be back with my adaptation of the recipe if they are a success!
What’s your favourite veggie burger? Share in the comments below–despite the research, I don’t think my search is over!
Big love to Michelle, Jen, Jen-who-hates-beets, and Kristi for being fantastic taste-testers and good sports.
The world of vegan cheeses scares me. I’m not sure why. Maybe because cheese is the main reason I feel like I could never become a proper vegan? I love cheese, and as someone who doesn’t eat much meat, cheese becomes a pretty big source of protein for me. Cheese and peanut butter.
There are lots of great cheese alternatives out there, like Daiya, which is one of my faves.
But recently, I decided I was going to dive into (what felt like to me) the strange and scary world of vegan cheese making. Turns out, it’s not so scary after all.
This is one of the easiest vegan cheeses you can make. If I had to compare it to something, I’d say it is most like a cream cheese. It has about the same consistency and spreadability. It lacks the tanginess of a cream cheese, and I don’t know that I’d want to try it in a cheesecake (not a baked one, anyway). I should also mention, this is a raw preparation.
I’ve been enjoying this on crackers, but you could also add it to your wraps, enjoy it on a veggie burger, spread it on cucumbers or celery, use it to dip your tortilla chips in… the list goes on.
2 – 4 tbsp water (reserve from the water you soak the cashews in)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Place the cashews in a large mason jar. Cover with water, place the lid on, and put it in the fridge to soak 4-6 hours or overnight.
Drain the water off of the cashews, reserving some of the liquid. Place the cashews, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper in a blender, and begin blending. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, until you get it to your desired constancy. You may have to scrape down the sides of the blender a few times.
Spoon the finished cheese into ramekins that have been lined with saran wrap, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, peel back the top of the saran wrap, and flip the cheese over onto a plate. Peel off the saran and enjoy.
Ah, the lowly chickpea. A fantastic source of protein, and ridiculously cheap. I love them in a curry, roasted with warm spices, and, of course, as hummus.
Hummus is a bit like a blank canvas: you can paint whatever flavours you like on there. I like to sometimes add some roasted red peppers, or pesto, or even swap out some of the chickpeas for white beans or edemame. But my favourite kind of hummus has got to be the kind with lots and lots of garlic.
Roasted garlic is the best for this–roasting the garlic brings out the sweetness, and negates the harshness of the garlic. It’s also dead easy: quite simply, just slice the top off of a whole head of garlic, drizzle with some oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then wrap it up in foil and bake for about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. When it’s cooled a little, squeeze the soft garlic out of the papery shells like you would toothpaste, and add it into your chick pea mixture in the blender.
This is a slightly different take on roasted garlic. Confit is a french cooking technique which involves you poaching something slowly in oil, rather than water.
Confit garlic gives you a very similar flavour and texture. But in addition to the garlic, you get all this beautiful garlic-infused oil that adds a beautiful texture to your hummus.
The oil I used for this recipe is a new product on the market–it’s the first flax seed oil that is processed to give it a higher smoking point, so you can actually use it in cooking without it losing all its nutritional benefits.
Oh–and I also recently got a new blender, which made making this hummus a breeze.
In a small pot over medium low heat, cook the garlic cloves and flax seed oil for about an hour until the garlic is cooked through, soft and slightly caramelized. You could also do this in a slow cooker.
Place the flax seeds, cooked chickpeas, ground cumin, tahini, salt, lemon juice and the cooked garlic with flax seed oil into a food processor and blend until smooth. Stir in the chopped parsley (if using) and taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with vegetables, pita, crackers, or bread, or in a sandwich.
His fave breakfast these days is one of my homemade waffles, topped with a schmear of Nutella and maple syrup. He also gets pretty happy when I make him banana-Nutella crepes.
What’s not to love? Nutella is like peanut butter–smooth and creamy–with the bonus of chocolate.
As a consequence, I normally invest in large jars of the stuff, but I recently ran out. I had just had a conversation with Carolyn Berry about making her own Nutella, so I thought I’d give it a try. I did. It was a smashing success. The 10-year-old taste-tester said it tasted just as good as regular Nutella. Win! I’ll never buy Nutella again.
I thought I’d try making a vegan version, and it turned out pretty well. I do think Carolyn’s recipe wins by a hair, but if you are vegan, this pretty much rocks.
A quick note: ideally you should have a good blender to make this. My magic bullet was really not able to handle it.
One of my current fave snacks: a rice cake spread with vegan nutella and sprinkled with seeds (like RaEnergy)
2 cups raw hazelnuts
1 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp agave or maple syrup (I used a mix of both)
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
2 to 3 tsp coconut oil, melted
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, one layer thick, and toast in the oven until caramel-coloured, about 10-15 minutes. Don’t burn them!!
Spread a large tea towel on your counter, and dump the hazelnuts onto it. Rub and roll the hazelnuts until most of the shells are off. Scoop the shelled nuts up and into a blender. Blend until they are as pulverized as you can get them.
Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well. If you feel like the texture is too thick, add more soy milk or more coconut oil and blend some more until you get the right texture.
I’m really excited about Valentine’s Day this year. Not because of any particularly romantic pursuits, but because of Food! Treats! Chocolate!
I’ve had this week’s posts in the works for quite a while, and I’m pleased to present you with two recipes for your Valentine. One is delicious but relatively healthy and clean. The other is full of all kinds of decadent things: butter, wine, dark chocolate and sugar. You get to choose if you want to be kind to your lover’s heart, or if you want to treat them to an indulgence.
Today, we start with the more healthy of the two Valentine’s options. It’s a Vegan Red Velvet cupcake made with beets. The beets add both sweetness and that characteristic red colour to the cupcake, without needing to add anything artificial.
In preparation for this post, I tried a couple of different recipes. This one uses beet juice (which I made with my juicer). This one (and ultimately for me, the better of the two recipes by just a hair), is made with roasted beet puree. Now, the only thing I didn’t like about these recipes was that I would have liked the red colour to be deeper. If you also want a deeper-coloured cupcake, check out some of the natural food colourings on the market like India Tree Natural Decorating Colours.
I know you might be concerned that you will be able to taste beets in these cupcakes, but you really can’t. They are delicious, and you’d never know that you’re eating beets!
Red Velvet Vegan Cupcakes
2 medium beets
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar or Xyla Xylatol
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 heaping Tbsp all-purpose flour or your favourite gluten-free flour mix
1/2 cup good quality dark cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Top and tail your beets, and scrub them well. Wrap tightly in foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until they are very tender. Remove from the foil and place in a bowl in the fridge to cool.
Once cooled, peel the beets with a paring knife, and the grate on a box grater. Measure out 1/2 cup and set aside.
Whisk together the milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the grated beets to this mixture and puree in the blender until smooth and pink.
In a bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and and the beet/milk mixture.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, sifting if the cocoa is lumpy. Add the dry ingredients slowly to the wet, beating well incorporated.
Scoop the batter into paper-lined muffin tins, filling 3/4 of the way full. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
You can sprinkle them with cocoa or icing sugar to serve, or ice with a vegan buttercream.
For those of you that are still holding tight to your new years resolutions of eating less sugar, I have a couple of options for you this week. Today, I feature a recipe for homemade Oreos that are much lower in sugar, and later in the week, brownies made with a carrot puree.
Kids and cookies
My son and I have a pact. Our agreement is, that our house will never be without Oreos.
The irony is, he doesn’t actually eat Oreos a lot. It’s almost like a safety thing for him–in the absence of all other desserts, there’s always Oreos.
As you can well imagine, there is quite a lot of homemade baking at my house. It’s rare that there aren’t some kind of scratch-made cookies in my house, as I like to include them in his lunch.
One thing I like about making stuff from scratch is that it gives me more control over what goes in there than store-bought stuff. So, while they still might not be the healthiest thing ever, at least I have some control over what goes into his treats.
I was excited to try a homemade vegan version of Oreos, but it turns out Oreos are vegan. Who knew? So, instead, I bring you a healthier version of Oreos with a ton less sugar and much less saturated fat than their store-bought counterparts.
These got a very enthusiastic stamp of approval from the 10-yr-old.
Lowering your sugar intake
So, we all know too much sugar isn’t good for us. I’ve tried a bunch of different kinds of sugar substitutes in my baking: agave, maple syrup, honey, and stevia. I can’t get past stevia’s metallic aftertaste, and agave, once thought to be good for you, is now turning out to be… not so much. I don’t like artificial sweeteners, and refuse to use them because they scare me.
I was recently introduced to a new sweetener, however, which I used to make these cookies, that I liked quite a bit. Xyla Xylitol is a naturally-derived sweetener that’s made from birch trees. Despite the fact that it’s been around for 100 or so years, and is popular in other places, like Europe, it’s just coming into the market here in Canada. It’s sustainable, too!
The other thing I like about it, is that you can use it cup-for-cup as a sugar substitute, and you don’t have to do any tricky math. It has 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbs, but you’d never know from eating it.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, sifting the cacao powder if needed to filter out the lumps.
In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry.
Take a large piece of saran wrap, and lay it out on your counter. Dump the cookie dough onto the saran wrap, then arrange it so that it forms a log of equal proportions all the way down. Roll the saran wrap around the cookie log and roll it well to create a circle. I used my sushi mat for this, and it worked really well.
Place the saran-wrapped log in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Unwrap your cookie log and slice off 1/4inch slices all the way down. Arrange on a cookie sheet (they won’t grow too much, so you can place them pretty close together), and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let sit for another 10 minutes, before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the filling: in a small bowl, beat the vegan butter with an electric mixer. Add in the vanilla, and then, slowly, the icing sugar. Add a tiny bit of soy milk, a little at a time, until the icing is the right consistency.
To make the cookies: place the cookies bottom-side up, and ice each one, topping with another to make a sandwich.
I have been friends with Elizabeth Nyland ever since I met her and her husband, Adrian, in a bar in Victoria (it’s a good story). I immediately started following her blog and cooking some of her recipes. So, needless to say, I was utterly thrilled when she told me she’d gotten a cookbook deal (learn more about how that happened here).
Last week, her cookbook, Cooking With Coconut Oil, Gluten-free, Grain-free Recipes for Good Living arrived in my mailbox. The book has been on the market since November 26, and you all should have it on your Christmas lists!
It’s so beautiful! I’m a very novice food photographer (you can read Liz’ advice on food photography here), and I’m pretty proud of the progress I’ve made, but honestly, looking at her photos, I can see how far I have still to go. Every photo is mouth-wateringly delicious.
Liz and her family follow a Paleo diet, which means they use a lot of coconut oil. Every single recipe in this book as coconut oil in it, from appetizers to desserts.
I would have never considered making a dessert with avocado. I mean, avocado is something I consider more savoury than sweet, but it’s amazing how you don’t taste the avocado at all, and it creates this decadent, creamy dessert with no milk whatsoever. This dessert is rich and dense, but is also vegan and gluten-free. As a bonus, there’s no refined sugar, as it’s sweetened with dates and maple syrup.
I got the 10-yr-old to taste-test this, because I’m always curious as to whether things are kid-friendly. His feedback? “It’s made with dark chocolate, and usually kids like milk chocolate.” But he ate the whole thing.