Sunday, July 26, 2009

Iron Chef: Vegan!

Iron Chef: Vegan is a celebration of culinary creativity. Its goal is to provide you with a chance to:

1. Green the way you eat.
Vegan cuisine is fun, delicious, healthy and offers endless creative possibilities. But perhaps most excitingly it offers an opportunity to green our lives where we make a significant impact: our food. Vegan eating (even on an occassional basis) provides you with a more sustainable way to eat.

2. Get inspired.
Iron Chef: Vegan is a chance for culinary exploration and adventure. Challenge your creative side. Try something completely different. Find a whole new world to taste!

3. Discover how delicious healthy can be.
One of the best realizations I've come to in my life is about the direct relationship between how nutritious a dish is and how delicious it is. That's why one of the criteria of choosing the key ingredient is its nutritonal profile. Iron Chef: Vegan is about encouraging the enjoyment of healthy foods.

How it works:
The challenge: create a dish using The Key Ingredient in some way.

While there can be as many other flavours as you would like, each dish should showcase The Key Ingredient.

Extra points (in terms of coolness) if you go for a multi course meal! Some examples of courses you could include: hors d'oeuvres, soup, salad, entree, dessert.

How to enter
Submit your entries* to me at batchild23 at hotmail dot com with the subject line "Iron Chef: Vegan entry". If you have a website, you can just send me a link to your delectable dish. Or join the facebook group and share your entries there. Make sure to also include a caption that sums up your tasty treat.

Your first challenge!

The Key Ingredient: Beets (Beta vulgaris)
This round of Iron Chef: Vegan will end August 23, 2009.

Native to the mediterranian and first cultivated by ancient Romans, the beet is in the same family as quinoa, spinach and swiss chard.

The beet is prized for its subtle sweetness and its impressive nutritional contributions. This root vegetable is high in B vitamins, folate, manganese and dietary fibre while remaining low in calories. Not only does the beet help protect against heart diseases and colon cancer, but as a primary source of betaine it also works to reduce inflammation.

While beets are famous for their rich purple-red colouring, they also come in other colour variations: yellow, white, and candy-striped (red and white). Adding an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice while cooking will brighten the colour. Salt on the other hand will dull the colour and so should be added near the end of your recipe.

Typically beets are enjoyed pickled or in a borscht. But this versatile root vegetable, which can be enjoyed cooked or raw, has so much more potential! So go crazy and let your imagination run wild in this quest for culinary innovation!

Get all your entries in by August 23, 2009!

*note: entries and your links to your blogs may be posted here on Veganlicious! If you don't want them to be, that's cool just let me know!

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

What I'm eating right now

I've moved! Visit my new home Make Life Beautiful for more recipes and healthy living tips. Don't forget to update your bookmarks!

I made my banana bread bites recipe, though accidentally put in almost 3x as many cacao nibs as I meant to...a very tasty mistake indeed...chocolate-y...

Spread into thin layers with a spatula.

Yum!!! Perfect for nutbutter and banana sandwiches!

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Monday, July 20, 2009

raw mississippi mud pie

I've moved! Visit my new blog La Belle Vie for more recipes and healthy living tips. Don't forget to update your bookmarks!

Today's my day off. I had planned to spend it cleaning and uncooking (wait, what's the definition of cooking? does making raw food still get called cooking?) far I've just watched a lot of True Blood...and now the day is ticking away and I have to head off soon to go not the most productive day. But it has been relaxing and the cats have all hung out with me, so I don't feel like I've wasted it, which is always a good thing. Anyway, I did manage to make some food today...Unfortunately when I went to pick up nuts yesterday, Bulk Barn was all closed up for the day. So my original plans of banana walnut bread and raw granola were temporarily foiled...

I did manage my first attempt at a raw mississippi mud pie. I don't really know what a mississippi mud pie is; the one time I went to eat one, they took way too long and we had to cancel the order to get where we needed to be on time. But, my friend in passing mentioned it was chocolate and coconut pie. I don't know if that's right, but it sounded pretty tasty. I've been thinking about it for a while; my plans had to change a bit on account of my lack of nuts and agave...

The young coconut was a pain to cut into. I kind of pounded at it with the knife until it broke through in enough spots that I could pull the top off. I wasted a bunch of the water trying to pour it into a bowl and then from the bowl into the my kitchen smells like young coconut...Anyway...

There was enough of the filling for 4 tarts but I was a little short with the crust and only managed to make 3.

1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/4 cup dates, pitted and packed (heaping cup)
2 tbsp cacao powder

meat of one young coconut
2 tbsp cacao powder
2 medjool dates (or more, if you want it sweeter)
coconut water, as needed

To make the crust, pulse the nuts in the food processor until crumbly. Add dates and cacao powder until well mixed. Use your fingers to form the crust in a tartlet pan. Put in fridge to firm up.

Blend all ingredients in a blender, adding coconut water until blends smoothly. Spoon into crusts and return to fridge to firm. I was impatient and ate mine after about 20 minutes and it was firm enough.


update: after seeing one of the cats sleep in a basket and then two of them chase down flies, definitely feels like an awesome day off.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Delicious bean salad

I love beans. They're delicious, full of nutrients and incredibly easy to make dishes from. They're full of fibre, protein, iron and folate. Here's a simple bean salad. You could make this salad from any mix of beans.

1 1/2 cup white kidney beans, well rinsed
1 1/2 cup red kidney beans, well rinsed
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped (I like using one yellow and one orange. adds beautiful colours to the salad)
1 cup sliced olives
2 tbsp chives, chopped finely (or coriander)
2 cloves garlic, grated
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cayenne

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. Serve and enjoy!

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summery quinoa salad

Revered by the ancient Incas as the "mother grain", quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is quickly becoming the hot new superfood. Sown seasonally by the Incan emperor with a gold shovel, quinoa has always provided those who enjoy it with its many health benefits. Incan armies were sustained by a diet high in quinoa. Those in Peru, Chile and Bolica cultivated it also for its nutritional value.

Although often associated with grains, quinoa is actually a seed related to leafy greens, including spinach and swiss chard. This gluten-free food is fluffy and chewy in texture, subtley nutty in flavour and has an impressive nutritional profile:
  • a complete protein, it contains all nine essential amino acids neede for tissue development
  • excellent source of dietary fibre, iron, magnesium and copper
A bitter coating consisting of Saponins keeps birds and other animals from chowing down on the crops. For this reason, and also because little stones and bits of dirts can be transported with it to your local grocery store, you may want to give it a good rinsing before you enjoy it. Some also roast it very lightly in a frying pan to accentuate the nutty flavour. Personally, I'm way too lazy for that.

Quinoa is super easy and fast to cook, taking only about 10-15 minutes. It's also a versatile food. Warm and sweetened with a bit of agave or honey, it can be enjoyed as a breakfast cereal. As an alternative for rice, it's an excellent base for stew or curry. Cold, it's lovely atop a green salad - or as a salad in and of its self.

My mom is somewhat an expert at making salads that go beyond your standard green lettuce fare. Her salads have always been among my favourite foods, combining intricate blends of flavours and being incredibly healthy. Inspired by her boundless imagination when it comes to finding delicious and creative new combinations of flavours and textures, this dish was made.

2/3 cup brown quinoa, cooked
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed well
1 avocado chopped
1/2 cucumber, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 can black olives, sliced
pinch salt
pinch cayenne

Mix all ingredients together and dress with an olive oil/balsamic vinagrette or miso dressing.

miso dressing
1 tbsp mellow yellow miso
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water

mix well



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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

tarts and raw chocolate sauce

I've moved! Visit my new blog La Belle Vie for more recipes and healthy living tips. Don't forget to update your bookmarks!

A family friend, Craig, used to make the most delicious pies. We'd go over for dinner and there'd be three pies! Blueberry, apple and strawberry rhubarb. Now, as a kid I thought rhubarb was horrible, and haven't gotten around to trying it again...but the other two pies were amazing!!

Since becoming vegan and gluten-free, I think that I've attempted a pie about 2-3 times. Which really isn't a whole lot, particularly considering that in theory I really like pie (although come to think of it, I don't think I made a whole lot of pies before either...). The first time I made it was when I had just begun gluten-free baking, and it was essentially just brown rice flour...i.e. not so nice. The second was made with Earth Balance and was buttery and flaky.

I wanted to try a raw pie, and thought almond pulp would do the trick. I tried a non-dehydrated version. It was quite nice and tasty, but kept falling apart. So, I thought adding flax seed and dehydrating the crust bit would help.

Don't be scared if this crust seems really tough when you try and cut into it. It's actually quite nice and even chewy when eaten. Just use a sharp knife to cut it. I attempted a butter knife, because every single other piece of cutlery was dirty (sadly, no joke); we ended up just picking them up and biting into them.

Crust (makes 4)
1 cup almond pulp
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup dates, packed
3 tbsp water

In a food processor, blend the dates and the water until a paste forms.
In a bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Add date paste and coconut oil and mix well.
In a tart cup, or whatever you're using, firmly press the mixture into shape with your fingers.
Dehydrate 2 hours (or until the next step can be done somewhat easily). Remove carefully from your tart crust container and dehydrate until dry. I dehydrated overnight because I don't have a timer and getting up at 3a.m. didn't seem like the best of ideas. But, I think 4-6 hours should do the trick.


Fillings are easy as pie (ahahhaaaa I'm hilarious). Seriously though, I served this to the boyface with whole raspberries in it, and it was perfect. Sliced strawberries work very nicely too, and stay in place a bit better than whole fruit does. Or, if you want something that really isn't in danger of rolling away, you can put the fruit in a food processor and pulse a couple of times.

Blueberry filling
2 cup blueberries
3 tsp lemon juice
1/4-1/2 tsp agave

blend in food processor.

If you're serving nonblended fruits in the tart, or have leftover fruit, top with raw chocolate sauce or raw almond cream. The raw chocolate sauce is delicious and chocolatey and super easy to make. It's made with a simple ratio:

2 parts cacao powder : 2 parts agave : 1 part coconut oil

for example,
2 tbsp cacao powder
2 tbsp agave
1 tbsp coconut oil


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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Banana bread bites

I've moved! Visit my new blog La Belle Vie for more recipes and healthy living tips. Don't forget to update your bookmarks!

These banana bread bites are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. How chewy depends on how long you dehydrate them for; flip them after an hour and then try them out every couple of hours until it's as "cooked" as you'd like it to be. They're super easy to make and are a great way to use up over ripe bananas. I have an idea of what I think will be a really really good way to enjoy these; I'll share it if it's successful.

1 banana, ripe
1 cup almond pulp
3/4cup ground flax
1/4cup date paste*
1 1/2 tbsp cacao nibs
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg

to make
mix almond pulp with flax and spices. Mash in banana and date paste until a sticky dough forms. Add a bit of water if it's too dry. Stir in cacao nibs and walnuts. Some blueberries would be good too.

Using a tablespoon, drop scoopfuls of dough onto tray liner in dehydrator. Dry at 105F for 1 hour. Flip onto the unlined screen and continue dehydrating until they're the texture you want.

Enjoy with a cold glass of nut milk, or cut in half and spread with some raw butter (ex. chilled coconut oil) or nut butter.

*To make date paste, place 1/2cup packed, pitted dates and 3T water in the food processor and blend until it's a paste. You'll likely have to scrap down the sides a couple of times before it's done.

SEXY UPDATE: Letting these bites stay overnight in the fridge in an airtight container makes them a less crunchy and more chewy. Yum!! Wish I'd known before I ate all but five of them!

SEXIER UPDATE: make this recipe into delicious banana bread:

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Raw cinnamon rolls and almond cream

I've moved! Visit my new blog La Belle Vie for more recipes and healthy living tips. Don't forget to update your bookmarks!

I'm lucky in that my family is super open-minded, particularly when it comes to the culinary world. They've always been big on trying new things and have always had a strong leaning toward healthier foods. Of them all, I'm actually seen as the picky one. Strange, I know, given that one of my favourite foods is nutritional yeast...I remember once suggesting we go out to Veggie Haven, a vegan restaurant I wanted to try, only to find out that having been there three times in the last month or so, were wanting to try something new. I was a bit surprised at this, given that I am the only vegan of the bunch...

Anyway, I am generally the one who makes the dessert at family dinners, birthdays, the such. When I was younger, I would make mostly mereinge items - such as mereinge baskets filled wih fruit and whipped cream - and truffles. Since I've become vegan and gluten-free, I've become more creative, expanding my repertoire, and have made animal-free cheesecakes, a lot of mousses, a yule log and creme brulees. Discovering raw cuisine, I've made raw cheesecakes and more mousses. My family is indiscriminate when it comes to good tasting food. As long as it's delicious, they're happy and not too concerned with what's in it. If it's delicious and healthy - well, that's the ultimate goal in all our culinary creations.

For my mom's recent birthday, I made raw cinnamon rolls and almond cream, made from some of her favourite dessert foods: hazelnuts, figs and coconut. The rolls were a variation of this recipe.

Cinnamon rolls
1¼ cup hazelnut pulp (leftover from making hazelnut milk)
1¼ cup ground flaxseed
1½ tablespoons cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt

3/4 cup soft pitted dates, packed
1/2 cup dried figs (heaping quarter cup)
¼ cup water

2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar

In food processor, process dates, figs and water. You may need a bit more water to get it smooth. You'll still have bits of date skin, but it should all be of blended consistency.

In a bowl, mix the hazelnut pulp, flax, cinnamon and sea salt. Add coconut oil, agave and mix well. Add enough date paste to get a sticky dough consistency - you should be able to form a ball.

Spread mixture into a rectangle on a square of parchment paper. Form a layer on this rectangle with the date/fig mixture. Using the parchment paper, roll the rectangle. It should be wide enough that it rolls once.

With a sharp knife, slice 1.5-2" segments.

almond cream
1 cup almonds, soaked 8 hours, well rinsed
3/4c water, as needed
1/4c dates
2T coconut oil
1/2tsp cargamon
1/2tsp nutmeg

Blend in a blender until smooth. You may need a little more or a little less water depending on your blender.

Spoon cream over roll, serve with a side of blueberries. The tartness of the berries goes incredibly well with the sweetness of the rolls.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Salad rolls and spicy thai peanut sauce

When I first met my now husband, I was back in school for a post graduate certificate diploma thingie. Being the brilliant person I am, and being in the desperate situation I was in of hating my job and feeling increasingly trapped and depressed by it, I took the first out I could see: My friend had taken a program at Sheridan College and said I'd like it, so I quit my job and went back to school. Of course, I didn't feel a need to stop and think about the fact that I live in Toronto, a city with many colleges, and thus probably didn't need to choose one all the way in Oakville...But, like I said, I was desperate, am incredibly sketchy like that and thus didn't even consider the whole matter...that is until I realized I would be waking up every day at 5a.m. to get there by 8...And that, given this lovely commute, I wouldn't be home until the which point I'd only have a couple of hours before my 10:30 bedtime (necessary when you're getting up at 5 in the morning). As a result of this situation I had ended up in, food was more of a matter of necessity then a place for creativity and experimentation. All this to say that I ate a lot of salad. And by salad I mean green lettuce with some kidney beans and balsamic and olive oil (poured direct, not premixed in any sort of fancy ratio) thrown in there.

Now, I don't mean to knock this incredibly lazy man's "salad", it and I are good friends after all we've been through...But, my husband certainly knocks it. "It's not a SALAD if it's only one thing! What you're eating is just LETTUCE!" Details... Anyway, when we started eating together in those early days, he was not having any of it. So, a man who never made salad in his life before (heck, a man who'd never cooked before), he excelled in the art of it.

I also introduced him to other forms and possibilities of cooking - stir fries, curries, pasta. However, since my recent reinspiration within the culinary arts, he's gone back to helping out more on the prep side than the actual cooking side. He's still great at occasionally taking on the cooking - particularly when it becomes evident to him that I'm leaning toward a refreshing dish of "lettuce". In these times he goes to his brand of fancified salad or one other dish I introduced him to that he took a shining to like nothing I've ever seen. Surprising to me given the somewhat time consuming nature of the dish...A dish I've loved since my mom first made them, I am always quite happy that it's one he loves making: SALAD ROLLS!!!

To make

rice paper wrappers, large size, round
1/2 lime, juiced
cucumber (about 1/2 of one of the long ones), thickly julianned
2 avocados, sliced lengthwise
1/2 brick of tofu, julianned
green beans
green onions, thinly sliced
sesame seeds (optional)
tomatoes (optional, he never puts them in but I think they're a nice addition on occasion)

In a pan, put the tofu and green beans with a bit of oil. Stirfry until the tofu is golden and a little crunchy on the outside and the green beans are tender, but still have some crunch to them. I find this is most successfully accomplished by putting in the tofu first and then about 5 or so minutes later putting in the beans.

Toss the avocados with the lime juice to prevent browning. Or, just squeeze the lime juice over all the sliced items.

Fill a pie pan, large bowl, or anything that will fit the rice paper wrapper easily, with hot water and set next to where you'll be making the actual rolls. You'll want the water to not be so hot that it's uncomfortable to put your hands in, but you'll want it to be pretty hot - it'll help make the wrappers rollable more quickly.

Assembling the rolls

Soak a wrapper in the hot water until it's soft. Put it on a plate and, close to the side nearest you, place the lettuce and then on it, an assortment of the other items except the sesame seeds. Sprinkly sesame seeds along the length of the fillings, if using. Roll the paper, bringing the sides in as you roll - like a tortilla!

You can make them all the same, or have different assortments of fillings in each.

It's helpful to have a separate plate nearby to put the finished rolls on.

Serve with the spicy thai peanut sauce and enjoy! If for some astounding reason you have leftovers, make sure you store in an airtight container, otherwise the wrapper gets all hard and gross and you have to rewrap it.

spicy thai peanut sauce
1/4c peanut butter (all natural, not the gross hydrogenated-icing-sugar-full kind)
1/8c water
1.5 tbsp tamari (or soya sauce if you can have gluten)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar (do yourself a favour an don't make the mistake of buying the seasoned one - ick.)
cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste

stir together until smooth and creamy.

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