Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy Vegan Baking Day!

I'm really into any reason to celebrate or bake so I was definitely on board when I spied on Twitter that today was Vegan Baking Day. I never really pick what I'm going to make...I go to my little baking guru and get his opinion on what we should make. This morning when I asked "What would you like to bake today with Mommy for Vegan Baking Day?" this huge smile came over his face and he yelled "HOT CROSS BUNS!" My kid loves a good hot cross bun and we have been known to make them other times of the year, after all, they're not just for Easter anymore! Maybe they'll be the next cupcake or macaron!
The recipe I have been using is a modified version of Food Allergy Mama's. Modified after being made so many times that it slowly became customized to how we like our hot cross buns. (Disclaimer - Food Allergy Mama is not vegan and there are recipes for dinner entrees with meat in them on her site, she does however have a lot of baked goods/desserts that are vegan friendly since her son has food allergies to eggs and dairy as well as peanuts, tree nuts and legumes. The link above is direct to the recipe for the hot cross buns)
Mac and I got all of the ingredients out and got to work on our hot cross buns. He lost interest for a bit but always comes back when I'm kneading the dough because he loves to take little pinches off and eats the raw dough. As a dough eater myself, I can understand the compulsion. He also loves to help me knead the dough though it's more like poking it and trying to show me how strong he is as he tries to carry it around the room (Ack! Don't drop the dough!). He is also a little impatient with the whole rising time and baking time. He was ready to eat one as soon as we were done kneading and was a little disappointed that it would have to wait until later in the afternoon to taste them.
After patiently waiting/blowing bubbles, the dough had doubled in the warm place we made for it, we added chopped organic raisins, dried apples and dried apricots into the dough and shaped the buns. Another impatient rise/small nap and then off to the ovens with them! After they cooled, we poured our apple cider icing on top (really I just pour a bunch of icing sugar in a bowl then mix in some apple cider til it looks right) and we don't just go for crosses...not enough icing that way...we pour it on top and let it cover the whole top of them. Mac carefully chooses the one he feels has the most icing and then the best part...WE EAT! Mac always goes for the icing first, devouring the top part before he even moves on to the rest. He ate up a whole one then went looking for his next victim. He even started picking the icing off some of the other ones that were lurking much too close to the hungry four year old...they should know better!
He told me after we have to save some for Nana and Papa for when they come to visit us tomorrow and in his words "then they can eat vegan food and say it's soooooo yummy!" That's my boy!
Happy Vegan Baking Day Everyone!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

BBQ Tempeh

Here's my yummy supper from last night. It was so fricken good! I am so glad that through my testing experiences I have fallen in love with tempeh because I never would have made this otherwise. I just made a quick BBQ sauce from pretty much any condiment from my fridge door that sounded like it would work (apple butter, vegan Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, tamari, apple cider vinegar, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder) and marinated it for about an hour. I pan fried it until it was all yummy and caramelized on the outside, reapplying some sauce as I cooked. Served it up with some local corn and peas. Such a quick and delicious supper that will definitely get made again and again!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mini Food

I don't know what it is about miniature sized treats and food that make it so darn irresistible?! Is it because you can eat a couple of them and not feel guilty? I think it plays into the little kid in all of us. I know every time I see a picture in a magazine of a dessert table with all kinds of mini desserts I audibly swoon. I was watching Top Chef Just Desserts last night (US readers...we're behind yours up here in Canada) and they had this quickfire to make a single bite dessert that would possibly inspire a new flavour of dessert gum. I was seriously in love with all the little dishes they were given to serve in and wanted to jump into the TV to grab them. I love the idea too of having to pack in all the flavours into one little bite, intense! Inspired by that and my love of all things miniature, I made some mini muffins and some mini pancakes over the past few days. Here's some pictures! I think I might even attempt some other treats mini sized over MoFo, so keep an eye out for that.

Those mini pancakes are a recipe I use pretty much every week from Hearty Vegan by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman. If you don't own this book already, you totally should go order it right now even if it's just for these pancakes (although I know the whole book is awesome)!

Here's my regular sized ones. I always make at least a double batch and they freeze amazingly so it makes for quick, on-hand breakfasts!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Love these!

Today when I was out shopping I found the most adorable set of measuring spoons! I know there is a matching set of cups out there somewhere but today all they had was this one set for just $3! I just had to have them! They are shaped just like mini Nordic ware bundt pans. I kinda collect measuring cups and spoons. Not all of them are cute but I have 4 other sets of spoons and three sets of cups up in my cupboard. I use all of them and by the end of some days I have used all the sets. I think I might end up with a cupboard just for them someday...maybe I'll end up on that hoarders show...50/50 shot!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Anyone tried this??

I was browsing the new products at one of my favourite online stores, Karmavore, and found something that really piqued my interest but I'm curious if anyone out there has tried it. Its called VegeRen from Just Wholefoods. I will most likely end up ordering it just so I can try it since it's pretty inexpensive. It's funny too because I swear last week I was saying to my husband, "how come they can't just add the same thing to soymilk and separate curds and whey and make cheese?" and it seems like this is what this product is promising. Vegan cottage cheese? Vegan cheese curds....for vegan poutine?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More Tester Pictures from Sandwich Testing

Today I was going through the pictures I have from sandwich testing and even though they weren't that long ago, it feels like forever since I ate some of these. I think it has more to do with how many sandwiches we have had since than anything. Here's a few more of my favourites!
These bad boys are Hot Brown Sandwiches! I had only heard of these on Food Network, never actually had one but these are fricken delicious! Those tofu bits you see on there are just about the best thing I have ever joke! It was hard to keep any for the sandwiches since Ryan and I were both munching on them while I was prepping the rest.
After falling in love with tempeh while testing the Country Sausage Sandwich (pictured in my earlier post) I decided I had to try the Mediterranean Tempeh Sandwich! It was full of sun dried tomatoes, olives and the like that you would expect in a Mediterranean sandwich and then the nuttiness of the tempeh with it and then grill it....SO GOOD! It is like your mouth is having a party! Just typing this makes me wanna go make another one...

Forgive my slightly dark photo and let me introduce you to the One World Reuben. This is a take on the classic Reuben with flavours from all over the world and they all worked so well together! I had never had a Reuben before but I was excited to try out this one, especially since it features the "beefy" seitan that I have fallen in love with from this book. It's also on dark rye and grilled as well so you get a nice crunch on the outside! It might have been my first Reuben but it certainly won't be my last!
This super gigantic sandwich deserves two pictures! You know sometimes when you get a club sandwich and they hold it together with a toothpick...this bad boy needed a shish kabob skewer! It was so big that I only attempted to eat half of it but Ryan went all in and polished off the whole thing. I joked that you should get a t-shirt for finishing one on the test boards! It's called a Dagwood by the way, just like the Blondie comic strips where he used to make those leaning towers of sandwich. It has vegan cold cuts, tempeh bacon, lots of veggies and a quick spread and it is so tasty! I think anything with that tempeh bacon would taste great but it really did all work together and was obviously super satisfying!
Now, it's hard to pick favourites because seriously all of the sandwiches have been so good but this one is special. This is the Marinated Eggplant Tofu Sandwich and its scrumptious! I had always been a little intimidated by eggplant. It's a little tough and I had heard rumours that it was a bit bitter but this sandwich proved that all wrong. The eggplant is brushed with a spicy mix then browned and then you let it chill out for a bit. The tofu is marinated and browned and then it somehow tastes alot like chicken. Then you mix the two on a soft roll with a bit of mayo and lettuce and it makes sweet magic together. It is seriously addictive too! I was wandering around Costco the next day and found myself buying a big ol' pack of eggplant to make it again and did that next day! This is one that even my mom (albeit minus the tofu) is in love with.
Okay enough teasing with photos of delicious sandwiches for now...I'm off to make another one for supper that I'm sure you will be seeing soon!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Supper Tonight: Something Blackened This Way Comes

Tonight I was testing sandwiches again for Celine and Tami. Tonight's test was Something Blackened This Way Comes which I was totally drawn to initally by it's name. It has a blackened "chicken" cutlet with a fresh tomato salad and spicy mayo all on a toasted bun! So delicious! And these "chicken" cutlets are like no other. When I made them the other day the house smelled like Thanksgiving. They are juicy and tender and tasty too! Something that I have never really found in a seitan cutlet before. This one was spicy for sure with that spice mix and the mayo but it was that good heat, the one that has flavour to back up the spice level. The salad totally helped take the heat down a little too. I served it with a fresh garden salad with ranch dressing (from American Vegan Kitchen) so that helped cool my mouth down too! Ryan had two so I think he loved it! Haha! Here's a picture so you can drool a little!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Have A Theme!

I have been brainstorming with my husband about a theme for my first Vegan MoFo and then it hit us...Firsts! In honour of my first MoFo, I am going to post a month's worth of posts about some of my vegan firsts. Some to expect will be my first interview, my first GIVEAWAY (it's a good one, I promise), my first veganized recipe, my first vegan themed pumpkin for Halloween and my first attempt at a vegan macaron. I have about 17 ideas so far...just a few more to come up with! All the first time fun will begin on October 1st and I'm really excited about it!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Recipe Testing: A Love Affair

I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a recipe testing junkie. I LOVE the whole experience and I truly get geeked out about the whole thing. I have always loved cookbooks but I have never been apart of them like I have for the past year and a bit. I really enjoy the creative process and watching how the recipes evolve. I definitely appreciate all the hard work that goes into one now too that I have seen only a fraction of what goes into it. It takes a seriously creative mind to come up with a concept and follow it through, to come up with 100 recipes (or more!) and then write all the other parts of the book. I have always read cookbooks cover to cover but now I really make sure to do it since I know how much work an author puts into that part and I think they are worried we are all skipping it.

The other great part of testing is that these authors don't just say thanks and move on, they work with the testers, they chat with us and become friends. I have found that it is a wonderful community of people that love to cook and share and support each other. Usually when I tell someone that I am testing for a cookbook they ask if I'm being paid for it and nope I'm not. I do this because I love doing it. There's usually some sort of deal where you get a copy of the book when it's published and you usually get a thank you in the back of the book (which secretly is my favourite part!). I always think that being involved in the process is the best payment though.

I have found, through my testing experiences so far, that when you let go and just try something, usually you end up loving it. I would read through an ingredient list sometimes and think "I'm not sure I'm gonna like this" or "that with that??" but then I learned to shut out that part of my brain that thinks it knows everything and just try it. I can't say every time I was wrong and loved what I ate but most of the time, I did! I learned after thinking I didn't like tempeh that I LOVE tempeh, like seriously love it and crave it all the time now. I learned that I love eggplant despite its tough purple exterior that scared me off for years. I learned that I still dislike cilantro but love coriander which makes no sense to me since they are basically the same thing but they are different (maybe because cilantro tastes like feet?). And I never, ever would have tried haggis and then I did (vegan of course) and it was delicious!

I don't think I ever would have opened up like that if I hadn't been testing recipes. I know I never would have if I hadn't chosen to be vegan. I always giggle when I hear people say veganism is restrictive but, to be honest, when I first started I felt that way too. Strangely, I always had way more restrictions about eating meat than I have about what I eat now. It really has been a eye opening experience for me to try out new methods of cooking and new types of cuisine and it's all because of these experiences I've had testing recipes. Even if I never test another book, it will change the way I look at a cookbook and the way I cook altogether. Instead of flipping through a new cookbook and finding the recipes that most closely resemble what I already eat, now I will flip through and find the thing that is the furthest and give it a go! And now instead of making the same ten things over and over again, I always try to try out something new or invent something each week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Food Network Friday: Chicken Stuffed with Smoked Mozzarella, Roasted Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe over Potatoes with Marsala Sauce

What you are about to read about is real...home cook Kelly Cavalier has no knowledge of the challenge she's about to face. Kelly has tackled some of the toughest culinary challenges in the world but can she conquer this one?

Alright, now I'm talking about myself in the third person and sound a little nuts but this Food Network Friday recipe is from Robert Irvine from Dinner:Impossible and I got a little into the whole theme of it. Maybe I haven't faced the toughest culinary challenges in the world but I have made cheesy pizza without cheese and tasty bacon bits out of coconut (little nod to AVK!) so I think it works!

When I first look at the recipe I always look through for the things I will definitely have to take out and what I can leave. So out the window goes chicken, smoked mozzarella, marsala wine and butter but hey that's only 4 out of 13, this won't be so impossible after all. I thought about how to do it as it was written and then I decided to change it up a bit. That's the fun of Food Network Friday after all, seeing how everyone interprets the recipe! I decided early on in my planning it was going to be a pizza with a roasted tomato sauce. I thought about using seitan for the chicken but then tested a sandwich for Celine and Tami (Marinated Eggplant and Tofu Sandwich...sooo good!) that had a marinated tofu steak in it that was incredibly like chicken so I decided to go with that instead. Also from testing, I decided to use a cheese that was used on a few sandwiches that was a little smokey. I actually had said to Ryan when I first tasted it that it was alot like a smoked gouda so I figured it would work perfectly here. I thought about it over the next few days and kept coming up with different ways to do it (rolling up the fillings in eggplant, stacking it instead of rolling it) but decided to stick to my original plan of pizza.

So last night I decide it's time to go for it but I wanted to have a little fun with it. I pictured it like an episode of Dinner:Impossible and thought what if he walked into a mission where he had to reinterpret a dish he's already made but it had to be...what for it....VEGAN! I also decided to set a timer just like on the show and I gave myself 2 hours on the clock to get it all done and on the table. I came up with the 2 hours mostly because the recipe says 2 hours and 20 minutes total time and I wanted show Robert up a bit. I have no clue how the man does what he does on that show ever and seriously felt a little pressured even though the timer was totally self-induced. It made me hustle a bit in the beginning but as I got about half way into it I realized I had loads of time and took it easy/checked my Facebook.

I started off by making the pizza dough. I used a really simple recipe that I have had lying around forever with just flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water and bit of olive oil. I set it aside to rise and got to work on my sauce. I quartered about 5 largish tomatoes and spread them on a sheet pan. I decided to toss a few halved shallots in there too and 4 big ol' cloves of garlic. I tossed all that with a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, italian seasoning and S&P and put it in the oven at 400F not knowing exactly how long it would take but I wanted some caramelized yumminess on them so I figured about 30 minutes or so. I then steamed some small diced yukon gold potatoes...oh yeah, potatoes on pizza, don't think I was going to leave them out!? I steamed them a bit first then I put them in a cast iron pan with a little olive oil and crisped them up. When they were done I set them on a paper towel to get some of the extra oil off. While they were steaming I pressed and marinated my tofu which I decided to dice small like the potatoes figuring it would be a good pizza topping size. I then browned those in the same pan I browned the potatoes in and set them aside as well. Last up was the broccoli rabe but I will admit me and broccoli rabe, we're not friends. I never really liked it, always finding it a little bitter but I love broccoli so I just switched them out. I cut it small and set it aside. By this time my tomatoes/shallots/garlic has all browned up and looked good so I put it all in the Vitamix and blended it deciding to leave it slightly chunky instead of going super smooth. And that's when I decided I had a little time left and hadn't fully embraced the fanciness that the marsala wine sauce was bringing to this dish. I don't drink so I wasn't going there and I'm not schooled in the art of vegan wines so I decided I would come up with something on the fly that would give me a similar taste to the overall dish. I went with a balsamic reduction and boy oh boy am I glad I did. I have never attempted this and have only seen it on cooking shows and always thought it would be strange or unnecessary but it was so perfect. I quickly Googled to find some sort of ideas on how to do it and came up with a general idea and set off to it. I will warn you if you haven't made this will need a good working hood fan. You have to bring the vinegar to a boil and it lets off some serious fumes while you do it. I put mine on to find out it was thinking about dying. See...just like on Dinner:Impossible, something always goes wrong! But I survived, we cracked a few windows and kept the small children and animals out of the kitchen (okay maybe it wasn't that bad but it's strong've been warned).

With all the individual ingredients prepped, it was time to release the dough. It had risen up quite a bit and certainly was ready to go. I turned the oven up to 500F and got out a sheet pan deciding to go for a extra large family sized pizza. I sprinkled the pan with a bit of cornmeal and rolled the dough out to fit inside the pan. I spread the sauce, grated some of that smokey cheese on top, sprinkled the broccoli all over, followed by the tofu chicken bites and potatoes. I baked it for 14 minutes and the crust started browning, cheese melting, tofu chicken bites and potatoes crisp and browned too...and the smell...ah the smell! It filled up the kitchen mingling with the balsamic smell and it was heavenly! Both Ryan and I were ready for this one when it came out since it had been giving us that come hither look (or smell). When I pulled it out, I drizzled the balsamic reduction over the top, erring on the side of caution not knowing how it would all work together but about two bites in I was grabbing that pot and redrizzling since it was so good with it! I really loved the whole thing, it all worked together perfectly. So perfectly that neither Ryan or I could or would stop ourselves from having some more. I even found myself thinking about the few slices leftover in the fridge later that night. We both managed to keep enough for us to have leftovers for lunch today and it was just as good cold, maybe even better since the sauce was even tastier today having time for all the flavours to mingle. And...I forgot to mention...the timer beeped just as I set a slice on the plate...MISSON COMPLETED!

If you want to see the recipe as Robert Irvine intended, check it out at

And if you want to see what everyone else did with this one, check out Tami's blog at and you definitely should, it's always amazing what everyone does with these recipes! I checked and Tamasin has put the next Food Network Friday on hiatus for October due to Vegan MoFo but definitely play along some time, it's so much fun!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mmm is for Muffaletta

Last night I made yet another sandwich for testing! This time it was the Muffaletta and it was impressive both in taste and stature. It has a quick made giardiniera, vegan cold cuts, arugula and other veggies and is all built inside a round loaf. I had never had giardiniera before so I have no comparison but I know it was tasty! It added a nice crunch to the sandwich and it's pickling liquid was also the dressing for the sandwich as well. It always amazes me as a mayo lover when a sandwich can come together without it and not feel like it's missing something. I had a little fun with this one as I was assembling it. I looked at it once I put the top piece of the bread on and thought it looked like it had a mouth and then I remembered these little cupcake picks I had bought on the weekend and had to do it. My husband bust out laughing when I showed him which caught the attention if my son who came running and also bust out laughing! Hope it gives someone else a chuckle too! It is as close to eating something with a face as we will come! I am also posting a shot of the slice of Muffaletta so you can check out all the layers of goodness and check out just how impressive this sandwich is!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quick Peek at some of my testing for Tami and Celine

I know that Celine didn't know it when she asked me to help test a new project of hers that I love sandwiches but now she does! I absolutely adored sandwiches and would eat them often before I went vegan. Then I kinda didn't know what to do anymore. What does a vegan put in a sandwich anyways? Well, Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes have teamed up to show you exactly how to make vegan sandwiches that will have anyone drooling! I have been lucky enough to be testing for this upcoming book and I have been taking major advantage of all of their great ideas and tasty recipes. I've made over 50 sandwiches so far and I only started testing in July. I actually had one day where I had one of their sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They haven't just stopped at sandwich as a noun, they have also used it as a verb and I think it's wonderful! They have introduced me to tempeh which I had only had twice before and wasn't truly in love but now...oh wow, now...I'm smitten! I want tempeh all the time, especially the Tempeh Bacon from this book. I also learned that I love eggplant...who knew!? I think that's a great thing I have learned since becoming vegan, now I will try anything and have found so many foods that I snubbed before that I love now. It's been a real eye opener. Here's a few photos of the sandwiches I have been making, obviously not all of them or we would be here all day but these are some of my favourites so far.
Carnitas Sandwich made with jackfruit and avocado on the side....sooo delicious!
In a Pinch Subwich which has now become a staple in my house for quick sandwiches and is excellent when made with Field Roast Smoked Tomato Slices!
Country Sausage Sandwich which is the sandwich where my love for tempeh started. It's on homemade english muffins (recipe from Tami's blog) with arugula, an awesome sauce and hashbrowns!
Chow Mein Sandwich and I know you're thinking it's crazy and it is...crazy DELICIOUS!
Bananas Foster Cake Sandwich, just to show you it's not all savoury and this is the best kind of sweet! Just looking at this picture is bringing me back to tasting it and it was fricken amazing!
Tempeh Bacon frying up on the perfectly smoky, sweet, crisp and delicious! There have definitely been more and I will be sharing those as well but here's the first taste. I'm telling you, I haven't tested one thing that has disappointed and Ryan has, on almost every sandwich occasion, taken two or three bites and started looking around if there was enough to make another. These are some serious sandwiches from two seriously amazing women!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where to start...

I have thought about blogging for awhile but have always got caught up in how to start and what to call it and what to blog about, basically got caught up in the details. I was recently encouraged to go for it by a few friends and my husband so I decided to let go and go for it! I am starting this blog up now so I can get in on Vegan MoFo this year, starting October 1st. Seems most people have a theme for the month and I’m still thinking of a theme to be honest. I have thought about posting everyday about something vegan that I love like products, ingredients, people/blogs, cookbooks, etc. I have considered trying to veganize a recipe a day but I’m not sure I can keep up with that pace! All I know is I’m excited to start and the planning is always the best part (for me at least, I’m making a list already)! For the rest of September I will be blogging test pictures from the cookbooks I am currently testing for and finally I will have somewhere to blog my Food Network Friday cook along results.