Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My First Vegan Food Swap

I was so overjoyed when I saw on my Twitter feed that MeShell was hosting a Canadian Vegan Food Swap! I had read about other people's experiences on blogs and thought it was a great idea and always wanted to take part. I mean who doesn't like getting cool, new vegan products in the mail!? I know I do! Better than bills and junk mail that's for sure!

I quickly signed up and eagerly awaited my match. I'm telling you that was a long seven days for me. I was lying awake at night thinking of ideas of what I would get for the person I was paired with and thinking of every possibility that could possible be coming my way in terms of lifestyle or allergies. I had mapped out in my head things I would want to send them and quickly realized the hardest part would be picking just a few things and staying within the budget. Not to be stereotypical but my husband is happy there was a limit. I tend to get carried away let's say. I have to say I enjoyed the shopping as much (maybe more than) the receiving which is totally me. I always love shopping for holidays and birthdays anticipating how much someone will love something. I tend to get so excited about it that I don't want to wait til the actual day.

I received my email containing all of my match's info and quickly sent her an email to find out her likes and dislikes. Sarina has just set up a blog about gardening and vegan eats recently but has already been busy filling it up with pictures and recipes! She let me know she was allergic to alcohol and enjoyed raw foods and I was off! Right away I knew one thing I had to get, alcohol free vanilla extract! I have had it before and knew that Sarina would appreciate it since almost all vanilla contains alcohol. I know what's it's like to be limited by allergies and how great it feels to find a new product that brings something back into your life that you miss because of them. Anyone reading this that avoids alcohol I bought Frontier Co-Op Brand which you can get in Ottawa at Rainbow Foods or online. I then decided to send her a bottle of Coconut Vinegar which I had recently discovered at my local health store and fell in love with its mild flavour and is coincidentally raw. Also packed in was a box of sweet rice flour, a package of Speculoos biscuits (a favourite in our house) and some Spicy Nacho Popcorn Topper (which was a test recipe for Vegan Food Gifts by Joni Marie Newman). I was so happy and relieved when I heard from Sarina that she had received her parcel in tip top shape and loved what I had included! It really made my day knowing that she did.

Next I got to enjoy the second part of this whole swap experience as I awaited my parcel from Katie over at Not Your Parents' Granola (you really need to check out Katie's blog, especially her post about Butterfinger Cake). I was so excited to see what Katie would find since we live in the same city but I knew she would know all kinds of new local products from around Ottawa! When I received my parcel, I quickly grabbed my camera and set to open it up. I uncovered a real treasure trove of goodies and a lovely handwritten note from Katie! I took out each item and savoured each one as I did! Haha! Katie generously sent me:

- a most delicious jar of Michaelsdolce Strawberry and Balsamic Jam made here in Ottawa using local strawberries (I'm serious, it's the most vibrant, flavourful jam I've ever had)

- two (never before tasted or seen) Ginger Snap Lara Bars (she told me they were brought from the US by a friend since we don't have this flavour here)

- a package of Koko's Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Bark made here in Ottawa as well (super scrumptious dark chocolate with tart cranberries is definitely a winner in my books, throwing in pecans just made it even tastier)

-  a jar of Ontario made Apple Butter from Hall's Apple Market with a tip on how to make apple butter muffins!

- a package of Quin'Bites (also from Ontario) that are totally addictive and remind me of sesame snaps that are Vegan and Soy Free!

and as if that wasn't already too much...

- two packages of Buddy Fruits Pure Fruit Bites for my son! He totally loved them and scarfed down most of a package this morning (I'm ashamed to admit) but was nice enough to share a few tastes with me and my husband.

I have to thank Katie again for such an amazing parcel of goodies! It's amazing what I have never had in our own city! Thank you too to MeShell for hosting this whole swap project. I am already looking forward to next month! It's such a wonderful experience to get to know other bloggers all over Canada and tasting new vegan treats while we're at it! If you would like to participate in June, just fill in the form on MeShell's blog. You will be glad you did!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Falafel Pizza

Since I have been testing pizzas for Julie Hasson, I always have a bucket of dough in the fridge ready to go. Lunch is always a tricky one for me. I have to make something quickly since if Mac finishes first I'm pretty much running around behind him trying to enjoy whatever I made. I looked at the bucket...looked through the fridge and then went "AHA!" when I spotted a few leftover falafel from supper the night before. I quickly thought about how to put it all together and went with hummus instead of tomato sauce, a hearty layer of tabouli, crumbled the two little falafel I had left, chopped up some dill pickle and tomato and sprinkled them on top and put it in the oven for 10 minutes. While it baked I mixed up a quick tahini sauce by adding warm water, salt and a minced glove a garlic to tahini and some garlic mayo as well by adding lemon juice and garlic to Vegenaise. When it came out of the oven I drizzled the tahini sauce all over and dipped in my garlic mayo as I ate and it was fricken fantastic. Just proving you can put anything on a pizza!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Food Network Monthly Cookalong

I really enjoy doing Food Network Friday with Tami and the gang hosted on Tami's blog at so I was definitely distressed when I read that it and Vine and Dine would be going on sabbatical, possibly permanently. I totally understand that Tami has been the host for a long time and that it is something that she was ready to let go but I'm not so good with change or letting things go...I would still be watching Friends if they were still making it. After talking it over with Tami and the other participants, I decided that I would revamp and host a similar type of cook-along! I always loved the challenge of veganizing recipes from the meat and cheese heavy Food Network showing just how easy it is to take any dish and make it vegan. I also love the camaraderie of cooking along with other vegan bloggers and sharing our experiences of it.

As for the changes, I've decided instead of picking one specific recipe to veganize, I will be picking a theme each month. It might be a specific show or chef, holiday, cuisine, ingredient or type of dish. Then anyone who would like to participate can make as many dishes as they like and blog about them. This way you can cook as many or as few dishes as you like and show everyone what us vegans are made of. At the beginning of the next month, I will be posting a round up of what we all made so you can see it all in one place and then visit each blog to see how they did it, find recipes or inspiration and the theme for that month. To play along, all you have to do is send me an email near the end of the month with links to your blog posts and I will do the rest! And just like Food Network Friday, the only hard and fast rule is that it has to be vegan! I am really excited about the possibilities of this new version of an already awesome cook-along and hope you (yeah you!) will give it a shot!

All the above information will be found permanently on the tab above and so will the monthly theme.

Now for the theme for June, Eat Street!

Here on Food Network Canada we get a show called Eat Street but I'm pretty sure it's not on FN in the US (maybe the Cooking Channel). They do have a YouTube channel with lots of clips from the show so you can get acquainted though. The show goes around North America visiting food trucks showing off the signature treats of a few trucks per episode. Now there are lots of money shots of non-vegan food but I love to watch this show and dream of how I could  make all of it vegan. And that's exactly what I plan on doing this month! They do have recipes listed from some of the trucks featured on the show on their website so you could veganize one (or more!) of those. Or you can blog about a food truck you have been to that had the best food and you could even make your own take on what you had. Or you could dream about what kind of food truck you would own and create the treats you would serve up. There are so many possibilities! I hope you will be inspired to cook-along as well and if you do, just email me a link to each post and I will add you to the round up!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Jalapeño Poppers!

I love finding new products at the store. Like you would think I found the gold at the end of the rainbow if you saw how I jump up and down and get on about something new. My husband (luckily) finds it endearing that I get so excited and immediately have to purchase whatever I find! A week or so ago while grabbing a few harder to find vegan goodies at Rainbow Foods I spotted Galaxy Vegan Cream Cheese in the cooler so I gasped and bounced and ran to the cash with it. Once I got home, I couldn't decide what to try it on. First I wanted to make sure that it was tasty and see how it compared to both it's vegan and non-vegan competition. I spread a bit on some Wheat Thin crackers and noticed it's slight tang and creamy, smooth texture. Off to a great start! I then went back and forth on whether I wanted to make a dip with it or just spread it on bagels and then it struck me that what I really wanted to do with it was to make Jalapeño Poppers! I will admit to unabashedly eating them as a meal pre-vegan and missing them over the past two or so years. I have attempted them once veganized, baked and they did not hit the spot. The fillings in others usually call of other ingredients to be added to the cream cheese which isn't how I remember them being. I needed a cream cheese that actually tasted like cream cheese in order to do it though and now I finally had it in my possession! Well today was the day and they have been quickly enjoyed. They were definitely a success and it's all thanks to Galaxy Vegan Cream Cheese and another one of my new favourite ingredients The Vegg!

I didn't exactly write down a recipe but I can share with you my approximate amounts and instructions any ways in case you get your hands on some and want to try these! If anything doesn't make sense, just comment or email me and I will help!

Jalapeno Poppers

1 tbsp Vegg powder
1/2 cup soy milk

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt

1 cup all purpose flour

8 jalapeño peppers, halved, seeds and ribs removed
1 pkg Galaxy Vegan Cream Cheese

Oil for frying, I used grapeseed

1. Using a small blender (I used my spice mill), combine Vegg powder and soy milk and blend until well mixed and thick. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

2. Combine panko with the spices/seasonings in another small bowl, set aside.

3. Complete your breading station by putting the flour into yet another small bowl and you guessed it...set aside.

4. Using a small spoon, fill the jalapeños with the cream cheese. To bread them, first roll each popper in the flour, dip in the Vegg yolk mixture, then press and roll each popper in the panko breadcrumbs until they are completely covered. Place on a plate until you are ready to fry them.

5. Start to heat your oil in a pot or pan. I use a wok-like frying pan with higher sides but only fill it with enough oil so the poppers were about half covered in oil. I didn't put a thermometer in it or anything, I just heated it until it was shimmering and tested it by putting a popper in and it bubbled around the perimeter of it right away. Fry them in batches of four to six depending on the size of the pot/pan you are frying in until golden brown, flipping as you start to see the edges brown. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel on a cooling rack to get some of the oil off. Serve and enjoy!

P.S. This is my honest opinion of both Galaxy Cream Cheese and The Vegg! I paid for them myself and wasn't asked or offered any compensation for my's just my two cents!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pizza Testing for Julie Hasson

Just in the past two weeks I have been eating a lot and I mean A LOT of pizza and happily so! Julie Hasson has a new book project that she is working on and I harassed begged her into letting me help test! I have been busy making lots of different types and have enjoyed every single one of them so far! The book even has a secret and delicious new kind of topping that will make anyone freak out! She also has a few soy curl recipes for toppings that have become instant favourites too. If you are a fan of the Smoky Curls from Vegan Diner, get ready to love some new curls. I have been testing them out on the whole family and everyone has been raving, even the omni in-laws! The crust is such an easy task too, just mix it, let it rise and refrigerate for later. It makes it so easy to make pizza that you really can't not make one. Here's a few pictures from the testing so far!! Get ready to drool!

Cheeseburger Pizza

Cowboy Pizza

Broccoli and Cheddar Pizza

Eggplant Parmesan Pizza

Taco Pizza and yes it has crushed up corn chips on it!

Tomato, Cucumber and Caper Pizza

Pub Pizza

Pineapple and Jalapeño Pizza...I was eating it up so quick
I almost didn't get a picture!

Mushroom, Broccoli and Sun Dried Tomato Pizza

Plain Jane Pizza

Onion, Sausage and Garlic far my very favourite

BBQ Pizza

Baked Potato Pizza

Muffaletta Pizza

And dessert pizzas too....this one is Raspberry Crumble Pizza