Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Food Network Monthly Cookalong July Wrap Up

Another busy month has come to an end! My new grill has definitely gotten some use this month. I don't think I've ever grilled as much in my life. I recently won a copy of John Schlimm's Grilling Vegan Style so I have been trying out a few recipes from that as well. I am hoping to put together a proper review of it soon but I will say I am enjoying everything I have made so far!

Now onto the cookalong posts I was sent this month!

I am going to start off with Lea from Vibrantlea Vegan since she is our newest participant! Thanks for joining in! Lea decided to veganize Marcela Vallodolid's recipe for Creamy Corn Cups or Esquites which look so tasty! Lea even upped the flavour by grilling the corn which makes it work perfect for this month's theme! http://vibrantleavegan.blogspot.ca/2012/07/food-network-monthly-cookalong-esquites.html

Next up is Liz from Cooking the Vegan Books who quickly admits she didn't grill it but that it could be easily cooked on the grill if she had one. Liz made two different pizzas using recipes from the upcoming Grills Gone Vegan by Tamasin Noyes that she tested awhile back but wanted to eat again. I tested just a few from Tami's grilling book and it was all extremely tasty like everything Tami makes! http://cookingtheveganbooks.com/2012/07/13/food-network-monthly-cookalong-pizza/

Melissa from Loves to Eat Vegan! joined in again this month with her take on Bobby Flay's Spice Rubbed Chicken Tacos using seitan as a quick stand in but suggested you could also easily use tofu or gardein. The only other ingredient she had to veganize was the mayo so she grabbed some Vegenaise and went to the grill with this one. It is a little more involved of a recipe with grilled poblanos, BBQ onions, coleslaw and a spiced rubbed chickn but Melissa added that the seitan and onions were the best part so you could change up the toppings and make them an easy weeknight meal as well! http://lovestoeatvegan.blogspot.ca/2012/07/food-network-monthly-cookalong-grilled.html

Last but definitely not least is Tami from Vegan Appetite who grilled up some harissa marinated tofu despite the soaring temperatures deterring her from outdoor cooking! I totally get it because it is crazy hot here in Ottawa as well this summer! Since getting to know Tami, I have started to associate certain foods with her and harissa is definitely one of them! It definitely looks delicious and even has those perfect grill marks we would expect from the Grill Master! http://www.veganappetite.com/2012/07/harissa-grilled-tofu-for-food-network.html

My Cookalong Posts for quick navigation

Garden Burgers - http://threeandahalfvegans.blogspot.ca/2012/07/food-network-cookalong-garden-burgers.html

Sausage and Pepper Skewers with Grilled Polenta - http://threeandahalfvegans.blogspot.ca/2012/07/food-network-monthly-cookalong-sausage.html

Super Topped Frankfurters - http://threeandahalfvegans.blogspot.ca/2012/07/food-network-monthly-cookalong-super.html

Memphis-Style Hickory Smoked Tempeh Ribs - http://threeandahalfvegans.blogspot.ca/2012/07/food-network-monthly-cookalong-memphis.html

Please note: I am posting photos with each link so you can see the beautiful creations these talented people have put together. The photos are the property of each blogger and shouldn't be copied and used unless you have their consent. I'm sure they won't mind you sharing with friends just be nice and give credit were credit is due.

Monday, July 30, 2012

July Vegan Food Swap

It's that time again to show you the yummy treats I received from this month's Vegan Food Swap! This month I was matched up with Megan who blogs from The Gluten Free Vegan and I was sending goodies to Becks who blogs from Crunchy Can Feel Good who isn't vegan but is open to trying which I think is awesome!

Megan sent me a package of Black Bean Soup Mix which can be made as a soup or a dip. I'm thinking dip since it's bejesusing hot here but you never know. She also sent a package of adorable cupcake liners with a recipe included for Pina Colada cupcakes (gluten free of course). There was also a package of Saskatoon Berry flavoured green tea which seems appropriate since she lives in Saskatoon! And my very favourite part of the parcel was the home made Lime-Infused Sea Salt in an adorable little jar! I love home made stuff and when I opened it up, the smell of fresh limes came right through. She suggested rimming a glass for a margarita and I think that will happen as soon as I figure out how to make a virgin one since I'm not a drinker any more. Maybe limeade will work and then I can make some black bean dip and sit out on my deck for a little fiesta! Thank you again to Megan for the amazing Vegan Swap parcel! 

Again, if you would like to participate in next month's swap, visit Me'Shell's blog and sign up now! It's a lot of fun and you don't have to have a blog or even be vegan to participate, just open to the experience.

What We've Been Up To Lately

Where the heck has July gone?? I can't believe it will be August this week. I'm guessing that all the stuff we have been up to this month has made it fly by even faster. Speaking of time flying, we celebrated Mac's fifth birthday this month! We started out our day early early where he immediately went to my room and asked if we could watch an episode or two of Income Property...strangely his favourite show! We then went downstairs, opened presents and feasted on some Cinnamon Roll French Toast from Vegan Junk Food which is Mac's (and everyone else in house's) favourite breakfast. For his party this year we landed on a luau and he described the cake to me as an island with a volcano (that has a cave), with a 5 candle on it and he wanted it to taste like pineapple. No sweat right?! I made one big sheet cake and four small rounds using the plain vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World adding in coconut extract to up the tropical flavours. I used the recipe (minus the booze) for Pina Colada icing from Sticky Fingers' Sweets and oh my my...you need to have this icing! It is amazing and with one taste, I understand why she won in Cupcake Wars. I also made some pineapple jam from fresh pineapple to fill in between the layers of the volcano as lava and it was delicious if I do say so myself! To make it brown and sandy all over I went with coconut sugar figuring it would add a nice flavour to the cake (which it did) and it was easier than baking up a bunch of graham crackers just to blend them up to make crumbs (so much easier). Mac was super happy with how it looked and how it tasted saying "this is the best cake ever" many times as he chomped down on it. 

Cinnamon Roll French Toast for breakfast!
Eating up his Bean Burger and Oven Fries
Ryan enjoying the luau and veggie burgers too
Happy with his cake!

We also decided this month it was finally time to paint this house the colours we wanted it since it was still the neutral colours the previous owners had painted it in order to sell it. The plan was to do it as soon as we moved in but we all know how that works. You get all your stuff in and then you don't want to move it around and then you live with it for four years...just me? Ah well! We let Mac choose whatever colour he wanted for his bedroom and sure enough he picked his favourite colour...PURPLE. We chose to use Mythic Paint for our makeover which you can't actually buy here in Ottawa but you can order it through The Healthiest Home Store. Just make sure you plan ahead because it can take up to a week to get it after you order it. We started painting this weekend and I quickly remembered why I didn't want to paint when we moved in. It's an incredible pain in the butt to prep it all...the painting isn't too bad but the cutting and taping and all that...boo! Any ways, we got a good start at it and let Mac paint with us and quickly realized that we didn't have enough to get two full coats on the walls. I swear they were drinking it! So we thought about it and decided on a whim we would hit Montreal (where you can buy the paint on the spot) at City Paints and restock. When I looked up where the paint store was, I had to find out how close or far it was from my favourite vegan shop in Montreal, Viva Vegan Store. Lucky for me...it's only a few blocks away. It was destiny right!? So we all hopped in the car and went on a whirlwind trip to Montreal.

We picked up our paint after narrowly missing their closing time (actually we did miss it but they were kind enough to let us come in after they closed) thanks to construction on the highway completely closing the exit where Google maps told us to get off. After we headed to Viva Vegan! Mac had decided on the way there that he was going to get some marshmallows when we got there and thank goodness, they had one pack of Toasted Coconut Sweet & Sara marshmallows there for him. We also picked up a giant hoarder sized box of Butler Soy Curls since we are kind of addicted to them especially when they are Smoky Soy Curls from Vegan Diner. The store is super cute and quaint. It was smaller than I had imagined from all they carry online but it had what we needed! They have a little table so you can sit and enjoy a cupcake (recommended!!) and they also have a few flavours of vegan ice cream on hand too.

Just down the street is Aux Vivres which we were encouraged to make a stop at by Amanda over at Vegan Sweet Tart via Twitter and she was super right! It was definitely worth the stop! We went to the take out side of the restaurant as we were in a hurry to get back on the road to get home for bedtime. It is super quick to get your food this way for sure. Ryan ordered a Gyro Sandwich since that was Amanda's recommendation and he was so happy he listened. He said it was one of the best sandwiches he's had. I had basically the same thing but as a platter and in place of the pita bread I got roasted potato wedges and brown rice with salad on the side. The gyro seitan was tasty but the real stand out for me was the wedges and the tzatziki. I'm serious when I saw it has kept me up thinking about what they made it with that made it so rich and thick and creamy and tangy...soooo good! Mac is not such an adventurous eater so he decided he just wanted the roasted potato wedges with house made ketchup. I figured it would be the case so I made sure to pack lots of other things before we left to fill him up. He was seriously happy with these wedges and ketchup (and so was Ryan when he got the leftovers Mac couldn't finish!). My mom was taken with the name of their cheesecake, Gateau Fauxmage and decided that was going to be her healthy supper! Hah! She got in the car and took about two bites and quickly went back in to buy a few more slices and a brownie. We all had a taste and agree, it's amazing cheesecake. It too has me thinking about what the heck they made it out of it get it so rich and creamy. Mac was really excited to visit an all-vegan restaurant and crazy enough, it was our first time in one. We have an amazing one here in Ottawa (Zen Kitchen) but we don't eat out very often. Now that he knows there is one in Ottawa, he says we have to go there and he also immediately made plans to go back to Aux Vivres in September to try out their waffles for brunch. Kid can definitely read a menu! Next time we are going to make sure to leave nice and early though so we can spend the day and not be so rushed. If anyone has suggestions of fun things to do while you are in Montreal, please leave a comment and let us know the best places for kids!

Potato wedges (all cut up) with house made ketchup for Mac

Happy camper with his potato wedges

Ryan is showing his sandwich who's boss

Assiette Kosmos - Souvlaki Style Seitan, tzatziki, salad,
potato wedges and brown rice

Giant box of Soy Curls

Mac said "I can't lift it, it's bigger than me!"

The Vegan Catch of the Day

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Food Network Monthly Cookalong: Memphis-Style Hickory-Smoked Tempeh Ribs

Alright it's probably not what The Neely's had in mind when they developed this recipe but I think tempeh makes an excellent stand in for ribs. Is it on a bone? No (and yuck anyways) but it is easy to pick up each one and delicious when covered in BBQ sauce after being smoked with some hickory wood chips!

It all started with the thought "I wanna smoke something in that BBQ" so I went out and found a smoker box (HomeSense strangely) and some hickory smoke chips (Home Hardware) and then went searching through Food Network's website for something that I wanted to try to veganize. I browsed through and found that The Neely's (recipe here) had exactly what I was looking for. The switch to tempeh was an easy one for me since I have made BBQ sauced tempeh sticks before inside and always thought they made a good replacement for ribs. I cut mine into little riblet sticks by halving the whole cake of tempeh then cutting into one inch wide pieces. I mixed up the dry rub and (warning) it makes a lot that you will not need unless you are making a bunch of tempeh riblets. I used two packages of tempeh and still have a large ziploc bag full of the rub up in the cupboard. It will keep so not a bad thing at all but if you are planning on just making this once maybe scale it down to a 1/4 of the recipe. They suggest rubbing it on the ribs and leaving it for 8 hours or more. I didn't have that kind of time so I just rubbed it on the tempeh and let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour and found it worked just fine.

I made 1/2 the sauce only because ketchup is a precious commodity in our house and I didn't want to use up most of a bottle. It was just enough for the two packages of tempeh with a little left over for dipping. It is a good but not great sauce in my opinion. It needs a little something...a little oomph! While we were eating the tempeh riblets I grabbed the bottle of Carolina-Style BBQ sauce from Vegan Diner that I keep on hand and gave them a few squirts, it really helped up the flavours.

As for the smoking process, I soaked the hickory chips for an hour in some water then loaded them into the little smoker box I bought. It is V shaped so it fits on top of the heat deflector plate inside the grill. I put it in there and started up the grill. Once it had heated up, I turned the two burners off on the side that didn't have the smoker box and put the dry rubbed tempeh pieces on the cool side. I turned the smoker box side down to medium-low as well (they suggest around 250 so use that built in thermometer to find which temperature setting works for you). After about 15 minutes I flipped the tempeh riblets over and then brushed a little bit of olive oil on each one. Since tempeh doesn't have a lot of fat in it I figured they needed a little something to keep them moist. After another 15 minutes, I flipped them again and basted that side with olive oil as well. By this point the chips in the smoker box had given all they had so I decided to turn that side off and turn the heat on the side with the tempeh riblets to get them a little browned on the outside. I used med-high heat and once they were nicely grilled, I slathered them with the BBQ sauce and let it get caramelized a bit. I took them off and put some more sauce over each before serving as well. I served them up with some roasted potatoes and grilled corn on the cob and they were quickly eaten up with lots of MMMs around the table! You could definitely taste the smoky flavour in them so I would definitely venture into smoking on the grill again. It's so much faster to smoke tempeh as well, definitely no need for three hours on there which makes it great for a quicker supper option.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Food Network Monthly Cookalong: Super Topped Frankfurters

Just recently one of our local health food stores (Market Organics) started carrying Field Roast sausages and frankfurters. I was over the moon happy and rushed downtown to get some the very evening they announced this. I love Field Roast sausages but will admit I had never tried their frankfurters. Last time I went down there, there was one lone package of frankfurters left in the fridge so I decided to take them home and give them a shot. I searched through all the suggestions of what to top a hot dog with on Food Network US Grilling Central and landed on two different ideas. We tried them out on two different nights and really loved both. The best part is...they are super easy to veganize. Switch out the hot dog for your favourite vegan version (Field Roast Frankfurters recommended!) and you are most of the way there. Of the two we picked only one had cheese, I just used our favourite cheddar-y cheese sauce in place of it but you could use Daiya shreds or wedges as well. (Sidenote: we just got Daiya wedges here yesterday and again being the crazy person that I am for all things vegan, I ran to Rainbow Foods as soon as they tweeted their arrival and got some. Now that I have tasted them all, I wish that I had had them when I made the Nacho Dogs, the Jalapeno Garlic Havarti would be amazing on them!)

The first recipe I went for was from Bobby Flay called Nacho Dogs. It has a spicy roasted tomato salsa, guacamole, pickled jalapenos and crushed corn chips all loaded in there. It calls for grated white cheddar so I went with my favourite cheddary cheese sauce from Hearty Vegan for the Irish Nachos in it's place but like I said above, this would be a great place to use some Daiya Jalapeno Garlic Havarti. The guacamole has more in it than I usually do but I went with it (minus the yucky cilantro) to taste the dog as he intended it. It was tasty but I like mine spiked with garlic so next time I would throw that in. The salsa was a little wet but it was super tasty, smoky and spicy! I like the flavour it got from roasting the tomatoes and it was super quick to do. I just put them straight on the super hot grill and turned them every few minutes and they were quickly blistered and had nice grill marks on them. I grilled the Field Roast frankfurters on the BBQ as well. They were sticking a bit at first so I grabbed a small plate and put a bit of olive oil and S&P on it. I rolled each one in the oil and stuck them back on the grill and it worked much better. I did it a few times while they cooked sort of like basting them since they are not fatty like their meaty counterparts.

All together they were quite stuffed and it was tricky to get it all in one bite but we gave it our best! They were really tasty and Ryan and I both enjoyed them quite a bit. We both said after supper that we would want them again!

The next one we tried was a Chicago Dog from Food Network Magazine. I have heard about Chicago Dogs but have never tried one and I am so happy I finally did! I think it might be my favourite hot dog ever!!! I grilled the hot dog which I know isn't traditional but hey, neither is a wheat gluten franks so go with me here. Put your grilled frank in a bun (they say poppy seed, I say whatever you have since we have established I'm not a purist) and then load it up with relish, mustard, big spears of dill pickles, sliced tomatoes, diced onion then sprinkle the top with celery salt. It is amazingly tasty and fresh. This will definitely be my new hot dog combo of choice! I had two on my plate but only ended up getting through one and a bit before I was stuffed. I passed it over to Ryan who happily finished it off. I will admit to watching him eat it and being a little jealous that he could eat it all up. I served this one with pasta salad and grilled local corn (another reason I was so stuffed). It is so easy to grill corn and you won't regret it, it's delicious cooked this way and you don't have to heat up the kitchen with a big pot of boiling water which is a super plus since this summer here is crazy hot and humid. I used Bobby Flay's recipe for Perfectly Grilled Corn but just for the technique. I think I will have to try out his flavoured butters in the future!


Friday, July 6, 2012

Food Network Monthly Cookalong: Sausage and Pepper Skewers w/Grilled Polenta

I did a backwards search on Food Network's website this time because I knew I wanted something with Sausage and Peppers but wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do. Turns out I found exactly what I was looking for from a very unexpected source, Sandra Lee. I have never seen any of Sandra Lee's shows and I'm not sure they even air up here in Canada but I have to say her reputation precedes her. From what I've heard she is the queen of convenience products and enjoys mixing and matching to create her recipes. Then I thought...maybe it's not such a bad thing after all to veganize her recipes to show how easy and convenient vegan cooking can be! I've definitely been known to lean on a quality convenience product when cooking because I don't always feel like starting everything from scratch and when it comes to vegan sausages, no one does it like Field Roast! I have a few packages in my freezer for treats when I feel like something yummy and this is one of those times! Sandra's recipe can be found here and all I really had to do was switch out the  sausage for some amazing Italian Field Roast links that are made with eggplant, fennel, red wine, garlic and sweet peppers. I had never barbecued them before but they really are a little bit more delicious when you do! I put some bell peppers and onions on the skewers just like Sandra and added a little mushrooms because we had them and love them grilled. I got to skip the step where you cook the sausages half way before putting them on the skewers so it makes a quick recipe even quicker! I just sliced each sausage link into five or six pieces each and put them on with the veggies.

I was intrigued by the grilled polenta since I had never had it that way before so I wanted to give that a go as well. I didn't have instant polenta on hand but did have just enough of a bag of Bob's Red Mill Organic Polenta/Corn Grits to make them the more labour intensive way. I put three cups of salted water to boil, added my one cup of polenta in while whisking once it was and then kept stirring every minute or so for 30 minutes until it was nice and thick. Once it was cooked I poured it out onto a greased half sheet pan and put it in the fridge for a bit. Once it is chilled you can cut it into little squares. Before heading to the grill, I sprayed it with some spray oil and just like she says, grill it for a few minutes on each side to get those pretty grill marks and you are done! The skewers didn't take long either, I just grilled them at the same time and everything was done at the same time. Ryan and I really enjoyed this one and we would definitely make it again. It was quick, easy and definitely tasty!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Food Network Cookalong: Garden Burgers by Food Network Magazine

Since the theme this month is GRILLING, I headed to the Food Network website and searched for my favourite thing to grill...burgers! There were lots of options (998 to be exact) so I sorted through the top ones I would like to try then went to Ryan for his vote. He picked Loaded Chili Cheeseburgers as his number one pick and my number one pick was the Garden Burger. I swayed him to my side easily and promised to try his pick before the month was over. The Garden Burger is a beef patty topped with green goddess dressing, lettuce, tomato, avocado and sprouts. Not the usual toppings for a burger for sure but with a name like Garden Burger how's a vegan to resist!

To veganize it was quick and simple, I switched out the homemade patty for a Gardein Ultimate Beefless Burger since they are my favourite pre-made burgers. I have always cooked them on the griddle or frying pan before so it was the first time I had made one on the BBQ. It was still just as delicious and had the caramelized outside that I always loved about them while cooking them inside. The toppings were already vegan so all that was left was the green goddess dressing. I switched out refrigerated silken tofu for the low-fat yogurt (exactly the same amount) and used 4 tbsp of Vegenaise in place of the low-fat mayo called for in the recipe. I added a bit extra since after blending with the original amount, I felt it needed a little extra so try it first and taste for your own personal preference. I added Wan Ja Shan brand Organic Worcestershire Sauce (vegan and gluten free) and the rest of the ingredients stayed the same, fresh chives, basil, lemon juice. It was a lovely bright green from the herbs once it was all blended and had the perfect tang to it to still shine through all those burger toppings and the patty itself. I served them on PC brand pretzel buns because we are currently obsessed with them. I even buttered and grilled them as well! It made a delicious burger that tasted fresh and had lots of crunch with the sprouts and lettuce. Ryan even commented that his taste buds must be evolving because he was really enjoying it and didn't hate the alfalfa sprouts (since he usually doesn't love them). I have loads of dressing left over so there will be some green goddess dressed salads in my future for sure but since it's so tasty, I'm looking forward to it! I would definitely make these again!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Food Network Monthly Cookalong Theme - July!

First off...Happy Canada Day to all the Canadians out there! We are going to celebrate it by going to the farmer's market and cleaning our backyard, woo! I know, we are wild!

The theme for July for our cookalong is going to be GRILLING! Works perfectly for this time of year, too hot to cook inside around here for sure. I figured I would go broad with the theme this month since there are lots of grilling recipes on the American Food Network website (5000+ in fact if you search) and they have a page up right now as well called Grilling Central that is full of recipes just screaming for that vegan touch. I can say I don't have much experience barbecuing since becoming vegan but I'm ready to give it a go. We even bought a new BBQ the other day that I am really excited about breaking in. Don't have a BBQ? No problem, grilling is something you can do inside as well on a grill pan or under a broiler or maybe even over a camp fire! And remember barbecuing isn't just about the food, it's about the experience too! You can blog about your favourite summer drinks or sides too! So summon your inner Bobby Flay and hit the grill, then share it with the rest of us on your blog and don't forget to email me a link or let me know so I can include you in the round up at the end of the month!

Links to Food Network Grilling ideas for inspiration