Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Camping + Food

I just got back from camping on Vancouver Island and it was beautiful and fun! But I will bypass the beautiful and the fun part and talk about the food. My camping companions were all non-vegans, so they told me in advance what they had planned to make/eat on the trip and I armed myself so that I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out on any of it. It was agonizing having to decide what to take only because there were so many possibilities! I wish I could make a fire in my backyard and pretend I’m camping just so I can try all the camp foods that I wanted to try. Those people who think vegans have a limited diet, they are crazy.

I went a little overboard with the food-making and ended up with enough to feed four Angelas, but that is okay because now I don’t have to cook for the rest of the week. For pre-made things, I brought vegan marshmallows (which I had ordered online from Pangea and miraculously arrived at the very very last minute, making me appreciate them that much more) and tofurky sausages for roasting over the fire (because I prefer them to veggie dogs any day). For homemade things I brought raw vegetables and almond-red-pepper hummus, potato salad, balsamico roasted vegetables for roasting over the fire, kering tempe, pancake mix, hazelnut fig granola, apples and pears, and Nanaimo bars (because I’m a dork and liked the idea of eating Nanaimo bars in Nanaimo).

Here I must admit that this was definitely car-camping and not back-woods camping. We had running water nearby and there was a truck that came around selling firewood fairly regularly. But it was still fun, and a nice break. My companions even brought a can of whipped cream for putting on their homemade crepes for breakfast on the first morning. I, meanwhile, enjoyed my sunny seedy orange pancakes (I prepared the wet and dry ingredients separately and then combined them along with the OJ right before frying) with chopped strawberries and maple syrup.

Everyone loved the potato salad.

Roasting the vegetables was a fun time. I had prepared them in their marinade and wrapped them in tinfoil and put in ziplock baggies before I left. Once the fire got going and a bed of coals built up, we put the tinfoil bundles on the coals and then put wood on top to seal in the heat (and thus I learned how the first oven originated :P). They took slightly less time to cook than in my home oven.

The Nanaimo bars also went over really well, but sorry, no photos ☹.

Other things we made (everyone) were: fire-roasted baby potatoes, asparagus and zucchini (with simply oil, salt and pepper to season), and banana boats (banana stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate bits). And there were of course roasted plain marshmallows, roasted tofurky sausages, and lots of camp coffee (the first time I’ve had coffee in a long while – a rare indulgence). Mmmm, camp food…

Hazelnut Fig Granola

I adore figs and hazelnuts, and even more in combination. I’ve been dreaming of combining them in granola-form for a while now, and while I was trying to figure out what to take on my recent camping trip, I decided to go for it. Here’s what I came up with, using this recipe as a loose base:

Hazelnut Fig Granola

2 cups rolled oats (although I was thisclose to using barley flakes…maybe next time…)

½ cup flour (I used brown rice flour)
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
½ cup flax meal

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons hazelnut butter
3 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 cup chopped dried figs (I prefer black mission figs)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil/spray a rimmed baking sheet and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, hazelnuts, flour, flax, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the hazelnut butter, oil, molasses and maple syrup until emulsified. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Spread out on the baking sheet and bake for approximately 25 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Once taken out of the oven, stir in the figs and voila, done!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I had some bananas to use up, and I was inspired by this recipe to make some banana bread with cardamom in it (because cardamom is my favourite spice in the whole world!). I think blueberries go pretty well with cardamom so I added them in, and I made some modifications so I could use maple syrup instead of the sugar (I’m taking a break from any type of cane sugar for the time being). Oh and I used spelt flour too. Here is the adapted version:


¼ cup coconut milk
1/3 cup almond milk
½ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or any kind of vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ripe bananas
2 heaping cups spelt flour
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil/spray a loaf pan. Blend together the coconut milk, almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla and bananas. In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, cardamom, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries. Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tip: If the top starts to brown up before it’s ready, put a piece of tinfoil over it so it doesn’t brown too much.

Comfort Food

Ever had those days when you feel like crap and all you want to do is stay in and not talk to anyone and say ‘screw the world’? Well I did, last week. The weather was dreary and I was feeling tired and bummed out for no good reason, so I decided to make some ‘feel-good’ food and watch Leningrad Cowboys Go America. As an ending to my bad day, the film-watching didn’t happen (I haven’t been able to find it on dvd anywhere around here and the version I had downloaded on my roommate’s computer wouldn’t open on mine) but the food part was good. And I’ve since located and watched the film (very funny, check it out – Aki Kaurismaki is great) so all is well, but I digress. Back to the food.

I made baked tofu with yogurt sauce, fried mushrooms and onions, and potato-yam-sage pancakes, with a little green salad on the side. I was quite pleased with the pancakes – all I did was boil a potato and a yam, mash them together (with the skins on to retain nutrients), mix in some almond milk, bread crumbs, minced onion, sage, paprika, salt and ground pepper, shape them into pancakes and fry until browned. A good, satisfying, comforting meal.

Then for dessert (even though I said I was going to lay off the sweets for a while) I made chocolate-avocado mousse. I didn’t use measurements so I can’t post a recipe yet, but next time I make it I will certainly use measurements and post it! Maple syrup is the sweetener, and it is very rich and chocolaty so this keeps me from consuming too much at once. It’s not terribly unhealthy either, even though it tastes like it is. A good ending to a good meal!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dragon Bowl v.1 - Sesame!

I have a feeling that I’m going to make a lot of dragon-bowls in the coming weeks. What makes a dragon bowl? I'm not exactly sure, but the ones I’ve seen have consisted of a grain (usually rice), a bunch of vegetables (cooked/raw), something protein-rich (usually tofu), and a dressing to bring it all together. And it’s always served in a bowl (but that’s a no-brainer, right?). Can a dragon bowl have beans instead of tofu? That is what I'm wondering right now....

This version is for sesame lovers. It’s got rice as a base, marinated and sautéed garlic-ginger-sesame tofu, raw carrots, daikon and green onion combined with sautéed kale and cabbage, and a sesame dressing with lots of tahini. It is very tasty, salty and satisfying, and the different vegetables give it a nice combination of different flavours and textures. Yum! This photo does not do it justice…

Sesame Dragon Bowl

½ lb extra-firm tofu, pressed

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger root, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon agave nectar

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 bunch kale, thinly sliced,
1 cup green cabbage, chopped
1 carrot, grated
½ daikon, grated
2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp sesame oil

3 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons toasted black sesame seeds (for garnish)

Marinate the tofu: The tofu must be pressed – wrap the block in a dishtowel, put something heavy on it (I used a plate with a can of beans on top) and let it sit for a couple of hours – this will make the tofu firmer and it will also absorb flavours better. After pressing, cut the tofu into ½-inch cubes. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a shallow pan, add the tofu, toss to coat, cover and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Start cooking the rice (I’m sure you already know how to cook rice – combine rice and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and then simmer for 35 minutes or so, until the liquid is gone). While the rice is cooking, prepare the kale, cabbage, carrot, daikon and green onion. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. 10-15 minutes before the rice is done, remove the tofu marinade from the fridge, scoop out the tofu with a spatula or slotted spoon and sautee it in the sesame oil at medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Add the kale and cabbage and sautee for about 5 more minutes, until the kale has shrunk a bit and turned a more vibrant green.

Divide the rice amongst 4 bowls. Put the tofu mixture on top of the rice, and then the grated daikon and carrot on top of the tofu. Dollop the dressing over-top, and then garnish with the black sesame seeds. Enjoy! Makes 4 large servings.

Three Little Cupcakes

Last week I got Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero) from the library. I was hesitant to look at a cookbook solely dedicated to desserts (I usually come up with too many dessert ideas as it is) but I’ve heard so much about this one, I had to give it a try. Sure enough, within five minutes of browsing through the book I began salivating and forced myself to put it away until I had someone (besides myself and my roommate) to give cupcakes to.

Then on Monday, I found some little excuses to make cupcakes: some for my landlady (as a thank-you because she gave me some pots to start a vegetable/herb garden in the backyard) and some to give to my coworkers on the first day of my summer job. I made three half-batches so that I could give away a few of each while keeping one or two to sample myself (I’m selfish like that).

I made (pictured from left to right): Simple Vanilla and Agave Nectar Cupcakes (made with spelt flour) filled with Super Natural Agave Icing and topped with additional agave icing and Not-Too-Sweet Blueberry Mousse; German Chocolate Cupcakes (Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake topped with Coconut Pecan Fudge Frosting); and Rosewater Cupcakes (I omitted the pistachios from Pistachio Rosewater Cupcakes, upped the rosewater a bit, filled them with rose petal jam, and topped them with pink-tinted rosewater Buttercream).

All of them were excellent, with the exception of the blueberry mousse - next time I’ll omit the lemon extract, which I found overpowering. I’ll also add slightly more arrowroot and agar than the recipe calls for, because the mousse was thinner than I’d prefer. Overall though – excellent. Definitely a cookbook worth having for amazing buttercream icing and special occasions (the rest of the time I’ll have to hide it somewhere for health/safety reasons).

While in the kitchen, my roommate asked, “what if she (the landlady) doesn’t like cupcakes?” and I said, “everyone likes cupcakes,” then he said, “I don’t really like cupcakes,” so I said “you don’t count.” But he likes them now. Oh yes.

Now I think I’ll take a break from sweets for a little while…

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cucumber Raita (sort of)

The truth is, I’ve never had raita at a restaurant or anything, so I could be completely wrong. But I got this book called Indian Vegetarian Cooking at Your House (by Sunetra Humbad and Amy Schafer Boger) from the library last week, and I thought that the Cucumber Raita might go well with the rest of the khichdi I made a couple of days ago. So I adapted the recipe in the book, and came up with this:

Cucumber Raita

1 large English cucumber, chopped

1 large handful cherry tomatoes, quartered

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 cup soy yogurt
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

½ teaspoon salt
2 pinches cayenne

Combine the cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro and onion in a large bowl, and set aside. Toast the cumin and sesame seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, stirring constantly so they won’t burn, then let cool. Combine the yogurt, milk, salt and cayenne in a smaller bowl, then add the cumin and sesame seeds, mixing well. Pour the yogurt mixture over the chopped vegetables, and toss together. Done!
Makes 4 big servings.

It’s probably not authentic at all, but this salad was good nevertheless – refreshing and spicy at the same time. I enjoyed it with the khichdi and some steamed broccoli.

Sunny Seedy Orange Pancakes with Maple-Molasses Sauce

Warning: only for adventurous cooks or crazy vegan health nuts.

Ok, maybe this combination is just bizarre and I’ve gone too far in combining weird-vegan-health-food ingredients (do you ever get confused and think that what’s good for you tastes good just because you know that it’s good for you? Am I the only one?), but I thought it was pretty tasty.

See, I had Sweet Potato with Cinnamon Drizzle for breakfast yesterday, and I was thinking about how using all-molasses for the drizzle made the flavour a tad strong, and it was also a bit thicker than I would have liked (not to dis the recipe – it was overall pretty yummy). However, I like molasses quite a bit and think that, with all its calcium and iron, I should include it in my diet more often.

Then I woke up this morning craving pancakes. But I also wanted something that would sustain me for a while. I find that plain vegan pancakes (as much as I love them) tend to make me feel heavy and sleepy - not exactly an energizing breakfast.

So I came up with these – the pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and chickpea flour add protein, the flax meal adds omega-3, and the orange juice goes well with the nuttiness and adds some sweetness. And there is no refined flour or sugar, and very little fat (as far as pancakes go). Orange and molasses seemed like a good combination, so I made the sauce, which adds calcium, iron, and more omega-3. So this is something that you can feel good about putting in your body. You may be thinking, ‘this can’t possibly taste remotely good, with all those weird health-food ingredients’ but I assure you that, as long as you don’t mind the idea of some seedy crunch in your pancakes and you like molasses, you will like these. And if you don’t like molasses (wuss!) then use maple syrup, apple butter or whatever else you want instead.

Sunny Seedy Orange Pancakes

¾ cup spelt flour
¼ cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons flax meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup black sesame seeds
½ cup orange juice
1/3 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup
cooking spray

Combine the dry ingredients (flour through seeds) in a large bowl, mixing well. Add the orange juice and give a couple of quick stirs. Add the remainder of the wet ingredients and stir as little as possible to combine everything (you don’t want gummy pancakes!).

Preheat a pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Drop ¼ cup batter into the pan for each pancake (mine fit three at a time) spreading out a bit with the back of a spoon. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the edges of the pancake darken a bit, then flip and cook the other side. Spray the pan between batches.

Serve with some orange slices and Maple-Molasses Sauce (unless you’re a wuss). Makes enough for two people (6 little pancakes)

Maple-Molasses Sauce

3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons hempseed oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and pour over pancakes. Makes enough for two people (6 little pancakes)

I’m happy to report that, having eaten these several hours ago, I didn’t feel heavy at all – these are truly nourishing, tasty pancakes. Happy Sunday!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Naked Man Strawberry Cake with Almond Icing

Back home, when strawberry season lasted for only two or three weeks, my mom would buy me a ton of strawberries and I would get really excited eating them and trying to figure out what else to do with so many strawberries. This recipe (slightly modified over the years) was always made around this time. Now that I’m in Vancouver, I have a feeling I’ll be making this more than once or twice a year – the other day I got 2 lbs of strawberries for three dollars! Crazy!

You may be wondering about the name of the cake. Well, in this song by the Sugarcubes, Bjork is singing about this woman who finds an unhappy naked man in her flat, and he climbs onto the roof, so she pleads, “naked man, naked man, calm down! I-I’ll give you some strawberry cake”.

So if you find any suicidal naked men on your roof, I think this cake would be a pretty good way of enticing them down and giving them some hope. It’s definitely contentment-inducing, and it tastes like summer (to me, at least). It’s pretty healthy, as far as cakes go – not a fancy decadent cake, but it is not the place of every cake to be fancy and decadent. Makes a good afternoon tea cake, or a sweet breakfast. It doesn’t even really need icing – you could just leave it off, or try something like the crumble topping in this recipe, but with almonds instead of cashews.

Naked Man Strawberry Cake

1 ½ cups flour (I did half and half all-purpose and spelt, and it was great – next time I’ll try all spelt and see how that goes, but all-all-purpose works as well)

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cane sugar

¾ cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract or amaretto
3 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons soy yogurt

1 tablespoon flax meal (or other egg replacer to equal 1 egg)

1 ½ cups strawberries, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together the flour(s), baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vanilla, almond, oil, yogurt and flax, whisking really well (or use a hand blender). Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently (don’t over-mix). Fold in the strawberries. Pour batter into a lightly oiled cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes – if a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, it’s done.

Almond Icing

4 tablespoons earth balance margarine

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup almond butter (smooth, not chunky)

3 tablespoons non-dairy milk (I used almond)

Blend all ingredients together. If it looks too thick, add a small amount of milk to thin it out. Spread over the cake once cooled.

This cake is quite excellent with extra fresh strawberries and/or coconut milk ice cream.

Khichdi Dinner

A veggie-full dinner plate: mung beans with rice from tofu for two, Carrot Daikon salad, and some lightly steamed lacinato kale. I like my vegetables☺