h1

Vegan Louisiana Roux Soup

November 25, 2012

One of the greatest benefits of living with my roommate from Louisiana—aside from getting to see his pretty face every morning—has been getting to learn all about Louisianan, or cajun, cuisine. Though I may not partake of its trademark crawfish or andouille sausage, its signatures spices, vegetables, and cooking techniques still offer a lot for a vegan cook to chew on and bite into. And I’m here today to share one of the many southern joys I’ve been introduced to in the last year—a simple little soup known simply as roux:

Now if you know anything about cajun cooking—or French cooking, for that matter—you probably know that a roux is a soup base made by browning flour in butter. Just about every cajun dish you’ve probably heard of, from gumbo to jambalaya to étouffée, starts with a roux. But in addition to using a roux as a base for other soups, you can also turn it into a roux soup—a thick, hearty, stew bursting with the taste of roux.

It may not sound or look like much, but this simple dish is immensely flavourful and delicious—and all that flavour really just comes from the roux! No fancy spices or anything are needed. In addition, this soup is very flexible with its ingredients, and can be made year-round, no matter what’s in season. There’re really no rules for what veg is right for a roux, but I’ve found that starchy, white vegetables work best: potatoes for sure, and cauliflower too. Just stay away from things like tomatoes that would excessively bleed into the soup.

More than anything, roux just requires patience. Properly browning a roux will take you between 30 and 45 minutes or more, depending on the size of the roux, and you really can’t stop stirring it, lest the flour burn and your whole soup be ruined. But if you grab a few beers and queue up a few podcasts beforehand (might I recommend the ever-brilliant Bullseye?), you’ll be fine. And so, without further ado, my very own roux recipe:

Roux
(makes 2 litres of roux, or 4 hearty servings; however, the recipe is easily scalable to your needs)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup flour (gluten-free flour also works! use an all-purpose mix)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 1/4 cup mushrooms, minced finely
  • 1 carrot, diced finely and/or 1 bell pepper, diced finely and/or
  • 4 cups vegetables of your choosing; I’d recommend:
    • 2 cups potatoes, in small cubes
    • 1 cup cauliflower, in small florets
    • 1 cup cabbage
  • optional: 1/2 cup of flavoured tofu bites (I use Ying Ying Soy Food‘s miso variety)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Prep all your vegetables ahead of time: Once you start the roux, you’re not going to have any free hands to chop vegetables until pretty much everything’s in there, so make sure to chop all your vegetables chopped appropriately at the very start.
  2. Make your roux: Melt 1/2 cup of vegan pot in a big pot, and then add 1/2 cup of flour. Immediately start stirring flour into butter, adjust the heat such that the mixture is lightly bubbling, and then stir continuously for about 30 minutes (or more if you’re making a bigger roux). Don’t stop stirring for more than 10 seconds or the roux will burn! It’s tough to say when exactly the roux is ready, but what you’re waiting for is a noticeable darkening in colour and a nutty fragrance. If it helps, here’s my roux before, right when I started cooking it…


    and here it is after, when I decided it was ready…

  3. Brown some onions and mushrooms and whatever else: Once your roux is ready, add in your finely chopped onions, mushrooms, carrots and/or peppers. Stir all these into the roux, getting everything coated, and then let cook for 5 to 10 minutes until browned, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add your veg: Throw in your main soup vegetables (in this case, potatoes and cauliflower) and enough water to cover them. Stir in the water, breaking up the roux, bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer until vegetables are cooked. Correct for consistency throughout this process, adding more water if things are looking too thick, letting simmer if things are looking too thin.
  5. Add final touches: Add in any vegetables that only need to be lightly cooked, like cabbage, and the tofu, if using. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

All My Bread Baking Secrets

November 16, 2012

Spoiler alert: This post contains secrets. More specifically, bread baking secrets.

As some of you already know, for many months now I’ve been making all my own bread at home from scratch. I’ve posted recipe after recipe after recipe for bread on this here blog, but I’ve never really posted an all-purpose beginner’s guide to baking bread. Granted, I’m still far from being a pro at this, but I have picked up many tricks over the months, and now I want to share those tricks with you.

A proviso: This guide is for making basic, everyday bread; it’s not a guide for making fantastic, artisanal bread. Now don’t get me wrong: artisanal bread is awesome, and completely within the average person’s means. However, it also takes a lot of precision, time, and equipment that the average home baker probably doesn’t (yet) have. (If you do want to get into artisanal baking, however, the best place I know of to start is Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.)

The fact is, if you’re just looking to bake just some good bread, rather than amazing bread, then baking bread is super easy, and fairly hard to screw up. Yes, you’ll have plenty of little mishaps along the way, but rarely will any of those mishaps make your end product wholly inedible. So here they are: all my essential tips and tricks to baking good, everyday sandwich or snacking bread at home!

My 5 Essential Basic Bread Baking Tips

To begin things, here are five basic yet absolutely essential tips that every home baker should know.

1. Give yourself four hours

Between kneading, rising, shaping, proofing, and baking, even your most basic bread will take you at least three hours, so I like to make sure I have at least four hours in my schedule whenever I’m baking bread. These won’t be four hours of active time, but they should be four hours where you’ll more or less be at home and by your kitchen.

2. Always use instant yeast

This is a simple trick that I’ve heard several pros recommend. Instant (or rapid-rise) yeast, unlike regular yeast, does not need to be proofed (that is, mixed with water) beforehand; rather, you just add it directly to the flour at the beginning, saving you time and effort. Plus, since instant yeast is essentially just more potent yeast, it only helps your breads rise better.

3. You can never overknead

…at least if you’re kneading by hand. This is not exactly true, but if you’re a novice baker, you’re in much greater risk of not kneading enough. Seriously, to overknead by hand would require you to be kneading for over 10, probably 15 minutes, and your hands are going to get tired long before that.

4. Be responsive

The real key in successfully baking bread at home is being attentive to how your dough is performing and reacting appropriately. Even beyond ingredient measurements, there are so many factors that will affect your dough—temperature, humidity, brand of flour, freshness of yeast, and so on—and because of this, you need to feel comfortable veering away from any recipe when things don’t look quite right. Basically, this means adding more flour when the dough is looking too wet and adding more water when the dough is looking to dry. With practice, you’ll soon develop a sense of when a dough just feels right.

5. Let your bread cool

One of the simplest mistakes novice bakers will make is not allowing a freshly baked loaf sufficient time to cool. A lot of internal baking will continue during cooling, and cutting your bread too early will disrupt that process and potentially result in a partially unbaked loaf. I usually give my bread about an hour; this will give it enough time to cool, but still leave it a bit warm for that delectable first bite.

My Basic Everyday Bread Recipe & Procedure

Now that you’ve got the basic tricks down, we’re ready to start making some bread!

Essentially, bread is just three things: flour, yeast, and water. To this you will sometimes add salt (for flavour), oil (for texture), and sugar (for flavour, and to react with the yeast). In this recipe, I will just be using flour, yeast, water, and salt. This recipe is still tasty and satisfying, though not perhaps extraordinary. However, from this basic recipe you’ll be able to go off and make all sorts of other breads by adding toppings, trying different flours, and so on. Anyway, without further ado, here we go!

1. Mix your dry ingredients: flour, yeast, and salt

Start with 3.5 cups of flour, 2 tsp of yeast, and 1 tsp salt. (You will probably need more flour as you’re kneading.) As for choice of flour, it’s up to you. However, some tips: If you want to make white bread, try to procure some bread flour, which has a higher gluten content and will form a much better dough. If you want to make wheat bread and are using normal whole wheat flour, you will probably want to use 50% whole wheat flour and 50% white or bread flour; normal wheat flour doesn’t usually work quite right. If you want to make wheat bread and are lucky enough to live in Ontario, try to procure some Red Fife flour, which can be used solely, without adding any white flour, and is naturally delicious to boot. And if you want to make a spelt bread, I’ve had luck using spelt flour alone.

2. Add your wet ingredient: water

You’ll want about 1.25 cups of lukewarm water. Throw this right into your flour mixture.

3. Start mixing things together

In the bowl, mix everything together with a rubber spatula or some such utensil. The goal here is not to get everything to come together but just to form a ball-ish mass with the majority of what you have, as pictured above.

4. Get your dough on the counter

The reason you don’t need to worry about getting everything mixed together perfectly in the previous step is because the real incorporation work happens on the countertop, not in the bowl. So once you’ve gotten a rough ball formed in your bowl, turn it upside down and dump in our your counter, scraping out the remaining bits of flour on top. Now the kneading begins…

5. Start kneading

Kneading, in simplest terms, is pressing your dough together—that is, more like working out a knot on someone’s back than giving someone a backrub. You really want to put all your arm muscle into this, and to do so for a while, at least 5 minutes, but likely closer to 10. A basic kneading procedure is to fold your lump of dough in half, press it in good, turn the lump 90 degrees, and then repeat the fold, press, turn sequence. As you go, continually incorporate those remaining bits of flour left over from the bowl, kneading your dough into them and pressing them in. The picture above shows a ball of dough about midway through the kneading process.

6. Finish kneading

Like I said above, kneading requires you to be responsive. As you knead, you’ll notice your dough changing feel. In the end, your dough should be tacky but not sticky. If it’s looking too sticky (if clumps of dough are continually sticking to your palms as you knead), throw a handful of flour on top and knead that in, repeating if necessary. If it’s feeling too dry, wet your hands and knead for a bit, repeating if necessary. Definitely be more cautious when adding water than flour, as doughs are much more sensitive to additions in water content. Once your dough looks something like the dough pictured above, you’re done!

7. Oil it up

Now you’re ready to take a break and let yeast do its magic. In preparation for your first rise, lightly oil a big bowl. What oil you use doesn’t really matter, but you should use a different bowl than the one you used for mixing, since you want the bowl to be clean and dry. Once your bowl is oiled, toss your ball of dough around in the bowl, getting oil on every part of its surface.

8. Let it rise

Now simply put a towel on top of that bowl and walk away. For about two hours.

9. Come back

After about two hours, your dough should’ve about doubled in size. Sometimes it’ll double in less time, sometimes it’ll take more, but two hours is generally a good benchmark. Now you’re ready to shape your dough and give it its second rise.

10. Punch it down, flatten it out

The first thing you want to do now is punch—literally punch—your dough down. Just slam your first straight down into your big risen dough. (For you keeners out there, punching your dough down gets the gas out, making for a dense loaf in the end; if you want an airier bread, you actually want to skip punching down and avoid handling your dough as much as you can in this step.) Next, dump your collapsed dough onto the counter and pat it down into a flat oblong rectangle, as pictured above.

11. Shaping!

There are countless options for shaping bread, but all of them have silly French names like boule or bâtard or baguette or couronne or épi or fendu or fougasse or tabatière or auvergnat. The dough you’ve made could be used to make any of these shapes, but I’m going to show you how to shape it into a bâtard, as it’s by far the simplest and seems to work well with this dough recipe. The shaping process proceeds into two simple folds—to begin, fold the long bottom side of your oblong up, letter-style, like so:

Press the seam lightly to create a seal. Next, fold the top side down in a similar fashion:

Pinch this seam well, and maybe neat up the ends, if necessary:

And believe it, that’s all there is to it! You’re already done.

12. Let it rise, again

Now your dough must go through its second rise, or what’s called proofing. The good news is that the second rise is much shorter than the first: I usually give my doughs about 45 minutes. If you’ve got a baking stone and peel, you’ll want to proof your dough on the peel; if you’ll be baking on a normal baking sheet, line the baking sheet with parchment paper and proof on that. In either case, spread a small amount of fine cornmeal or semolina flour below your dough. Cover with a towel and let rise.

Now’s also a good time to preheat your oven! Set it to 425 F. If you’ve got a baking stone, making sure you’re preheating that at the same time.

13. Come back, again—and bake!

After 45 minutes or so, your dough should’ve grown a bit; it needn’t, and probably shouldn’t be a full doubling this time. You’re now ready to bake! Before putting your dough in the oven, you may want to score, or slash, it. I usually don’t, but that’s because I haven’t found it necessary with the breads I’ve been making. If you wish to do so (it can often assist with the baking process), simply lightly run a serrated bread knife diagonally or laterally across the width of your dough; two or three slashes is good. Now put your dough in the oven, either directly by moving the baking sheet it was proofing on, or by shaking it from your peel to your baking stone.

Bake for 5 minutes at 425 F, and then lower the oven heat to 375 F and bake for another 35 minutes.

14. Take it out, let it cool

After 40 minutes of baking, your bread should be done. There are numerous pieces of wisdom I’ve been told for how to know when a loaf is baked, but anything short of an internal thermometer is not much more than an old wives’ tale, and I’ve just never really understood what it means for a loaf to “sound hollow” when you tap it and besides the loaf is like 400 degrees why do you want to touch that. Anyway, 40 minutes should be about good, though you could go a little longer if you want a darker crust.

Let your bread cool on a cooling rack (not as pictured) for about an hour. As I said above, it really is essential that you let your bread fully cool, as a lot of internal baking still goes on after it comes out of the oven.

15. Dig in!

After your loaf is cooled, you’re finally ready to slice it up, chow down, and enjoy! Congratulations!

My 3 Advanced Bread Baking Tips

As a short coda to this horribly long post, I wanted to leave you with three simple additions you can make to your kitchen if you’re looking to step up your bread baking production. You can still make totally delicious bread without these additions, as I indeed did for years, but now that I have them, I can really see what a world of difference they make.

1. Get a kitchen scale

I didn’t have one of these for years, but even for casual bread baking it makes things so much simpler. All dough formulas are actually calculated by weight, not volume, and with the varying densities and varieties of flour, measuring things out by cups is never a sure-fire way to go. All this means is that you’ll need to do some fiddling while kneading, adding a little flour or water when necessary. A basic kitchen scale alleviates this need, and lets you reliably mix up perfect doughs again and again.

If you have a kitchen scale, I’ll let you know that my magic by-weight bread formula is: 500 g flour, 2 tsp yeast, and 1 tsp salt for the dry ingredients, and 50 g wildflower honey with 250 g of water for the wet. Comes out perfect every time.

(And if you’re wondering why wildflower honey is appearing on a so-called “vegan” blog, that is definitely a story for another day.)

2. Get a baking stone

Baking stones really do make your breads bake better, providing hotter and more consistent heat to your bread throughout the baking process. It’s a simple, albeit heavy, purchase, but it’ll really step up the quality of your loaves. Plus, you can make pizzas on it too!

3. Get a peel

Actually, this is just an addendum to the last tip, because if you’re going to use a baking stone, you should really be using a baking peel as well. It’s simply the best way to transfer your dough to the stone; any other method will disrupt the dough too much. Plus, you can transfer pizzas with it too!

And that’s all for today, folks. Sorry that it took me three months from my last post to write this—but if you’ve read down this far, you probably can understand why.

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

Falafel Hummus

August 6, 2012

Brace yourself, folks: today you about to experience something the internet has never experienced before:

Falafel-flavoured hummus! Okay, I can’t be 100% certain that this has never appeared on the internet before, but my various efforts at Googling (and even Binging for god’s sake (I was getting paranoid)) “falafel hummus”, though turning up many hits, only loaded pages featuring falafel with hummus and the like. As far as I can tell, no one on the internet has yet thought to create and share a falafel-flavoured hummus recipe.

Which is ridiculous, first of all, because falafel and hummus are both totally delicious, and two delicious things in one is always a good idea; second of all, because falafel and hummus even come from the same cuisine, which makes my immediately preceding claim a little less ridiculous; and third and most importantly, because falafel is pretty much hummus already, really just a mere tahini scoop and olive oil splash away.

A bit of backstory: I got the idea for falafel hummus last week while I trying out Oh She Glows’ recent falafel recipe. That didn’t turn out so well, unfortunately (just a problem with getting the mixture to cohere, which was my fault, something with my breadcrumbs I think), but it did make me remark on how similar making falafel is to making hummus, at least at the start before you get to frying. Both dishes start from a chickpea base; falafel is just distinguished by a few extra ingredients (cilantro, parsley, and onion) and a drier texture (more crumbly than smooth). Thus I got to thinking: I could probably make a delicious and unique hummus using the very same falafel recipe I was working with, just by making a few slight modifications: namely, by removing the binders (breadcrumbs and ground flax seeds), including some hummus standards (tahini, olive oil, and water), and adding those extra falafel flavours. And I was right.

The result was easily one of the best hummuses I’ve ever made, and one I’m sure I’ll be repeating it again very soon. The recipe follows the amounts from Oh She Glows’ falafel recipe very closely, so thanks again to Angela for the inspiration. And be sure to refer to my classic hummus guide if you need some basic hummus-making pointers. Enjoy!

Falafel Hummus
(makes about 3 cups)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chickpeas, cooked
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • half a small red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup tightly packed fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup tightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • ⅓ cup tahini
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 tbsp reserved chickpea liquid or water
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • the other half of your small red onion, minced (optional; see step 2 below)

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients except the other half of your red onion (if using) in a food processor, and whip everything together. You may not want to add in all the olive oil and reserved chickpea liquid/water from the very start; instead, add it in gradually as you pulse. If the mixture is still looking too thick after all the liquids have been added, add more reserved chickpea liquid/water a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
  2. Scoop hummus out into a bowl. If using the other half of your red onion, mix this in now with a spoon. (I feel that this touch makes the mixture even more reminiscent of falafel, but this addition is only recommended if you enjoy the taste of raw onions (as I do).)
  3. Garnish with parsley if you’re being fancy, or not if you’re being lazy.

And that’s all there is to it! Thanks for joining me for this little milestone of internet culinary history. Now go off and make some falafel hummus for yourself and spread the word!

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

The Best Vegan Restaurants in Berlin (2012)

August 2, 2012

Okay.

Okay I know.

I haven’t blogged in a long, long time. But I’m back! In more than one sense, too, since I just returned from a month’s stay in the best gosh darn city in the world, Berlin. As long-time readers of this blog will remember, I took a similar vacation last summer, which I recounted in two blog posts last August. And as long-time readers of this blog with especially good memories will remember, I had only glowing things to say about Berlin’s vegan scene, which is rich, vibrant, and—I’m happy to report—only getting bigger and better. Indeed, many of my favourite food locales from this summer were places I didn’t even know about last year. So, for all you fellow travelers, here’s a fresh list of what I think are freshest vegan joints in Berlin.

Best of Berlin

1. Café V (Kreuzberg)

Without a doubt my favourite restaurant this time around was Café V. They serve fantastic food of all varieties, all at reasonable prices and with friendly and responsive service. On my first visit I had a tasty chickpea polenta dish with vegetables, and on my second visit, I ordered a wonderfully big garlic mushroom salad and split one of their vegan pizzas. The menu is a mix of vegetarian and vegan fare, but it’s all clearly marked and printed in both German and English. A must-try.

2. Kopps (Prenzlauer Berg)

If you’re looking for something a little more high-end, then Kopps is the place for you. An all-vegan, haute cuisine sort of joint, Kopps keeps to the most seasonal of ingredients and utilizes some fancy culinary techniques to put out plates that are beautiful and delicious. Their desserts and wine list are also fantastic. A full meal, including wine, dessert, and tip, will run you around €25.

3. Café Vux (Neukölln)

An honorable mention on last year’s list, this year I’m bumping it up to a decided favourite. Part of the reason is that I finally got to try their fantastic Sunday morning brunch buffet, a veritable plethora of tasty dips, breads, desserts, and vegetables dishes. But even if you can only make it there on a weekday afternoon, go. They always have wonderful sweets on offer and plenty of drink options to wake you up or cool you off, whatever the case may be.

4. Schiller Burger (Neukölln)

Schiller Burger (along with its next door sister establishments Schiller Backstube and Schiller Bar) was located right down the street from me this summer, but its veggie burger is worthy of a much longer trek. Housemade and wonderfully dressed, this definitely ranks as one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever had (second only, perhaps, to the one at Blue Plate Diner in Edmonton). Their sweet potato fries are also spot on.

5. Tuk Tuk (Schöneberg)

Tuk Tuk, an Indonesian restaurant tucked away on a side street of Schöneberg, is not only vegan friendly but also just flat out friendly. Seriously, I’ve never seen such smiling waitstaff. But the food is what really made this place stand out for me. Granted, this was my first time having Indonesian food, but I feel confident recommending this place to all. Especially since Indonesian food hasn’t yet made much of an impact on the North American resto scene, it’s a good thing to experience if you’re somewhere else where it isn’t so rare.

Updates from Last Year

Lastly, I have a couple updates to my list from last year

  • CHIPPS, last year’s top pick for the best of Berlin has since scaled back their operations and are running out of only one location now. In addition, I wasn’t as impressed on my return visit this summer. They seem to have scaled back their vegan options, and to have gotten rid entirely of the potato rösti beet mash dish I adored so much. Oh well.
  • Yorck52, another one of last year’s top picks, is now closed entirely.
  • Nil is still awesome, cheap, and, as I found out this summer, has three locations, one each in Neukölln, Kreuzberg, and Friedrichshain!

Though I only returned from Berlin days ago, I am already looking forward to when I next return. I cannot recommend this city more, even if you don’t care about vegan restaurants. But if you do, enjoy it: you’ll be in paradise.

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

Food Tastes Good Again (April Fools’ 2012)

April 1, 2012

Hope you all enjoyed my little prank this year. I’m leaving this ridiculous post up for all those that missed it. Also, if you didn’t see the main site on April 1st, check out this screenshot. Yes. It was that ridiculous. (New, actual posts coming soon.)

Dear friends,

It’s been a long time since my last blog post, and for that I sincerely apologize. The fact is, a lot has been going on in my life recently. Not just with the café, and not just with school, but personally, and especially with my relationship to food. Truth be told, I’ve struggled a lot with being vegan over the past several months, what with all the bland food options and the detrimental effects to my health. (Ever try to get full on just a bowlful of kale? Don’t bother: it ain’t gonna happen.) And in light of these experiences, I started to question my dietary choices, and after many weeks of hard thinking, I’m finally ready to come out and say it: I’m going back to eating animals.

And not just an animal now and then, either—nope, when I go in, I go all in. And that means eating animals three, even four times a day. You know, to make up for all those animals I failed to eat over the past four years.

Thankfully, my years of experience with vegan cooking have given me a lot of great inspiration now that I’m cooking actual food. Take this recent breakfast dish for instance—I call it Meat Lover’s Tofu Scramble. I simply took my old favourite tofu scramble recipes and subbed in eggs for the tofu! Add some “tempeh bacon” (I used pig’s bacon as my substitute) on the side, and voilà! Deliciousness is born:

The best part about this dish is that you don’t even need to add any turmeric, because guess what? Eggs are already yellow. Oh and they are already tasty, too. Good morning, indeed.

Moving on, did you know you can make nutloaf with meat instead of nuts? Some trendy carnivores like to call this “meatloaf”. It’s really easy to do, and barely requires a recipe, but if you’d like some guidelines, head on over to The Magical Loaf Studio. I know, I know, it’s a vegan resource, but with a little tweaking and creativity you can easily use it to help you make loafs that taste like actual food. Here’s what I recommend: Anywhere the recipe tells you to add some legumes or tofu or some other vegan nonsense, double the amount and sub in some meat. Also use meat in place of any nuts, vegetables, and bread crumbs. No need for herbs and other seasonings—meat’s already got all the flavour you need. In fact, just get a bread pan, throw as much meat as you can fit in there, and bake. It’s that simple:

This “nutloaf” goes well with gravy, hot sauce, and potatoes/more meat.

Finally, let’s talk dessert. As a vegan/vegetarian of many years, I’ll probably always love avocados. However, now that I’m back to eating animals, it’s been a little tough finding some non-lame ways to fit them in my diet. California rolls? Yeah, maybe if I never wanted any protein. Salad topping? As if I eat salads anymore. Green smoothies? I’d rather drink bacon grease. Thankfully, I have found a delectable use of guacamole—a little “dessert” treat known as Meat Cupcakes:

Yep, that’s guacamole piped onto pure beef sliders. Mmmmmm. I’d eat these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I do.

Anyway, I know many of you were probably not anticipating this shift, but I also know that y’all are super supportive in whatever I do. I hope you’ll stay with me as I journey further into the world of eating animals again.

Mmm, eating animals. No better way to start off the month ;-)

Until we meat again,

Willie

h1

Where To Find Me: Two Totally Rockin’ Upcoming Events!

February 21, 2012

Hi all!

Things’ve been hella busy over here at UWEA headquarters, between the continuing success of Harvest Noon Café, the stress of all my schoolwork, and of course, all the bake-off victories. But I wanted to make sure to check in today to alert all you Torontonians to two awesome upcoming events that I’ll be at, with some awesome UWEA-approved food for sale!

First is a little thang known as a Vegan Rock, a rock concert cum vegan bake sale fundraiser happening this Thursday night at everyone’s favourite dance club, The Boat in Kensington Market! Four bands are lined up for the evening (Dream Awake, More Than Breathing, Stefi Beck, and Matt “Zaddy” Zadkovich), and all proceeds will be going towards the wonderful Toronto Vegetarian Association. I’ll be bringing some of Harvest Noon’s signature “Party Hearty” Apple Muffins, as well as a batch of my ever popular cupkins! Doors are at 9, and cover is $10.

Second is an event that’s a little farther off, the Locally Grown fundraiser happening at and for Harvest Noon Café! It’s a similar sort of deal: lots of bands (Auto Manic, Ottilie Kate, Bones Howe, and Nicole Diver and the Post-war Surfers) and lots of good food (menu is still TBD, but I’m thinking some sort of vegan pizza will be in order). It’s also a great chance for all y’all who are busy weekday afternoons to come check out Harvest Noon and get a sense of what we’re all about. This one’s on Friday, March 2, and cover is PWYC (with a suggested WYC of $5).

So I hope to see some of you out and about over the next couple weeks! And if you see me, be sure to say hi!

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

Make That *Multi*-Award-Winning Cookies

February 5, 2012

Do these look familiar?

They should: they’re my Half-Moon Spectaculars, the gluten-free sandwich creme cookies I’ve been raving about since the fall. They’ve always been my most popular sweet treat among my friends, and now I’m happy to say that their awesomeness has been doubly affirmed by two recent cookie competitions!

First, there was Lindsay’s 5th Annual Cookie Party in December, where my Half-Moons took the People’s Choice Award in what I was told was a landslide victory. Admittedly, this was just a small and informal gathering of friends, but still, the people voted and their voices were heard!

And then there was this weekend’s 4th Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off, where the Spectaculars won the Glorious Gluten-Free Treats (non-chocolate) category, where they were up against four other delectable gluten-free desserts. For those that don’t know, the Vegan Bake-Off is a wonderful event put on every year by the lovely Toronto Vegetarian Association and attended by hundreds of hungry vegans, who apparently loved my cookies, too.

So hopefully you don’t need any more convincing: These cookies are good, and a sure-fire hit at your next cookie party. I’ve reposted the recipe below if you want to try them yourself, and you can always easily find it by clicking the link on my sidebar. Enjoy!

“Half-Moon Spectaculars”
Vegan Gluten-Free Sandwich Creme Cookies
(makes 8 to 10 cookie sandwiches, or 16 to 20 sandwich crescents)

The Cookies (based on this recipe from Oh She Glows)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free oats, lightly processed or as is (you want them still very coarse)
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 tbsp Earth Balance + 1 tbsp olive oil (or: 1/3 cup canola oil)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup organic cane/white sugar
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Prepare your flax egg and set aside.
  3. If you wish, lightly process your oats: pulse just once or twice in a food processor—you want your oats to still be very coarse.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: the oats, almond flour, baking soda, kosher salt, and cinnamon.
  5. If using Earth Balance: With an electric mixer or stand mixer, or simply in a blender (that’s what I do), beat the Earth Balance and oil until fluffy. Next, add the sugars and beat for 1-2 minutes until creamy. Finally, beat in the flax egg and vanilla extract.
  6. If using canola oil: In a medium bowl, mix together canola oil, sugars, flax egg, and vanilla, until well mixed.
  7. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and lightly stir together until a well-mixed batter forms.
  8. With a tablespoon, scoop out small spheres of batter and place on baking sheets. No need to flatten the spheres; however, the cookies will drop and spread out a lot while baking, so be sure to leave a lot of space in between each one.
  9. Bake for about 10-11 minutes, until they look done and slightly golden along edges. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10 minutes.

The Creme (found in Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink & Be Vegan)

Because this recipe is from a book, I feel wrong posting it here, but since it’s so simple, I will tell you that this icing is just a mix of silken tofu, macadamia nut butter, maple butter, and a splash of vanilla: simply whirl all these together in a blender/food processor and adjust amounts to taste. If you don’t have maple butter, maple syrup will also work; and if you can’t find macadamia nut butter, you can sub in some other variety—I’d particularly recommend cashew butter. Additionally, if all this seems too vague of a recipe for you to attempt on your own, you can simply find and make some other vegan gluten-free icing (the internet can help you with that). However, I especially enjoy this icing because it’s not sugary sweet and full of healthy fat and protein. So maybe you should just buy Dreena’s book.

Until we eat again,

Willie

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 49 other followers

%d bloggers like this: