Archive for the ‘VeganMoFo’ Category

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Where to Find Me: In the Bike Pirates Kitchen

October 31, 2011

Hi all!

This blog is not popular enough to warrant a “frequently asked questions” page (or even just a “questions” page, for that matter), but if it were, I’d like to think that one question people would be frequently asking is, “Where can I get my hands on some of your delicious food?!!” Well, today I’m happy to offer one answer to this hypothetical question: come visit me at Bike Pirates!

What is Bike Pirates, you say? For those not already in the know, Bike Pirates is a DIY volunteer-run and donation-based bike shop where you can come in and learn bicycle maintenance hands-on, so as to help you fix up anything you need on your existing bike or to help you build up a new bike from scratch. It’s an excellent little part of the community, filled with good people and good values, and it’s one of the many things that makes me love Toronto as much as I do.

So what am I doing there, you say? Well, Bike Pirates, as it happens, also has a kitchen…

And a vegan kitchen, at that! And once I found this out—and that they’re always looking for more kitchen volunteers—I thought it’d be the perfect way for me to get involved and give back. And so, once a week for the past several months, I’ve been going into Bike Pirates and cooking up a delicious dinner for everyone there—and it’s been awesome!

I enjoy cooking at Pirates, first of all, because I love the opportunity to share my food. Furthermore, cooking at Pirates is always a bit of challenge, and a fun one at that: For one thing, I have to cook for anywhere between twenty and forty people a night, and secondly, I’m on a $15 budget. The Bike Pirates kitchen is actually very well stocked, so I often come nowhere close to spending that much, but it does still force me to be creative. A few times I’ve gone there with no idea of what I was going to make and just let the available produce in the kitchen make my decision for me. Other times I’ve used the meal as an opportunity to test out a new recipe I’d been curious about. Some of the many things I’ve made in the past include…

Miso Root Vegetable Soup!

Sweet Potato Chili!

Trail Mix Cupkins!

And the very popular Peanut Butter Tofu Tacos!

Curious to know the next time I’ll be cooking at Pirates? Well, I’ve set up a Google calendar for just that purpose. You can simply view it below, or you can click this link to view the calendar on its own, and then (I think) add it to your own calendar, if you’re tech savvy enough.

So please stop by if you ever get the chance! Everyone at Bike Pirates is super friendly, and it’s definitely the place to go if you ever need some help with your bike.

Finally, I just want to point out that this post is my last post of this year’s VeganMoFo. That was a post a day for all of October! Phew. It was a rush, but I’m so glad it’s over. I’ll be back again soon, don’t worry—just don’t expect me to be back here tomorrow.

VeganMoFo #31/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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New Favorite: Kelp Noodles

October 30, 2011

Heya!

Do you know about kelp noodles? Before last month, I had only tried them once or twice at restaurants and never seen them in stores, although I had read a lot about them (mostly from Gena). Well, Sea Tangle‘s popular little baggies finally hit Toronto last month (at least to my awareness), and I couldn’t be happier for the opportunity finally to get to use kelp noodles in my own kitchen.

Particularly popular in the raw food community, kelp noodles are a crunchy, translucent (and gluten-free!) noodle made from kelp (yeah, the sea vegetable!). They’re super easy to prepare, because all you have to do is rinse them in water for a couple minutes, and then they’re ready to go!

Though kelp noodles don’t have much flavor themselves, I really love them for their texture. Unlike spaghetti or zucchini pasta, kelp noodles always maintain a real crunchiness, even after they’ve been soaking in water for days. So, although they could definitely still serve as the base in an Asian-style noodle dish, I’ve been loving using them as an addition to one of my Colossal Confetti Salads. (This also helps my bags of kelp noodles last longer; I can usually get one bag to last for a week’s worth of salads.)

Kelp noodles are probably still slowly making their way to non-urban areas, but for those of you lucky enough to live in Toronto, I’ve seen them at Herbs & Nutrition on Bloor and Tutti Frutti in Kensington, and that probably means they’re at a lot of other places too. So keep your eyes open, and try kelp noodles for yourself!

VeganMoFo #30/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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No-Bake Coconut Chai Oat Bars

October 29, 2011

Happy Saturday, everybody!

If you’ve been following this blog recently, you’ll already know that I’ve been having a bit of love affair with no-bake granola bars as of late. It all started when Gena posted a recipe for Sunflower Oat Bars, which totally blew me away, and also inspired me to come up with my very own Cocoa Nut Coconut Oat Bars. And today I’m back with a second variation, which takes the coconut flavors I so enjoyed in my last batch and combines them with the awesome spices of chai.

I got the idea of combining chai and coconut from this recent Vegtastic recipe for Coconut Chai Rice Krispie Treats. I loved how this sounded, but since I’m actually not too keen on (even vegan) marshmallows or crispy rice cereal, I wanted to find another way to get my newfound chai coconut fix, and a new batch of no-bake granola bars seemed like the perfect solution. And as it happened, I still had a batch of homemade chai spice mix lying around from the last time I made one of Gena’s Banana Chai Smoothies, so I was all set to go! I followed the same basic formula as my last oat bar recipes, sticking with Brazil nuts again and using a lot of dried cranberries, which I thought made a very nice complement. Anyway, here’s the recipe—hope you love these as much I do!

No-Bake Coconut Chai Oat Bars (makes 12 – 16 bars)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries (or other small dried fruit)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped Brazil nuts (or other type of nuts)
  • 4 tbsp chai spice mix (if you need some, see these recipes from Vegtastic or Choosing Raw)
  • 2/3 cup nut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Mix together dry ingredients and 3 tbsp of the chai spice mix in one bowl.
  2. Mix together wet ingredients in another bowl, until homogeneous.
  3. Mix the contents of both bowls together.
  4. Line a baking dish with plastic wrap.
  5. Scoop granola mixture into the baking dish, spread out evenly, and press down firmly.
  6. Sprinkle remaining tbsp of chai spice mix on top.
  7. Cover with another layer of plastic wrap.
  8. Place in fridge overnight.
  9. The following morning, remove from fridge and cut into granola-bar-sized granola bars.
  10. Wrap each bar in plastic wrap and keep in fridge until ready to eat.

This recipe is also my submission for this week’s Wellness Weekend! If you don’t know what Wellness Weekend is, just check out this post here, where you’ll find ton(ne)s of amazing and healthy dishes that other bloggers have been whipping up this weekend. It’s awesome!

VeganMoFo #29/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: Caffiends

October 28, 2011

Today I made another stop on my Toronto Café Tour, this time to the tiny student-run coffeeshop known as Caffiends, which is tucked away on the main floor of the Victoria College building on the UofT campus. Though I’ve been at the university for over two years now, I had somehow never even heard of Caffiends before last week (in all fairness, it’s a big school). But once I did get word of it, it didn’t take me long to get on over there and see what they had to offer. My thoughts…

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Coffee: When I visited, I was under the impression that Caffiends didn’t do lattes, but looking at their online menu now I guess I was wrong about that. At any rate, I was happy to get one of their $1 coffees instead. Not only is this coffee dirt cheap, it was actually really good! It probably has something to do with the care Caffiends takes in choosing their suppliers, both for their coffee and for all their other products. Caffiends is committed to supporting local, ethically traded, and environmentally conscious companies. In particular, their coffee beans come from the lovely and local Chocosol company, which also provides them with some lovely chocolate!

Wifi: The UofT wireless network is available, but nothing for non-students.

Atmosphere: Small and cozy, but still a good number of seats, including couches, chairs, and bar stools. I probably wouldn’t come here specifically to do work, but it is definitely comfortable enough to pass an hour doing some light reading or whatnot.

Clientele: Predictably, mostly students, but I’m more than fine with that.

Music: A good mix of indie folk was playing when I was there, none of which I could explicitly identify, but it was all stuff that could’ve been Wilco, Leonard Cohen, J. Mascis, or Bill Callahan.

Food: Caffiends offers a few brownies and cookies from the ubiquitous and vegan Sweets from the Earth and, as previously mentioned, chocolate from Chocosol. They also say that they offer vegan nanaimo bars!

Final Verdict: In short, Caffiends is awesome. I love the grassroots feel of the whole place, as well as their commitment to local and sustainable sources. But even more impressive is that Caffiends is able to do all this while still offering some of the cheapest drinks in town. So high marks for Caffiends. Try it out for yourself!

VeganMoFo #28/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Coconut Banana Soft Serve: A First Pass

October 27, 2011

Hey-o!

I’ve already raved about banana soft serve many times on this blog. I really think it is one of the best tricks that vegans have up their sleeve: a healthy, entirely plant-based dessert that really gives regular ice cream a run for its money. You really don’t need anything more than bananas for this dessert, but sometimes a slight little addition makes for a nice variation. And when one of my friends suggested the idea of making banana soft serve with coconut milk, my mouth started watering just thinking about the sure-to-be-delectable result.

However, I was still a bit perplexed on how best to execute this idea, and unfortunately, our first attempts, though they still turned out tasty, did not yield any surefire methods. But I do know better now what I will do next time, so I thought I’d share my experiences with you today.

Attempt #1: Frozen Coconut Milk Ice Cubes

Did you know you can freeze coconut milk? And that you can freeze it in an ice cube tray as little ice cubes? Well you can, and I thought this might be a good way to get that coconut milk flavor in our banana soft serve without diluting the mixture too much. Unfortunately, try as we might, my blender just would not chop up the ice cube. It took more than five minutes minutes of starting, stopping, and crushing before we reached a suitable consistency, and by that point, the banana had already melted a lot, and the flavor of our single coconut milk ice cube did not really come through.

Granted, since this was still delicious since it just tasted like regular banana soft serve, but as our first attempt at the coconut banana flavor, it was a big fail.

Attempt #2: Refrigerated Coconut Milk

My other idea was just to add refrigerated coconut milk right from the can. I was concerned because I knew this would make the mixture more goopy, which it did, but it also let the coconut flavor shine through better.

For the final mixture, I used about half a can of coconut milk with about two bananas’ worth of frozen banana pieces. The end result was definitely more runny than I normally prefer my banana soft serve to be, but it did at least have a pleasant tinge of coconut throughout.

Moving On

After these two trial runs, I happened to talk to Lisa about our little experiment, and she was able to give me all of these amazing pointers, which made me feel more than a little embarrassed about our amateurish attempts. For example, she suggested that we may want to use coconut butter or even coconut meat instead of coconut milk, and that if we were going to use coconut milk, to make sure to use only the thickest, fattiest part of it. Also, she suggested we try adding in some cashews as well, just to preserve the consistency and get in some extra fattiness.

These all sound like excellent ideas (thanks Lisa!) and I’m dying to try them out soon. And when I do, you’ll be sure to hear all about them.

VeganMoFo #27/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Perfecting my Potato Rösti

October 26, 2011

Hi all!

Back in July when I was bumming around Berlin and checking out nearly every vegan restaurant in the city, one dish in particular jumped out as the star of my culinary samplings: the “potato rösti over beet mash topped with green beans and bread chips” dish at CHIPPS (believe me, its German name was no prettier or more elegant). Ever since I came back, I’ve been trying to recreate it at home, and this past weekend I think I finally nailed it, or at least made something that I’m really happy with.

The hardest part was figuring out how to make the perfect potato rösti. As per the Swiss technique, I started by parboiling lots of halved Yukon gold potatoes, and then refrigerated them overnight. The following morning, I took the potatoes out of the fridge and grated them, and then simply formed my big pile of grated potatoes into small, burger-sized patties. You wouldn’t expect it, but with the right potatoes you actually don’t need any additional binder—these patties will hold together all on their own (which I suppose must have something to do with the potatoes’ natural starchiness). Following this, I fried the patties in a generous amount of coconut oil (canola oil would work as well), adding more whenever the pan got too dry. This I think was the most important step, or at least the step that was tripping me up the most in the past. Your rösti will need to fry for a long time (up to ten minutes per side, and possibly longer if you make them bigger than I did), and you need a lot of oil for the frying to work correctly.

I paired my rösti with a simple mash of beets and blue potatoes, and topped it off with some blanched green beans, some grated carrots, and a lightly toasted piece of my recently baked focaccia bread. The result was a fairly fancy dish (by my standards) which tasted exactly as it should: earthy, hearty, and delicious. But I was most impressed by how little I had to season everything: aside from some salt and pepper in the beet mash and the basil and rosemary that went on the focaccia, no other spices or herbs were used. This dish just lets the natural flavor and goodness of each of the vegetables shine through, which is exactly how I like to keep things.

Anyway, you should try making potato rösti for yourself sometime! (And if you’re looking for some more specific instructions, these were the ones I was looking at.) It’s really not that difficult, and it’s a great way to use the potatoes that are in season right now—and, with just a few simple touches, it can be made into a fancy dinner party entree. Enjoy!

VeganMoFo #26/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: Seven Grams Espresso Bar

October 25, 2011

Hiya! I’m here today reporting from the latest stop in Toronto Café Tour: Seven Grams Espresso Bar, located on Avenue Road just south of Davenport, on Webster. Also, from now on I’m going to add some more categories to my café assessments, upon the recommendation of a friend: Clientele and Music, which will hopefully give you an even better sense of what the café is like. Anyway, here’s what I thought.

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Latte: Seven Grams charges $4.25 for this petite double shot, which is thankfully the same price regardless of milk choice. That puts them on the more expensive end of the latte spectrum, and unfortunately, this latte tasted somewhere closer to the middle of the pack for me. Which is not to say that it was bad—actually, it was quite good: creamy and smooth, with a nice espresso flavor. But I wasn’t knocked out, and the soy milk tasted a little off to me for whatever reason. I probably wouldn’t’ve minded paying $3.50 for this drink, but at $4.25, I wanted something a little better.

Wifi: Yes!

Atmosphere: This is a fairly new coffeeshop, as far as my (minimal) research tells me, but you wouldn’t know it from how slick and well-established it looks inside. In fact, the interior is positively swanky, outfitted with only the shiniest and most stylish furniture an IKEA catalogue can buy (their decor was probably not actually bought at IKEA, but it has that same off-putting sterility about it). There are three floors of seating options, ranging from big comfy chairs to nice desks for working to a big banquet table on the top floor. So as a place to come and get stuff done, Seven Grams has got you covered, as long as you can get past the artsy opulence of it all.

Clientele: On the Friday morning I was there, most of Seven Grams’ customers seemed like businesspeople, ranging from young professionals to older salarymen. Most of my café mates were people having meetings, discussing real estate or social media nonsense. This is not my type of crowd, and I did end up feeling a little out of place.

Music: There is only one way to describe Seven Grams’ musical selection, which is: Starbucks. Though some of the individual songs were by people I quite enjoy (Fiona Apple, Sufjan), for the most part their artist choices were spoiled by which of their songs they chose to play (so Elvis Costello, but “Everyday I Write the Book”, or The Pixies, but “Here Comes Your Man”). At other times, the music digressed into the purely unbearable, with a surprisingly awful string of cover songs: a a mock-soul cover of “The Wind Cries Mary”, someone destroying Bob Dylan (gross), and of all things, a Radiohead cover (*gag*) (it was “High and Dry”). Rufus Wainwright, the Jackson Five, and Marcy Playground rounded out the morning’s horrible mix.

Food: Lots of options, on both the sweet and the savory side of the spectrum, none of which looked vegan.

Final Verdict: Seven Grams is not my sort of café. Though the space is very nice and spacious, and the coffee is good, the overall Seven Grams experience is too expensive and too swanky for me. For people looking for a local, independent Starbucks replacement, Seven Grams may be the perfect fit. But for people like me, there are better places to while away the morning.

VeganMoFo #25/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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