Archive for August, 2011

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It Bears Repeating: Banana Soft Serve is the BEST

August 30, 2011

Hey hey!

So I know it’s been years since banana soft serve first made its rounds on the vegan food blogosphere, but since that time, I’m sure a lot of new people have joined the community who may not yet know abou the wonders of this dessert. So for all of you who have heard this before, I apologize. But for those who have no idea what I’m talking about, all I have to say is: banana soft serve is seriously one of the best things on the planet. It actually makes me not miss cows’ milk ice cream anymore. It’s just that good.

Banana soft serve is also very practical, as I always seem to have a few bananas in every bunch that I can’t eat before they get all soft and mushy. When this happens, I simply break them into a few chunks and throw them in a freezer bag. These frozen bananas often get put into the smoothies I make, but when I’m looking for a delectable late-night treat, they get turned into banana soft serve! The process is simple: just put some frozen bananas in a food processor, and then run the food processor. That’s it. (Note, however, that unless your food processor is really powerful, you’re going need to help it along a bit in breaking up the bananas.) The banana’s natural sweetness and texture mimic that of ice cream incredibly well, but with no added junk! Amazing.

As an extra special treat, I sometimes like to mix in a spoonful or so of nut butter, as I’ve done above, an idea I got way back from Dreena Burton. It’s not at all necessary, but it does make for an even more decadent treat. Furthermore, the last time I whipped up some banana soft serve, I was lucky enough to be able to surround it with lots of fresh Ontario fruit: peaches, blackberries, and blue grapes! With a little sprinkle of flaxseed meal to go on top (thanks to This Little Vegan for this excellent idea), I had one absolutely outstanding dessert.

So, if you’ve never tried banana soft serve before, I highly, highly encourage you to. Getting away from ice cream has never been easier.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Eat These NOW: Choosing Raw’s Sunflower Oat Bars

August 27, 2011

Hi guys and gals!

Quick post today, because all I have is a brief message. Those bars you see above? You need to make them. Like now. Right now. Because they are incredible. Absolutely to die for. Just so, so good. Can you tell that I like them? Because I LOVE them.

What are they? They’re Choosing Raw’s Five-Minute No-Bake Sunflower Oat Bars, a recipe she just posted earlier this week. As the name suggests, these little granola bars don’t have to be cooked in any way (rather, they’re chilled in the fridge), and they are also a snap to throw together. Furthermore, the recipe only calls for six ingredients: rolled oats, sunflower seeds, sunflower seed butter, raisins, carob chips, and agave nectar/brown rice syrup. Oh and did I already mention that they are mind-blowingly delicious? Because they are, and you need to try them.

On top of all this, these sunflower oat bars are also easily wrapped up so as to make the perfect take-along snack for work, school, or travel. And although they don’t always hold together perfectly (especially after they’ve had some time to warm up to room temperature), I found that they still keep their shape fairly well.

So what are you waiting for. Make these now. They are honestly the best vegan sweet treat I’ve tasted (much less made) in a long, long time. Thanks again to Gena at Choosing Raw for such a stellar recipe!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Orange Sunflower Hummus

August 25, 2011

Hiya!

For the past several months now, hummus has become a major part of my diet. It’s easy to see why: hummus is tasty, nutritious, and versatile, and it’s also a blast to make at home. Recently I’ve been experimenting with some twists on the classic chickpea-and-tahini model, ranging from my absolutely fabulous Red Bean & Beet Hummus to my less astounding but still successful Chive Edamame Hummus to my celebratory Black & Gold Steelers Hummus. And this week I came up with yet another new hummus sensation, a little dip I’m calling Orange Sunflower Hummus!

It all started when I had some sunflower seed butter left over from a recent batch of sunflowerseed shortbread button cookies (probably my favorite gluten-free cookie recipe, by the way). As I mulled over how best to use what I had left, it occurred to me that I could substitute my sunflower seed butter for the tahini in a hummus (one of my all-time favorite hummuses replaces tahini with peanut butter—so good!). However, I didn’t think the hummus would be all that impressive if that were the only change, so I began thinking about all the other tweaks I could make. And then it hit me: replace the lemon with orange! I wasn’t completely sure it would work at first (orange is obviously a different sort of citrus than lemon, and not as sharply sour), but I was eager to give it a whirl and see how it’d turn out. Thankfully, the results were amazing!

As a final twist, I also decided to make my hummus a little spicy, adding a good dose of crushed red pepper flakes to the mix. This may not be for everyone, but I certainly enjoyed the added kick, which works surprisingly well with the other flavors. But enough talk: here’s what you’ve been waiting for—Orange Sunflower Hummus, as she is made!

Orange Sunflower Hummus

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chickpeas
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup sunflower seed butter
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • salt & pepper to taste (plus crushed red pepper flakes, if you like)
  • sunflower seeds (optional)
Instructions
  1. Put chickpeas, sunflower seed butter, orange juice and zest, and agave in a food processor.
  2. Pulse until mixture becomes smooth. Depending on how much juice you got from your orange, you may need to add up to 1/2 cup of water. Just keep adding water in small increments until you get the mixture to your desired consistency.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and crushed red pepper flakes, if using.
  4. Empty into a serving bowl and top with sunflower seeds.

And voilà! Hummus is so simple. And like I said, it’s versatile, too. Although this hummus is definitely good enough to just eat on its own, one of the ways I’ve been enjoying it is in hummus sandwiches like this one:

If you’re wondering what’s inside, here’s a more revealing view:

It’s really quite simple—just hummus topped with sliced cucumbers and sprouts. Tons of other combinations would also work, of course, so try making it for yourself and creating your own delicious sandwiches, or just enjoy this hummus as a vegetable dip, or added to a salad, or in a nori roll—the possibilities are endless!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Fresh Corn Pancakes! (adapted from Closet Cooking)

August 24, 2011

Hey-o!

Ah, corn season. What a wonderful way to end the summer. I’ve been taking full advantage of the piles and piles of corn readily available at the Toronto farmers’ markets these days, and as a result been making many more corn-centered recipes than usual, from Choosing Raw’s delectable summer corn & coconut soup to simple oven-roasted corn-on-the-cob (always roasted in husk, mind you). And yesterday, corn made it into my breakfast, after I saw this tantalizing recipe for fresh corn pancakes on Closet Cooking the night before. With a couple of easy vegan substitutions, these fluffy pancakes were on my table the next morning, and in my stomach mere seconds later.

The cool thing about these pancakes is that fresh whole corn kernels go right into the batter. I think mine would’ve worked a little better if my corn kernels had been a little smaller, but these were still really good. They definitely need a little maple syrup on top, though, as the pancakes are low in natural sweetness.

And in case anyone is wondering, my vegan substitutions for this recipe were soymilk for cows’ milk, flax eggs (2 tbsp flaxseed meal + 6 tbsp water) for chicken eggs, and vegan butter for cows’ milk butter. I also subbed in brown sugar for white sugar, but for no other reason than that my brown sugar was in the kitchen and I didn’t want to walk upstairs to find my white sugar. Still worked though!

I hope you all get to enjoy these pancakes soon, too, and if nothing else, just go out and get some summer corn before it’s gone!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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How to Plan for a Vegan Weekend Getaway

August 23, 2011

Hi all!

So this past weekend, I got to leave the city for a few days and enjoy a nice and relaxing weekend with some friends. Aside from the pleasures of fresh air and quieter surroundings, this short little sojourn also gave me the opportunity to challenge myself a bit, dietarily speaking. You see, although I feel totally comfortable and capable being vegan when I’m at home—that is, in my kitchen and in my city with all the grocery stores and restaurants I know and love—being vegan while on the road or in new places can still feel difficult and stressful. Not too long ago, I had the occasion to reflect on some of the complexities of being vegan while abroad, and after that, this weekend’s brief two-day outing felt like a walk in the park, and I had no trouble staying vegan the whole time. That doesn’t mean I didn’t come prepared, though! Quite the opposite, in fact. As I’ve discovered over the years, the secret to successful vegan travel is, simply, forethought. So here is some quick advice to guide you through your next vegan weekend getaway…

Plan ahead!

As the old adage goes, better safe than sorry. My basic plan for the weekend was to bring way more food than I could possibly ever need, which I did, as the above picture demonstrates. That’s because you never know what’s going to be available for you to eat when you’re in a new place, and it’s better to have something in store rather than be forced to break vegan (or, I suppose, fast). And as it turned out, I ate through almost all of this food before the weekend was through (and don’t worry, the things left over did not go to waste!). So don’t shy away from reality: if you’re serious about eating vegan wherever you are, you have to accept that you’ll occasionally be left to fend for yourself. Just view these times as occasions to empower yourself, by enabling yourself to eat the food you want.

Whole foods are travel foods, too

Often when we think about packing food for a trip, our first thoughts are of packaged and processed snack foods like granola bars, potato chips, and cookies. Yet although these foods are indeed travel-friendly, and now readily available in vegan varieties, they are not, in my opinion, what veganism should be all about. The way I see it, one of the core tenets and benefits of veganism is the reappropriation of whole fruits and vegetables as a major part of one’s diet. These are the foods that make me feel best, that I most want to eat, and that make me stay vegan—not the Clif Bars and Guiltless Gourmets of the world. Granted, whole foods are certainly more perishable than anything that comes in a wrapper, but they’ll still do fine over the course of a weekend. Heck, the peaches I brought with me this weekend didn’t even last a day before they were all gobbled up.

Go nutrient dense

On a related note, you also want to make sure that the food you’ll be bringing will give you everything you need to stay healthy and energetic for your trip. Staying away from processed foods will go a long way in getting you there, but peaches and corn alone will not round out your nutrients. So, for my trip, I chose to prepare things like a nutrient dense salad, ginger cashew spread, beet hummus, and some baked tofu and seared tempeh. These are all things I regularly eat at home, too, and that’s because they’re all super tasty and healthy. Of course, I’m not saying you should do just what I did; rather, think about the healthy and nutrient rich dishes you love, and then figure out which ones of those will work on the road.

Share, share, share

Finally, remember that traveling is also an opportunity to share your veganism with others—and more often than not, others means non-vegans. Because of this, see your vacation as a chance to show off the wonders of vegan cooking and prove that it’s not all rabbit food. For my trip, I brought along some sunflower shortbread button cookies and coconut creme pie Vimbits, which were both fantastic, but the possibilities here really are endless.

Anyway, I hope y’all found this advice helpful! Vegan traveling can really be a lot of fun, especially if you’re like me and always up for a new culinary challenge. So here’s wishing you well on your next vacation, wherever that may be. Stay vegan!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: Ezra’s Pound (Dupont)

August 21, 2011

Back again for another quick café review, this time from Ezra’s Pound on Dupont and Madison, which not only scores points for having the best coffeeshop name in the city, but also happens to be the closest nice café to my department at school, and for these reasons Ezra’s will always be near and dear to my heart. But enough idle chatter; here’s what I thought about their java…

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Latte: Ezra’s soy latte comes in at a steep-ish $4 (though there’s no extra charge for the soymilk) and arrives in a wee-ish cup. That being said, the latte is superb, with an outstanding espresso flavor which is blended perfectly with the milk. It really was good ’til the last drop! I only wish the cup could’ve been bigger…

Wifi: Yeppers!

Atmosphere: Ezra’s Dupont location is a bit on the small side, but they still manage to squeeze in plenty of tables and seats for people who want to bum around. In the summer their front wall windows are left completely open to the street, allowing a gentle breeze to waft through the café space. Very comfortable and relaxing.

Food: They have a decent assortment of baked goods on offer, from croissants to rugelach, and although none of these looked particularly vegan, I did see that they also had vegan M-Bars for sale, for eaters like me.

Final Verdict: Far enough away from UofT not to be overrun by students and faculty, but close enough that it still makes sense for a school-day afternoon drink, Ezra’s Pound is my go-to café for when I’m at or near my department. The coffee is excellent, if a bit on the pricey side, and it’s even possible to stick around and get some work done while you’re there. I’m interested to try out Ezra’s other location on Dundas West and see how it compares, but I’ll leave that adventure for another day.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: Red Rocket Coffee

August 20, 2011

Today’s TCT review is coming from Red Rocket Coffee, at their Wellesley Street location, just east of Jarvis. This my first visit was a all in all a wonderful experience; here are the specifics…

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Latte: Actually, I didn’t order a latte here, as I was enticed away by the eponymous drink on the café’s menu. As it turned out, their so-called ‘Red Rocket’ is a combination of coffee, espresso, and spicy chocolate, which is wonderful mix of flavors. However, be warned: there is no reason for anyone to even order the medium size of this drink ($4.05), as I did, as the medium consists of 16 ounces of coffee, somewhere near a half cup of chocolate syrup, and three shots of espresso. Halfway through this I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I didn’t even come close to finishing it, and I shudder to think about how much goes into the large. Still, though, it was tasty. I’d really like to come back and try their latte sometime though, for a better comparison.

Wifi: Yes sir!

Atmo: Loved it. Red Rocket feels a little more modern and Starbucks-y than most of the other cafés I’ve been visiting, but it’s a very nice space, with a hip and fun decor. The inside is a little slim on seating options, but there are plenty of extra seats outside when the weather is nice.

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Food: Lots of tasty options on offer, including the above chocolate peanut butter bar, which was delectable! And the barista was even nice enough to check for me that it was vegan! So nice.

Final Verdict: I really loved Red Rocket. If it were closer to me I’d come here all the time, but I’m just happy that there is a place like this on Wellesley for whenever I’m in the area. Recommended!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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