Archive for September, 2011

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My (New) New Favorite Vegan Pizza Recipe

September 30, 2011

Hi all!

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine wrote me raving about an excellent vegan pizza she’d made with her friends. The secret behind their magic pie was subbing in hummus for the traditional cheese. The idea of hummus pizza in itself didn’t take me too much by surprise, as I had already tried making it once or twice before. However, whenever I did it I just used hummus as the base—that is, as replacing both the tomato sauce and the cheese. My friend, on the other hand, started with a layer of tomato sauce and then piled the hummus on top of that, and then topped the whole thing off with lots of fresh veggies. Long story short: when I reached the end of her message I was practically drooling in my chair, and I knew I would be returning to hummus pizza once again.

And what a lovely return it was. As I’ve remarked here before, I have a bit of a troubled relationship with vegan pizza. You may think that things would be all hunky-dory now that Daiya has invaded Toronto stores, but here’s the thing: I sorta don’t really love Daiya. Granted, as a vegan cheese substitute, it is outstanding, and amazingly better than anything else on the market that I know of. However, I generally like my food to be as close to its natural state as possible, and the idea of piling a pie high with processed synthetic cheese substitute just rubs me the wrong way. For one thing, it sort of feels like cheating, and at any rate, it’s not what I want my food to be about.

This being the case, things end up getting fairly unconventional when I decide to make pizza. For the last year and a half or so, my go-to pizza formula has utilized a cheesy spread made from mashed up white beans that I once described as “my new favorite vegan pizza recipe“. However, now that I’ve tasted today’s Roasted Pesto & Hummus Pizza, I have to say: I think I have a new new favorite.

My strategy was simple, making use of a couple things I had lying around my fridge, which regular readers will probably recognize. I started by making this pizza dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which was easy and straightforward yet unquestionably awesome. The crust came out perfectly crisp and the crumb wonderfully soft; the only thing I’d change next time would be to roll it out a little thinner.

Once my dough was ready and shaped, I started piling on my ingredients. I started with a layer of my new favorite thing to eat: Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto from Oh She Glows (as I’ve raved about here). I tried to keep this layer thin, both because I didn’t want things to get too messy, and because I knew that this pesto packs a lotta punch, flavor-wise. And if anything, I probably could’ve gotten away with using a little less than you see here.

Next I piled on the hummus—Roasted Red Pepper Hummus from Oh She Glows, to be exact (which I’ve raved about here). This hummus is fantastic on its own, but it works really even better on pizza I think, as its strong roasted flavor really complements all the other baked ingredients.

Following this, I added the veggies, keeping it fairly simple with just tiny broccoli florets and what I like to call “beet pepperoni”—that is, a beet sliced on a mandoline’s finest setting. If you haven’t tried this as a pizza topping yet, then you must. I will seriously probably be putting beet pepperoni all my pizzas for as long as I live—it’s just that good.

After this all I had to do was bake it! This took a little longer than I anticipated, and when it came out I could hardly wait to take my first bite!

It was outstanding, and without a doubt my (new) new favorite vegan pizza recipe. I love it when friends give me such excellent ideas.

Until we eat again,

Willie

P.S. And yes, I ate the whole thing.

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Quinoa Millet Oat Soda Bread

September 29, 2011

Hello readers!

I’ve blogged before about my forays into making Irish soda bread at home, and today I’m here to continue that tradition. For those that don’t know, soda bread is awesome because: (a) it’s delicious; and (b) it doesn’t need to rise. Yes, it’s bread that’s truly made for Irish lazy people like me. My other attempts at soda bread have actually turned out quite successful, and today I’m here to share a simple variation on my normal recipe which I rather like: oat soda bread topped with quinoa and millet! I wasn’t sure at first if sprinkling uncooked quinoa and millet on top would work, but it turned out fine, and adds a nice crunchy texture to the bread that I adore. And it’s not too shabby visually, either:

Anyway, I don’t have much more to say here than to share the actual recipe, so here you go!

Quinoa Millet Oat Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar / lemon juice
  • 1 3/4 cup soy milk (less 2 tbsp, actually)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup white all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • quinoa and millet for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Put apple cider vinegar/lemon juice in a measuring cup, then fill up to the 1 3/4 cup line with soy milk.
  3. Place rolled oats in a food processor and pulse for a while. You don’t have to make them into a flour or anything, just get them broken up as best you can.
  4. Place rolled oat mixture in a mixing bowl, and add to it the flours, baking soda, and salt. Mix to combine.
  5. Add to this the soy milk, and mix until it all starts coming together.
  6. Shape the dough into your desired shape. I went for a long batard above, but a nice round boule would work just as well.
  7. Top with quinoa and millet.
  8. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.
  9. After it’s cooled, slice up and enjoy!

Happy eating!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Introducing a Brand New Vegan Dessert: Cupkins!

September 28, 2011

So last week something incredible happened: I kinda sorta came up with a brand new type of vegan baked good I think?

What you see above is what I’ve taken to calling a “cupkin” (which I hope we’ll all agree is basically the cutest name ever). Not quite a cupcake, but not quite a muffin, the cupkin is an androgynous treat, providing a little more sweetness and softness than your ordinary muffin, but avoiding the saccharine overload of a full-blown cupcake. Think of it as a cupcake without the icing, or a muffin without the muffin top. Or see it rather as a versatile, two-in-one treat: add a little butter and you’ve got yourself a savory muffin, add a little glaze and you’ve got yourself a cupcake. Or just enjoy it like it is, in all its cupkin glory.

Cupkins were pretty much an accident, arising, like all great kitchen discoveries, out of ingenuity in the face of a limited supply of ingredients. The Post Punk Kitchen’s basic vanilla cupcake recipe (minus the vanilla) serves as the base for these treats, to which you then add the special cupkin extras. Below I’ve provided two separate cupkin recipes, although many more varieties are surely possible. I think the banana pecan are a little better overall, but the chocolate zucchini are also quite good. Enjoy!

Banana Pecan Cupkins (makes 12 to 15 cupkins)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk (or almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 mashed banana (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease muffin pan with Earth Balance, oil, or cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the soy milk and lemon juice in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled.
  3. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and mix.
  4. Beat together the soy milk mixture, oil, sugar, and mashed banana in a large bowl. Add to the flour mixture and mix until no large lumps remain. Finally, fold in the chopped pecans.
  5. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupkins (makes 12 to 15 cupkins)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk (or almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease muffin pan with Earth Balance, oil, or cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the soy milk and lemon juice in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled.
  3. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and mix.
  4. Beat together the soy milk mixture, oil, and sugar in a large bowl. Add to the flour mixture and mix until no large lumps remain. Finally, fold in the grated zucchini and chocolate chips.
  5. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

Now go and make some cupkins for yourself! And tell your friends—because I really want to live in a future where cupkin is a word as commonplace as any other.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Review: Khao San Road—A Vegan’s Perspective

September 27, 2011

Hi all!

Today I’m here to bring you my review of the hip and trendy Toronto Thai restaurant known as Khao San Road. And today’s review is extra special because it’s actually a joint review, as I happened to share my meal at Khao San with fellow TO food blogger Katherine from the lovely Drawn & Devoured blog, who is simultaneously posting her review of the place over there. If you don’t already know, Drawn & Devoured is a cross between a restaurant blog and an illustration blog: every week Katherine reviews some Toronto hotspot and illustrates all the food she tried. The result is one of my favorite Toronto food blogs, and one you should all read too! At the very least, you should be sure to read what she had to say about our meal at Khao San, since: (a) Katherine’s review will feature much nicer pictures than the oddly lit photos you’ll find in this post; (b) Katherine is generally a better food writer than I am, which means her review will also be more informative; and (c) Katherine and I never actually discussed what we thought about the food at Khao San while we were there or afterwards, and since I haven’t seen her review before writing this, we may have had wildly different opinions! Oh the mystery!

Anyway, this is all just to say that you should probably stop reading this review and just read hers.

Nonetheless, if you’re still here, here’s what I thought about Khao San.

As soon as we arrived, I realized that Khao San Road takes its title seriously: being the namesake of one of Bangkok’s most famous and busiest streets, the Toronto restaurant has apparently tried to recreate this hustle and bustle inside its own walls, making for an atmosphere that is lively and energetic—or as someone may see it, noisy and hectic. I liked the energy, but it certainly made conversation difficult throughout the night. Maybe this is how all downtown restaurants are like; I don’t go out eating in this area of town much. Still, if you’re looking for a nice quiet meal, be warned: Khao San is probably not your ideal destination.

We started the meal off splitting this Tao Hoo Taud Samoon Prai (Garlic Tofu) appetizer ($8). It wasn’t our first choice, but they were all out of squash for the day, which meant neither the Khao Greup Faktong (Squash Chips) nor the Gra Bong (Squash Fritters) were an option. Thankfully, Khao San did have one more vegan option on their starters menu, which is nice to see, especially when the whole starters menu is only eight items long. As for the tofu nuggets themselves, I was very pleased with the crispy breading, which was crisply crunchy, a texture I could only wish to recreate in my own kitchen. However, the breading itself carried little flavor in my opinion (it was billed as a “crispy garlic and kaffir lime coating”), and the tofu inside was a bit too soft and bland for my tastes. The dipping sauce added a sharp and pungent flavor to each bite, but it felt too much like it was making up for what the nugget itself lacked. So overall, it was a pleasant appetizer, but I would definitely opt for one of the squash varieties next time around, assuming squash is back in stock.

Moving on, my main was the Gaeng Kaew Wan (Green Curry) with tofu ($12). This curry was one of the five or so vegan entrees on Khao San’s menu, and I decided to go with it because it’d been a while since I had a good Thai curry, and since I figured a curry would be a representative dish on which to measure Khao San’s Thai credentials. And I was not disappointed: the curry itself was very good—super flavorful, nicely light, and hitting that upper threshold of spiciness where I was definitely sweating a bit under the eyes but still able to taste everything in all its complexity. I was a little let down by what else was in the curry, though: the tofu was better than the appetizer but still not extraordinary, and the medley of vegetables accompanying it was a lackluster bunch and seemed to be there only to add more volume to the soup, not to bring out any additional flavors of their own. Oh well. Leave it to the vegan to get snooty about his vegetables.

Katherine ordered this Pad Gra Prao minced beef entree ($13). I, of course, did not sample this, so this is just one more reason you should click on over to Katherine’s review and see what she thought. And I can only assume that her illustration of this dish will be more inspired than Khao San’s own presentation turned out.

Overall, my feelings were positive toward Khao San: it’s awesome to see a trendy Toronto restaurant being so accommodating to vegans, and the dishes I tried were pretty good all in all. However, I wouldn’t say that I’m rushing to go back. Perhaps if their use of tofu was a little more noteworthy, or if they served me some more interesting vegetables with my entree, but as things stand, there are much better vegan options in the city.

So that’s what one vegan thought about Khao San. Now, if you haven’t already, go read Katherine’s review and see how she rated—and illustrated—this meal.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Impressions from the 1st Annual Toronto Garlic Festival

September 26, 2011

Yo!

This weekend was chock full of fun events and happenings here in Toronto, which was nice, because it also happened to be gorgeous weather outside. I enjoyed these last warm days of the year in various ways: going for a long morning run, listening to some comics artists talk about their work, roaming the Word on the Street festival, enjoying some vegan s’mores at a bonfire in Dufferin Grove, and on Sunday morning, trekking out to the 1st Annual Toronto Garlic Festival at Evergreen Brickworks!

Now I realize that a festival all and only about garlic may be a turnoff to some, but for me it’s a dream. Seeing the big Brickworks shed filled with garlic stand after garlic stand filled me with joy and excitement, and I was quickly shelling out money to purchase garlic varieties and concoctions that I had never seen or even heard of before. There were jars of pickled garlic and pickled garlic scapes (these are from From These Roots)…

…and jars of garlic jelly (these are from Acadian Shamrock Farm—I got some of their garlic rosemary jelly, which sounds weird, but tastes great!)…

…and of course, piles and piles of garlic!

These bulbs are from Golden Acres Farm, which grows an astounding variety of garlic, using species from all around the world! I picked up some Floha from Germany, Rosewood from Poland, and Korean Red from (you guessed it) Korea. Very excited to try these out!

The festival wasn’t perfect, though. First off, it was fairly small, but perhaps that’s too be expected of a festival in its first year focusing solely on garlic. However, the biggest downside was that there was a five dollar admission charge to get in, which seemed exorbitant given the festival’s size, and the fact that you still had to pay for anything you wanted once you were inside (except for the various cooking demos and talks going on throughout the day). I can only hope that the admission charge helped make the vendor registration fee lower. But if the Garlic Festival comes back next year, I’d surely like to see the admission fee go, or at least become cheaper.

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the 1st Annual Toronto Garlic Festival. It opened my eyes to new parts of the world of garlic, and gave me some exciting new garlicky additions to my kitchen that I can’t wait to try! Don’t be surprised if you see more garlic than normal on this blog in the upcoming weeks.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Another Dinner Party (plus Potato Rosemary Bread)

September 23, 2011

As I remarked last week, I’ve been throwing a lot of dinner parties lately. This past weekend proved to be no exception.

For regular readers of this blog, one of the dishes in this table spread will already look familiar: it’s Zucchini Pasta with Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto from Oh She Glows (a recipe I thoroughly gushed about earlier this week). It was a fantastic entree, and handily wowed my guests.

Alongside this I whipped up two fresh batches of hummus: on the left is some Peanut Sesame Hummus, my old friend from Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, and on the right is some Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, another Oh She Glows recipe, which is just as fabulous as her pesto.

Of course, we needed something to spread these hummuses on, and for that purpose I went all-out and made two loaves of Potato Rosemary Bread from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which as all people in-the-know know, is the bible of bread books. I started making this bread on Wednesday, making a biga pre-ferment during the day and letting it develop in the fridge until Friday, when I took it out and made the final dough mix (which included a cup of mashed potatoes!), let it rise for 2 hours, then shaped it and proofed it for another 2 hours before finally baking it. So it was an intensive process—but well worth it.

The crumb of this bread was near perfect, wonderfully soft and bursting with potato and rosemary flavor. My only disappointment was with the crust, which became limp and wrinkly during cooling. I guess I should’ve let the bread bake longer in the oven. Next time! (Because this bread definitely deserves a next time.)

Anyway, I hope this gives you some ideas for your next dinner party! Have a happy weekend!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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No-Bake Cocoa Nut Coconut Oat Bars

September 22, 2011

Prepare yourself, because this recipe might just change your life.

The granola bars you see before you are some of the best things to come out my kitchen this season, and certainly the best recipe I’ve come up with in a long time. I can’t take all the credit here, though. As regular readers may recall, not too long ago I gushed about Choosing Raw’s No-Bake Sunflower Oat Bars, which are both absolutely delicious and a snap to make. After eating my way through all of those (which admittedly didn’t take very long), I immediately started thinking about my next batch. I would’ve happily made another batch of the same, but I figured I should challenge myself and see if I could twist them into something more original. After an initial botched attempt, I ended up with a near perfect formula in my opinion: a tantalizing mix of chocolate, nuts, coconut, and oats—what I’m calling, perhaps a little too literally, Cocoa Nut Coconut Oat Bars.

My major changes to Gena’s original recipe were replacing the sunflower seeds with shredded coconut and then adding some coconut oil to the wet ingredients. I generally love shredded coconut in everything, and the coconut oil, in addition to adding more coconut flavor also works as a further binder, since it solidifies when refrigerated. And adding a half cup of chopped nuts just made these all the more delectable.

But what I really love about these granola bars is that they are perfect for back-to-school time (as Gena already knows). It’s so easy for me to just reach in the fridge and throw one of these in my backpack before heading off to campus. And though they definitely don’t hold together quite as well once warmed up to room temperature, they’re not a total mess, and still just as delicious. Anyway, here’s the recipe!

No-Bake Cocoa Nut Coconut Oat Bars (makes 12 – 14 bars)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup carob chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used Brazil, but I think almonds would work nicely too)
  • 2/3 cup nut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Mix together dry ingredients 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. Cover with another layer of plastic wrap.
  7. Place in fridge overnight.
  8. The following morning, remove from fridge and cut into granola-bar-sized granola bars.
  9. Wrap each bar in plastic wrap and keep in fridge until ready to eat.

And that’s all there is to it! I really hope you guys all get to try these or Gena’s original sunflower oat bars for yourself soon. Or alternatively, make up your own! This recipe formula is easily customizable to your personal tastes and/or pantry availabilities. (Just make sure to tell me about it if you do.)

Until we eat again,

Willie

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