Archive for the ‘Store Bought Goodies’ Category

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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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The Perfect Vegan Frozen Dinner: Indianlife

October 18, 2011

Hi guys and gals!

I don’t usually like buying frozen foods, and rarely ever do. What can I say—I’m just not that into processed, pre-fabricated foods. But sometimes they really are a welcome convenience, especially when after a weekend away one is returning home to an empty fridge and a lot of already-closed supermarkets. On such occasions, I like to plan in advance and stock my freezer with a couple easily heatable dinner delights, and for a long time now my go-to option has been Indianlife and their line of naan and vegetable wraps.

The nice thing about these wraps is that they’re actually made completely from all-natural—that is, perfectly pronounceable and readily recognizable—ingredients: no chemicals or weird preservatives here! On top of this, they are delicious and filling, and thus an extra nice treat to come home to. You can either microwave or bake these puppies, but I prefer baking them, since it keeps the outer wrap crispier and more satisfying.

I should note that not all Indianlife products are vegan, but many are, and it’s very easy to figure out which. I really enjoy their naan wraps in particular, but everything I’ve tried from them is really great. Plus, they’re Canadian (even though based in BC). Their products are well stocked at my nearby Fiesta Farms grocery, but I’m sure you can find them elsewhere in Toronto as well. Check them out sometime! They’re the perfect quick and easy vegan meal.

VeganMoFo #18/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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So Awesome: The Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival

September 13, 2011

Hey guys!

What a long weekend! If you follow me on Twitter (which you totally should), you’ll already know that this weekend was full of awesomeness and excitement at the 27th annual Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival. I really didn’t expect that I’d want to keep coming back day after day, but as things turned out I spent all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday enjoying all the festival had to offer. And man oh man, let me tell you about all it had to offer…

First off, the food—oh, the food. It was all delicious, all vegan, and all quickly in my tummy. From this APieCalypse Now s’more pie…

…to this APieCalypse Now dark chocolate espresso pie…

…to this creamie from Bunner’s Bakeshop

…to this lovely Indian lunch platter from Udupi Palace

…everything was incredible—and vegan, of course! And trust me, I ate much more than I managed to photograph, such as an awesome raw dinner from Nzyme, more cupcakes and sweets from Bunner’s, and an amazing mile-high brownie from Kindfood. Also super awesome were Sick On Sin, a vegan T-shirt and design company, whose buttons were absolutely adorable (I got three!):

There were many excellent presenters present, as well. I particularly enjoyed Melanie Joy‘s talk on carnism and vegan advocacy, and Nadia Masoudi and Terry Hope Romero were also a lot of fun. And there were cooking demos, too, including one showing you how to make this lovely trio of banana soft serve blizzards (from left to right): raw mint oreo cookie, raw cookie dough, and strawberry cheesecake!

The only thing better than getting to sample these knockout blizzards was getting to watch the lovely Lisa and Nicole show us how they’re all done. I just had such a blast watching them perform their culinary magic.

Seriously, I think I could watch a cooking show with Lisa and Nicole all day. And if there were always free samples, I’d probably become a permanent audience member. (Oh and did I mention that they demoed all three of those blizzards with all their fixings in just 45 minutes?? Insanity.)

Beyond the food, talks, and demos, though, the best thing about the festival was without a doubt all the people I got to meet and hang out with: not only other Toronto vegans and vegetarians, who were all wonderful, but also tons of other vegan bloggers! Shout outs to The Tofu Princess, Ricki from Diet, Dessert and Dogs, Chris from This Little Vegan, Jess from Cupcakes and Kale, and then of course Lisa and Nicole, from Vegan Culinary Crusade and A Dash of Compassion, respectively.

Want to read even more about the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival? Well you’re in luck, because I was so behind the curve in getting this post written that now everyone else at the festival has already gotten their own posts out on the interwebs. Here are just the ones I’ve seen so far…

Thanks again to all the wonderful volunteers and organizers that made this festival so special for me and everyone else! And to all my non-Torontonian readers, who are surely sick at this point of hearing me go on and on about the Food Festival, I have a message for you: Regular posts will resume later this week. Also, come to the Vegetarian Food Festival next year!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Choy to the World

October 31, 2010

Forgive me for that groan-worthy post title; I had no other choyce. Okay, that’s the last one, I promise.

So what’s got me so excited that I’m making all these horrible puns? Well, although I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, at the local farmers’ market yesterday I experienced love at first sight… with a vegetable. Sound crazy? Take a look yourself:

Okay, so maybe I still sound crazy. But as a vegetarian, I often find myself feeling a strange aesthetic appreciation for the food I eat, one that I don’t think an omnivore shares as often. Sure, when I was still a meat-eating omni, there were times when I would look at some prepared meat dish and be awed at its apparent tastiness. But I never remember being awed by its beauty, much less by the beauty of some raw hunk of meat. Vegetables, on the other hand, can be quite awe inspiring even right from the field, and instill a sort of reverence for the pure majesty of nature’s inner workings (just consider the romanesco cauliflower, for instance). And that’s more or less what I felt when looked at the above green. (Yep, I probably still sound crazy.)

Of course, I didn’t even know yet what this green was, as I had never seen it before. When I asked the farmer, he told me it was tok choy, a relative of bok choy with a very similar taste (at least I think he said “tok” choy; I’ve been having trouble finding any Google confirmation on what exactly this green is, except for this one other food blog that also calls it “tok” choy). I was eager to try it (and also to have the chance to look at it some more at home), so I picked up this big bunch, and started to get thinking about how I could best serve it up.

Thankfully, there was another stand at the market selling large, cheap bags of bok choy, so I picked up one of those as well, figuring that it would go well with its vegetable cousin.

When I got back home, I more or less knew how I was going to cook up my first taste of tok choy: a wonderful and simple preparation method for bok choy I learned from a friend, which involves simply sauteing the greens with garlic for a little bit, and then tossing everything with some sesame oil, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. It’s easy, quick, and incredibly delicious—I think because it just really lets the flavors of the choy shine through and do most of the work. And so I did just that, mixing bok and tok choy about half and half. The result was this handsome plate:

And once again, closer up:

Ah, it was wonderful. The tok choy didn’t really taste much different than the bok choy, but its leaves obviously have a different shape, which made them cook a little differently, providing a nice contrast with the bok choy. A really excellent meal all around.

Finally, before I leave, I have to share one other treasure I picked up from the farmers’ market yesterday—this loaf of Irish Soda Bread:

A couple genuine (at least judging by their accents) Irish bakers have a little baked goods stand at the market, and this week I decided to get a loaf of their Irish soda bread. And let me tell you: this is probably the best Irish soda bread I’ve ever tasted, and definitely near the top of my all-time favorite breads I’ve ever tasted list. So if you’re in Toronto, go to the Wychwood Barn farmers’ market on Saturday morning and pick yourself up a loaf of this bread—you won’t be disappointed (until you eat it all and have none left, that is). And you might as well pick up some tok choy while you’re there as well.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Canadian Thanksgiving in NY

October 10, 2010

Hi guys and gals and everyone in between (and by that I mean puppies) (puppies who can read of course)!

While all you Americans are busy enjoying Columbus Day, Canada is busy with its own holiday this weekend: Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s right: Canadians don’t know when Thanksgiving is. Why do Canadians even have Thanksgiving, you ask? Well, it’s because Columbus never discovered Canada, since it was too cold (leaving it instead to the French), and the Canadians, being jealous of their Americans neighbo(u)rs always getting the second Monday of October off, needed some other reason to get a long weekend. And, since by the end of November everything in Canada is already frozen, the beginning of October seemed the perfect time for a harvest festival. And that’s the history of Canadian Thanksgiving.

Okay, I jest. I love Canada, even with their silly versions of American holidays. And Canadian Thanksgiving gives me the perfect opportunity to go down to New York for the long weekend and visit Caitlin, which is precisely what I did this year (and what I did last year). And Canadian Thanksgiving gives us the perfect excuse to make a festive autumnal dinner (as if we really ever need one). And that’s what I’m here to share with you today: two Americans’ take on Canada’s take on an American holiday.

(Actually, I just checked Wikipedia, and it appears that Canadian Thanksgiving may have actually started before American Thanksgiving, but, like the Canadian origins of Labo(u)r Day, I think everyone has well forgotten this by now, in true American, culturally imperialistic spirit.)

For our small Thanksgiving dinner, Caitlin and I prepared a simple three course meal. We got a lot of help from the wonderful Canadian food blogger Ricki and her wonderful Canadian food blog Diet, Desserts and Dogs, which conveniently featured a list of tons of amazing Thanksgiving recipes yesterday. So thanks Ricki—we couldn’t have done Thanksgiving this year without you!

Our appetizer for the evening was inspired by DD&D’s wonderful recipe for Potato Bruschetta. Both of us were quite taken away with the idea of making bruschetta out of potato slices, and we decided to do our own little twist on the original recipe: Instead of a traditional tomato or pesto topping, Caitlin had the excellent idea of using cheese and English pickles. Here she is at work:

And here’s the finished product up close:

What a combination! The red potatoes we got at Whole Foods worked incredibly well for roasting, and the English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions cheese from Trader Joe’s Caitlin had left in her fridge was wonderful, and the perfect complement to the English pickles (which, if you haven’t tried, you should—I really can’t explain them except as delicious). I loved these, and Caitlin agrees. I will definitely be keeping this recipe in my pocket for future dinners!

Our main course was Ricki’s excellent Nut Roast Extraordinaire, which is indeed extraordinary—so extraordinary, in fact, that it was also our main course in our American Thanksgiving in Canada dinner last year. This is probably the best vegan loaf recipe I’ve ever tried, so I’m always happy to revisit it. And to change it up a bit, we made this year’s loaf in a cake pan:

Of course, this really didn’t change the loaf that much in the end. In other words, I still ended up with an absolutely delicious slice of loaf on my plate!

In addition, we had the pleasure of using some genuine French wine from France that I recently received from a friend, both in the loaf itself and alongside the loaf in nice big wine glasses. And it really was some really good wine:

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much more about this wine, except that it was a 2005, since the label is all in French (and all the French I know I learned from Pierre Escargot).

And last but most certainly not least, we had some dessert on hand: a delectable box of Jacques Torres chocolates!

For those not in the know, Jacques Torres is a maker of super delicious chocolates and has several shops around NYC. We picked out this make-your-own box of a dozen chocolates, which included fantastic varieties such as: Love Potion #9 (dark chocolate ganache), Grand Cru (made with red wine), Ménage à Trois (made out of three secret flavors), Heavenly Hazelnut (self explanatory), Earl Grey (yeah, with tea), and Golden Espresso (with a piece of gold on top!). These were really excellent, and the perfect way to close our pleasant Thanksgiving evening together.

And that’s all I’ve got to share for today! To our Canadian readers, I hope you too enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving this weekend! And to American readers, I hope you’re now geared up for real Thanksgiving, which is only a month and a half away! And in the meantime, Happy Columbus Day.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Mahjong Food

July 31, 2010

Hello readers!

A couple of weeks ago, Caitlin and I invited a couple friends over to spend an evening playing Mahjong with us. For those that don’t know, Mahjong is a highly entertaining (and highly addictive) game, sort of similar to what Gin Rummy would be like, if Gin Rummy were played with small plastic tiles instead of cards, four people instead of two, and Chinese words for all the moves. I know, it sounds weird, but I promise you it’s wonderful.

And how did we convince two of our friends to come over and play such a weird game? By enticing them with food, of course! And apropos to the occasion, Caitlin and I chose to prepare a couple delectable Asian dishes for our dinner. Coincidentally, both are dishes that I first fell in love with in Japan even though they both originated in China, in much the same way that I first fell in love with Mahjong in Japan even though it’s really a Chinese game at heart. Anyway, you’re surely here to see the food, not to read my rambling recollections. So without further ado, here’s our first dish—Mabo Tofu:

Mabo Tofu is about as simple as it gets: it’s just lots and lots of tofu, simmered in a spicy sauce. I’ve tried making the sauce from scratch before, but this time we decided to take it easy and just use a packaged version (this one, if you’re interested). Making this from a box makes it mind-numbingly simple (you just fry your tofu a bit and then pour in the sauce), but the taste is still all there. I love it!

Accompanying this dish, we made a heaping pile of Gyoza (note that this photo is only half of all the gyoza we made):

For those that don’t know, gyoza are fried dumplings, variously filled with either vegetables, ground meat, or anything else you can think of. For our gyoza, I whipped up a nicely sauteed mix of vegetables, combining cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, spinach, and some other things I can no longer remember. Caitlin placed this filling into the little dough circles we bought and then folded them up in proper gyoza form. We then fried them in oil until they just started to brown. The result: deliciousness. Seriously, we made over 50 gyozas (gyozai? or is it just gyoza?), but had no problem whatsoever devouring all of them between the four of us. Gyoza are just that good.

Finally, our friends brought some cupcakes with them to share, and although they weren’t at all keeping with our Asian theme for the night, their amazingly wondrous deliciousness more than made up for it. Check out this delectable box:

These incredible little treats were from Sweet Avenue in New Jersey, and they were wonderful. Our flavors, starting from roughly 12 o’clock and moving clockwise, were: Lemonade Iced Tea, Sexy Sadie (red velvet), Tiramisu, Cinnamon Sticky Bun, Lavender Lemon (it actually tastes like flowers!), and in the center was Peanut Butter Cup. Whoa my gosh were these good (and, of course, very very rich). I would definitely recommend Sweet Avenue without reservation—if you’re close by, you must must must try them out.

And that’s all for today. Enjoy your weekends, everybody!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Leaving T.O.

April 17, 2010

Hi everybody!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I totally have a legit excuse: finals! Finals, finals, finals. But they’re over and done with, and now—as I speak—I’m on a bus taking me from Toronto to New York so that I can be reunited with Caitlin!

Since this visit is going to keep me away from T.O. for almost two weeks, I knew I needed to do a thorough fridge clean before I left—no leftovers allowed! Thankfully, I planned out the week fairly perfectly, finishing the rest of my kale with my lunchtime salad, and then using some leftover Korean BBQ tofu to make this delicious dinner dish:

This noodle bowl is very similar to the Korean Pad Thai dish I made not to long ago. It’s very simple and straightforward: some green onions and broccoli with udon noodles, thrown together with baked tofu marinated in a spicy gochujang sauce, with edamame and cashews mixed in at the end! This baby packed some serious heat, but totally in a good way.

In addition, I had about four carrots left in my crisper, but as anyone would reads food blogs already knows, leftover carrots are never a problem:

Yep, that’s a plate of delicious, delicious carrot fries, the perfect way to take care of some leftover carrots. Both Caitlin and I have sung the praises of carrot fries before, so all I’ll say here is: if you haven’t tried them yet, try them now.

Now part of my reasoning behind making those above Korean noodles last night was so I could bring the other half of what I made with me today for lunch on my bus ride. It’s 9 a.m. right now, so I can’t say for at least a few more hours how they taste at room temperature, but I’m optimistic. I’m also optimistic about all my other travel treats, which I thought I’d share quickly with you now. I’ve got…

Suzie’s Multiseed Spelt Flat Breads!

Late July Dark Chocolate Snobby Oreos Sandwich Cookies! AND…

Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Marzipan! I’m looking forward to all of these! Check back to hear what I think!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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