Archive for the ‘Willie’s Meals’ Category


Wonderful Whole Wheat Bread

June 21, 2011

This was one amazing loaf of bread I baked today. Although I shouldn’t’ve expected anything less—this was Vegan Dad‘s recent whole wheat bread recipe, after all. Vegan Dad knows a ton about baking delicious bread and he’s never led me astray before. I especially liked this recipe because it was easy and straightforward, calling for only a handful of standard ingredients and not even all that much time. The finished loaf is very soft and springy, but keeps its integrity incredibly well, allowing it to be sliced thinly without falling apart. The taste is great, too, of course. Anyway, you should make it!

Vegan Dad’s post includes a very instructive recipe video which shows you how to make the bread. I really liked watching this, as I often feel a clueless when kneading and preparing bread dough, and being able to watch Vegan Dad’s technique gave me some helpful pointers. So you should definitely check that out too!

Finally, for those of you like me, who both only really need to make one loaf of bread at a time and only have one bread pan to bake in anyway, you may feel that Vegan Dad’s original two loaf recipe is a bit much. Also, for those of you like me, who still don’t own a kitchen scale, even though you know all bread baking ingredients should really be measured by weight and not by volume, you may feel a little lost by Vegan Dad’s provided ingredient list by weight. So for all you people, here’s an ingredient list by volume for only one loaf; you can still follow the recipe’s steps as they are in the video (except don’t cut the risen loaf in two, unless you want to make mini-loafs).

  • just under 2 cups hard whole wheat flour (more precisely, 1.9 cups)
  • 1/2 tbsp instant yeast
  • 9 fl oz warm soy milk
  • 1.25 cups white bread flour
  • 1 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp oil

Happy eating!

Until we eat again,



Bannock (Canadian Skillet Bread)

June 15, 2011

Ahoy, readers!

Since moving to Canada two years ago, I have always been curious to learn more about Canadian cuisine. After being here for two years, I am still not convinced that there is such a thing as Canadian cuisine—and if there is, then I have no clue who eats it. Sure, there are a handful of signature Canadian dishes, many of which I’ve even recreated here on this blog, such as our recent vegan (gnocchi) poutine, vegan tourtière, and my very own vegan spin on Timbits. But I have yet to discover any sort of flavors or seasonings or culinary techniques that define Canadian cooking in the way other ethnic cuisines are identified. And unfortunately, I am not going to put an end to this ignorance today. However, I did recently discover a new Canadian dish which both tastes great and is easy to make, so I thought I’d at least share that with you!

The dish is bannock, a flat quick bread which is cooked by pan-frying a slab of dough in a skillet, somewhat like a pancake. I found out about this bread from watching this week’s episode of Top Chef Canada, where it popped up in chef Dale MacKay’s almost-winning dish representing the British Columbia Interior. Now a common Canadian campsite meal, the origins of bannock in fact trace back to the indigenous Aboriginal peoples of Canada—so that’s right, this bread is legit Canadian. But it makes sense why bannock would be popular in their cultures as well as among campers. In its simplest form, it requires only flour, salt, baking powder and water to make, about fifteen minutes to prepare, and no more than an open flame and a skillet to cook. Just mix together the ingredients to form a dough, throw it on a griddle, fry for ten to fifteen minutes, and you’re set! Sure, it’s not going to win any awards for style or composition, but for an effective and quick bread, it really can’t be beat, especially if you love that salt-and-baking-powder taste in breads and biscuits as much as I do. Plus, the recipe is easily modified to accommodate whatever other ingredients may be available as well.

For my first foray into bannock baking, I decided to follow this basic bannock recipe found on the webpage of the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests and Range—so that’s right, my bannock was extra legit Canadian. This webpage also includes many other bannock varieties, should you want to experiment. Other bannock recipes can of course be found around the internet as well, but once you get the basic idea of the dish, it’s really yours to mess with, and hard to mess up.

Aside from its history and ease to make, what I like about bannock is that it’s also the perfect summer bread, as there’s no need for an oven, so you can keep your kitchen cool while still enjoying some freshly cooked bread. This also makes it a really good breakfast bread to have in one’s cooking repertoire, especially given its short prep and cooking time.

So I hope you enjoyed learning about bannock! I promise you will also enjoy eating it as well, so give it a try the next time you’re hankering for some bread or biscuit. And please, if you can, help cure me of my ignorance of Canadian cuisine, and let me know if there are any other Canadian dishes that I need to try!

Until we eat again,



Two Perfect Summer Vegan Lunches

June 6, 2011

Hi all!

Although you may think that all I’m doing these days is touring Toronto cafés, I have actually been making some food as well. And today I’m here to share with you two awesome vegan lunch recipes that I think are perfect for summer. Ready? Here we go!

So what’s our first perfect summer vegan lunch? Spring rolls, of course! (Seriously, I really think spring rolls have got their seasons mixed up.)

I was reminded of the excellence of spring rolls last weekend during a brief visit back home, when my parents offered me some for lunch. Caitlin and I had actually made spring rolls together a while back and loved them, but for some reason we never got around to blogging about them! When I realized this, I knew this was something I would have to remedy. Then, as soon as I returned to Toronto, my roommate who was just about to move out happened to give me a big pack of rice paper wrappers from her pantry, and with that my fate was sealed. Some higher power was definitely telling me that it was my duty to make some spring rolls—an imperative to which I happily complied.

As when Caitlin and I made them before, I followed Vegan Dad’s general guidelines for spring rolls, which I think are a really good introduction for anyone who hasn’t made spring rolls before. However, this time I took a few more liberties in my choice of ingredients, coming up with this tantalizing combination:

Moving clockwise from the top, what we have here is: (a) Korean-style sweet potato starch noodles/glass noodles/cellophane noodles/dangmyeon/당면; (b) some raw Ontario asparagus; (c) daikon radish; and (d) chili ground tempeh. The noodles were simply boiled and then strained, the asparagus stalks were simply chopped in two, and the daikon was simply shredded. The tempeh took a little more work, but not much: following Vegan Dad’s recipe, I simply boiled the tempeh for 10 minutes and then panfried it with some soy sauce, mixing in some sriracha chili sauce at the end. It’s a really great way of preparing tempeh that is very versatile and works well in many dishes, though I particularly like how it works in these spring rolls.

With these ingredients all set, I then quickly microwave the noodles and tempeh just to get them a little bit warm, and then assemble my rolls. It took a little bit of practice of first, but now I’m pretty good at squeezing all these things together. All in all, I love how these spring rolls came together. The crunch of the asparagus, the freshness of the daikon, and the strong flavor of the tempeh combine to make a wonderful treat which is light, fresh, but still filling. These little guys are also easily taken on the go; simply wrap them up in plastic wrap and just make sure they don’t get smushed!

In addition, Vegan Dad has an excellent (though fairly standard I guess) recipe for chili dipping sauce, which complements these spring rolls nicely. It’s just vinegar and sugar simmered together for a few minutes with some sriracha mixed in at the end, but it makes for a very authentic tasting and pungent sauce which I love. Enjoy!

And for our second perfect summer vegan lunch, we have Choosing Raw Gena’s Pistachio Pesto Zucchini Pasta!

This easy-to-make dish is not only tremendously tasty, it’s also raw, which means it’s cool, light, and fresh—perfect for summer—while at the same time being quite filling and very nutritious. The formula is simple: You start by making a batch of pistachio pesto in your food processor (more or less like regular pesto but with pistachios in place of pine nuts), and then mix this in with some spiralized zucchini pasta. Top with some chopped up cherry and sun-dried tomatoes, garnish with some nutritional yeast, and you’ll all set! It really is delicious. Also, if you’re without a spiralizer, don’t fear—you can still make zucchini pasta by just finely slicing up a zucchini yourself.

And that’s all I have to share for today. Summer is a great time for eating, and I hope to be back soon with more light and fresh recipes to share!

Until we eat again,



Vegan Gnocchi Poutine

May 13, 2011

Watch out—this is poutine with a twist!

Of all the food blogs I regularly follow, Closet Cooking is one of the few that are non-veg*n. Yet despite the many meaty dishes it features, the blog is still well worth it for veg*n readers, simply because it offers so many tasty and inventive recipe ideas. Honestly, some of my all-time favorite recipes have come from Closet Cooking: for example, Kare Pan, Okonomiyaki, Apple Chutney, Dak Bulgogi, and Corned Beef, Cabbage, & Kimchi Burritos, to name but a few. Many of these recipes have required some tweaking on my part to veganize them, but that’s part of the fun! Reading Closet Cooking has definitely made me a better and more versatile chef.

Recently, Closet Cooking posted yet another inventive dish idea that I immediately fell for: Gnocchi Poutine. Living in Canada now for almost two years, I’ve come to acquire a strange reverence and awe for poutine, the gravy-soaked, cheese-curd-punctuated pile of french fries which, for lack of a better option, is what I most often think of as the Canadian national dish (in the same way that I most often think of a Tim Hortons Double Double as the Canadian national drink). Unfortunately, most poutine served in Toronto is not vegetarian, as it usually involves a meat-based gravy—although there are, thankfully, some notable exceptions, such as Utopia Cafe‘s vegetarian poutine, Burger Bar‘s saag poutine, Live‘s raw spin on poutine. However, the better option would be just to make poutine on my own at home—an option that, surprisingly, I never really considered doing until a few weeks ago.

It was Closet Cooking’s recipe that gave me the extra motivation I needed, for his recipe was not just for poutine, but for gnocchi poutine, an idea I had never heard or thought of before, but which immediately struck me as brilliant. Gnocchi is one of those foods that I get these periodic cravings for, but as much as I love it, I had never tried making it myself before. However, after watching Top Chef All-Star Fabio Viviani handroll delicious little balls of gnocchi by hand several times last season, the whole process looked like too much fun not to attempt at least once. And with that, Caitlin and I decided to create some poutine magic! Ready? Then let’s go!

poutine preparation is under way…

As mentioned above, poutine has three basic components: gravy, cheese curds, and potatoes in some form or another. For the gravy, Caitlin and I decided to go with one of our perennial vegan favorites: Vegan Dad’s amazing mushroom gravy, which is unbeatable and fairly simple. You start by roasting some mushrooms, garlic, and shallots…

And then simply mix those things with some liquids and simmer to make a super delicious gravy.

For the cheese curds, we needed to get a little more inventive, but our efforts turned out to be a huge success! Our basic idea was to cut up some tofu cubes and then bake them in a cheesy sauce, for which we used this vegan mac and cheese recipe (we only needed to make a third of the original recipe). Here was our tofu before going into the oven…

And here it is after coming out!

This really came out awesome—much better than I was expecting to be honest—and made for a scrumptious poutine in the end.

Last but not least, our potatoes. Now, for those playing at home, you don’t have to follow us in making gnocchi; this basic veg*n poutine guideline would work just as well, if not better, with some baked potato wedges or what have you. But gnocchi really aren’t that much more work to make—and it’s fun! We followed Closet Cooking’s simple recipe, which was very easy to follow, and came out tasting pretty good. After baking and mashed a couple potatoes together with some flour and flax eggs, all you do is roll and cut your dough into little gnocchi balls, like so:

Once your little balls of gnocchi are all set, you then just boil them like regular gnocchi! Simple!

Here they are up close:

Finally, assemble your poutine by placing some of the gnocchi in a bowl or on a plate, and then lather it with gravy and tofu cheese curds to your liking.

So all in all, a very fun and satisfying recipe! Hope you all enjoy this one. Here’s to poutine, Canada, and vegan creativity!

Until we eat again,



Vegan Steel-Cut Oat Soda Bread

April 13, 2011

Hey y’all! I have a new original recipe to share today!

I’ve been making a lot of soda bread recently (one of my soda bread adventures was chronicled here, in case you missed it). One recipe that I’ve become particularly fond of is this one for Oat Soda Bread at 101 Cookbooks. I like it because it combines the taste and ease of soda bread with the heartiness of oats. But after I made it once, I got to thinking—could I do the same thing with steel-cut oats? Well, after a bit of tinkering (and some guidance from this Bob’s Red Mill recipe), I think I’ve found a good ratio of steel-cut to regular oats, which makes for one wonderfully full and hearty loaf in the end! And if you don’t have steel-cut oats at hand, don’t worry; just use 101 Cookbooks’s original recipe—it’s still really good. Enjoy!

Vegan Steel-Cut Oat Soda Bread


  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar / lemon juice
  • 1 3/4 cup soy milk (less 2 tbsp, actually)
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup white all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • mixed seeds (I used poppy and black sesame seeds, plus some leftover steel-cut oats)


1. Preheat oven to 400°F and prepare a 9×5 inch baking pan, either by greasing the sides well with oil / vegan butter or lining 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. Add the steel-cut oats and let soak as you prepare the dry ingredients.

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 wet mixture, and mix until it all starts coming together. (When I do this, it tends to stay a very sticky blob instead of forming into a nice, kneadable dough. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be a problem.)

6. Scoop the dough into your baking pan.

7. Top with seeds and such (I went a little overboard here, FYI).

8. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

9. After it’s cooled, remove loaf from pan, slice up, and enjoy!

Hope you like this one guys! Let me know how it goes for you!

Until we eat again,



Whatchoo Say? Étouffée!

April 11, 2011

Hey hey!

Vegan Dad is one of my favorite food bloggers. In the years I’ve been following him, he’s shared recipe after recipe for some of the tastiest things I’ve ever tried (his broccoli risotto, tarka dhal, and pumpkin soup with scones are some examples that jump immediately to mind). And today I want to share with you the latest recipe to enter my Vegan Dad pantheon of vegan goodness: Tofu Étouffée!

What is étouffée, you ask? Well, before I made this recipe, I had no idea either. I had never heard of, much less tried, this dish. Heck, I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce its name (which, incidentally, is not the first time that’s happened to me with a Vegan Dad recipe). So, as this stew was simmering, I did some research.

Apparently (and my Louisianan friend later confirmed this for me), étouffée is a traditional Cajun dish, which, according to tradition, is basically a roux with some crawfish. Vegan Dad’s recipe keeps the roux but replaces the crawfish with some aggressively spiced fried tofu cubes, which is then combined with a fairly standard vegetable broth to make one killer soup. Really, the spices in this are damn near perfect (although they may be a little too spicy for the especially sensitive—but you can always cut back on the paprika or red pepper flakes if need be).

The finished stew is definitely good enough to eat on its own, but Vegan Dad kicks the recipe up several more notches by pairing it with these delicious corn pancakes:

These, too, are good enough to eat on their own, although they really are wonderful when paired with the étouffée (they also keep cut some of its spiciness). Here are some more photos of my finished plate:

This recipe makes for a good amount of étouffée, which I was able to stretch out over the week. And as he says, the flavors do keep developing after cooking, so this tastes even better as leftovers. Honestly, I really couldn’t recommend this recipe more. I hope you try it out yourself—and if you do, let me know how it goes!

Until we eat again,


P.S. I should add that in French, ‘étouffée’ means ‘suffocated’, which, given how much this recipe makes me want to stuff my face with it, seems appropriate.


Spicy Jalapeño Cashew Cheese Spread

April 1, 2011

Hey readers!

In the past few months, I’ve really been on a dip/spread kick. On average I’ve been making myself two tubs of hummus or some other kind of delectable spreadable every weekend, and then thoroughly enjoying them throughout the week in salads, or on bread, or with vegetables or fruit. This versatility, combined with the nutritional goodness of these spreads, is what keeps me coming back again and again. Not too long ago I posted some new hummus recipes I came up with, but today I want share something else from my ever expanding spreadable repertoire: cashew cheese.

For those who don’t know, cashew cheese is basically a dip/spread made from cashews put through a food processor along with whatever extras you can think of. I don’t really understand why it’s called cashew “cheese” (its flavor resemblance to actual cheese is marginal in my opinion, and I use it more like hummus than cheese), but that’s the name that everyone’s using at the moment, for better or worse. The important point is not the name, though, but the taste, which is incredible. Absolutely incredible. And one you absolutely must try.

But before I get to my original cashew cheese recipe, first a word of thanks, because I would never have fallen in love (much less tried) cashew cheese if it were not for Choosing Raw, Gena’s mind-numbingly awesome food blog. I am constantly finding amazing recipes and food ideas here, and not too long ago Gena posted two stellar cashew cheese recipes: Zesty Orange Cashew Cheese and Sweet Potato Cashew Cheese. If you’ve never tried cashew cheese before, please try her recipes first! I’m not ashamed to admit that they’re much better than the one posted here.

However, if you’re already a cashew cheese fan and just looking for a new recipe idea, here’s something you may enjoy: a spicy jalapeño cashew cheese! This is basically just your average cashew cheese with some extra heat added in, but I think it’s really enjoyable, and is a nice little twist to the norm. I’ve found that this spread is best with carrots or other vegetables, or as a spread in sandwiches, but I’m sure you could think of plenty of other delicious uses for it. I hope y’all like it!

Spicy Jalapeño Cashew Cheese Spread


  • 1.5 cups cashews
  • 1 tbsp miso
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 6 tbsps (3/8 cup) nutritional yeast
  • 2-3 jalapenos, seeded
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • a little less than ½ cup water


  1. Begin by placing everything except the water in a food processor and pulsing until everything starts getting combined.
  2. With the motor running, add the water slowly, stopping frequently to let it mix in and checking the consistency. Once everything looks smooth and to your liking, you’re done! Scoop out and enjoy!

I’m sure I’ll be coming up with more cashew cheese recipes in the months to come, so be sure to keep checking in! For now, happy dipping/spreading/eating!

Until we eat again,



St. Patrick’s Day! Vegan Irish Soda Bread PLUS An Angry Irish Rant!

March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I’m half Irish, and also generally hungry, so to celebrate these things I decided to bake up a quick loaf of vegan Irish Soda Bread this St. Patrick’s Day afternoon, using this simple and excellent recipe from Happy Herbivore. This was my first time making Irish Soda Bread, and I was pleased to discover how easy it was! I mean, c’mon—a bread you barely have to knead and that doesn’t have to rise at all? Compared to the other breads I’ve made in the past, this one was a cinch. And very tasty in the end, too! Here are some photos of my bread-baking adventure. First, the loaf right after it came out of the oven…

Then here’s what it looked liked sliced in half…

And finally, what it looked like sliced into, well, slices…

I was very happy with how this came out, and would definitely make it again, even for non-St.-Patrick’s-Day occasions!

Lastly, in further celebration of this Irish holiday, I thought I’d close today’s post with a little Irish rant. Did anyone else see this ludicrous article in the New York Times earlier this week? It’s so ludicrous that I almost feel that even criticizing it is giving it too much credit, but it feels wrong to let such idiocy go unchallenged (and I haven’t heard any other mention of it on the food blogosphere yet).

For those who haven’t read the article, the author’s basic argument is that, since plants have just as much life as animals do, there can be no justification for choosing to eat plants rather than animals (as the author puts it, “If eating a tofu dog [is] as much a crime against life as eating bratwurst, then pass the bratwurst, please”). These conclusions are disturbing and depressing, for many reasons. I was mostly shocked by how much the author overlooks in her assessment of veg*nism; some examples:

  • First, eating animals involves a significantly greater amount of cruelty than eating plants. (I don’t necessarily mean in principle—I’m only concerned with our current practices of meat production, which are unquestionably more barbaric in their treatment of animals than any of our ways of farming vegetables). I think I’m in agreement with most veg*ns when I say that what I want in my diet is to avoid cruelty, not (merely) to preserve life.
  • Second, eating animals includes with it the killing of all the plants needed to feed and fatten those animals. So even if you were simply concerned with merely preserving life, you’d preserve a lot more life overall if you just ate plants than if you ate plant-eating animals.
  • Third, our current practices of meat production are in my opinion inherently unsustainable, whereas sustainable fruit, grain, and vegetable farming is much more realistic. These more global considerations should figure into our reflections on preserving life just as much as concerns on the individual level.
  • Fourth, there are plenty of other reasons to be veg*n, and it betrays an astounding amount of moral deafness that the author feels justified in her decision to eat meat by the failure of this argument alone.

I could go on, but I don’t want to get carried away. And I did feel some small consolation in reading this article: namely, that if arguments in favor of eating animals are getting this obviously stupid, then maybe that’s a sign that we’ll soon all realize that there are in fact no good reasons to eat animals. And that’s something I can drink to. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Until we eat again,



Beer Food

March 8, 2011

Ah… the refreshing smell of freshly baked bread…

This weekend, I baked bread all on my own for the first time in a fairly long while (discounting naan, cornbread, and other sweet breads, that is). This is sad, because I really love baking bread. Generally, it’s the time commitment (and the abundance of superb bakeries here in Toronto) that deter me from making it more often, but when I do, I always feel like the time is well spent. Freshly baked bread just tastes so darn good!

So, as a special little treat for my long-due return to bread-baking, I decided to bake a loaf of Beer Bread, following this recent recipe from Closet Cooking. This is a straightforward (and easily veganizable!) recipe, which includes a good cup and a half of beer in its dough (I used some Chocolate Stout, which seemed to work well). I was a little disappointed that the amazing beer aroma didn’t stick around after it had baked, but the beer did seem to lend the loaf a nice inner softness and springiness. Overall, I was really happy with this bread, and had a hard time stopping myself from eating it all in one go (which is probably another reason I don’t make bread more often). Here are some photos of my bread baking journey. First, some pics of the loaf after it came out of the oven…

And here are some close ups of it after it had cooled down and been sliced open…

Yum! But that’s not the only beer food I made this weekend! Along with my beer bread, I decided to whip up a batch of Chocolate Beer Pancakes for breakfast, in part to use up the remaining beer and in part because these pancakes are soamazingIwanttoeatthemeverydayforeverymealandalsowhileI’msleeping. The recipe comes from the excellent Vegan Brunch cookbook, where it’s actually a recipe for Chocolate Beer Waffles. Lacking a waffle iron, I decided to try these out as pancakes, and they were wonderful: fluffy and super flavorful! (And as I discovered later, while eating up the leftovers, these pancakes become even more delicious when complemented by clementine slices.) Here are some photos…

And that’s all I have to share today! I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the (other) wonderful things beer can do. And remember: if you decide to make these beer recipes on your own, enjoy responsibly. 😉

Until we eat again,

Willie Costello


Chive Edamame Hummus

March 6, 2011

Hi all! Told you I’d be back again soon. And, as promised, I have yet another hummus recipe to share! (Do check out yesterday’s Red Bean & Beet Hummus if you missed it—it’s superb.)

So what’s the enticing hummus you see above you? It’s an original recipe I’m calling, uncreatively, Chive Edamame Hummus. You see, it’s hummus, with chives and edamame in it. I got the idea because I generally love chive-y hummuses, and I thought it would be fun to complement the chives with a similarly colored bean base, for which green edamame beans were the obvious choice. Thankfully, the flavors ended up complementing each other as well! This isn’t the world’s most amazing hummus, but the little twists from the usual make it a nice dish overall. So without further ado, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Chive Edamame Hummus


  • 1 cup cooked great northern beans / garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup edamame beans (fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • lots of chives (I ended up using about 3/4 cup I think, but adjust to your personal tastes)
  • 2 to 4 tbsp water
  • salt, to taste


  1. Combine everything in a food processor and process, adding more water if necessary to thin it out.
  2. That’s it. Hummus is so easy.

And for reference, here’s mine after it was done in the food processor:

Hope you like this one guys! I’ll be back again soon with more delicious food!

Until we eat again,


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