Recipes, Veganism

Vegan bangers and mash

I treated myself this weekend to an old classic: Bangers and mash. I used Montreal-based Gusta’s Italian seitan sausage, as well as Yukon Gold potatoes mashed with Becel vegan margarine and soy milk. I added lots of caramelized onions, as well as peas. At this time of the year, fresh peas aren’t available, but frozen do well. I sauteed the peas with the onions after the latter were caramelized. I topped this with a simple gravy, which is a combination of water, flour, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, gravy browning, and a touch of soy sauce.

Absolutely delicious.

Veganism

Local vegan pastries

I’m very glad to have found a local bakery that makes two vegan tarts: Cherry and coconut lemon. Dinah’s Sourdough is a bakery located in the north end of the city. I’ve not been there in person yet, but I’m very happy to see that the bakery has been offering online shopping and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am looking forward to my first order of both tarts today. They are destined for the freezer, as I like to discipline my consumption of baked goods; these will be Saturday afternoon treats with espresso or herbal tea.

Recipes, Veganism

Creamy chocolate custard

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups soy milk
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine the cornstarch and water to form a paste.
  2. Mix together the cocoa powder and sugar.
  3. Pour the soy milk into a pan over medium heat. Although you can use other plant-based milks, soy milk works best for custards, as it thickens well (almond milk for example, does not), and does not impart a strong flavour (unlike oat milk or cashew milk, for example).
  4. Stir the cocoa powder and sugar gradually into the soy milk. I find a balloon whisk works well for this.
  5. Add the vanilla extract, to taste. I like to use a full teaspoon.
  6. Add the cornstarch paste.
  7. Whisk the milk until boiling point. It’s important that you stir constantly, as you don’t want any lumps to form.
  8. When the milk boils, remove from heat.
  9. Pour into individual containers of your choosing. The custard will continue to thicken.

My preference is to eat the custard when it’s still warm and a crust has formed, but it’s equally good cold. It will be thicker when cold.

Veganism

Health benefits of tofu

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I’m a huge fan of tofu and eat it almost daily. When I was first introduced to tofu many years ago, it was the silken kind, which I hated. I convinced myself that I didn’t like tofu until I came across the firm and extra firm versions; it was love at first bite. This article discusses some of the primary health benefits of tofu. The article discusses as well some of the potential concerns about food processing, although it provides no citations to support these statements, which I take with a pinch of salt. I think there is a lot of misinformation about GMOs in general, based often on scare tactics and an assumption because something isn’t “natural” it must automatically be bad for you. Many GMO foods are perfectly harmless and also nutritious; their sale is regulated in Canada. This same fear is often extended to all processed foods, even though they are not necessarily harmful. Ultimately, it all comes down to balance. This article provides the nutritional breakdown of 100g of tofu and its role in helping to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. This article discusses the potential impact of tofu on Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Tofu is an important source of protein and calcium for me, and adds substance to green salads, rice dishes, and so forth. My favourite way to eat tofu is to marinate it in a simple sauce, usually teriyaki, and then to saute it. I also like to grill it with barbecue sauce. This site has some suggested vegan tofu recipes.

Recipes, Veganism

Cauliflower bake

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The main ingredient in this dish is cauliflower. I added two other vegetables to the dish for extra texture and flavour, but this isn’t necessary.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cauliflower, cut into florets.
  • Broccoli florets
  • Fresh (or frozen) peas

Cheeze Sauce

  • 1 peeled and diced potato
  • 1 peeled and diced carrot
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups plant milk (soy milk works best)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tbsp miso
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation

  • Boil or steam the cauliflower and broccoli until tender. Set aside.
  • Boil the potato and carrot until tender.
  • Placed the cooked potato and carrot in a blender and add the remaining ingredients for the cheeze sauce. Blend until smooth.
  • Place the cauliflower, broccoli, and peas in an ovenproof dish and cover with the sauce, making sure to cover the vegetables completely.
  • Back at 350F (177C) for 20 minutes.

 

Recipes, Veganism

Carrot top pesto

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I bought a bunch of fresh carrots on Saturday from one of our local farmers’ markets and was inspired to make carrot top pesto, which is something I read in one of the Zero Waste communities to which I belong. In the past, I’ve always just composted the carrot tops; this recipe is an excellent way to combat food waste.

Ingredients

  • Carrot tops (the green leafy parts) of a bunch of carrots, chopped.
  • 2 cloves garlic, or to taste
  • juice of half a lemon
  • Olive oil. I didn’t measure closely, but I think I used about 3 tablespoons
  • A handful of cashews (walnuts might work better, but I didn’t have any on hand)
  • Salt, to taste.

Method

  • You can blanche the carrot tops if you wish, but I kept them raw. Make sure they are well rinsed.
  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. I used my Vitamix.
  • Blend until everything is smooth. You decide what texture you lie; if you want a smooth pesto, blend for longer; if a chunkier texture, just pulse. It’s really hard to pulse with a Vitamix so mine comes out smooth.
Veganism

Vegan pizza in Halifax

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I love pizza. I could happily eat pizza every day, including for breakfast. I often make my own pizza at home, but I do like to indulge in the occasional takeout. Neopolitan pizza is my favourite, but since this pizza requires a special oven to bake for the requisite maximum of 90 seconds, it’s not something I can make at home. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the vegan pizza offerings in a variety of Halifax restaurants. Please note that I’m not reviewing the quality of the food.

An option any vegan can follow, of course, is to simply order a pizza that contains no animal-derived ingredients, including cheese. My focus in this post is on restaurants that offer pizzas or ingredients labelled specifically as vegan. Traditional pizza dough is vegan, as it contains yeast, flour, sugar, and oil.  Let’s explore below.

Piatto Pizzaria + Enoteca has the special oven needed to make the Neopolitan pizza I love; I believe it’s the only restaurant in town with such an oven.  Piatto offers the “vegano”, which features sautéed portobello mushroom, garlic marinated tomatoes,  grilled zucchini, and topped with arugula. Piatto does not offer any vegan cheeze, which is a mark against them, as such alternatives are readily available.

Bramoso Pizza was, I believe, the first pizza restaurant in Halifax to provide a vegan cheeze alternative. Bramoso does not offer a specifically-labelled vegan pizza, but you can opt to create your own pizza and ask for their home-made vegan cheeze topping, which has the texture of ricotta. If you prefer cheeze that melts and has a gooey texture, as I do, this ricotta style may take some getting used to. The company states specifically that its white and whole wheat crusts are vegan.

Salvatore’s Pizzaiolo Trattoria makes their own vegan cheeze topping which, like Bramoso’s has a ricotta-type texture. You can assemble your own pizza and ask for the vegan topping.

On The Wedge Gourmet Pizza, which operates in Sunnyside Mall in Bedford, offers the vegan-labelled pizza “Roasted Rocket,” which has roasted eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, fresh tomato, rustico sauce, and sauteed mushrooms. Sadly, the company does not provide any vegan cheeze alternative.

Boston Pizza does not have a vegan-labelled pizza, but it has very recently provided vegan cheeze, so you could assemble your own pizza and ask for this alternative. The company also provides a vegan cauliflower crust.

Pizza Pizza provides three vegan alternatives: vegan pepperoni, vegan crumbles, and cheeze, which can be added to a pizza of your design. The company also provides a vegan cauliflower crust, and states that its regular and thin crusts contain no animal ingredients.

The Wooden Monkey offers a “veggie pizza” that contains olive oil basil, tomato sauce, spinach, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and goat cheese. You can order vegan cheeze instead of the dairy versions.

The Heartwood offers the “Classic Vegan” pizza, which consists of tomato sauce, mushrooms, garlic, tofu, artichoke hearts, spinach, peppers, and nutritional yeast topped with a vegan caesar dressing. The restaurant normally carries Daiya cheeze if you wanted to add that as well.

As you can see, there are plenty of choices for vegan pizza.  Remember, I’ve listed only those restaurants that have pizzas labelled specifically as vegan, or which provide vegan cheeze alternatives. If I’ve missed any, please let me know.

 

 

Veganism

Vegan treats in Halifax

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A friend of mine asked me about vegan sweet treats she could take as a hostess gift, which got me thinking that this would make an ideal blog post. I’ve focused on locally-made vegan treats.

Rousseau Chocolatier provides some good vegan options for chocolate bonbons. Dark chocolate is usually vegan, and those filled with nuts or fruits would be fine. Another option is the dark chocolate bars.

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Springhouse makes exclusively vegan products. For sweet goods, the following would all be suitable:

  • Cashew cheesecake: strawberry, Blueberry, Mango Pineapple, Mocha or Maple Almond. The cheesecake is usually sold by the slice, but you can order a whole cheesecake.
  • Chocolate almond bar: one of their most popular products.
  • Caramel brownie bar
  • Lemon bar
  • Mint chip bar

Sweet Hereafter Bakery always has one daily vegan cheesecake. I’ve tried every vegan option, and all are delicious. The cheesecake is sold by the slice, but you can order a whole cheesecake. Their vegan options are plentiful:

  • Vegan Amaretto
  • Vegan Black Forest
  • Vegan Carrot Cake
  • Vegan Chocolate Oreo
  • Vegan Chocolate Raspberry
  • Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut
  • Vegan Oreo
  • Vegan Macaroon
  • Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate
  • Vegan Strawberry Vanilla

Humani-T Cafe has a good variety of vegan gelato that you can order by the pint. The cafe makes a good chocolate vegan cake that you can order in advance.

Vandal Doughnuts has a large variety of vegan doughnuts. This bakery is extremely popular and often has long queues of customers waiting outside the door, and for good reason, as their doughnuts are delicious. Vegan options include:

  • Vegan cookie monster
  • Vegan raspberry lemon
  • Vegan Oreo twist
  • Vegan apple fritter
  • Vegan homer
  • Vegan Boston cream
  • Vegan chocolate and peanut butter
  • Vegan strawberry vanilla
  • Vegan harbour fog
  • Vegan lemon square
  • Vegan cinnamon twist
  • Vegan blueberry fritter

The Petite Baker is run by a friend of mine. Elizabeth can make custom vegan cakes for any occasion.

Luscious Desserts is an exclusively vegan bakery that makes a variety of cupcakes, cakes, macarons, and chocolates.

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Big Life in Dartmouth makes a variety of vegan cookies, including:

  • Vegan spelt date squares
  • Vegan spelt raisin cookies
  • Vegan spelt chocolate chip cookies

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Wild Leek has a variety of vegan baked goods that you can order, including brownies, cupcakes, and cookies. Wild Leek is exclusively vegan.

The Heartwood restaurant has a variety of vegan desserts and treats. I’m not sure whether you can order in advance, but a quick phone call should sort that out.  Options include:

  • Cocobanana pie
  • Carrot cake
  • Mocha almond cheesecake
  • Peanut butter cheesecake

 

Recipes, Veganism

Lasagne roll ups

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I decided to forgo the usual “ricotta and tomato sauce” approach to lasagne in the recipe below. Roll ups are convenient, as I find it easier to control portion sizes.

Ingredients

For the filling

1 finely diced onion

3-4 diced garlic cloves

Cooked sweet potato, mashed

1 block extra firm tofu, crumbled

Finely chopped greens. I used collard greens, but you could easily use spinach, swiss chard, or kale.

Crushed tomatoes

Red wine (optional)

Dried basil and oregano

Topping

Tomato sauce

Shredded vegan cheese. I used Gusta, but any brand you like that can be shredded will do

Instructions

  1. Saute the onions until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add the crumbled tofu and saute, making sure to distribute the onions and garlic thoroughly.
  3. Add the sweet potato and greens.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes. The filling needs to be thick, so add only enough tomatoes to achieve this consistency.
  5. Add herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add red wine, if desired. I used a lovely local rose, which gives the filling a subtle flavour.
  7. Simmer for about minutes, stirring frequently.

To assemble

  1. Boil the desired number of lasagne noodles until al dente. I used six.
  2. Lay the cooked noodles flat on a towel or cookie sheet.
  3. Place the filling along the entire length of each noodle. Be generous with the filling.
  4. Roll each lasagne noodle.
  5. Place the filled noodles in a baking dish. Make sure the noodles are tightly packed so that they don’t lose their shape.
  6. Cover the roll ups with tomato sauce and grated cheese
  7. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Recipes, Veganism

Yellow split pea soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1-2 carrots, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced. I used a purple sweet potato this time; the flesh is white.
  • 1/2 cup dried yellow split peas
  • Enough vegetable broth to cover
  • Dried sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Saute the diced onion and carrots until softened.
  2. Add the peas, sweet potato, and sage
  3. Cover with vegetable broth. Don’t add too much broth, or the soup will be too thin. You can always add more broth if the soup becomes too thick.
  4. Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for about 2 hours.