Friday, December 9, 2011

Easy as Pie

Confession: I get discouraged easily.

Especially when it comes to pie. I love pie, but I am not very good at making it. No matter what I do, I always seem to mess up that crust. I keep going at it though... because in the end, I just want to eat some pie.

This is a very festive tart. I was feeling particularly spirited this morning because it's been snowing non-stop. I couldn't shake that feeling, despite locking myself out of my house this morning in my pyjamas. I really did this. It was really embarrassing. At this time I decided I wanted to make a pie.

Inspiration at its finest.

Naturally the crust gave me trouble. It was sticking to my hands, and when I finally got it into the pan and into the oven, behold: I forgot to poke the crust when I blind-baked it.


It's fine. It was puffy, but it was totally fine. I waited for it to cool and ate half a box of Mary's Crackers. It was fine.

I was sure I had too much filling—I know, who says that? I was worried it would spill over, so onto a baking sheet it went (fyi: the juices did not bubble over for me. I worry too much).

I'm really happy with this tart. It's so festive and tangy. Sprinkle some pepitas over thew top and it's downright fancy.

Cranberry- Ginger Holiday Tart

1 single 8- or 9-inch pie crust, blind-baked (I used the recipe for the shortbread crust from the Joy of Vegan Baking)

13oz. fresh cranberries, rinsed
1/2 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar, but that's just because I'm trying to use it up)
1/4-1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1tbsp. cornstarch
Dash kosher salt
Handful of toasted pepitas, to garnish

Combine cranberries, ginger, currants, cornstarch and salt in a bowl and toss to coat.

Pour filling into baked and cooled crust. It will seem like the filling won't fit, but it will. It will look like it's too high, but it's not. If you are worried about the filling bubbling over (as I was) place the tart on a baking sheet before popping into a 375 degree preheated oven.

Bake 35-40 minutes, until juices are bubbling. Remove from oven, sprinkle over the pepitas, and cool completely before devouring.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let it Snow!

Happy December!

After months of wondering when it was going to happen, snow finally arrived here yesterday. I was afraid it would never come. I'm so relieved.

I'm in the spirit for the holidays now. I need snow to get me started and on my merry way, so now I'm totally ok with playing my Christmas music and deck(ing?) the halls now.

For this month, I have a few things planned to keep my oven busy. I will be sharing, of course! 'Tis the season, and all.

For now, I have no recipe for these bars. I actually forget how I made them... as I took this photo back in October. All I remember is that they were full of chocolate and coffee.

Yeah. I will work on that memory thing, I promise.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hungry for Stories, and Chocolate

I didn't get a chance to post anything about Remembrance Day yet this week because I've been awfully busy with work, so forgive me for being a day late.

I love history. It was always my favourite subject in school, and I used to dedicate a lot of my time to reading non-fictions during my recreational time (back when I had an excess of it). My family is the same way; my mom keeps our family's genealogy records and is constantly updating them, my brother has assumed history as a minor in university, and my sister had recently developed an interest and is going on a school trip this spring to Belgium to see the war memorials and so on.

Despite this, my family's roots aren't really in history. My ancestors were all simple farmers, right up to my mother's father (who was actually rejected to join the army during the war because his 'trigger' finger on his right had was cut off when he was a boy, even though he was actually left handed).

I'm trying to say that we doing have any hero stories or special badges or medals passed down. I used to be a little ashamed of this. But then I though, alas, there had to be some who stayed behind.

Since I work at a retirement home, I was lucky enough to have some of the residents show me medals and pictures from their late husbands. It was really fascinating. I often fantasize about what it would have been like to live during that time, and this isn't something I go and tell people, but I think on this kind of thing often.

One woman was married when she was seventeen. Seventeen. I'm older than that now, I thought. Because her eyesight isn't so good, I read out a little poem for her about soldiers going off to war. I finish, and I notice her eyes are glistening, and she's no longer looking at me. And it hits me.

"Where did all the years go?" She asked, to no one in particular.

I just sat there, awestruck. She's holding and old leather case in which two hand-coloured photographs are kept: from nearly century ago, an elegant, young married couple in their late teens.

I can't help it, I just think of my grandparents who have been gone so long, when I was so young, that I can barely remember their faces now. Where did all the years go, indeed.

I think I can learn a lot of things from these people. There are things I would like to ask my grandparents and stories I would like to hear, but I cannot do that, so this will suffice. All the residents have some stories to tell, they're just waiting for someone to listen. More than being proud, I believe they just don't want those memories to be forgotten. Therefore, they are looking for someone to pass down those stories to, so the memories of their loved ones can continue on. I'm always all-ears.

I'm not too sure where I was going with that, it's a bit of a mess. Just like those chocolate sables at the top of this post. If you haven't forgotten them already, throughout my blabbering.

I think I messed up, probably because I didn't measure the baking soda (oops). They certainly don't look like these. But they taste good. I will try this recipe again and actually measure things properly this time. I just get impatient, you know? It's chocolate, for goodness sake.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Kind of Breakfast

I have this thing for oatmeal.
A really big thing.
A 'to the ends of the earth and beyond' kind of thing.

I put oats in nearly anything, and if I could have oatmeal for breakfast every day (ie. if I wasn't so lazy or busy most mornings) then I probably would. It's one of those things I just don't see myself tiring off. Like chocolate or peanut butter... or chocolate and peanut butter.

It's been months since I've made any baked oatmeal. Oh, how I've missed it! There is just something so comforting about a bowl of warm oatmeal. In its baked form, oatmeal becomes a special treat—something different.

The following is a recipe I've changed quite a bit, and one I change every time I make it. I don't even remember the source anymore. I'm always switching it up, between the type of fat (you could even sub in apple sauce if you want), sweetener, and nuts and fruits used. Alter it depending on what is in season or simply by what is in your kitchen.

Baked Oatmeal

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup (or liquid sweetener of your choice)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground ginger
Generous pinch of salt
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 flax egg (or 1/4 cup fruit puree)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ripe banana, sliced into rounds
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, divided

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Spray a casserole dish and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix together oats, walnuts, baking powder, ginger and salt. In another bowl, stir together maple syrup, milk, flax 'egg', oil and vanilla.

In the casserole, place banana slices in a single layer; sprinkle over 1/2 cup of the blueberries. Evenly cover the fruits with the oat mixture, then pour over the milk mixture. Sprinkle remaining blueberries on top.

Bake 30-35 minutes, or until golden and mixture has set. Allow oatmeal to sit 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve warm. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to a few days.

Serves 4

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Starting From the Bottom

Sorry about pulling a disappearing act during the final days of MoFo. Unfortunately I had a bunch of things to do which left no time for baking and a very unhappy me. Boo hoo.

Today I want to talk about the holidays. My thanksgiving already passed, but the American Thanksgiving is later this month (I can totally still celebrate that, right?), and Christmas is in just over 50 days! Soon the year will be over. Where did you go, 2011? I will be an old lady before I know it. End melodrama now.

I'll start by announcing that I don't have many holiday traditions or special memories, especially not involving food. I grew up on processed, packaged foods. My parents aren't much of cooks, so they use a lot of boxed mixes and such. Rarely was there anything homemade, and definitely nothing like cookies made from scratch. It makes me sad to think about it, truly.

Somewhere along the line when I was a vegetarian and had to make meals for myself, I picked up some kitchen skills. I had to teach myself how to cook, use a knife, season my food, etc. Where my persistence and patience came from, I don't know.

But that's a different story. What I'm trying to get at here is that regarding holiday favourites—like pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and gingerbread cookies—all of the ones I grew up with don't hold much weight in the memory for me because they were all store-bought. And I might be ok with that if there had been just one thing I could hold on to, as if to say, "At least I have ____!" But I really don't.

I was thinking, now that I'm a vegan, maybe I should be making my own holiday traditions. I mean, a tradition can't become a tradition right away, but it has to start at some point before it can hold traditional status and all that.

So I'll be mucking around with a lot of cookie recipes (poor, poor me), and more savoury things, too. Please do recommend me recipes, or even just a food that reminds you of the holidays (and is vegan, of course). By this time next year, I should have a few recipes under my belt that make a reappearance. And I do mean quite literally under my belt. Such are the consequences of bulk recipe testing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vegans Are Sneaky Creatures

The best thing about vegan baking (besides the fact that it is vegan, of course) is that it is so innovative. I think even omnivores have to give credit to this. From the flax 'egg' to sneaking beans into our desserts (and therefore making them healthy. Am I right, or am I right?), vegan's are always finding new ways to re-create old favourites that are traditionally made with the use of egg and dairy products.

Vegan food never fails to surprise and amaze me. Whilst browsing the web, I often come across some truly lovely adaptations and inventions alike that only aid to inspire me.

If you didn't know it, I am another one of those chocolate fanatics. I tend to sneak it into everything. Chocolate bars tempt me at natural food stores. I will use any excuse to have it for breakfast, or put it in something "healthy". Black bean brownies totally fit that bill, right? I mean—hello!: beans are healthy. And chocolate is too. Dark chocolate. Yeah!

I have been meaning to make black bean brownies for awhile. It's always in the back of my mind, and I have collected quite a few different recipes—all of which I plan to test out. So first let me tell you what I like in a brownie: I like a little crust or 'skin' on the top; a dense, moist interior; and a rush of good chocolate flavour that will stick it to my frequent chocolate cravings.

I know what people think about vegan baked goodies, and brownies in particular. It is difficult to achieve a perfect brownie, regardless (especially since everyone's preferences are different, if only slightly), but a vegan brownie? You mean no eggs? Good luck! I don't necessarily disagree, but I do think it is possible to create great vegan brownies.

This recipe is one that I adapted slightly from My Little Celebration's adaption. I quite like it. There could have been more of a crust on them, and I may have underbaked them because I forgot when I put them in the oven so... I guessed. Oh well! These are seriously super chocolate-y, fudge-y and moist. You could use regular unsweetened cocoa powder but for some reason I have a bias for the dutch-processed variety. No clue why.

It really is true what they say about black bean brownies: you would never know there are beans in there. So go ahead and have two or three for second breakfast. After all, beans and chocolate are totally good for you. Feel free to add a handful of vegan chocolate chips or chopped nuts. More for your health!

EDIT (28 Oct 2011): If they're too gooey for you, (I don't mind a little gooey-ness but) you can just put them in the fridge for about an hour or so and they will firm up nicely. Still chewy and fudge-y, just not as gooey as they are at room temp.

Super Fudge-y Black Bean Brownies
Adapted from here.

1-1/2 cups cooked black beans
2 flax 'eggs'
3 tbsp. canola oil (or coconut oil, melted—use refined if you don't want the coconut flavour)
Scant 3/4 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
Dash of salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Scant 3/4 cup raw sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 heaping tsp instant coffee powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8-in. baking dish and set aside.

Prepare flax 'eggs' (2 tbsp flax meal mixed with 6 tbsp warm water) and allow to sit and thicken 3-5 minutes.

In bowl of food processor, combine all ingredients (except add-ins, if using) and puree until smooth.

Pour batter into the prepared dish. Bake for 30 minutes (I think it was about 30 minutes... oops!), or until top is dry and brownie has started to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan before removing and cutting into squares of your desired size.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Where Has All the Granola Gone?" and Other Frustrations

I'm not sure this can really be called a MoFo post.

What if I mention the pumpkin ginger and carob bread, and the pumpkin granola I made this morning? I would have pictures. Really, I would. I had every good intention to take them, but I didn't because... I have a rather sad amount of granola left and the bread isn't ready to be posted yet. I need to tweak the recipe a bit.

That said, this isn't much of a MoFo post, but I wanted to take a moment just to vent my recent frustration.

Inside my head I am a fairly vocal vegan. But on the outside, I am calm: I don't scold my omnivorous family and friends, I don't go around preaching my beliefs whilst shoving my opinions in others' faces. I like to think I can be pretty unbiased when I want to be, and that I don't let certain comments and practices from others bother me.

But there is only so much one can take. I'm sure you know what I mean. I can't stand being patronized, told that I'm wrong because my opinion is different, or looked down upon when it comes to veganism (when it comes to anything, really, but I'm keeping this strictly about veganism).

Lately I've run into all of these things, and more than once. I often feel like I can't even defend myself or I'll end up hurting someone's feelings or making them angry. And the more I try to keep it to myself, the more frustrated I become with everything.

I know why I am a vegan and I am a person who sticks to my ethics and beliefs. So, in a way, I think these experiences and the anger that comes from them is making me stronger rather than deterring me. Last night was the first time I stood up for myself, and for veganism. Needless to say, it left the other party a bit dumbstruck. Not necessarily just because of what I said, but because I said anything at all.

Don't worry; this is still a food blog. But I guess I should just get it out there that I may have a post or two like this in the future.

I have a day off work tomorrow which means I will be baking all day. And eating all day. And hopefully photographing everything before it disappears.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

In a Bit of a Funk

 It seems without my knowing I've missed a couple days of mofo. Whoops!

I'm going to blame my lack of energy as of late. I'm still not sleeping well, so that could also be it.

I haven't baked anything since last time, so I don't have anything to share. These tomatoes were from my mother's garden a few weeks ago. My herbs have died since (thought they look rather sad here, too).

Also, I take back what I said about pumpkin. I like it, but I don't think I love it. Or maybe that pumpkin pie smoothie I attempted earlier was just a fluke. In small amounts pumpkin is ok for me. Can't win 'em all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Too Many Apples, But I Won't Complain

You guys know I love apples right?

Of course I love them all-year around, but there is something about an apple in Autumn that makes it special.  It's not an icon of this season for nothing, you know.

We have an entire drawer-full in our refrigerator dedicated to apples right now. Today, on this dark and rainy day (yes, another one of those) I decided a nice apple-y treat would be nice. Too bad it doesn't call for more apples though! One apple doesn't quite clear out a drawer-full.

Oh, and I finally landed a job as a receptionist. It's not my dream job, but you have to start somewhere, as they say. It will definitely take some getting used to, but I think I'll be able to handle it in time. Tips from any current or former receptionists, perhaps? I only plan to work for a year before (hopefully) going to college next Autumn.

Soft Apple and Almond Cookies
Not sure where I found this recipe. I'll update this if I find out.

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup vegan buttery spread
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 flax 'egg' (1 tbsp. flax meal mixed with 3 tbsp. water; let sit at least 5 minutes to thicken)
1 cup applesauce
1 apple*
100g ground almonds

Preheat oven to 335 degrees (I know this sounds like a weird temperature, but it worked just fine for me).

In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon; set aside. Wash and core the apple (you can peel if you want to but I didn't), then cut it into small cubes.

In another mixing bowl, beat 'butter' and sugars until creamy. Add flax 'egg' and applesauce and mix until combined. Stir in the flour mixture, then ground almonds and cubed apple to form a soft dough.

Drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and bake, in upper and lower thirds of the oven, about 20 minutes, or until golden. Allow cookies to cool 2-3 minutes on the sheets before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

Just a note that I ended up with three cookie sheets of cookies, so for the third one, I just baked on the middle rack, and it only needed about 15 minutes to bake.

*I used a medium-sized Gala apple, but any apple would work here, I think.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Things

I love trying new things, especially if that 'thing' is food.

I'm going to get funny looks or this, but I have never tried pumpkin before. I know, I know! No pumpkin pie, no pumpkin oatmeal, nada pumpkin.

Regardless, I somehow built up a collection of pumpkin recipes. When I see pumpkin foods, I am drawn to them (like pretty much everything Ashlae has posted this month) even though I had no idea before if I liked it or not.

Well, now it is safe to say I like pumpkin! I am joining the pumpkin lovers bandwagon.

So yes, these granola bars are indeed pumpkin granola bars. The recipe is from Clean Eating Chelsey, and it is very yummy. The only things I did differently were: replaced have the agave with apple cider (no idea why I did this but it worked anyway), used walnuts instead of almonds, and carob chips instead of cacao nibs.

Can I just say, carob and pumpkin are really good together. Really good. You should try it out.

I almost forgot! I was nominated by the lovely Mandee at Cupcake Kitteh for the Liebster Blog Award.The award is for blogs with less than 200 followers in an effort to bring attention to them. Thank you! So now it's my turn.

1. Show you thanks by linking to the person who nominated you.
2. Link to 5 of your top picks and leave a comment on their blog to let them know.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Enjoy the love and support of some wonderful people on the interweb!

I clearly need to get around more because thinking of five was a little tricky. I also have no idea how to check how many followers a blog has (I must be new) so I'll just go ahead and nominate whoever. I'm nominating:

1. Unhealthy Vegan
3. Three and a Half Vegans
4. Mo Betta Vegan
5. Birttany's Veg Kitchen

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Disappearing Crackers, Oh My!

Who doesn't like crackers? Be honest.

I have to take a moment to express my love for crunchy things, but crackers in particular. I like crackers on their own and with hummus or a fruit spread; I like crackers loaded with other crunchy bits and I like plain 'ol crackers, too.

I try not to buy them, and my dislike of processed and packaged foods has kept me on track, but when I get around to making some... well. That is when I get myself into a bit of a complex. It may start out as an innocent craving (or I might not even be craving them) but if a box of crackers is near me—just watch out.

I will steal your crackers. You can rest assured a batch will not go stale when they are in my presence. I'll transform into cookie monster's cousin. I'm so serious.

If you didn't notice, these crackers include figs, which I adore. Speaking of figs, I am feeling left out regarding fresh figs because I can't seem to find any. I keep seeing recipes that use fresh figs and each time I do, I become more bitter.

But back to the crackers: they are crunchy with a nice subtle sweetness from the figs. They have become my new favourite cracker, but I will not be making them again for awhile. The batch is already half done.

I have no idea how that happened.

Fig and Almond Flax Crackers
Loosely adapted from this recipe

1/3 cup whole flax seeds*
1/4 cup flax meal (ground flaxseeds)
1 cup all-purpose flour*
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/ tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. brown sugar
4 tbsp. vegan butter
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1 cup dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine flax seeds, flax meal, flours, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Add butter to dry mixture and use your fingertips to gently cut in the butter until you achieve a coarse crumb consistency.

Fold in the chopped nuts and figs and milk, and mix until the dough is smooth. On a piece of plastic wrap, knead just to bring everything together (no more than a few seconds), wrap, and chill for about 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch squares and transfer them to an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough while the first batch chills bakes (I chilled mine on the sheet before baking because I was paranoid about the dough being too warm).

Bake crackers until golden brown, 25-30 minutes (the original recipe says to bake them for 20 minutes, but I think my crackers were a little too thick, so I had to go for longer). You want them to already be quite firm when they come out of the oven and they will firm up more as they cool. Cool on sheet until cool enough to touch, then cool completely on a rack. Get your crunch on.

Yield: I got 32 crackers, but mine were all different sizes. I'm no help here.

* I found that that there was too much flax seed and flour, and a lot of it didn't get incorporated into the dough, so you could probably cut down on at least one of them a little bit.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chocolate is Good for the Soul

(Ignore the terrible photo, it's still dark and rainy!)

Please keep me away from chocolate. I must be on a chocolate high. It's getting a little ridiculous. First I made the chocolate loaf from yesterday's post, then I made these raw chocolate ganache tortes, then I bought an organic dark chocolate bar, and now I'm looking at black bean brownie recipes. Yeah.

These are a little sad-looking, I know. I probably should have made them in a small loaf pan, as suggested (I used an 8-x8-inch because one just happened to be on my counter) so that they would be taller but they are so incredibly delicious, that I won't complain this time.

My only change in the recipe was using cacao powder in the filling because I ran out of cocoa powder, and I left out a tablespoon of agave. They were very sweet, but I won't complain about that either since I love anything rich, sweet and indulgent. A lot.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Muckin' Around

It rained again today. I love rainy days, but every day this week so far has been rain. Boo!

On days like this, I get the urge to throw a bunch of ingredients from around my kitchen into a bowl or food processor and see what comes out of it. Call it an effort to relieve myself of boredom or some supernatural power of rain, but this always happens.

Sometimes I get good results. Sometimes I should probably be less of a mad scientist and more of a baker. But lets not talk about bad things. I'm all about the good right now.

I decided I haven't made enough bread lately (yeah right!) and I figured I couldn't go wrong with something chocolate.

In this case, I think it needed more flour, and probably some baking soda, so I won't be posting a recipe until I do another trial or two. Just know that there is chocolate and coffee. And mushy ripe bananas. And some more chocolate.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If Muffins Could Talk

I'm not a big fan of muffins. The shape, I mean. Somehow I just find bread tastes better baked in a loaf pan. Maybe that's just me. Besides, twelve is too dangerous an amount to have around for only one person. Into the freezer they go!

I am, however, a big fan of lemon. I will gladly stuff most lemon-flavoured goodies into my face. I also love raisins, and I will continue to love them no matter how many times my friend tells me they remind her of old, wrinkly skin. What? They are just raisins to me.

So I guess those are the factors that made me like these muffins. They are extremely lemony, which delighted me much-ly. Part of the muffin stuck to the liner though. Isn't that qualified for cheating? What are they trying to tell me?
Stop eating, Alicia.
No, I will not.

And for the record, I would have baked these into a loaf pan, but I couldn't find a clean one. I guess I should go do something about that now.

Lemon-Raisin Muffins
Adapted from Kellogg's Corn Flakes Cereal Recipe Collection

1-1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups unsweetened corn flakes cereal
1-1/4 cups non-dairy milk (I used almond)
1 egg replacement
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp. grated lemon rind (I used an entire lemon... it may have been more than 2 tsp. but I'm ok with that)
1/2 cup raisins

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cereal and milk. Let stand until cereal is softened, about 2 minutes. Add "egg", oil, and lemon rind. Beat well. Add flour mixture and stir until almost combined. Stir in raisins.

Divide batter into 12 greased or lined (only if you want rude muffins) muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Yield: 12 muffins

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Wonderful World of Chickpeas

I don't eat sandwiches often. Honestly, I usually try to avoid them, because I'm clumsy and so I will end up wearing the sandwich before it's done. It's pretty much a given.

But yesterday I saw this recipe for chickpea fries which made me think about these socca quesadillas I have yet to make, which in turn made me want to try making a chickpea sandwich. And I'm very glad that I did. I will go out and say this is probably one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten. That's right, folks: a non-sandwich lover approved sandwich.

Frankly, you could give me (almost) anything slathered in hummus and I'm almost guaranteed to love it. Who doesn't love that stuff?

This isn't really a recipe (besides the chickpea batter part), just a list of ingredients. And you could use any vegetables you want, and assemble them how you like, too. This is what I used:

1 recipe chickpea fries (cut into 4 squares)
1/3-1/2 large sweet potato, sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, sectioned into quarters
2 small tomatoes, sliced thinly
2-4 romaine leaves, washed and cut in half width-wise
Salt, to taste
Olive oil, for roasting and frying

Roast the sweet potato slices and bell pepper with a little olive oil on a baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven (I don't remember how long I left them, no more than 10-15 minutes, flipping them over halfway through).

Meanwhile, fry two chickpea squares at a time in a large skillet with 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, 5-8 minutes, until browned and crispy, flipping halfway through.

To assemble sandwich: take two chickpea squares and slather on some hummus (this is for my love of hummus as much as to make the vegetables stick to it—no mess here!). On top of one square, place 3 slices sweet potato, then a romaine leaf half, then 3-4 tomato slices, then a pepper quarter, then another romaine leaf half, then 3 more sweet potato slices, then another pepper quarter, and finally place the other chickpea square on top, hummus-side down. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but it fits, I promise! Press down gently (don't wanna squish out your vegetables).  Repeat with the remaining chickpea squares, hummus and vegetables.

Makes 2 delicious sandwiches.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Apple Pie... Cake

People think I'm crazy because I don't really care for cake, but I've always been more of a pie girl, myself. It's that age-old debate: pie or cake (I'm certain it's been debated since cakes and pies existed)? I will always choose pie because I love the crust—even more-so than the filling. I told you I like crunchy things, didn't I?

But today is about cake. And apples. Heaven knows I haven't blogged about apples already this month. I have a thing for apples especially in pies because they are such a versatile fruit. They work in most any preparation, in savoury or sweet recipes, and even as a condiment (I need to get on the apple butter-making train, ASAP).

When October comes around, I am eating apples pretty much every day and often buying more than I can manage. Since I had some apples that were going bad, I decided there was no better way to use them up than to make something with them.

Don't ask me how I ended up with cake. I just came across the recipe for German Apple Cake in The Joy of Vegan Baking and I knew I had to make it. I think it looks gorgeous and tastes just like apple pie. Don't tell pie I said that, though.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Puddles of Disappointment

I never really cared much for pudding when I was a kid. I liked crunchy things. It's just like how I never liked soft cookies; I prefer the crunchy, crispy kind. But something possessed me to make pudding today, so I did.

I realize now that I still don't like pudding. If you can even rightly call this pudding... it didn't set up well. It was supposed to be butterscotch but it didn't taste like butterscotch. I was rather disappointed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Honesty is the Best Policy, or I'm Just Bragging

I was never very good at lying.

Unless of course we're talking about those times during my childhood when I would blame my younger sister if I broke or stole something. But that doesn't really count.

So I'll just confess: I ate an entire batch of these oat squares today. Yeah. I'm sorry about that. I'm also sorry I didn't realize I should be photographing them until I got down to the last three. The third one doesn't make an appearance because I was eating it while I was taking photos.

You understand, right? That is why this photo was taken so sloppily. I was thinking about making them again another time and replacing this picture at that time but... I don't know if I should do that. It could be dangerous. Maybe it's just because I love oatcakes, pumpkin pie spice and apple cider. A lot. But for caution, note that you should probably not make these while you are alone as I did.

I don't mean to brag, these are just very addictive.

Spiced Apple Cider Oatcakes

1-1/2 cups rolled oats
1 tbsp. vegan buttery spread
5 tbsp. unsweetened apple cider, plus more, if needed
1-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp each ground cloves and ground nutmeg)
Salt, to taste
Pinch baking soda

Apple Cider Glaze:
1 tbsp. apple cider
~1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Cinnamon, to taste

 Preheat over to 350 degrees. Put oatmeal into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda.

In a small saucepan, melt butter with apple cider; pour over oatmeal mixture and mix to form a moist dough. If it's too dry, add more apple cider, a teaspoon at a time (I needed a scant teaspoon).

Lightly oil the underside of a baking sheet and knead dough into a ball. Flatten with your fingers, or roll out into a 1 to 1/2-cm thick square. Cut into squares and ease them apart a little. Bake 30-40 minutes, until crisp (make sure they don't burn like a few of mine did, oops!).

Whisk together glaze ingredients and drizzle over hot cakes. Let cool on the baking sheet, or maybe just tst one while it's still hot. Proceed to devour the entire batch.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Possible Future Advocate for Raw Food

I have a fascination with raw food. I just think it's super awesome and convenient. Cookies in 10 minutes? No problem. Brownies without waiting for them to bake and then cool? Your wish is granted. Raw food is really neat—and delicious, which is the most important thing, in my opinion.

The recipe is from Oh She Glows, and I must say that I am a big fan. I did not use medjool dates, though. I know everyone says they are better, and I'm not doubting that, but they are expensive and I just happened to have Tunisian dates on hand so I subbed those in double for the gigantic-o medjools. If I had to pick one negative thing, it's that I found the base a little too salty, so next time (and there will be a next time) I would cut it down a bit. Then again, I don't like anything salty, so I could just be picky.

Now, I would like to take a moment to just say how much I love coconut oil. I have been using it in a lot lately, like in these squares and the gluten-free, vegan cake I mentioned yesterday. I have a feeling it is going to end up a staple in my kitchen. Anyone have a favourite recipe they use their coconut oil in? I will probably start hoarding them... as if I haven't already started.

If you are wondering if I am ever going to get around to actually posting a recipe the answer is yes. I will get right on that as soon as things slow down a bit. And then I'll be posting so many recipes you won't know what to do. Except to become a recipe-hoarder like me. Hah!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Go Green; Eat Salad


Yes, you are looking at a picture of a beautiful salad and not the gluten-free, totally vegan cake I made today. It's all because I was busy scrambling around and had no time to take pictures of it. Insert frowny-face here.

But you know, salad is nothing to frown upon. I will confess there was a time when I had some serious salad phobia. I simply wouldn't touch salads, unless they were of the fruit variety. As my taste buds and my mentality matured (maybe not-so-much the latter), I developed an appreciation for salads—green salads.

Naturally my sweet tooth is the dominant one here which explains why this salad is half fruit (note the apple slices and dried cranberries) and has a sweet and tangy vinaigrette. It's an apple cider vinaigrette and it is divine. Truly, you have to try this out. It is because of this vinaigrette that I have been having salad this entire week, every day, at lunch and dinner. It's that good.

In other news, I am extremely busy, which isn't like me at all. This week is made up for two interviews (one down!), a full-day job working an election poll tomorrow, a birthday cake request (check!) and of course Thanksgiving is also this weekend. Phew!

I will be preparing my coma for Monday, now. Just kidding.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Hours of Bread-Making

I'm an early bird.

I'm also a light sleeper, and it's definitely not one of my good traits. I get cranky when I am up in the ungodly hours of the morning. Lets face it: no sane creature should be awake at these times. Unless you are a nocturnal creature. But I am not.

After glaring at my clock with venom in my eyes (why couldn't it be a different hour!), I forced myself up and decided to do something productive with my time: make bread. I much prefer to make my own bread. I'm not sure what it is, but it sure is rewarding. My hands get all sticky and I get flour on my face which adds to my lovely morning appearance, if you hadn't guessed.

Well, it's not so rewarding when it doesn't turn out well. This particular loaf was a tad gummy. I've never had this problem before so I'm blaming it on my bad mood. You will notice the misshapen, raggedy, falling-apart slices in the photo above. It looks kinda cool, though. Cool to look at, not to eat. Bah!

The only solution when you end up with some less-than-perfect slices is to make bread crumbs. They are definitely a good thing to have on hand. Especially with Thanksgiving coming up... I think I could put them to good use.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Who needs a furnace; I have an oven

I love days like this: crisp, cool autumn days when you can smell the season approaching its peak.

Autumn has always provided me with inspiration. I like witnessing the change in season when the sun hides more often, when a chilly breeze wraps itself around your bare skin, and when trees leave beautiful parting gifts before adorning robes of white. Hot, sultry summer has ended for the year and now we welcome autumn in all its red, orange and yellow glory.

Today I forced myself out from underneath the warm blankets, grabbed a scarf and my camera and took a walk. I like walking, and I do it often—though not as often as I like when the wuss in me shows up on the chillier days.

I enjoy taking walks particularly in the old part of town, where the houses are each unique in design and the sidewalks are a little bit smaller, displaying years' worth of cracks and discolouration. It's always so quiet and peaceful on those streets. It really is a beautiful part of town

On my walks I often get to thinking about things, and I almost always spot something that will remind me about something else. Following the cracks in the sidewalks, I realized how much my little town has aged. I have lived on the same street in the same town all my life so of course I've noticed changes: the population grew and more houses were built to accommodate, more stores were put in, a new and bigger library constructed... it's really amazing how much can happen in a few years.

Then I got to thinking about veganism. What could happen with that in just a couple years? I believe our word will spread so some day people won't react in horror when they hear the word 'vegan'. I believe veganism will become more popular, that more people will stand up for what they know in their heart is right.

Of course in a couple years, the world probably won't be vegan. Hey, even in ten, twenty years. But in my lifetime, I would like to be able to notice a change just as I notice my changed hometown now. I don't know anything for certain and the future will bring what it will, but there is always hope. There is hope and there is also action we can take for a better tomorrow.

I think I'll start small. Who's afraid of the big, bad vegan? Not I, which is why I will do better to explain my views, starting with Thanksgiving. Since the Canadian Thanksgiving is just next weekend, this is a perfect opportunity. Hopefully I'll be able to report something positive!

Oh my! This is the Vegan Month of Food, after all. I can just leave this here, right? There is nothing like the smell of ginger coming from your oven on a cold morning. You should definitely get crackin' and make yourself some ginger bread in an effort to warm yourself up. I know I'll be doing this more often!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

When You Feed an Alligator Muffins...

Perhaps it should be mentioned my photography is less than creative, and the lighting is sometimes funny-looking, and the angles are a bit odd.

Perhaps it should be said that I am one lazy kid and more often than not, I forget to bring my sad, little cherry-red Nikon with me on baking excursions.

It should also be known that, perhaps, I will leave readers (will I have any now that I've told you of my lacking photography?) a gift or two in the form of typos. They are a part of my life, no matter how hard I try to kick them out.

So, now that you know a little bit about me, you should also know that today is the first day of Vegan MoFo 2011. Oh, yes, it's exciting!

This is my first year participating, and as such, I had a bit of a pickle thinking of what my theme will be. I don't mean to be boring, so pardon my lack of imagination, but I decided my theme would be something along the lines of 'a day in the life of a vegan', and a new vegan, at that. I'll be doing a lot of baking so expect many baked goods and recipes by the side of a not-so-flattering photos (if I remember). Additionally you'll catch a couple of product reviews, lists of whatever I find wonderful and vegan, and stories.

Time to kick this off with some muffins, because everyone appreciates muffins.

But do you notice the little specks of green embedded in these dense, chocolate morsels? That would be avocado. I know what you're thinking, and you are correct: avocados + muffins = weird. Strangely enough, it works. These muffins are wonderfully moist and dense (not in a bad way, of course) like a muffin should be. They aren't too sweet and all you can taste is chocolate. No avocado taste what-so-ever.

In fact, they are so good, that I question you if you don't try making these. I just slightly adapted this recipe by using dutch-process cocoa, only 1/2 teaspoon of salt (1/2 a tablespoon seemed a little overboard) and using 1 cup all-purpose with 3/4 cup whole wheat flour as I cannot for the life of me find whole wheat pastry flour.

Don't you think these look a little Halloween-ish with their green spots? Let's go ahead and say I did that on purpose. Now who's creative?