Monthly Archives

February 2011

recipes, Soups and Stews

Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

I’m all about soup. I love any and all soup (except ones with meat), from brothy to creamy, and from light to hearty. Logan is a little more picky about soups, preferring the creamy, pureed variety, so this soup was thrown together with him in mind.
It’s also perfect for that week-old head of cauliflower you still haven’t figured out what to do with!


Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup


Ingredients:
2 tbsp oil
1 medium head cauliflower, chopped into chunks
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, chopped
4 c. water + 1 and 1/2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 C. Oil two baking pans with 1 tbsp of the oil and place the chopped cauliflower, potatoes and garlic evenly on the pans. Drizzle the remaining 1 tbsp of oil over top of the veggies, and mix with your hands to evenly coat. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the veggies can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. Heat a little water in a soup pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sautee until translucent, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, dissolve the bouillon cubes in the water and add to pot. Add the roasted vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Using a blender, process the soup until thick, creamy and smooth. Add the soup back to the pot and stir in the minced dill. Enjoy!
Mmm. This soup disappeared way too fast.
Well I’m off to relax some more to a good ol’ episode of Angel. Mid-season 4, and Wesley is still definitely the coolest character. Smart and badass, he’s got it all! 🙂

Peace!

recipes, Soups and Stews

Borscht, Soup of Champions

It’s Friday! *dance party*

It’s also minus a million degrees here. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. But still, it’s hella cold:
Step 1: Find the coldest place in the country (clue: it’s not Iqaluit!)
Step 2: Point and laugh!
If Saskatchewan was an illness, it would be bipolar disorder. There aren’t a whole lot of places that can be colder than Nunavut in the winter, and then hotter than Las Vegas in the summer.
So what does one do when the cold turns one blue? You make a pot of soup in your igloo! (Note: I don’t actually live in an igloo. I was just going for the triple rhyme.)
My personal comfort food soup is Borscht. You could speculate it’s because of my semi-Ukrainian heritage, though I was never served Borscht in my childhood. I’m not entirely sure why this was the case, but I think my dad hates beets (blasphemy!), so I could quite possibly blame him for never experiencing this wondrous soup in my young and carefree years.
Nonetheless, when I first sipped the magical magenta broth in my early twenties (yes, Borscht and I have only been acquainted for a few years!), it was true love. And now Borscht and I are BFF.
The best part about this soup is how simple it is. Glancing over the ingredient list, you might think it’s a very ordinary, commonplace kind of soup. But something awesome happens as the ingredients cook away in a pot – some sort of crazy metamorphosis. If you allow the soup to sit for half an hour after you make it, it gets even more awesome, as the vegetables all turn a uniform magenta color and the flavors mingle and exchange phone numbers.
Borscht, Soup of Champions
1 tbsp olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 med. carrots, sliced lengthwise and cut in 1/2-inch semi-circles
2 med. white potatoes, chopped
4 med. beets, peeled and chopped small
1 heaping c. cabbage (any kind)
1 bunch dill, de-stemmed and roughly chopped (reserve a few sprigs for garnish)
4 c. water + 1 and 1/2 bouillon cubes vegan “chicken” stock (or vegetable stock)
1 tbsp lemon juice
Pepper, to taste

1. In a large, hardcore soup pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, beets, cabbage and dill, chopping as you go. Meanwhile, dissolve the bouillon cubes in 1 c. of the water by zapping it in the microwave until it’s hot. Add the bouillon mixture to the pot of veggies, along with the other 3 c. of water, and bring to a boil.

2. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat, allowing the soup to simmer until the veggies are tender, about 45 minutes. This, of course, depends entirely on how small you chopped the veggies. Beets take the longest to cook through, so if you chopped them in itty bitty pieces, your cooking time will be less.

3. Remove from heat, squeeze in the lemon juice and sprinkle on some pepper. For optimal goodness, let it sit for half an hour, and reheat when it’s serving time.

4. Serve with a dollop of vegan “sour cream” – Tofutti’s version is so tasty I could eat it with a spoon! Alternately, you can whip up some homemade All-Purpose Cashew Cream.

Enjoy with a hearty loaf, a crisp salad, or whatever your heart desires!

Well, I’m off to crawl under a mound of blankets while blasting a space heater in my direction and sipping hot tea. I’ll come out of my cave when spring is here!

Peace 🙂

bowls, recipes

Simplified Bibimbap

Greetings and such!

Whatever part of the world you folks reside in, be very, very glad that you’re not here. Factoring in the windchill, the HIGH today was -35 C. That’s the high in Regina today. Same with tomorrow. I’m California dreamin’…

Today I attempted to make a Vietnamese meatball soup, and failed terribly. Not on flavor, mind you – the flavor was awesome. But my little veggie meat balls didn’t hold together very well, so it’s back to the drawing board. Luckily, I had plenty of this to eat with it:

Bibimbap!

Rice bowls are clearly our current choice of food, seeing is how yesterday we filled our bellies with our Mexican-inspired Fiesta Bowl! Bibimbap is truly awesome, though. If you’ve got a Korean grocery store handy, or a well-stocked Asian grocery store, you’ll likely find gochujang, the defining hot red sauce of bibimbap.

Bibimbap can be a little bit of effort to assemble since it can have many components (“mini-salads”), so what I often do is just prepare all of the veggies raw – it takes far less time than cooking them! Today we simply shredded some carrot, massaged baby bok choy with sesame oil and salt to wilt the leaves, sliced some cucumber with a mandoline, and topped off the rice, sauce and veggies with sprouts and sesame seeds. Super easy and delicious!
Now I’m off to teach some music and anticipate the advent of a very, very cold Friday!
Peace! 🙂

bowls, recipes

Fiesta Bowl!

So it’s Wednesday, one of my favorite days of the week! Not only do I have a lineup of fairly awesome piano students to teach, but I get to pick up my box of organic goodies! It’s like Christmas, each and every week.
I’ve been spending a lot of time writing (currently about vitamin D), which means I don’t particularly feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Thus I’ve been making a lot of really simple and nutritious meals that require very little fuss.
Today I present one of my favorite simple meals – the esteemed rice bowl. Rice bowls are what I consider the epitome of healthy fast food. Well…45 minutes of brown rice cookage isn’t exactly fast, but it’s so easy it might as well be.
When we eat rice bowls, we follow a very simple formula – brown rice, a high-protein food, chopped raw veggies and a sauce. To unify all of the components, we typically opt for some sort of ethnic theme – a Chinese or Korean rice bowl, perhaps, or in the case of this post, a Mexican rice bowl!
Our favorite restaurant here in Regina, 13th Ave Coffee House, was the inspiration for this particular rice bowl. It’s called the “Fiesta Bowl”, and it’s composed of brown rice, a red sauce, black bean salsa, and it’s topped with shredded lettuce and tomatoes, or whatever fresh veggies are handy. A pleasantly large dollop of guacamole rests on top of this creation, with a side of fresh salsa and sour cream (alas, the sour cream is not vegan).
Well, sometimes I want to eat something awesome without spending time assembling a black bean salsa, or a fresh salsa. So I simplified the whole equation, and while it might not be as magical as the original Fiesta Bowl, my version is still damn tasty and satisfying.
Fiesta Bowl
Serves 4 generously
4 cups cooked brown rice (about 2 cups dry)
1 cup prepared salsa, or more to taste
1 19-oz can black beans (or 2 and 1/2 cooked)
1 cup frozen corn
1-2 avocados (about 1/2 an avocado per person)
1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Pinch salt
For the veggies:
Romaine lettuce, shredded (about 1 cup)
2 tomatoes, chopped (I didn’t have any this time, so I used cucumbers)
2 carrots, shredded
(Other vegetable options are shredded purple cabbage, red bell peppers, steamed broccoli, or whatever you’ve got in your fridge!)
Directions:
1. If you haven’t already, cook the brown rice. Set aside.
2. Rinse and drain the black beans. Add them to a medium microwave-safe bowl and add the corn. Zap in the microwave for 3 minutes or so, until everything is nice and hot. Set aside.
3. Peel and pit the avocado(s). If there’s only two of you eating, just use one avocado. Guacamole should always be prepared fresh, or else it goes brown! In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the lime juice (1 tbsp per avocado, or more to taste) and the salt. Set aside.
4. Chop, slice and dice the veggies so they’re ready for mass assembly.
To assemble:
Grab a big bowl and scoop in some rice.
Scoop on the black beans and corn.
Add a layer of prepared salsa.
Add the veggies.
Top with a big dollop of guacamole, as well as vegan sour cream if you happen to have any handy. I also added a few sprinkles of a Mexican hot sauce because that’s how I roll.
Then, enjoy!

I think Logan and I could live off Mexican-esque food, though we’d probably experience occasional pangs of longing for Asian food. But still. So good and hearty.
Now I’m back to do some more writing! 🙂

Peace!

being awesome, Health and Nutrition

Everything In Moderation? Nah, I Prefer a Party On My Plate!

I keep hearing the statement “everything in moderation” tossed around, as though it’s the be-all, end-all practical solution to all things in life. I get it, I do. It’s a good statement, it makes perfect sense. It’s also perfectly vague, which is where my problems with it begin.

I’m going to apply this statement in regards to food and health, since it’s what I know. Generally, when someone says “moderation is the key to good health”, they really mean “I’m not a dietician and I don’t have all the answers, so everything in moderation is a safe bet.” I get that, too. Nutrition can be a confusing matter – billions of dollars are spent on confusing us.

But here’s the problem: back in the day, “everything in moderation” in my life meant moderate beer drinking, moderate cigarette and pot smoking, moderate fast food consumption, and moderate instant noodle eating. I rarely overate and never binged, didn’t ever feel the need to smoke two packs a day, and only went on the occasional booze bender (okay, semi-occasional). I was a moderate gal. But was I the picture of good health? Uh, hell no.

So that’s where me and the idea “just eat and drink in moderation, it’s all good” have issues. Anyone can hide behind that expression and have a false notion of good health. My grandpa, bless that cool guy, might eat moderate portions of steak, cheese and white bread, but come on, it’s still steak, cheese and white bread. Maybe he throws in a moderate portion of peas and calls it a day.

The truth is that my previous “moderate” diet sucked. I subsisted on sandwiches, instant noodles and cereal. Pizza and burgers were far too complex for my limited kitchen skillset, but frequently found their way in through my front door since I was also very lazy in addition to being incompetent. I wasn’t completely dull to the notion of eating my veggies – my better sandwiches included lettuce and tomatoes, and my pizzas had some in there somewhere (I think).

The long and short of it is this: if you eat a moderate diet, you’ll only enjoy moderate health.
Well, that ain’t good enough for me! I want to live a long time, stay in shape and have tons of energy even when I’m old! This is a crazy-awesome life right here, and I intend to enjoy it all the way! A moderate life is simply not the life I want to lead.

So what am I suggesting, then? Indulge with abandon in the most healthful foods on the planet!

Whenever possible (aka as much as possible), load up on green food! Green foods (kale, spinach, romaine, green bell peppers, broccoli, etc) are full of chlorophyll which is like plant blood, pretty similar in composition to our own human blood. Greens also tend to be high in calcium, protein, iron, vitamin C, folate, and other important nutrients. Our cells love that green goodness, and their way of saying “thanks for the grub” is to give you super-awesome energy and vitality!

Of course, other veggies are totally worthy of being superstars on your plate. Calorie for calorie, they pack the most nutritional punch (especially the greenery) and are just completely awesome. There are so many different veggies, and so many different methods of preparation that I wager it would be extremely difficult to get bored with ‘em. Move over, cholesterol-laden meat! Veggies are taking over your star place on the plate!

So on my plate, instead of having moderate (piddly!) portions of meat, veggies and ‘tatoes, you might see a gigantic jewel-green salad with carrots, tomatoes and avocado, tossed in a creamy nut dressing, served with a piece of garlicy toast on the side. Or you might see a black bean burger topped with salsa and guacamole sitting alongside a baked sweet potato and fresh veggies. Or, if I’m pressed for time, you might see heaps of raw and/or steamed veggies and tofu cubes piled on top of warm brown rice smothered in a delicious Asian sauce.

I love to eat, and I’m not about to settle for small portions of glorified junk food when I could be eating big, hearty meals full of healthful greens and veggies! Moderation be damned! 🙂

Here are some of the awesome parties at my table:

Mmm. So much better than instant noodles. 🙂

Happy long weekend!
decadent treat food, dessert, recipes

Kahlua Chocolate Cheesecake – 100% Vegan, 100% Awesome!

Mere minutes ago, I was shoveling this into my mouth:

Kahlua. Chocolate. Cheesecake. Vegan.

Words cannot describe how much omming and nomming was happening here. I’ve had plenty of vegan cheesecakes in my day, but nothing aligned with the real thing like this beauty. Chocolate cheesecake used to be something in my dreams, something I once loved and begged for as a child, but thought was condemned to my omnivorous past forever.
Not so! Don’t be fooled – despite this cheesecake’s “vegan” label, there’s very little that’s healthy about it. This is an all-out, decadent, fatty special occasion kind of cheesecake that will elicit “This can’t be vegan!” reactions from those you serve it to. Including yourself.
Though I haven’t eaten a “real” cheesecake in a few years, the texture – rich, dense and a little spongy – is just how I remember it. It even has that cheesy tang, that delightful signature cheesecake taste. This is the cheesecake of dreams, right here.
I made this for a special Valentine’s Day dessert, which it’s perfect for! Since this cake is a little more labor-intensive than other desserts, and since it calls for more expensive ingredients, it’s best saved for special occasions. Like my birthday *cough*.
Kahlua Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted and veganized from this recipe.

For the crust:
¾ c. raw almonds
¾ c. flour (I used whole wheat)
1/4 c. cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ c. oil (canola or melted coconut)
¼ c. agave or maple syrup, or a mix
For the cheesecake:
200 g dark chocolate (2 dark chocolate bars)
1 and ¾ Tofutti plain cream cheese containers (400 g)
½ c. sugar
½ c. firm silken tofu
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp hot water
1 c. Mimicreme, unsweetened (or other very thick vegan cream)
5 tbsp Kahlua

For the crème topping:
½ c. cashews, soaked for 30 minutes
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Kahlua
2-3 tbsp Mimicreme, or more for consistency

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a 20-cm spring form pan.

Grind the almonds into crumbs in a food processor. Add the flour, cocoa and salt. Process until combined. Turn the flour mixture into a medium bowl, add the oil and agave, and stir to combine. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the spring form pan, and bake for 10 minutes, until it’s firmed up slightly.

Break the chocolate into pieces into a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave in 30-second increments until melted, stirring each time. Set aside.

Blend the silken tofu in a small blender (I used my Magic Bullet) until pureed and no chunks remain. Combine the cornstarch and hot water in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar with electric beaters until fluffy. Slowly add the tofu and cornstarch mixture and blend. While blending on low power, add the Mimicreme, Kahlua and melted chocolate and blend until combined. Pour the mixture on top of the pre-baked crust, and bake in the oven for about an hour, until the top is shiny, a bit wobbly and darker in the center. Loosen the edges of the cheesecake with a knife and cool on a counter, transferring to the fridge after it’s cooled down a bit. Refrigerate for 3 hours or more.

The cheesecake right out of the oven.

While the cheesecake is cooling down, make the creme topping. Add all of the creme ingredients to a small blender and blend until completely smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more Mimicreme. You’re looking for a pourable but still thick topping.

The creme, spread on top of the cheesecake. It was nighttime, thus the funky picture.

After it’s completely chilled out, you can free the cheesecake from the spring form pan. Then slice, dice and serve!

The cheesecake sans the circular sides of the spring form pan. Mmm…

You can serve with a light dusting of cocoa powder and a little drizzle of Kahlua if you so desire. I ran out of cocoa powder (Gasp! The horror!) so I just tipped on a little Kahlua:

Note to self: It’s very difficult to drizzle Kahlua on cheesecake in an attractive fashion.

Happy Valentine’s day, everyone! Hope it’s filled with relaxation, cuddles and/or delicious eats! 🙂