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Vegan Christmas baking recipes

Hi all!

Let me just tell you – 10 days without having any internet isn’t easy. But I got a lot of miscellaneous organizing and manga reading done.

Since we’re going on a vegan Christmas baking marathon tomorrow and doing the whole wrapping presents thing, I thought I would share my list of baking goals with you. We might not do everything here because this is a crazy amount of food, but we both have big families so who knows? Sometimes more is more.

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orgain nutritional shake
food and product reviews

Orgain Nutritional Shake Review: Chocolate/Vanilla Protein Drinks

Hi all!

Something that Michael and I like to do every now and then is play a bit of food detective. We like trying new products, and do some comparing and contrasting. That’s where this Orgain nutritional shake review comes in – it’s basically a protein drink, in chocolate and vanilla flavors – and I hadn’t seen them at the health food store before, so decided to pick some up (with our own dolla bills).

(A note on the packaging: It seems to be different on the website. On the website, the drink is called a “nutritional shake”, and our versions have the label “organic protein”, but I’m 99% sure it’s the same thing).

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easy asian tofu
recipes

Quick and Easy Asian Tofu

Hello friends!

Today I wanted to share the super easy Asian tofu recipe from last week’s soba noodle salad. This “recipe” is courtesy Michael, since he has always been better than me at making tofu (and potatoes). I happily concede that fact, because it means that sometimes he cooks it for me, while I put up my feet and browse Reddit (that’s more a fantasy – usually we cook together).

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Menus

Friday Vegan Menu: A 1940s-style Dinner

The 1940s were a tumultuous time for many countries. There was war, there was rationing, and for the average person, feasts became a modest affair. Not only were meatless meals common (and necessary) during this time, even ingredients like eggs and sugar were hard to come by.

I decided to make a decade-themed vegan menu because I had a few recipes stowed away that reminded me of the olden days. Of course, these aren’t true old-style recipes, they’re modern versions with modern ingredients, but I kept a frugal eye designing this, because sometimes you want to feast on a budget!

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soba noodle salad
recipes

Soba Noodle Salad: Easy Weeknight Dinner

Just like the chickpeas and rice bowl from last week, I wanted to share with you a really easy meal we’ve made countless times, and it’s reasonably healthy too.

This soba noodle salad is comprised of cooked soba + raw veggies + edamame + Asian-style vinaigrette. It takes me about 20 minutes to make this salad, start to finish.

Soba noodles are the king of noodles. They’ve got some oomph to them, some heft, and they have a wonderful texture and flavor. The only thing with soba noodles is that they need a really good rinse after cooking, since they get very starchy, and the last thing you want is a big clump of sticky soba. I like to rinse it a while (a minute or two), and then again right before I’m tossing it with the rest of the ingredients, just to keep it loose.

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Menus

Friday Vegan Menu: It’s Cold Outside

I wanted to create a menu series on this blog – something I’ve never done before, despite hundreds of food-related posts. There are so many great recipes I stumble across week after week, and I wanted to share some of those with you in a way I hope will be helpful – as a full, themed menu!

Friday Vegan Menu: It’s Cold Outside

Here in my corner of Saskatchewan, it’s been grey and snow-rainy for days, and I’ve been living inside a blanket. I wanted to build a menu that would make me feel warm and cozy, like the food equivalent of a fireplace (which I sadly do not have).

Every single item on this menu I consider to be very warming and cozy – even the (cold) salad – but everything is as healthy as it gets, so you can be comforted without having a feast of mac n cheese and fries and cheesecake (though that sounds great too).

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recipes

Chickpeas and Rice: Easy Weeknight Dinner

Easy AND healthy weeknight dinner

“Easy” and “healthy” are two words that don’t always go together, and I admit that I tend to favour the former over the latter. This chickpeas and rice dish, topped with fresh crunchy vegetables and a rich tahini sauce, fits easily into both categories.

Yes, the brown rice needs to cook for 45 minutes. But those 45 minutes take 30 just seconds of actual effort (measure rice and water, turn on stove, wait for it to boil). I say this not only to remind you, but also myself – there are countless times I have waited until I am ravenously hungry before throwing open the cupboard doors in search of food, and 45 minutes seems like an unbearable wait.

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homemade veggie burger
mains, recipes

A Homemade Veggie Burger Recipe: Easy enough to memorize

This is my favorite homemade veggie burger, and the recipe really is easy enough to memorize. The portions are equal and the ingredient list is incredibly short.

These homemade veggie burgers came to exist one day when I was too lazy to follow a recipe. I’ve made so many veggie burgers in the past – bean-based, grain-or-starch-based, nut-based, etc, and the one thing most of them have in common is that they are so complicated. 

When I want a veggie burger, I am generally craving convenience, so I don’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen to make one. 

A long while ago I posted a recipe for sunflower seed burgers, which I used as my template ever since – sunflower seeds are cheap, nutritious, and add that delicious, fatty mouthfeel that a veggie burger needs, and often lacks, especially in bean-based ones. 

Homemade veggie burger criteria:

But this time, I wanted something even simpler, and it needed to meet this criteria:

-taste good (duh)
-have a sturdy, firm texture that is easy to cook (read: doesn’t fall apart)
-not dry
-super nutritious
-be so simple that the method and ingredients could be memorized upon reading once

I’m happy to announce that all of the above criteria were met, and here’s the recipe that you won’t need.  This recipe is easiest using leftover brown rice, and canned chickpeas.

The Easiest Homemade Veggie Burger
Serves 6
This is my favorite homemade veggie burger, partly because it's delicious, but also because it's so incredibly simple to make. And nutritious, too!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sunflower seeds
  2. 1 cup cooked brown rice
  3. 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  4. 1 cup grated carrot
  5. 1-2 teaspoons seasoning (Italian herbs work really well, like oregano and thyme)
  6. salt and pepper (around 1/2 teaspoon each)
Instructions
  1. Using a food processor, grind the sunflower seed into crumbs (some chunks are okay).  Add the brown rice, chickpeas, carrots, seasoning, salt and pepper, and process until a sticky dough is formed.  You'll need to scrape the bowl a few times, since this is a very stiff dough - an important component of it forming it into really sturdy patties.  You can make them as smooth or chunky as you prefer - I like a little bit of texture in mine.
  2. Form the dough into six patties - since it's sticky, damp hands work best.  Cook on a lightly oiled non-stick pan for 5-10 minutes per side on medium-low heat, to ensure it cooks through. Serve with all the fixins.
Oh Waffle http://www.ohwaffle.com/
 

This is a light-coloured patty, so I like to give it chicken-y flavors like thyme, oregano and rosemary.  Dried herbs work fine, but fresh would taste super lovely. 

Enjoy, friends, and happy belated Easter!

xo,
Allysia

mains, recipes

Hail Seitan!

Howdy, friends!  Today I want to talk to you about something very near and dear to my heart.  Seitan is single-handedly responsible for keeping Allysia and I sane through this month of frugal foods.  Don’t get me wrong, we love beans, lentils, and all forms of cheap, natural protein,  but sometimes you just need something different.  Something familiar and friendly, tasty and versatile.  All of these things describe seitan for me.

Obligatory gratuitous close-up shot
Maybe seitan feels so familiar to me because the last time I ate real meat was in 2012.  When done right, seitan seems to be the easiest way to reproduce some of the tastes and textures of meat.  Homemade versions won’t confuse current omnivores, but storebought versions could give a few people a challenge to identify.  Obviously we haven’t been splurging on pre-made seitan this month, but we have learned a lot about creating it ourselves.  With a little bit of experimentation I’ve developed a nice simple seitan recipe that serves as the perfect tabula rasa to twist and change into a great product every time.

Note from Allysia: I am generally a seitan-making failure, either making it too spongy or too dense, but Michael figured out this method that I love, and always eagerly anticipate eating – especially seasoned and fried up in a dry rub.

Blank-Slate Seitan
makes about 4 large-sized servings of seitan, or six smaller servings

Large pot of salted water, boiling
1 cup wheat gluten
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oil (olive or neutral vegetable oil)
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or other acid)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
Black pepper
Additional spices or flavourings (see below)
Directions

1. In a mixing bowl combine the gluten, nutritional yeast, and onion powder.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.
2.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir together until the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the bowl and knead like bread dough for about 3 minutes.  The seitan should be rubbery and soft.  Shape it into a wide flat log that will fit into your boiling pot.
3. Add the seitan to the pot, partially cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook the seitan for 45 minutes.
4. When the time is up, cover the pot completely and allow the seitan to cool in the fridge (while still in the pot).  Let it sit until room-temperature, or overnight.
Sliced seitan cooked with mushrooms and onions to make a sauce-y sandwich
Those who have made seitan before know that it can usually be boiled, steamed, or baked.  Boiled seitan is the most tender of the three, and also the easiest to make (steaming seitan can be quite finicky, and baked seitan can turn out dry). 
As made above, the seitan works well in applications where it is not the centre of attention: diced and added to pasta sauce, stir-fried with a sweet-and-spicy vegetable mix, or, a current favourite, smothered in blackening spices and fried.  If you want the seitan to have a little more of its own flavour you can add some additional flavour to the dough itself.  When using the seitan for pasta sauce I might add healthy amount of dried basil, oregano, and thyme.  An Asian-styled-spin can be given by removing some of the salt and beefing up the soy sauce, adding some toasted sesame oil, and grating in some fresh ginger.  Any flavours that you would add to a dish can be added to this recipe.  Since the seitan is boiled it won’t get so hot as to destroy any delicate flavourings.

Blackened seitan slices served with pureed cauliflower/potatoes and braised carrots
The real trick to using homemade seitan is knowing its strengths and weaknesses.  Since the seitan is fairly soft and moist, it won’t work well if served in a large slab.  It does, however, work great when sliced or diced before it hits a hot pan.  This allows the liquid to be removed from the individual pieces, leaving a great meaty texture.  After this month of frugality is over we may try to find a great baked recipe which may work better served in large pieces.  I don’t think I will be able to rest until I can say that I have made a great-looking, great-tasting seitan steak.  A lofty goal to be sure, but you’ve got to set your goals high.  Until next time.

One more sandwich shot for good measure.
Brunch, Budgeting, recipes

Banana Bread, and Other Eats

Good evening!

Today I wanted to share some more of our recent cheap eats with you (information on our budget goals being here), and so far so good!  I haven’t hit the point of feeling deprived yet, mainly because I still have a small stash of chocolate, and I scored some free kale this week… but also because we made some banana bread for sweet snacking, which came out great (more on that below).

First up is a cauliflower-chickpea curry with rice and lotsa seasoned and steamed kale.  Mike made the curry seat-of-the-pants style like he tends to do – he sauteed some onion, garlic and ginger with a bunch of spices (mustard seeds, curry powder, cumin, coriander, hing, salt), added a little water to the pan, and then threw in a head of chopped cauliflower.  That was cooked, covered, for 30-40 minutes until nice and tender, and then he added the pre-cooked chickpeas in the last few minutes of cooking time.  Once it was done cooking, a bunch of lemon was squeezed into it and we ate it with liberal amounts of Sriracha.

Since there were lots of curry leftovers, we enjoyed it on a rice bowl the next day.  Nutritional yeast was added as a garnish, and we enjoyed it with a generous helping of tahini sauce (tahini, lemon, garlic, salt) and some Sriracha for good measure.  We eat some variation of a tahini bowl about once a week, sometimes more – it’s our Old Faithful.

Another rice bowl we enjoyed was packed with black beans and pan-steamed cabbage, carrots and collards (I know you can’t see the rice and beans, but they’re definitely there), with a fantastic, cheesy sauce made from blending soaked sunflower seeds with a whole bunch of nutritional yeast, grainy mustard, lemon, garlic and onion powder, and salt and pepper.  We also ate this with plenty of Sriracha (are you noticing a theme?), as well as homemade ‘kraut.

I wanted a soup that was classy, super flavorful and brothy, so we made a white bean and greens soup with a LOT of garlic, minced but not too small, onion, and lemon zest/lemon juice stirred in at the end.  It was heavenly, and even better the next day as leftovers.  Plus, we used homemade veggie broth which was made from a giant bag of veggie scraps we accumulated over the week.

To accompany the soup, we had chapati, which is a super simple flatbread that can be thrown together in minutes and is made with flour (we used a mix of white and whole wheat), water, a little oil and salt.  It’s beautiful smeared with margarine, and is a nice alternative to bread if you’re too lazy for making that.

But dessert is the best part!  This banana bread exceeded my expectations, mainly because I “healthified” it – doesn’t taste health-foody though.  I’m just not a fan of quickbreads that are intensely sweet, and besides, overripe bananas are plenty sweet anyway.  Even with just 1/4 cup sugar, these are definitely sweet enough, and the banana flavor is very pleasant and almost floral.

Healthified Banana Bread
Makes 1 9×5 loaf

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup neutral oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and soda, and salt.  In a separate smaller bowl, stir together the oil and brown sugar until combined, and then add the bananas and milk.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and even out the top.

3. Bake for 30-45 minutes – I know this is a big time frame, but I’ve noticed that I’ve been using a loaf pan that I thought was a normal size, but is probably larger than what most normal people use, so ours was done in 30 minutes.  Stick a toothpick in the loaf in order to see if it’s done.  Let it cool in the pan for 30 minutes or so before turning out on a cooling rack.

Since this loaf uses whole wheat flour, it’s best enjoyed within 24 hours, or up to 2 days, for maximum moistness.