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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.

Brunch, recipes, sandwiches

Spicy Scrambled Tofu Sandwich: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 55

Guys!  Wanna know something super fancy?

Michael and I are now officially set up to teach cooking classes in Toronto.  So far we’ve got four classes up on the main page, but we’ve got many more in the works – there’s been mad amounts of recipe testing around here.  Our fridge has been constantly happy!  The next goal is to tour with the band, while simultaneously touring cooking classes.  Loud rock music + vegan food = hell yeah, it’s gonna happen.

Onward!  I was craving sandwiches, and it’s Jolene‘s fault for making awesome sandwiches so often (it’s a good thing to be at fault for).  I wanted something savory and meaty and decadent, which Michael definitely accomplished here.  Yeah, I didn’t have any part in creating this one except to happily devour it.  Still counts, right?

Scrambled Tofu Sandwiches
makes enough for 4 hearty sandwiches, with some leftovers for later

Ingredients:

1 package vegan chorizo-style veggie meat

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 block firm tofu, crumbled
1 cup unsalted veggie broth (or use regular broth and omit the smoked salt)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons sliced green onion
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
Black pepper, to taste
4 ciabatta buns, sliced in half
Vegan mayo, if desired
8 lettuce leaves
1 tomato, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
Daiya shredded cheese
Directions:

1. Heat a pan and cook the chorizo according to package instructions.  This usually means about 5 minutes.  When finished, set it aside in a small bowl.
2. Heat the olive oil in the same pan and sauté the onions and red pepper for 4 minutes.  Add the mushroom and garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Crumble in the tofu and sauté for 3 more minutes.
3. Add the broth, wine, green onion, and spices and reduce to concentrate flavour.
4. When the liquid is reduced, stir in the cooked chorizo.  Heat just long enough for everything to be hot.
5. Layer the sandwich ingredients on the buns and top with a touch of shredded vegan cheese.  You may wish to warm the buns a little to soften them a bit before piecing together the sandwiches.

And a messy-delicious interior shot.

So much yum.  I could eat sandwiches all day, every day.

A question for you bloggers – anyone else participating in Vegan MoFo this year?  I was a little apprehensive at first due to being busy, but then Michael talked me into it and as if by miracle, a theme came to me.  Well, not so much a theme as a concept, but you’ll see in a week when it all begins.  This will be my third year participating, and it’s always a blast, if not a challenge to publish a blog post every single day.  But I love challenges!

Hope you had a great weekend and, as of this writing, a great Monday.  Oodles and toodles.

Brunch, recipes

Parfait Pancakes: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 54

Hey there!

It’s been way too long since we’ve made pancakes.  They’re one of those brunchy items I love to rotate, since they’re so easy, and just take a little bit of doctoring to make super classy – like the beet heart pancakes or chocolate orange pancakes, plus countless others (I’ve made a lot of pancakes).  Today we decided on full-throttle sugar rush – pancakes that would be right at home for dessert, because sometimes you’ve just gotta.

So the base is a regular whole wheat pancake, topped with a hefty dollop of coconut whip, drizzled with two different sauces – a raw chocolate sauce, and a raw caramel sauce.  We chopped up some toasted peanuts as a crunchy and flavorful garnish.  The final result?  These pancakes were just as decadent and heavenly as they sound.  Only one thing would’ve have made this pancake even more awesome – ice cream instead of whipped cream.  Yeah, you know it.

Parfait Pancakes
Serves 2

For the pancakes:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons neutral oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the coconut whip:

1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated at least 24 hours (I use Thai Kitchen brand)
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the raw chocolate sauce:

2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted to liquid
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the raw caramel sauce:

15 soft medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

For the pancakes: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the milk, oil, syrup and vanilla and stir until just combined – don’t over-mix.  Heat an awesome non-stick pan over medium low heat, and add a little oil.  Ladle roughly 1/2 cup batter into the pan (will make 4 large pancakes), cook until the underside is golden, flip, and cook for a few more minutes until both sides are golden.  Continue with all the batter.

For the coconut whip: Spoon out the solidified coconut cream into a large bowl, add the syrup and vanilla, and beat with electric beaters until fluffy.  Place in the fridge to keep it cold.

For the chocolate sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir.  If your maple syrup is cold it might cause the coconut oil to re-solidify, in which case set the chocolate sauce in a sunbeam, or heat it in a saucepan over low heat until it’s melted.

For the caramel sauce: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  We made a larger batch of this so it would fit in our blender, but feel free to cut it in half if you have a smaller blender.

Notes: Using the milk gives this caramel a pale color, so I might try just blending it in water next time for a deeper color, though it is deliciously rich with the non-dairy milk.  I’d also like to give a shout-out to Gabby at the Veggie Nook, whose raw chocolate I used as a launching pad for the chocolate sauce.

It’s also important to assemble these pancakes right before serving, since the warm pancake will melt the cold coconut whip if you leave it too long.  Same goes if you’re using ice cream (which you know you wanna).

The whipped cream gets all melty if it sits on the pancakes for too long – but it’s still a delicious mess.  Oh, if I could go back in time and eat this again, I would.

Well hope you all had a great weekend full of delicious eats, and we’ll catch you next time with a recipe we’re really excited to share!

Brunch, recipes

Mushroom and Sage Frittata, Take 1: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 53

Guys!

So some very exciting things happened this week.  Namely:

-Wrote my harmony exam (through the Royal Conservatory) – it’s a classical piano thing.  And it was grueling, but I’m sure I passed and now it’s over.

-Finally created a Facebook page!  Which I’m very, very excited about, so you should come hang out.  Especially because I just rhymed for the occasion.

-Updated the “About” section of this blog, as well as the general sidebar – there’s now a photo of us.  And there’s a whole bunch of new photos in the ‘about’ section, including a really stupid embarrassing funny one.  What can I say, our photographer brought wine.

-I continued living in Toronto this week.  Yes, it counts as an exciting thing.  But I didn’t really take pictures, because we’re busy trying to avoid homelessness.  Adventure photos really only come about when there’s no stress involved.  But take my word for it, I’ve been eating at some great restaurants, even if there are no pictures to show for it!

I could get into the more minor exciting things, like finding local Ontario produce in grocery stores (yellow plums!), having an awesome cat to hang out with (for a couple more weeks, anyway), and finding a potential awesome space to teach cooking classes at (score!), but then this’ll just turn into a big ramble and what we’re really here for is brunch!

Frittatas aren’t new to this blog – we’ve made a Denver frittata before, and little ramekin frittatas.  But what I really wanted to accomplish this week was to make a more wholesome version that didn’t require an actual recipe, because it’s much more fun that way.

Let’s say it was an 80% success.  The 80% includes the flavor, which was spot-on – a mix of shiitake, button and oyster mushrooms were sauteed with onion and then tossed with some minced sage, which was then combined with the ‘egg’ base – a couple cartons of firm silken tofu blended with about 1/2 cup of chickpea flour, with a teaspoon each of mustard and salt, and half a teaspoon turmeric.  The texture was excellent, if a bit overcooked (baked at 350 F for 40 minutes, and then broiled for a couple more).

The 20% non-success is mostly related to this incident:

Ah, the underside, stubbornly clinging to our old pan.  I’m not sure if this is a problem of our pan, or what – all I can conclude is that more experimenting is necessary.  At least when we flipped the frittata right-side up, it looked like this:

(Mostly) unscathed, with its unflattering bottom tucked away for no one to see (sorry frittata, I’m aware of how insulting that sounds).  And when we sliced it up, and served it with some roasted kabocha squash and fresh salad, you couldn’t even tell that such a disaster had occurred.

Now I know what you’re thinking – “Mushrooms, sage and roasted squash?  Those be autumn thangs”.  You’re right, of course.  But I do what I want.  And also, it’s been unseasonably cool the last couple weeks, with highs of 22 C – it’s starting to feel like September already.  Here’s hoping for a warm snap before it’s September for real.

Happy weekend, all!

Brunch, recipes, sandwiches

Open-Faced Tuna Melt: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 52

Hi guys!

Long time no see, eh?  We kind of disappeared off the map the last couple weeks, seeing as we just moved across the country.  But after a 30-hour drive and ample time to recuperate, we’re back with some brunch, which ended up being a meal I had a random and passionate craving for mid-week: a tuna melt.

Tuna melts always sound like greasy diner food to me, so I wanted to clean it up a bit – something hearty and flavorful with minimum processed ingredients.  We accomplished this by using mashed chickpeas as the tuna base, homemade cashew mayo, and a vegetable-based cheese sauce with just a bit of cheddar Daiya for gooeyness.  Instead of frying fries, we baked ’em instead, and served it all with a side salad to green things up a bit.

Open-Faced Tuna Melt
Makes about 8 toasts

For the chickpea salad:

1/2 cup cashews
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons hot mustard
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons neutral oil

2 generous cups cooked chickpeas, lightly mashed
1/2 cup diced dill pickles
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup finely chopped dill

In a blender, combine the cashews, lemon juice, sugar, soy sauce, mustard, onion powder, garlic powder and water and blend until smooth.  With the blender still running, slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified.  Since we have a very large blender, we made a double batch of the mayo sauce, and it turned out just fine.

In a large bowl, combine the mashed chickpeas, pickles, celery, onion and dill and stir.  Stir in the blended cashew mixture.

For the vegetable cheese sauce:

Follow my old recipe here.  The only changes I make to it after all this time is to use fresh mustard instead of powdered, and to sometimes use more salt.  It also tastes good with some nooch too, though it works just as well without it.

For assembly:

6-8 slices of bread
1 large tomato, slices
Tuna mixture
Cheese sauce mixture
Daiya cheddar cheese

First, toast the bread and preheat the oven to broil.  Place all the toasts on the baking sheet.  Add a tomato slice (or two) to each piece of toast, and then spoon on as much tuna mixture as you like, about 1/4 cup per slice of bread.  Drizzle on a generous amount of cheese sauce to each toast (about 2 tablespoons), and top with a sprinkle of cheddar Daiya (or a few thinly sliced cheddar pieces).  Place in the oven underneath the broiler for 3-5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary, until everything is warm and gooey and the cheese has melted and browned slightly.  Serve toasts with baked fries and a side salad.  Enjoy!

For the baked sesame fries:

2 medium russet potatoes, washed
2 tablespoons neutral oil
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Dash salt and pepper

Julienne the potatoes into fry shapes and rinse them.  In a large bowl, soak the fries in warm water for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Drain the potatoes and dry with a clean rag, toss with the neutral oil, and bake on a baking sheet for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and turn the fries, adding a little more oil if necessary, and bake another 15 minutes, turning them every 5 minutes.  When they’re done, place ’em in a medium bowl and toss with the sesame oil, sesame seeds, salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

 These fries were among the best baked fries we’ve made to date, and they really are worth trying with the addition of toasted sesame oil and seeds – they add a little savory somethin’ somethin’.  Of course, I can’t wrap up this blog post without one more comment on the tuna melt – it was gooey and decadent without being overly greasy or salty, which was exactly what I was in the mood for this morning.  Brunch win!

Brunch, recipes

Omelet Challenge and Shredded Hashbrowns: Vegan Sunday Brunch Episode 51

Almost exactly one year ago, Allysia and I decided to make ourselves some glorious, delicious vegan omelets.  The results were fantastic: fluffy and firm enough to hold together.  The omelets were even served with a boozy-brunch cocktail!  This week the plan was to redo our omelets with a few small changes, but the two of us couldn’t decide on one set of fillings for them.  With this in mind, we embarked on another small challenge: who could create the better omelet?

Michael’s omelet, in all its asparagian gloriousness.
As a change of pace we ended up completing this challenge while visiting family in small town Saskatchewan.  While this gave us access to a much larger/nicer kitchen, it also limited our ingredients somewhat. Fortunately Allysia was smart enough to know that we would have to pick up a few ingredients (tofu, nooch) before leaving.

Allysia’s omelet, crisp and full of kalamata olives.
Omelet Batter
makes two (fairly large) omelets
Ingredients:

1 12-ounce pack soft silken tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon black salt
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
Daiya, veggies, and herbs for filling
Directions:
1. Combine al ingredients in a blender (any old blender will do, no need for a fancy high-speed blender for once) and blend until smooth.
2. Heat up a non-stick pan to medium-low.  We used a crepe pan – make sure it is really, really non-stick or else this omelet won’t work.  Oil the pan with a dab of olive oil or some spray-oil.
3.  Pour about half of the batter onto the pan and smooth it out a bit with a spoon.  You can also use the spoon to ‘push in’ the edges of the batter a bit, to keep them from thinning and spreading too much.  Add the fillings to the omelet and cook it for 5-7 minutes, until the tofu is browned on the bottom and it is released from the pan.  Fold over half of the omelet on top of itself and continue cooking for another few minutes.  Repeat for the second omelet.
Our new-and-improved omelet batter proved to be not-that-much of an improvement.  We cut out the flour from the previous recipe and replaced it with just a small amount of cornstarch.  The omelet held together, but were much more finicky to deal with.  The final product was creamier than the previous attempt, but less firm/fluffy.  Our old recipe is probably the better of the two, but what are you going to do?  Sometimes in the name of progress you have to break a few (theoretical) eggs.

Allysia chose to fill her omelet (above) with a combination of diced zucchini and tomato, sliced olives, and a healthy portion of minced dill, all smothered in Daiya.  My omelet (below) involved some sautéed mushrooms and asparagus, a little diced tomato and some fresh tarragon, covered with my own portion of Daiya.  Choosing a winner was tricky, maybe you guys and gals out there can help us out by telling us which sounds better to you?

The co-star of this brunch was the quick and easy shredded hashbrowns.  The internet had long told me that hashbrowns could be made using a waffle iron, and this time we decided to try it out for ourselves.

The procedure was pretty simple, and the results were amazing.  First a few potatoes met up with the box grater.  They were then salted a bit and left to sit while the waffle iron heated up.  Once we were ready for them, we took the potatoes and squeezed as much liquid out of them as possible.  This step is absolutely essential to getting crispy shredded potatoes.  The potatoes were loaded into the lightly oiled waffle iron and left to cook for about ten minutes.  Really they were just cooked until brown and easy to remove.  Crispy, salty, and great with ketchup!

Allysia: it’s true – hashbrowns are naked without ketchup.

The ritual of ketchup squeezing is to be taken very seriously (even if it is Heinz).

Until next time.

Brunch, decadent treat food, recipes

Danishes! Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 46

At last the day has arrived for us to reveal our super-secret brunch creation! (Well, technically last Sunday would have been that day, but hey, things come up). For those of you who may not have seen our last brunch blog, we made reference to a secret desired recipe that was thwarted by the lack of a single ingredient… And today we have that ingredient!
The ingredient which I speak of is puff pastry.  Not that uncommon to be sure, but as it turns out vegan versions can be difficult to locate in fancy grocery stores where people are obsessed with real butter and whole milk.  Sure, puff pastry can be made from scratch, but there are times when you don’t want to/can’t be bothered to spend and hour plus mixing, folding, and rolling dough.  Plus, this way we can save that experience for a future post!

The recipe of the day today is for vegan Danish pastries.  Now a quick google search will tell you that a number of pastries fall into this category, but we will recreate that standard Danish as North American audiences know it.  Our Danishes involve a mostly-traditional nut-based filling,  as well as a sweet and sour lemon curd.  It seemed like a daunting task before we began, but the process turned out to be easier than anticipated, and everyone loves when that happens!


Vegan Danishes
Makes 9 small danishes

For the lemon curd:

Makes 1 generous cup – more than enough for 9 danishes

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 juicy lemons)
1/2 cup non-dairy cream or milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch turmeric
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon margarine

(Semi) traditional nut filling:
Enough for about 6 danishes

1 tablespoon non-dairy margarine
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans (or both)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For assembly:

1 sheet of puff pastry (if frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight)
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Directions:

1. For the lemon curd: Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, cream, sugar, salt and turmeric in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once the sugar has dissolved, slowly stir in the cornstarch mixture and stir constantly until mixture has thickened (about eight minutes for cornstarch, and five for arrowroot).  Stir in the margarine until combined, then remove from heat.  To help it set faster, place it in a bowl in the fridge.

2. For the nut filling: Over medium heat, melt the margarine in a small saucepan.  Stir in the nuts, maple syrup, chia and vanilla and cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently.

3. With your fillings made, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Remove dough from the fridge and roll out into a 12″ by 12″ square on a well floured countertop.  Cut the dough into 9 equal-sized squares.
4. Place a blob of filling (nut filling, lemon filling, or something else!) into the centre of a pastry square (one heaping tablespoon seems to be the correct amount).  Grab the corners of the dough and stretch them slightly, careful not to rip the pastry. Fold the corners in diagonally so that most of the filling is covered (don’t worry about leaving a little exposed at the corners).
5. Continue filling and folding the other squares. When each pastry is ready, gently but firmly push down the centre of each Danish, stretching the dough outwards as you do.  Place the Danishes on an oiled cookie sheet, brush with a little milk, and place into the oven.  Allow them to bake for 20-25 minutes, checking the bottoms frequently to make sure they don’t burn.  A note: about halfway through the baking time I looked at my pastries and they looked like tiny little pyramids with big poofy centres. I took a spoon and pushed down the middles before returning them to the oven.

Once the Danishes are finished, remove them from the oven and let them cool.  Once they are cooled, top them as you see fit.  We used a combination of the lemon curd and a simple icing made from a few tablespoons of icing sugar mixed with a small splash of milk.

Roll out the dough nice and thin on a floured surface, and cut the sheet into 9 squares.  Proceed to scatter the squares haphazardly across the counter.

Start with a generous dollop of nut filling, or chilled lemon filling.

Stretch out the edges of the dough.

Fold in the corners toward the center (they don’t need to overlap as much as pictured here, some open areas of the danish end up looking nice).

Place on an oiled baking pan and indent the centers, and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden.

Let it cool and try to resist the temptation to eat it immediately.

Top with icing sugar and enjoy!  Add a dollop of lemon curd to the centers of some if you’d like, for extra lemony goodness. 

Obviously we cannot take credit for it, but the puff pastry turned out brilliantly.  It was flaky and soft, with a slightly crisp exterior.  Even with storebought pastry dough these were some of the best Danishes I have ever had.  I think my favourite part was the nutty filling. It was not too sweet but the walnuts and pecans were deliciously soft.  I would be interested to see the effects of adding some kind of spice to the filling, maybe nutmeg or cinnamon.  Oh well, that is why there must be a ‘next time’!
Brunch, recipes, sandwiches

Eggplant BLT: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 44

Greetings!  We are here to bring you a slightly belated brunch post, but a brunch post nonetheless!  This week’s idea was based around the fact that Sunday marked the first day after the end of our super-healthy lifestyle trial, and as such, we could eat whatever we wanted.  I was most excited about the opportunity to sauté and brown things, so we came up with the idea to make some baked eggplant bacon.

We wanted to use our bacon on a nice, simple sandwich, and decided on the classic BLT, something we’ve never blogged before (for shame).  Our vegan BLT consisted of eggplant bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato (so I guess it was a BLAT), with some mustard and vegennaise spread on the toasted bread.  On the side we served a quick coleslaw and a super-simple tofu scramble with some melted Daiya.  All in all it was a pretty amazing brunch containing lots of the delicious treats that we gave up for the last thirty days.

Since we both had access to different ingredients (and Allysia doesn’t want to buy a bunch of stuff a month before coming home), we each made the eggplant bacon recipe a little differently, and the changes are noted below.  

Eggplant Bacon

1 large eggplant

1 dried chipotle, soaked in water for an hour
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or omit and use smoked paprika instead)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove garlic, crushed
Pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Cut the ends off of an eggplant and slice lengthwise into quarter-inch slices (using a mandolin or a sharp knife).
2. Mix all remaining ingredients into the bottom of a long, flat dish and toss the eggplant in it. Let it sit for one hour, rotating the eggplant strips once. 
3. After the marinating time has elapsed, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the eggplant slices on it. Reserve the marinade liquid.
4. Bake the eggplant bacon for 30-40 minutes. At the 15 and 30 minute marks, baste the pieces with some of the remaing liquid.  After the final basting, keep an eye on the bacon, as it will go from nice and golden to charred black very quickly. Leave it in as long as you dare to help it become crisp, but do not overcook it.

Note from Allysia: The majority of eggplant slices turned out chewy, not crisp (with the exception of a few burnt pieces), so it might not be a good standalone bacon (our tofu bacon is better suited to that purpose).  However, the flavor is great and it went really well inside a sandwich.

Yeah, so I used kale instead of lettuce.  Kale is nice on a sandwich!  Also I recommend you guys pray to the phone gods for Michael, since he has lost the ability to upload pictures –  but I saw his meal via Skype and it looked awesome as always, you’ll just have to take my word for it this time.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!

Brunch, recipes

Oatmeal Banana Split: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 42

Hi!

Long time, no see – I accidentally took a vacation from blogging, but it ended up being well needed.  School’s been a lot of work, and after being in the kitchen all day I usually come home and just eat a giant salad.  It’s delicious and all that, but doesn’t necessarily make for exciting blogging.  But you guys are awesome for hanging in there with me – it seriously means a lot.  
And now, for brunch!  
Since Michael and I started our random health trial a couple weeks ago, we needed a brunch that obeyed all of the rules we set out, but it’s very difficult to dream up a brunch that has no fried component.  Luckily, last week I went out to brunch with friends and found something on the menu that I knew I wanted to bring home and recreate – an oatmeal banana split.  

Cold vanilla oatmeal replaces the traditional ice cream scoop, surrounded by a split banana, pineapples and strawberries.  The only decadent part of this meal is the chocolate sauce, but even that is made a little healthier using coconut oil, raw cacao powder and just a teeny bit of sweetener.  This meal, in all its wholesomeness, felt like a brunch dessert party – I loved this just as much as a good meal of pancakes or waffles, and that’s saying something.
Oatmeal Banana Split
Serves 1

For the oats:
3/4 cup non-dairy milk of choice
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the chocolate sauce:

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon agave (or other liquid sweetener)
To assemble:

1 ripe banana
4 medium strawberries, quartered
1/3 cup chopped pineapple
Directions:

1. For the oats: Combine all ingredients in a jar or container, and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  The oats will soften and the chia will help gel everything together.
2. For the chocolate sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix with a fork.  The mixture will firm up a little as it sits, but you can speed up the process by popping it in the fridge for a few minutes.
3. To assemble: With the peel still on the banana, slice it lengthwise and then peel it carefully (slicing it with the peel on makes the banana less likely to crack and lose its shape).  Use an ice cream scooper or ramekin and place it in the center of a bowl or plate, and top with strawberries and pineapple.  Drizzle with chocolate sauce and enjoy!

Mike: I absolutely loved this brunch, but when Allysia first brought it up I was a little “meh”.  I have always been more into savory concoctions and this seemed like the complete opposite end of the spectrum.  I have to say, however, that my opinion started changing the very second I started assembling the split.  The scoops of oatmeal look beautiful and taste amazing, and the fresh fruit surrounding throws in some vibrancy.

This really is a healthy dessert in a decadent disguise.  I can imagine this going over very well in houses with young humans.  “Who wants desert for breakfast?” you’ll ask.  And then they will see it and completely flip out.  It looks every bit as tasty as an ice-cream-based banana split, and it tastes even better.  You can even play around with toppings to add a little more pizzazz.  I spiced my split up with the chocolate sauce from above, some almond milk yogurt “whipped cream”, and some hemp seed “sprinkles”.  Needless to say, this was a happy morning for my mouth and my belly.

You can look forward to a few new blog posts this week from us here at The Real Meal.  We promise!  Happy Sunday.
Brunch, recipes

Orange Creamsicle Chia Pudding with Berries: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 40

This morning (more like evening, since it was so damn early) I saw Michael off at the airport back to Saskatchewan.  It’ll be 71 more days apart (11 brunches apart, including this one), which I’m sure will fly by in a whir of awesomeness but right now seems more or less like eternity.  But since that’s a bit dramatic, I figured I would make a brunch today that would pump me up with energy to take the edge off my dramatic tendencies.  It’ll also hopefully give me the energy to do some major planning (some pretty ridiculously good things are going down this summer, can’t wait to share).

So here we’ve got Orange Creamsicle Chia Pudding with Berries – first off, the chia pudding part.  Some people love it, some people hate it – I definitely fall over on the love spectrum.  If you haven’t had it, the best I can compare it to is tapioca pudding, except raw and with chia.  Since chia is so mucilaginous (love that word), any liquid added to them gels, creating a pudding-like consistency.

Since I tend to make boring (but delicious) chia puddings (milk + chia + sweetener), I thought I would make a little more of an effort today, but it really wasn’t that much more effort, maybe five minutes extra work.  All I did was blend an orange with some water and cashews, strained it of pulp (which isn’t necessary), stirred in some vanilla and added it to a jar of dry chia.  It only takes up to 30 minutes to gel up nicely, at which point I stirred in some berries.  My only regret?  Didn’t have any mint.

Orange Creamsicle Chia Pudding with Berries
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 orange, peeled
1/2 cup water (or another orange)
3 tablespoons cashews
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 cups mixed berries ( used strawberries, blueberries, and a bit of dried goldenberries)

Directions:

1. In a blender, blend the orange, water and cashews until relatively smooth.  If you have a nut milk strainer bag, use it to strain out the pulp, if not, shouldn’t be a biggie.  This should total about 1 cup of liquid (more if there’s fiber left in it).  In a wide container, combine the liquid, chia seeds and vanilla extract.  Stir, cover, and let it sit in the fridge for 15-30 minutes, until it gels into a pudding-like consistency.  Stir again.

2. For a pretty presentation, layer the pudding with berries, or just stir the berries and pudding together in a bowl.  You shouldn’t find that this pudding needs sweetening – there’s plenty of fruit in it – but if you don’t find it’s sweet enough, you can either add more fruit (especially dried) or a little bit of your favorite sweetener.

This pudding is heavy on the berries, so use as much as you prefer – 1/2 cup berries per serving will have a higher pudding ratio, but I love nomming berries so I used 1 cup per serving.

The orange flavor in this is really subtle but really nice – if you wanted it more orangey, some orange zest added to the pudding would do the trick.  I loved it just how it was though, with the orange flavor sitting pleasantly in the background – but even without the berries, this pudding was flavorful enough to be eaten on its own.

Well that’s all from me, guys – my life should be returning to “normal” now so I should have time to be a little more social.  Until then, take care!