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recipes, smoothies and juice, Uncategorized

Gojiccino, the Magic Latte

Hi friends!

First – once upon a time I had a Twitter account, but couldn’t really see the point in it, and thus it got all dusty and unused for a couple years.  But I just discovered its purpose!  To be constantly entertained by hilarious celebrities (including the ones who aren’t trying to be hilarious).  Right?  Right?

In any case, I’m charmed by it and if any of you bloggers use Twitter, I’d love to follow you as they say – feel free to leave your handle in the comments.

So as you may or may not know, I have a tumultuous relationship with caffeine.  I love it – it hates me.  The taste (and oh, the smell!) of a freshly French-pressed black coffee is one of life’s best treasures, but every now and then it turns me into Jittery Monster Allysia, not to be messed around with.  Green tea, another love, does the same.  So does decaf.

It’s been months since I’ve been caffeinated, and it took my body a month of re-calibration (read: a month of being tired every morning) to finally feel normal without it.  And as tragic as life is without precious coffee, I’ve moved on.  As it stands, my favorite caffeine-free sippers are as follows:

1. Rooibos (every now and then I’ll get a rooibos latte at a coffee shop).  I prefer red to green, and I like it plain, though it’s great jazzed up with other herbs and fruits too.

2. Teeccino.  Their French-style blend is my favorite coffee-like drink, made from roasted barley and chicory and other good things – it tastes better than it sounds.  Not a coffee replica to be sure, but it’s dark, bitter and astringent so it calls coffee to mind.  Plus it’s great with a splash of milk.

3. Kukicha. I was introduced to this in the Macrobiotics portion of my schooling, and it’s easily my favorite daily drink.  It’s made from the twigs of tea plants, and it’s caffeine-free since all of the caffeine in tea is from the leaves.  The taste reminds me of a cross between oolong and black tea.

3. Gojiccino.  A magical treat!  So magical!  So complex!  Exclamation marks!  So magical, in fact, that we have to talk about it more in-depth.

There’s this company in Ontario that makes a product called Gojiccino, which I accidentally discovered at a restaurant called Fresh.  You use it as you would an espresso shot in a latte-type drink – a shot or two in some steamed milk.  It kind of blew my mind.  Naturally sweet but not sugary, it’s toasty and bitter, with strong caramel tones, and a magical somethin-somethin that I just can’t place, that piece of complexity that makes the drink intriguing and addictive.

And then I had to go home and make it myself.  The concept is simple enough – toast some goji berries, blend them into a thick liquid with a little hot water, strain, and voila.  It’s not quite as awesome as their product, but that’s because they use magic.  So for those of you who don’t have this drink available near you, rest assured you can do up a delicious home version before it becomes available across North America (here’s hoping!).

No recipe this time, just a general method.  Toast some goji berries on a dry skillet for 15 minutes or so, until they’re soft and dark (even burnt in places).

Toss ’em in a blender with a little water – just enough to get the machine running properly, not so much as to dilute the flavor.

When it’s blended, strain the mixture so it’s smooth (I use a nut milk strainer bag, but a fine mesh sieve should work in theory, it would just be more time-consuming).

That’s it!  Heat up some milk and add a spoonful of the goji mixture to it.  Enjoy immensely.  And support a great Canadian company!  It should be noted that I’m not affiliated with them in any way – this post comes from a pure love of gojiccino.

Happy Wednesday!

food and product reviews, recipes, Soups and Stews, Uncategorized

Blendtec Unboxing and Delicious Cauliflower Soup

On Monday this week I got one of the best surprises of my life.  I arrived home from work to see a little piece of paper sticking out of my mailbox – a little piece of paper that told me I had a parcel waiting at the post office.  I had, of course, been expecting this, but I had not entirely expected it to arrive one day early.  The drive to the post office was full of excitement and anticipation, and the drive box home more so.  Once I got back into my house I sat down with my package, my camera, and my iPad, and had to share this momentous occasion with Allysia over Skype.  So, once we were both good and ready, we looked at what sat in front of us.

Even the sight of the box still fills me with happiness.

Popping the box open reveals the sweet treasure inside.

First up is the information package.  A blender-based cookbook, warranty information, and a DVD!

The cookbook itself is in full color, coil-bound, and even hard cover!  In a surprising moment of awesomeness, I opened the book to a random page and saw a recipe for cauliflower soup.  Allysia and I had just talked about making cauliflower soup the previous day – it seemed like a sign.

Next up is probably the most exciting part: the blender bowl.

We opted to go for the slightly newer and slightly more expensive Wildside blender jar.  This jar has a few advantages over the standard Fourside jar.  It has a roomy 3 quart volume and a special shape involving a fifth side in the blender jar.  This fifth side apparently shifts the blending vortex a bit so it mixes ingredients much more efficiently.

The blender lid followed the jar.  Shiny and gorgeous.

Another exciting moment: the blender base.  While the normal Blendtec blender is beautiful, we choose to upgrade to the Designer Series (for the same price as the regular blender!)  You can’t get these delivered to Canada through the Blendtec website, but we ordered from Upaya Naturals and got it in only a few days!

The biggest reason we got the Designer Series, aside from the awesome red color, is the touch screen on the base.  All of the controls are operated through this screen, and it just looks solid black when turned off.  It looks cool, works well, and talk about easy to clean!

And now we have a little before and after photo.  Definitely an upgrade.  High-end blenders tend to get a bad rap for being massively huge and taking up too much counter space (especially a certain other brand of blender), but comparing the Blendtec to a cheap Walmart blender, the size different isn’t anything absurd.

Once the blender was powered up it became even more lovely.  The six picture buttons correspond to preprogrammed blending cycles.  From left to right they are for: mixing batters, crushing ice, making smoothies, creating ice creams, juicing produce, and blending/cooking soups.  The large slider at the bottom of the faceplate allows you to select a blending speed manually and speed it up/slow it down at will.  The bottom-right button, shaped like a heartbeat monitor, is the pulse button (clever!).

The blender itself is amazing.  The blending cycles work really well – they speed up/slow down the blades automatically, allows the blender to chop through rough ingredients before speeding up to blend.  One thing that I noticed is that this blender does not create as much heat a other high-speed blenders.  The Designer Series has some improved venting which allows it to blend without heating the ingredients too much.  Great news for smoothie lovers and raw foodists alike!  Another interesting feature becomes apparent only when the blender is powered up.  For the first few seconds a number will flash onto the screen.  This number is the total number of times the blender has been used.  We have owned ours for less than forty-eight hours now, and it has been used twelve times.

One of the first things I wanted to do with this blender was create a smooth and awesome blended soup using some of the random ingredients I had laying around.

Creamy Corn and Cauliflower Soup
yields 2 large servings
1 medium sized head of cauliflower (about 3 cups, roughly chopped)
2 medium sized potatoes (about 1 cup, roughly chopped)
2 ears of fresh corn
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground thyme (fresh would work better, but alas, I had none available)
salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:

1. Boil a pot of water large enough to hold the potato, cauliflower, and corn.  Add the potato first, then the cauliflower, then the corn so everything cooks the appropriate amount of time.
2. Pan steam (or saute) the onions and garlic.

3. When the veggies are cooked, drain the water.  Cut the kernels off of the corn cobs and place all the ingredients in a blender jar.  Use only 3 cups of veggie broth to start, adding more until the desired consistency is reached.  Blend until smooth.

Alternatively, you could save some of the cooked veggie and stir them into the soup after blending for a slightly chunkier soup.

A little side note: in keeping with our super healthy eating plan I opted to boil and steam the veggies for this soup.  I can only assume that roasting the corn, potato, and cauliflower would make the soup even more incredible.

Apparently being able to blend corn completely perfectly is a rare thing indeed.  The Blendtec did it with ease.  The soup was smooth after about thirty seconds of blending.  After struggling with a super cheap blender for so long, it is so nice to have access to perfectly smooth soups and smoothies.  I’m a big fan of green smoothies in the morning, and this blender destroys kale leaves like nobody’s business.  I love our blender like a newborn child. Peace out.

recipes, salad, Uncategorized

Tangy Ranch Dressing

Recently, tempeh and I have fallen back into favour. Due to botched kitchen experiments, there was a time when tempeh and I were sworn enemies. A couple months ago, at the location of my favourite lunch spot, I decided to give tempeh another go, served with a glorious jerk-style rice bowl. Man oh man. Tempeh is amazing! It has such a wonderful texture! I did learn a couple lessons, though, which I want to share with you should you partake in tempeh cookage:

1) Always boil or steam it for 10 minutes prior to doing anything else with it. This eliminates it’s bitterness.
2) Always trust your instinct when it comes to marinades!!
Now the reason I’m talking about tempeh is because I decided that I wanted a BLT sandwich, and being creative like us vegans tend to be, decided to marinate and fry tempeh in place of the bacon. I also have no memories of eating BLTs, so it was a really random craving. I mean, what goes on them, aside from the obvious bacon, lettuce, and tomato? Mayo? That seemed too boring. Ranch dressing? Bingo! But since I couldn’t find any recipe that I had all of the ingredients for, I had to fudge together my own version. And you know what? It’s totally easy to make and delicious and tangy, the perfect condiment for a BLT!
Tangy Ranch Dressing
This is really more of a spread than a dressing, because I wanted something I could use as a condiment to my BLT sandwich. If you want to use it as a dressing, just thin it out with soy (or other) milk – start with a couple tablespoons and keep adding in small increments until your desired consistency has been achieved.

1 pkg soft tofu
2 large green onions, white part only
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp agave nectar (or another sweetener, but agave rocks)
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend! I used my Magic Bullet because I hate doing small blending jobs in my big blender.
This makes about 1 1/2 cups, so be sure to use it all up! Use it with your wraps and sandwiches, and make gloriously creamy salads! And definitely, definitely use this as a veggie dip! I was never a huge ranch dressing fiend like some people are, but I’m assuming there are many ways you can use it beyond what I’ve suggested. Have fun!
P.S. If you didn’t notice, there’s no picture for this recipe. My skillz are not yet at the level of making white creamy stuff look good in a photo. But I’m sure you know what ranch dressing looks like.
Health and Nutrition, Uncategorized

Easy, Natural Mosquito Bite Remedy

image source: bareoaks.ca

One thing that really gets in the way of enjoying summer is these ugly guys. If you’re anything like me, you get your blood sucked and then suddenly you’ve got a big, swollen, itchy red welt. If not, then you have mosquito superpowers and I’m infinitely envious of you. For those of you that get terrible welts, I’ve discovered a really easy solution that works for me every time, way better than any after-bite ever did, and it’s pretty much the easiest, cost-friendly choice.

It’s this simple – take an ice cube and press it against the swollen area for a couple of minutes. If you’re still itchy, do it a bit longer. That’s it! If you don’t like ice water dripping all over you, you can seal the ice in a baggy, but come on, it’s summer time. Ice water is amazing.
So before you go reaching for the chemicals, give this a try, and hopefully it works as well for you as it does for me! 🙂
decadent treat food, Eating Food, recipes, Uncategorized

Homemade Seitan Sausage: A Basic Vegan Staple

Every vegan needs a good homemade seitan sausage recipe in their repertoire.

The ingredient list is simpler and more wholesome than store-bought varieties. The meaty texture of these homemade seitan sausages are from a combination of high-protein wheat gluten (seitan), as well as chickpea flour.

This is a nice treat if you can digest gluten well.

On their own, these guys don’t really photograph well, but I was really pleased with the taste and texture. There are also great sausage recipes in the classic cookbook Vegan Brunch.

Homemade Seitan Sausages
Serves 4
This easy homemade seitan sausage recipe can be endlessly varied with different seasonings. It makes a great brunch item!
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 c onion, finely minced
  2. 1 c cold vegetable broth
  3. 1 tbsp olive oil
  4. 2 tbsp soy sauce
  5. 2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
  6. 1 c wheat gluten
  7. 1/3 c chickpea flour
  8. 1/4 c nutritional yeast
  9. 1 1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed (I didn’t crush mine because I don’t have a mortar and pestle, though I suppose I could have used the coffee grinder)
  10. 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or something hot – I used 1/2 tsp Asian chili paste)
  11. 1 tsp sweet paprika
  12. 1 tsp oregano
  13. several dashes black pepper
Instructions
  1. 1. Before mixing your ingredients, get your steaming apparatus ready, bring water to a full boil. The rest of the recipe comes together very quickly.
  2. 2. Have ready 4 (or 6) sheets of tin foil. In a large bowl, throw all the ingredients together in the order listed and mix with a fork. Divide dough into 4 (or 6) even parts. Place one part of dough into tin foil and mold into about a 5 inch log. Wrap dough in tin foil, like a tootsie roll. Don’t worry too much about shaping it, it will snap into shape while it’s steaming because this recipe is awesome.
  3. 3. Place wrapped sausages in steamer, cover and steam for 20-25 minutes.
Notes
  1. When you’re steaming, Vegan Dad warns of having steam that’s too hot, or not enough steam. When it’s kept too hot, it will cook too fast and turn out rubbery. If there’s not enough steam, it won’t cook enough and it will be doughy. After my water was boiling vigorously, I put the sausages in the steamer, covered them, and turned the heat down to about 2 (med-low). That seemed to give me a pleasing end result.
Adapted from Vegan Dad
Adapted from Vegan Dad
Oh Waffle http://www.ohwaffle.com/

This homemade seitan sausage recipe makes a simple and inexpensive main. I hope you enjoy it!

xo,
Allysia