It’s a commonly accepted idea among older adults and middle aged people that those gray hairs that pop up every now and then and make us panic and rethink our whole life are linked to high stress levels. Some of us out there are probably actively trying to keep their stress levels low in order to push off gray hair much as possible. Continue reading
I recently traveled to Ohio for a second time. This visit, like the first, revolved around photographing food as well as affording me a long overdue catch-up with Kate. I traveled south by car with Lisa and Nicole, and what fun we had! We have a shared love of food, photography, and prop hunting—so deciding on what stops to make along the way was a breeze. The three of us, along with Kathy, stayed with Kate who generously hosted us. I hadnt seen Kathy since last summer in Portland, so it was great to be able to give her a hug and catch up. On the night of our arrival, we dined in the garden—feasting on Lisas out of this world spicy Curry, Kates quinoa, and Nicoles refreshing and filling Chickpea Salad. My contribution to dinner was dessert, of course: chocolate cake—made by the Irishman.
We spent a magnificent Saturday rubbing shoulders with a group of photographers who had come together to participate in a workshop run by Clare, hosted by Kate in her beautiful home studio. I love watching photographers do their thing—and it was fascinating to see how vastly different the work produced was despite the fact that the group was shooting the same food and using the same pool of props. I tend to like to take my time setting up shots, so for me the steady pressure of styling and shooting 7+ different dishes in the space of 4 hours was an excellent personal exercise. Thats an even faster pace than the one we set during the shoot for Jae Steeles Ripe From Around Here. When Im shooting or styling for clients, I will up my pace as needed. When Im working for myself, Im a little more mellow.
Kate baked nearly all of the entirely plant-based menu for the shoot herself, as well as a beautiful breakfast for everyone on the day consisting of vegan quiche, baked oatmeal, and berry danish. Even though my breakfast Danish (pictured above) wasnt officially part of the shoot, it was the first thing I styled and photographed that morning and became one of my favourite images from the day.
The girls and I, wanting to take some of the load off of Kate with all that food prep, offered to help by making the tomato soup and quinoa salad which were on the to-do list for the shoot. We split into teams, with Lisa and I making the Quinoa Salad and Nicole, Kathy and Kate making the soup. The salad turned out extra delicious (under Lisas sage direction) and was really easy to throw together. All you need is cooked quinoa and some colourful, flavourful veggies to throw into mix. We used cherry tomatoes, chives, fresh peas, corn, and red pepperseasoning it all with lime juice and salt. Fresh, simple and delicious—I plan on making it regularly.
Are you familiar with Allisons Gourmet? You should be. Allison, maven of mmmm, is all about chocolate. Award-winning, artisan, organic, dairy-free, fair-trade chocolate. Oh, and its out of this world delicious too. Do yourself a favour and get acquainted. May I suggest the pure vanilla caramels? Im a fan. Take a look at Allisons site and feast your eyes. You cant go wrong with any of the choices there—with cookies, brownies, toffee, brittle, fudge, chocolates, caramels, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate—there are endless gift-giving possibilities. Why not include yourself s a recipient?
A longtime admirer, I had the pleasure of meeting Allison in person at last summers VVC in Portlandso when she recently asked if she could interview me for the Friday With Friends series on her blog, I was chuffed. Check it out here, blush. Its short and sweet and focuses on my enthusiasm for vegan baking and my massive sweet tooth.
*photo used with permission from Allisons Gourmet
If youre at all familiar with the vegan blogging world, you know about Vida Vegan Con—the vegan blogger conference: explaining that one made for an amusing conversation with the customs officer at the airport! The first ever VVC was held last August in Portland. And guess what? The creative whirlwinds behind VVC recently announced the next conference: May 24-26, 2013, in Portland again—and this time the conference will be on for three days vs the inaugural two. Awesomesauce.
The thought of revisiting Portland makes my heart more than a little glad. Let me fill you in on exactly why.
I think back rather wistfully on my August in Portland. Its a nostalgic sort of bliss that revolves mainly around food. Lots and lots of awesome vegan food. The restaurants. The bakeries. Oh my. Lots of them. All vegan. Grocery stores with large swaths of vegan real estate. A dedicated vegan grocery store, Food Fight!, situated in a vegan mini-mall. You heard me. That mini-mall also houses Sweetpea Bakery, Herbivore Clothing, and Scapegoat Tattoo. I did some shopping in that mini-mall. Okay, I did a lot of shopping. And no, I didnt just by food—though I did buy a fair bit.
Apart from my Portland bakery trek (more on that below), my visit to Pie Footwear is worth noting. I had always fully intended on visiting them due to their reputedly large selection of cruelty-free footwear, but it was particularly apropos that my feet had taken a considerably severe beating leading up to said visit (from getting lost, er, walking all over the Northeast quadrant of the city in what was apparently unseasonably warm weather). I left Pie with a sunny pair of cute but sensible pale lime-yellow wedges. They looked super with the yellow dress I wore to the VVC cocktail reception.
I mentioned the doughnuts, right? No? My gracious hosts, Dill and Nicholas, took me to Voodoo Doughnut on my very first night in Portland, treating me to an exquisite pink box and a full vegan assortment—and—they spell doughnut right, with all the letters it deserves. Its a marvel I havent moved there yet, truly. To Portland, not Voodoo. Though I do dig all that pink neon. I had a carefully crafted list of places to visit, all of which involved food and half of which were bakeries. Sadly, I couldnt see them all but I did manage a pilgrimage to Sweetpea, Dovetail, and Back to Eden, and brought a respectable bevy of samples home for the Irishman. There is so much more to see and taste—but hey, thats what next years for.
Ok, it cant be all about the sweet all the time. Savoury sustenance is also required. To that end, there are vegan restaurants and cafés a-plenty in Portland. My very first pre-conference casual meetup was at Hungry Tiger Too for vegan diner food (!) with the awesomely talented and friendly Lisa of Panda With Cookie fame (separate post coming up about how awesome Lisa is). This super fun meetup also brought out Meshell, Traci, Patrick, Lou, Kristen, JL, Fran (the queen of vegan desserts herself), Julia, Stephanie and Joni—such a friendly, talented, and spirited bunch! Of course I had to visit Hungry Tiger Too twice. Because you just would.
I visited the high-end Portobello, where I enjoyed the famed gnocchi. Yes, its as awesome as everyone says it is—especially when chased with tiramisu and three flavours of house-made ice cream. And no, I didnt eat it all myself: Bethany went halfsies with me for dessert. I also visited Blossoming Lotus for what became my favourite meal of the entire trip: the Green Goddess Bowl with quinoa and crispy tempeh. The ever delightful Fran, part of our dinner group and sitting across from me, enjoyed the same dish, as did my friend, Kate. Great minds. I hear Blossoming Lotus has an amazing brunch. I will investigate next Spring and report back. Speaking of Fran, I finally had the opportunity to see her in action during the conference for one of her famed chocolate demos: Amazing. And speaking of food demos, I also got to watch the adorable Hannah make vegan meringue. It was really great to meet both Fran and Hannah in person finally, after much online interaction.
I would be remiss if I didnt mention the food carts. They are everywhere in Portland—and if theyre not entirely vegan, most have vegan offerings. One such cart was on my must-see list: Julie Hassons Native Bowl. A pre-conference VVC meetup at said food cart facilitated an impromptu introduction to fellow VVC-er and photographer, Kate. Kate and I bonded immediately over our mutual love for Nikon and Anthropologie—a fast friendship that was permanently cemented by our shared appreciation for cookbooks, prop hunting, and New York. I also caught Kittee and Vee before they left! I had the Hollywood Bowl, incidentally—it was my second favourite meal of the trip. Not bad for a food cart.
Pssst. Kate and I have several photographic projects in the works, by the way. Ill keep you posted.
Where theres food, there must be drink. Being the appreciator of caffeine that I am, Im always keen to scout out the best local coffee roasters a city has to offer—Portland does not disappoint. I first visited Peets Coffee & Tea (good), followed by a sojourn to Stumptown Coffee Roasters (awesome), and finally returned home with bags of beans from Courier Coffee Roasters which came highly recommended (and rightly so—its damn good). I watched the locals unwind and imbibe, first at the feisty Vendetta where I had a delightful conversation about veganizing Dobos with Bryanna, and then at the Bye and Bye and Sweet Hereafter—the latter two sharing the same owners and the same easy vibe. Friendly places. I got carded, giggle.
And then there was the conference itself, lest I distracted you with all that food talk. Wow. Words seem inadequate to describe what an amazing thing it is to be amongst so many talented, like-minded people. Empowering. Invigorating. Energizing. Quickening. Our savvy organizers worked so hard to put it all together, and it showed: it was an awesome weekend. There was so much to enjoy and take in from all the great sessions, demos, workshops, gala, receptions, swag bag (!), and get-togethers. It was infinitely fun to finally put faces to all the names Id seen in the blogosphere and on Twitter, etc. I met so many amazing bloggers that I could dedicate a year of posts to telling you about them all. Highlights that jump out include Colleen Patrick-Goudreaus rousing speech about being an Ambassador of Compassion, Frans chocolate demo, Hannahs meringue demo, the parenting panel, Isas writers block workshop (where I met Allison and Jason), and the sneak peek of Vegucated (where I met Marisa and Demetrius). Some of the sessions I really wanted to see but missed because of scheduling conflicts (sniff), included Terrys storytelling workshop and the publishing panel—I hope theyre all back next year! My hats off to the girl army behind it all: Jess Scone, Janessa Philemon-Kerp, and Michele Truty. Thank you, ladies.
Many friendships were forged at VVC in Portland and for that I am especially grateful. Effusive thanks go out to my generous hosts, Dill and Nicholas, and to my awesome roommates, Megan and Samantha, the über talented bloggers who made my stay warm and fuzzy. Portland is a beautiful city. Scenic. Clean. Friendly—and they dont call it vegan Mecca for nothing. I didnt see nearly enough of it—something I plan to remedy next Spring.
Hold on to your ironic facial hair, Portland—Im coming back, baby!
When I visited the lovely city of Portland this past summer to speak at the VVC, I had the good fortune of finding a card in my special speakers swag bag, offering an EZ Tofu Press for testing and review. Indeed, I was keen to see this culinary marvel in action. I quickly contacted Ben, inventor of the press, who promptly and generously sent one to me.
Can I just say, wow? Wow. This little mechanical wonder is exceedingly simple and elegant in its design and super easy to use. I mean EZ. Its the kind of sensible idea you see that makes you think, why didnt I think of that? And if a lazy tofu prepper like myself thinks its easy, you will too. Confession: I normally cant be bothered with tofu pressing because,well, Im a lazy cook. But boy, does it make a difference. I even first tried hand pressing the liquid out of the tofu using kitchen towels, just to see how much more the tofu press could extract. Answer: a lot more. After putting it in the tofu press, I was amazed at how much more liquid came out of that block of tofu. I even tried it with a very drippy, somewhat mushy, block of medium-firm tofu. And it worked like a charm. Im sold.
Pressing tofu gives it a much more toothsome texture: more meaty, less mushy. Plus, if youre into marinating your tofu (and you should be), pressing it allows for that much more space for marinade absorption. And we should all care about marinade absorption. Never again will I cook unpressed tofu. No excuses. Not with this press around. Even just a few minutes in the press makes a huge difference. Did I mention how easy and fast using this press it? So easy. And fast. And its nearly half the price of competing Tofu Presses. Did you know that tofu presses compete? They do. And if youre looking for the best bang for your buck, I think this may be it. If youre in the US, you can pick one up from Amazon (and get it shipped to you for free if youre a Prime Member). Awesomesauce. And Canadians shant be left out in the cold either (its -25C today): you can pick one up from the good folks at Fake Meats. You can also read more about the press here.
A huge thank you to Ben who sent me this awesome press, thus improving all future tofu dishes in my household exponentially. I recommend it unreservedly and leave you with these EZ Tofu Press facts:
1) Currently $26.99 (+ free shipping for Prime Members) from Amazon (in the USA).
2) Fakemeats.com offers special shipping rates to all of Canada (listed at $22.95 at time of writing).
3) EZ Tofu Press can press virtually all sizes of firm & extra firm tofu (even medium-firm tofu improved!)
4) Pressing can be achieved in 15 minutes or less (even a few minutes does wonders)
5) Presses substantially faster than spring based tofu presses (very fast)
6) Easy to clean: small, compact, dishwasher safe, fewer parts to break.
7) Saves on paper or cloth towels (friend to the environment!)
8) EZ Tofu Press comes in a retail box with instructions and a handy measuring tool.
Stay tuned for details about an EZ Tofu Press Giveaway!
Behold the awesome snackiness of my Vegan Cuts Snack Box, of which I was the fortunate recipient for review. The Snack Box is available as a monthly subscription ($19.95 in the USA, $27.95 in Canada, shipping included) from the good folks at Vegan Cuts—a fab company that offers many more innovative cruelty-free products for sale, from food to clothing, make-up and accessories.
If you subscribe to a Snack Box, each month you will be presented with a selection of 7-10 vegan snacks and samples, often gluten-free, from an array of well chosen cruelty-free companies. My Snack Box consisted of the following treats:
- Meow Meow Tweets Moisturizing Lip Balm, which glides on smooth, without any sticky, waxy residue. Mine was cocoa flavoured. Im a devoted lip balm fan. Very nice.
- Oloves, deli-style, snackable olives with only 50 calories per bag and no preservatives. I enjoyed my package of Lemony Lover Oloves at the airport during a recent trip and they were the perfect snack on the go, as well as a welcome departure from the regular snacking carb-fest.
- Milas Foods Savoury Bruschetta Blend. I made bruschetta of course, enjoying mine on a thick slab of crusty sourdough bread. Delicious.
- 22 Days Protein Powder, which is non-GMO, organic, dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free, and perfect for a quick breakfast when youre short on time and great for traveling. Mine was chocolate. Good stuff.
- Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips, a delicious baked twist on sweet potato chips. They were gone in a flash. I felt like I was enjoying chips without being bad.
- Teeccino, herbal coffee in a tea bag. Awesome idea, no? Full-bodied and robust. Im a big Teeccino fan. Love them.
- Skinny Pop, guilt-free, incredibly tasty all natural, fibre-rich popcorn with zero trans fat. I saved mine for the plane and savoured every last bite.
- Chicago Vegan Foods Teese, a stretchable, meltable line of non-dairy cheeses free from GMOs, soy, gluten, and palm oil. I received the nacho cheese sauce, which is the best Teese Ive tried yet. These are the same folks behind Dandies vegan marshmallows. Love them.
- Beyond Meat coupons, thanks—Ill be on the lookout for some! So curious.
- Parmela Parmesan Style Aged Nut Cheese. The perfect way to top off to a steaming bowl of pasta, and I did. Excellent. Seriously though—how do they do that? Its so much like Parmesan I did a double-take.
If you like tasty snacks, trying new products and getting packages in the mail, this sweet setup is right up your alley. Very fun. Many of the companies I received samples from werent even on my vegan radar, so discovering them was awesome. A big thank you to the generous folks at Vegan Cuts for sending me a Snack Box of my very own to try out.
Highly recommended. Check them out and get snackified. Enjoy.
Chocolate and cherry can do no wrong together in my world, which makes this probably my favourite homemade ice cream. Its delicious. Its easy, and pssst, you dont even need an ice cream maker: I made this using the food processor in under ten minutes. I start with a couple of frozen bananas, to which I add about a half bag of frozen cherries (which amounts to about 1 1/2 cups or so theres no right or wrong I do it to taste). Throw the cherries and bananas in the food processor along with (up to) 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (again, this is a to taste thing I like a lot of cocoa, but you might want to start with 2 Tbsp to start), add between 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk of your choice to facilitate blending (I favour unsweetened almond milk at present, but soy milk works grand too), and blend just until smooth. Enjoy as is if desired, or add some more cherries and cacao nibs and pulse just enough to distribute them but not so much as to break them up. Even if you dont add extra cherries, I highly recommend adding the cacao nibs they add an amazing crunch while evoking the spirit of chocolate chips in a much healthier way. If you really want to, you could put this mixture through your ice cream maker to make it firmer (before adding the extra cherries and cacao nibs at the end of the cycle), but its truly not necessary: as you can see in the photo, the frozen cherry component adds a lot of firmness all by itself. Plus, who wants to wait half an hour to eat ice cream when you could be enjoying it in less than ten minutes? Enjoy.
The Holiday Cookie Project offers up another bar cookie in honour of Vegan MoFo: Pumpkin Pie Brownies.
These are some great tasting brownies, and an excellent choice for any Fall or Winter themed feasting, Holiday or not. Pumpkin makes an appearance in not only the pumpkin pie layer on the top of these luscious treats, but also in the chocolate brownie base. Pumpkin is wonderful in baking, is it not? It adds moisture, fragrance, and a decadent texture and these brownies benefit on all three counts.
Better yet, these brownies improve exponentially with age. They were fine the first day, twice as good the second day and the third day, best of all. They become moister and fudgier. The flavours deepen and become more layered. Who knows what the fourth day might have brought if they had lasted that long. I think these might be the perfect make-ahead dessert and thats always good news, especially with Holiday baking.
I recommend restraint when you make them, so you can experience them fully ripe. And definitely use your favourite, bestest bittersweet chocolate for these: your dedication will be rewarded.
These were universally well liked. Really, really good.
As with all cookies in the Project, you can find these in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
Happy World Vegan Day! It is also time to reveal the most recent Daring Bakers challenge: Macarons. Well, truth be told, it was actually time to reveal the Daring Bakers challenge last Wednesday. Better late than never I say. There was no way I was going to miss out on trying my hand at making vegan macarons, and what better way to celebrate World Vegan Day, the kick off to World Vegan Month.
The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
Macarons were made famous in France, although they may have originally been brought there from Italy. According to Serious Eats, the English word macaroon is derived from the French macaron, which in turn comes from the Italian maccherone, or fine dough. These delicate cookies are traditionally made with almond flour (finely ground almonds), confectioners sugar, and egg whites. To veganise them, I would have to replace five egg whites. After following the early feedback of my fellow vegan Daring Bakers, I decided to use Ener-G egg replacer to do this. For those unfamiliar with this product, Ener-G is basically a mix of starches and chemical leavening to which water is added it is particularly well suited to cookies.
I have to say, I was a bit trepidatious upon embarking on this culinary adventure. Whenever the replacement of a mountain of egg whites is in order, things can get dicey fast. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with the results. I achieved a delicate thin crust and a deliciously chewy centre. I had some difficulty piping the dough initially mine was far too stiff to yield the desired shape. I somewhat rectified this by adding four teaspoons of water to thin the dough a bit. Still, the visual result is not the perfectly smooth dome you might have seen in the pages of Gourmet or the window of a Parisian patisserie or indeed, the heights of biscuit beauty achieved by many of my fellow Daring Bakers. Nonetheless, I was fairly pleased, considering.
I flavoured the dough with vanilla bean and cocoa and whipped up a batch of the delightful Chocolate Mousse from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, to use as my filling. If you would like vanilla macarons, omit the cocoa. I thought Matcha green tea powder would make a great alternative addition.
This is my veganised version of Flemings original recipe.
- 2 ¼ cups Confectioners’ sugar
- 2 cups Almond flour
- 2 Tbsp Granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
- 6 Tbsp water + 1 tsp
- 1 Tbsp Cocoa powder (omit for vanilla macarons or try Matcha powder instead)
- 1 Vanilla bean (seeds only)
- Filling of your choice, prepared.
1. Preheat the oven to 200F. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl.
2. Beat the Ener-G and water with an electric mixer (or stand mixer) until it holds soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the Ener-G mixture and stir gently to combine. Add vanilla bean seeds, and Cocoa (or Matcha) if using. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Don’t overmix.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off. It’s easy to fill your bag if you stand it up in a glass and fold the tops of the bag down over the edges before filling with batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized mounds of batter onto parchment lined baking sheets.
6. Bake the macaron for 5 minutes at 200F. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375F. Once the oven has reached this temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or until lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling. I think any soft filling would work nicely the cookies are delicate so you dont want to be pressing them together too roughly. I chose to use the Chocolate Mousse recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for my filling. You could also try your favourite ganache recipe.
Let there be vegan macarons a plenty.
Its Vegan MoFo II folks, the third annual Vegan Month of Food.
Lets bring it back to dessert today, shall we. It wasnt so long ago that I made my own phyllo pastry from scratch, for the Daring Bakers Strudel challenge. It was somewhat time consuming but, ultimately, it was a lot easier than it looked. Traditional phyllo pastry also happens to be naturally vegan no eggs, dairy or any other animal fats, go figure. If youd like to learn how to make your own phyllo, take a look at my Daring Bakers post otherwise do what I do most of the time and use store bought phyllo.
Youll find store-bought phyllo pastry in the freezer section of your grocery. Ive never seen one yet that wasnt naturally vegan but double check the ingredient list of yours to be safe. This is what is contained in the ingredient list of my phyllo package: enriched wheat flour, water, corn starch, canola oil, dextrose (a type of sugar derived from wheat or corn), salt, wheat gluten, inactive yeast.
The phyllo is stored in your freezer at home until youre ready to use it. When you want to use your phyllo, you will need to let it thaw out mine says either on the counter for five hours or overnight in the fridge. Follow the directions on the package. Ditto for baking times everything will be explained clearly on the box.
My husband came up with dessert idea. He made an out of this world delicious savoury version first (Im working on him to write down the recipe) and then came up with this sweet dessert version and dessert doesnt get much simpler than this.
Simple Chocolate Phyllo:
- 1 package phyllo dough
- good quality dairy-free chocolate chips or bar chocolate, finely chopped (amount variable, up to 2 cups)
- banana, finely sliced (optional, 1 or 2, to taste adds delicious creaminess)
- canola oil (or other light-flavoured oil like vegetable or sunflower)
- cinnamon and/or nutmeg (optional, to taste)
- confectioners sugar
Thaw phyllo pastry as directed on package also preheat oven according to package directions.
Lay two or three sheets of phyllo over top of one another on a large, lightly greased baking sheet (depending on how much dough you like). Brush a small amount of oil over your pastry. Sprinkle chocolate liberally over pastry this part is not rocket science, just use as much or as little as youd like the amount will change depending on how big your phyllo sheet is. I like my chocolate density to amount to approximately 3 or 4 chips per square inch of phyllo. The more chocolate you use the more rich and decadent the dessert will be. Distribute banana slices if using. Sprinkle with spices if using.
Carefully roll up your phyllo until everything is contained in one neat cylinder. Rest the roll on its seam you can either tuck the ends underneath or leave them open. Brush the exterior of the phyllo roll with a small amount of oil.
Slide baking sheet into preheated oven and bake according to package directions, usually about 8-10 minutes it doesnt take long at all. In fact, be careful not to let it burn.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with confectioners sugar not completely necessary but confectioners sugar always makes everything instantly gorgeous. The added sweetness is a nice addition to the tangier Berry Variation below. Slice as desired.
You could also make smaller individual serving rolls and then you dont need to slice it.
Thats it. Told you it was simple. You now have a dessert that will have everyone thinking you spent all day working on it.
Skip the chocolate and use fresh or frozen fruit instead. This dessert works particularly great with blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Sprinkle some cinnamon or cardamom on top of the fruit and enjoy the tastiness.
Behold, a slice of blueberry heaven: