Friday, April 24, 2009

5 tips for the new vegetarian cook

If you check out some of the classic vegetarian cookbooks out there, you are often confronted with recipes using dried beans or asking for odd ingredients you aren't sure what it is or if you can substitute on the fly. It almost feels like these books were written for someone that doesn't have a full time job, school and obligations. Don't feel guilty by taking shortcuts. You don't have a kitchen full of aides that can chop up, prepare and soak things for you in advance!

I've compiled a list of tips to make your life easier, fellow veg head.

1. 1 cup dried beans = 3 cups cooked beans. Nothing irks me more than some of these vegetarian cookbooks that make an assumption that you have the time to start beans from dried to cooked. Although I do like to plan my meals in advanced on the weekend, my reality is completely different during week days. I grab my cookbooks for inspiration, and most of these always reference using dried beans. Well my friend, the world won't explode and your dish won't be a disaster if you opt for convenience and use canned beans. Just remember the rule, 1 part dry equals 3 parts cooked.

2. 1/3 cup water with 1tsp grounded flax seed = 1 egg. Eggs provide leavening and binding to dishes when used in baking. Flax seed does the job in adding nutrition and binding to your baking. Don't have flax seed? No problem, replace it with the equivalent in mashed banana or apple sauce.

3. Beans does not need to mean farty time. Do you get a little bit apprehensive with eating beans for lunch for fear of alienating your colleagues? Beano can save you from accidentally dropping a dirty bomb in a meeting. But if you want to avoid gassing yourself to death, consider using ground cumin seeds (in drier dishes) or kombu (in soups) to make the butt symphony shorter.

4. Put your whole grains and nuts (for cooking) in the freezer. Bran in whole wheat flour, brown rice and other grains will go rancid fairly quickly if you don't use them up fast enough. You'll notice the nose curling smell when you open up the bag. Rancid food = bad for you. Save your pennies and stuff your flour, grains and nuts in the freezer.

5. Powered dried mushrooms will make you say adieu to your meat cravings. It's crazy how much flavor dried mushrooms can impart to your dishes like stuffed peppers, rice, pilafs etc. Just grab a small handfull, grind them up in your coffee grinder and add it into the dish when it's simmering. It will add lots of that umami goodness and will take it to the next level of yum.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Review: Vega Smoothie Infusion

After suffering sticker shock every time I head off to the health food store to restock my Vega Whole Food Optimizer stash, I decided to look at this slightly more affordable smoothie supplement.

The former costs $40 for 7 shakes ($5.71 each), and this one clocks in at $29 for 15 shakes ($1.94 each). Before you go thinking that the individual packets are cheaper, think again, they only offer half portions, so you are in fact, not only causing more waste but also paying almost double for the same.

Not as nutritionally dense as the Vega Whole Food Optimizer, the Vega Smoothie Infusion still packs a mean nutritional punch that equates most veggie friendly supplements out there. Made with rich raw organic super foods like pea protein, hemp protein, sprouted flax seeds, spirulina, wheat grass, alfalfa sprouts, barley grass, spinach, sprouted broccoli, kale, kelp, Dulce and chicory. It offers an instant boost of complete protein, fiber, Omega 3 EFAs and green foods.

In comparison, the Whole Food Optimizer exceeds daily vitamin requirements, as for the Smoothie Infusion will cover about 1/3 of your daily needs. Both are alkaline forming, and helps reduce nutritional and environmental stress on your body. It is completely vegan and free of all allergenic foods like wheat, gluten, soy and nuts.

Taste and texture wise, it's very similar to the Vega Whole Food Optimizer, but only comes in 1 flavor. It's sweet and berry like. I love it and think it does a great job if you already eat other fortified foods like soy milk, cereals, enriched breads and plenty of vegetables!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Vegetarian Experiment: My First Fully Vegan Friday

I've just completed my first full vegan Friday. It wasn't intentional, it sort of happened that I didn't have eggs or dairy today. I feel pretty good. I did have to eat out twice to be able to do this.

Today's menu was:

Quick oats with soy milk + vega banana drink & coffee


Kombucha tea (yum!), raw vegan spring roll and raw vegan veggie maki

Apple, Ginger Soother by the Ginger People

Tempeh burger with a salad
Vegan Carrot Cake and soy-coconut milk latte

Not bad! :)

Maybe this can become a routine!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Boston Pizza - Doing the Vegetarian Friendly Menu Right

A friend of mine asked me recently to write up a post on good vegetarian AND omnivore friendly restaurants. Being the restaurant eater that I am, I have to say that few mainstream eateries fit the bill with any real sincerity. In the worst offenders, I'd point the finger to The Keg. Sure, they'll all have the green salad, but having items on the menu that doesn't require a "please hold the bacon" or "what's the broth made of?" is nice.

Boston Pizza does a brilliant job at doing just that. About 25% of the menu is vegetarian and offers even vegan options (cheese less veggie pizza, anyone?). The little icons next to the dish designates vegetarian meals. There's even in a section devoted to vegetarian pizzas. Imagine my bliss, no questions to ask the waiter, and no need to let your omnivore friends that you've got dietary restrictions.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quinoa, Red Lentil and Portobello Mushroom Stuffed Peppers

I love stuffed peppers. After reading a recipe from Vegetarian Times on stuffed bell peppers using quinoa, I decided to improvise my own version including red lentils.

For this recipe, you'll need:

-1 large onions, diced
-6 large portobello mushrooms, diced
-1 cup quinoa, rinced and dry roasted
-1 cup red lentils, sorted
-1 798ml can of crushed tomatoes
-3 tablespoon Braggs seasonings
-3 tablespoons saltless seasonings
-1 tablespoon smoked paprika
-1 cup vegetarian beef broth
-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
-2 tablespoon olive oil
-1/3 cup dried mushrooms whole - ground in a coffee grinder (should give about 2 tablespoons in powder form)
-8 bell peppers, washed, halved lenght wise, seeds and piths removed

In a dutch oven, heat up the olive oil and cook the onions until translucent. Add in the portobello mushroom, powered mushroom, braggs and spices and cook down until 1/3 original volume. Add in water to help the process if necessary. Then add in the quinoa, lentils, tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 30 minutes, or until the quinoa and lentils are cooked through. Add water if necessary. Stir in Parmesan cheese and spoon mixture into bell peppers. Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.

Heat oven at 350F and roast stuffed peppers for 30 minutes. Once the peppers are cooked through, they're ready to serve. They freeze well and make great lunches.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Buddha's Hand - A most unusual fragrant citrus fruit!

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
At my beloved Jean-Talon Market, there's wonderful fine grocery called Fruiterie Chez Louis, which holds an impressive selection of rare and exotic fruits and vegetables. This is where I buy my weekly stash of blue potatoes, passion fruit, mangoustan and lychees.

Today's find is called Buddha's Hand, they were selling this beautiful citrus at the cash. I got to sample this delightfully fragrant fruit. It's about the size of an adult hand and the many fingers are responsible for it's hand like appearance. There's no pith per say and the skin, although looking like lemon is soft and edible. The inside of the "fingers" have a soft floral, sweet and bitter flavor that's like a candied lemon. The flesh can be used as zest, and it has tons of it. It can also be candied or preserved in sugar.

Fruiterie Chez Louis
222, Place du Marché-du-Nord,
Marché Jean-Talon, Montréal

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bitchin’ Kitchen Cookbook Review

Part cookbook, part Victorian style photo arrangements of rockabilly 50s homemaker dresses, pseudo food porn and largely caricatured characters, it makes no apologies for being in your face and raw. This cookbook is not for the faint of heart. The writing is true to Nadia G’s St-Leonard conversational tone with many, many hybrid Italo-Anglo-Franco words perppered liberally throughout.

Nadia G’s fans will not be disappointed. The cookbook delivers with simple recipes and clear skiaffing instructions that make meal creation for two simple. I tried my hand at the watermelon and feta salad recipe and whipped up the dish in less than 5 minutes. It’s a great little cookbook but really – what will make it a noticeable addition to your shelf is its originality and the pictures of Nadia in her over the top costumes and life advice!

P.S. Although this cookbook does contain many veggie friendly recipes, it is in fact for omnivores.

Check out her website here: Bitchin' Kitchen
Subscribre to her podcasts

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Review : Veggie Patch Falafel from Costco

I'll admit to it, I'm a bonafide Costco addict. Yes, I do need 48 rolls of toilet paper!! And what about 2.2 pounds of falafel? Well, yes, I do too!

I've seen these, along side the Broccoli Bites, which seem like a health food disaster, but enough about that.

I tried out the falafels in a pita with homemade hummus and salsa (I know, I know, I like breaking the rules here!) and they were delicious. They freeze well and are not that bad, with 5 grams of protein for 4 chickpea balls, and are only 45 calories each. These can easily be reheated on the BBQ, microwave or oven. Just heat through and serve.

Traditional falafel are made with a combo of chickpeas and fava beans but these are solely made with chickpeas, so they are safe for those with fava bean allergies.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I *heart* Veggie Patch's Chick'n Nuggets

When I was a kid, chicken nuggets were a lunch time staple - yes, I know it's chicken slurry and very un-vegetarian. I stopped eating that stuff in my teenage years... I saw these at the local supermarket and decided to give these meatless nuggets a try.

These, oven baked, are very convincing faux chicken nuggets but you need to have them with ketchup for the full effect. It's a nice little "junk food" treat when you are too busy to cook and want some comfort.

Love it!