Fudgsicles

Summer is approaching, and with it comes the season of ice cream! I have to admit that ice cream is one of my favourite treats, and I do make an exception to my mainly vegan diet by indulging in the full dairy experience once in a while.

That being said, there are many kinds of vegan ice cream out there. I have tried a few non-dairy ones. Just recently I tried “Screamin’ Brothers” brand, which was quite tasty. Making your own is less expensive, and I believe I have found a gem of a recipe.

I haven’t talked about Plant Powered Families yet on this blog, but rather have been exploring dozens of recipes from it over the last five months. I’ve mentioned Dreena Burton before, who is a Canadian vegan blogger/writer who offers some of the best plant-based recipes I have ever come across. Plant Powered Families is a cookbook directed towards families to help them thrive on plant power. And, holy moly are there lots of great recipes. I have tried several dips, muffins, main dishes, and desserts, and many recipes have become regular rotations in my diet. At least once a month I make Dreena’s banana bread muffins to pack in my lunches. Other favourites include her chickpea salad sandwich filling, and her sweet potato chocolate cake. She also has a lot of good advice for how to eat plant based on a busy schedule, and tips on how to raise your kids on a plant-based diet.

This recipe for Fudsicles is simple, easy to make, and extraordinarily delicious. I’ve had it as a snack coming home from work on a hot day, or as a refreshing dessert.

Here is what I did:

Ingredients
1/2 cup cashew butter
1/4 cup raw sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup nondairy milk (I used coconut, but almond would be good too)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups frozen banana chunks (I used 3 bananas)

I made my own cashew butter by blending 1/2 cup raw cashews until they were smooth. I added all the rest of the ingredients to my high-speed blender and blended the mixture until very smooth. I made sure there were no chunks of banana hidden in the mixture. Then, I poured it into a popsicle mold, put the sticks in, and popped it all in the freezer.

When I wanted to eat a popsicle I ran the mould under the tap until I could wiggle out a popsicle. Putting the whole mixture into a freezer-safe container would also work well, as the ice cream is soft enough. You’d just need to let the ice cream sit out for about five minutes to scoop it nicely.

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Everything I remember about a fudgesicle, but way healthier!

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Broccoli Salad

The last bakery I worked at made soup and salad every day. One day I was blown away by a delicious broccoli cheddar salad; I had never explored broccoli as the central ingredient to a salad. I have recently been making a vegan version of it and I wanted to share it here. Broccoli is a wonderful vegetable filled with vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, potassium, protein, magnesium, iron, and calcium.

This salad is creamy, crunchy, and delicious. It can be served on its own as a light lunch or a snack, or as a side to a veggie burger or any other delicious bbq-type food.

Ingredients for the salad
1 large head of broccoli (about 4 cups of the florets)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
handful pecan pieces, raw or toasted
handful cashews, raw or toasted
2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast

Ingredients for the dressing
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp vegan mayo (I use the brand Vegenaise)
1 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

I started by removing the stems from the broccoli (I save those for juicing) and tearing the broccoli florets into small, bite-sized pieced. I placed them in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients for the salad.

In a small bowl, I whisked all the dressing ingredients together and mixed it with the veggies and nuts.

If the salad seems too liquidy, I add more vegan mayo and nutritional yeast. Also, the quantities of the salad ingredients can be played with. I like having lots of dried cranberries (though in the photo I didn’t have nearly enough), and I am usually generous with the nutritional yeast. I have also subbed hummus for some of the mayo.

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Happy Veganniversary to Me!

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Valentines Day is a special time of year for me because it marks a point in my life whereby I totally switched my way of eating. Three years ago my boyfriend Tom and I decided that we wanted to eat less meat, dairy, and eggs. It is a decision I am happy I made, and I wanted to celebrate by sharing my current thoughts about plant-based eating. This post aims to explore my personal philosophy of veganism while encouraging others to eat more plant-based.

Ultimately, eating plants is something I do for my health and for the environment. I could go on and on about the reasons I went plant-based, but there are lots of resources that can explain it more thoroughly. The documentary that influenced me the most was Vegucated, which is on Netflix. A few other interesting ones are Food Matters, Forks over Knives, and Food Inc. In a nutshell, the meat and dairy industry create more CO2 than the transportation industry, and use way more land and water than any other food production. There are also lots of unappealing things about the fish and seafood industry, one example being excessive pollution caused by the boats that catch the fish. Click here  for more information about these points. When it comes down to it, I do not want to support the meat industry, and we vote for what we want with how we spend our money. 

Furthermore, eating a wholefoods plant-based (wfpb) diet has consistently shown to be associated with lower rates of Type 2 Diabetes, certain types of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and the list goes on. I found it extremely difficult not to take action on my eating choices when I knew the impact the Standard American Diet can have on the environment and my health (more consumption of meat, dairy, and sugar than ever before in human history).

In addition to my health and the environment, I also care about animal welfare. Besides, cooking vegan is fun, and it is eye-opening to new food and methods of food preparation. For me, making this decision was a no-brainer. 

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My practice is that I eat vegan as much as I can with some exceptions. First and foremost, when I visit another person’s house I eat what they serve me. I have been allergic to peanuts my whole life, and I have seen the panic and disruption that occurs as a result of it. Asking someone who is not accustomed to a vegan diet to prepare a vegan meal while considering a peanut allergy is a hassle. I want to be a respectful and gracious guest, so I welcome any food when I am a guest at someone else’s house. As long as I will not go into anaphylactic shock. If the meal they prepared happens to be vegan, great!

Another exception that I make is at restaurants. When I made the decision to eat vegan I did not want to feel restricted, and three years in, I am constantly astonished by the lack of vegan options at most restaurants. I want to eat and not be hungry an hour later, and I want to enjoy what I am eating with the people with whom I am eating; eating is and should be a pleasurable experience.  As a result, I have certainly been seen ordering eggs or dairy at a restaurant, though I do choose vegan and vegetarian whenever possible, and will choose a vegetarian or vegan restaurant when it is my choice. Ultimately, the more people that put demand on pbwf eating, the more accessible this food will be at restaurants.

The final exception is when the food is free, and this is what I mean: in choosing to eat this food, no additional money is required to pay for it. For example, over the last few years I have worked in restaurants and bakeries where the employees can eat whatever they want, or it is expected that employees try the food. I have always made a big effort to eat vegetarian in these cases, but eating vegan was not always possible, though I did try.

Yes, I eat meat, dairy, and eggs from time to time, but I eat 100% vegan at home, and that is what works for me.  When I do stray, I can taste the potency of meat, dairy, and eggs like never before; I appreciate it way more than I did when I ate it every day. As time goes on, I don’t find myself wanting meat, dairy, and eggs as much as I did before, especially meat. I could go the rest of my life without eating meat and would be totally content. And, there are so many alternatives to typically animal-centered meals, I haven’t even tried them all. But, if I truly have a craving for eggs, it’s not like I’ll never have them again.

What I am trying to say is that why do we have to look at the world so black and white? Why do we see people as herbivores or omnivores? What I have done for three years as a flexitarian and opportunivore has worked well for me, and I believe it (or variations of it) could work for many people out there. Even simply reducing one’s intake of animal products is a huge success in my view. 

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When I am eating vegan for a long period of time I honestly do not miss meat, eggs, and dairy. I have equipped myself with the tools to create delicious meals and snacks to enjoy every day. My taste buds and my body love it; I am thriving, not depriving, on this food.

Some people claim that eating vegan adds a lot more preparation, but really, eating healthy, wholesome meals always adds more preparation than re-heating a pre-made meal. And, some people wonder if eating plants from across the world is just as bad for the environment; the answer is no, according to my friend who is doing a Master’s level research project in Environmental Sciences, comparing vegans and loco-vore omnivores (ie. the 500 mile diet). Eating local is a good choice too, but the animal industry still has its toll on the environment, more so than the produce shipped from across the globe.

My philosophy is that every moment that I spend eating wfpb is an investment in the planet and my longevity; I want to live a disease-free and active life-style as long as possible, and I do not want to be a burden on the health-care system or my loved ones. This is a proactive stance I am taking to my health.

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So, where do I get my protein? Iron? Calcium? B-12? Plants! Beans, lentils, soy, tofu, tempeh, seitan, whole grains, nuts, seeds, nutritional yeast, dark chocolate, leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables. I eat gluten because it is a protein; I juice or blend almost every day (which is easy-peasy); I hardly ever eat plain raw veggies by themselves because that is boring; and, I make lots of food from scratch (see my other blog posts and references below). I make time for this important ritual we do about three times a day; I ate vegan while completing a Master’s degree, and continue to eat vegan as I train regularly at the climbing gym (and I’m stronger than ever before, I might add).

And, finally, I get my blood tested about once a year to ensure my iron and B-12 are in check; besides, even if I found out I was low in something, taking a supplement now and then is way less expensive than the medical bills and prescriptions from a life-long poor diet. And, it is totally possible to get all the nutrition you need from a variety of plant-based foods.

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Three years ago around this time I knew that there was only one way to go: plant-based. At first I had no idea what I was doing, and thought it would be impossible to live without cheese and eggs. If you had told me four or five years ago that I would become a vegan eater I would have been confused and would not have believed you. I wrote this post because I want to make sure as many people as possible know that the world is not black and white, and neither is our diet. Our species evolved to survive on whatever was available, and now there is so much food at our fingertips that we have a choice to make about what goes into our bodies. I choose this ethical, environmentally-friendly, inexpensive, and healthful lifestyle that can have a real impact on our future.

And, if I can do it with a peanut allergy, I can only imagine how much easier it could be without one.

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Cookbook Recommendations

Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr
Crazy Sexy Juice by Kris Carr
Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon
Plant Powered Families by Dreena Burton
Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan by Dreena Burton
Let them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton
Thug Kitchen by Matt Holloway and Michael Davis
My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season by Sarah Britton
The Vegan Cookbook by Paragon Books

Blogs I follow
Ohsheglows.com
kriscarr.com
plantpoweredkitchen.com
antidotesmagazine.com
stephdavis.co

Veggie Pâté

Happy New Year everyone!

After a super rejuvenating visit home, I’m back in Calgary for my first winter out west. I truly had a wonderful Christmas holiday visiting friends and family, and although it was busy as heck, I feel extremely thankful for having such fun and caring people in my life. Being in a new city is exciting, but sometimes I miss having the familiarity and history that I have with people and places back home. The visit was just what I needed to start off the new year.

Since I’ve been back from my trip, it has taken a while to get back into the kitchen routine. Let’s be honest; eating plant-based can require a lot more prep time than the standard American diet (SAD). Especially if you want to eat on the cheap, making your own beans, hummus, pâtés, nut milks, nut cheeses, etc, can take up a good chunk of your regular routine (although if money allows, you can usually buy these items). Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of cooking I feel like I have to do in the week to make whole foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And, sometimes I feel as though a lot of vegan bloggers and writers don’t address how much more work it can be.

On the other hand, I was recently watching an interview with Canadian plant-based cookbook author Dreena Burton, and she brought up a good point that eating home-cooked foods, whether or not it is plant-based, takes more time than to just reheat a pre-made meal. Eating healthy, no matter what, takes a bit of elbow grease. I believe that the extra time I am investing in home-cooked wholesome food is an investment in my long-term health. And, that is what I want to remind myself during the times I feel overwhelmed by the prep work.

And that’s all I will say about that. I just wanted to address this issue that I believe many vegan writers don’t. The recipes I write about here do take time and prep, but they are cheap and worth the effort if you can find the time to make them.

Today I want to write about a recipe for veggie pâté, which is a delicious vegan food that I honestly cannot get enough of. When I was living in Quebec, veggie pâté was available at any grocery store, but this is not the case in Ontario or Alberta. So, like many other vegans out there, making it myself is a good alternative, and it freezes well (hello pâté sandwiches for weeks!). You can put this stuff in salads, wraps, sandwiches, and crackers. Here’s my recipe, inspired by many different recipes from all around.

Ingredients
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds (baked from raw at 350*F until golden and smelling, around 10 minutes)
1 small sweet potato or regular potato, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp sage
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

I started by preheating the oven to 350*F. In a food processor I pulsed the sweet potato, carrot, and onion until it was almost a puree. I transferred the mixture to a bowl and stirred in the flour, nutritional yeast, sage, oregano, paprika, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, and pepper. I transferred the mixture back into the food processor and added half the sunflower seeds. I blended the mixture until it was a uniform consistency. I transferred the mixture back into the bowl and stirred in the rest of the sunflower seeds. The mixture was baked in a lined and greased loaf pan for 45 minutes, but it could take up to one hour. The pâté is done when it feels firm on the top and the edges are golden. Keep an eye on the pâté at around 40 minutes, as the edges can over-cook, and you may need to add some tin foil for the last bit of cooking.

My favourite way to eat veggie pâté is on toast with hummus as a base and avocado and sprouts on top. I had no sprouts, but you get the idea in the picture below. Best breakfast, lunch, or snack EVER.

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Dehydrated Goodies: Powdered Veggie Stock and Date-Nut Chewies

Merry Christmas!

December can be such a busy month! I’ve been juggling two jobs while squeezing in time for getting into the holiday spirit and getting my Christmas shopping done. This year I bought my gifts with a theme in mind: hand-made and local. I bought lots of gifts at Market Collective, which is a fun event in Calgary that hosts local artists selling their creations. I also decided to make a couple things in my dehydrator, and I’d like to share them with you today.

I got these recipes from a book called Dry It – You’ll Like it! by Gen Macmaniman. I received it for Christmas one year, and it is a great guide for drying fruits, veggies, and herbs, and includes instructions for building your own dehydrator.

Dehydrating is fun, and a great way to save produce that is in season, or that may go bad before you have a chance to use it fresh. At Thanksgiving I dehydrated all the extra fresh herbs I had: sage, parsley, and thyme. I also made cran-apple fruit leather, and go absolutely cuckoo for dehydrated apples and bananas. In my opinion, having a dehydrator is perfect for anybody who likes experimenting in the kitchen, and who is looking to incorporate more raw foods in their diet. Check out this recipe for rosemary seed crackers from a previous post.

Please note that if you are considering buying a dehydrator, look at product reviews before purchasing, as the first one I had lasted only a month past the warranty date, and it looks like I’m not the only one that happened to. It’s also great to buy a dehydrator that you can control the temperature.

So, back to my little Christmas project. I made soup stock and date-nut chewies to include in my gifts to my family. Here is what I did:

Veggie Soup Stock
Yields around 20 tablespoons of powder, or 20 cups of stock (when added to 1 cup of boiling water per 1 tablespoons of stock)

Ingredients
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
4 celery stalks, cut into sticks (I also dehydrated the leaves)
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup spinach

Note: You may use a wide variety of vegetables. The book suggests cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, green beans, horseradish, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, peppers, spinach, tomato, or watercress. I chose what I thought would go together nicely.

Directions
I placed all the vegetables in one layer on dehydrator sheets. I have four sheets, and all these veggies took two rounds of dehydrating to complete. They were dehydrated at 135*F for about 6 hours. Time may vary depending on how thick the vegetables are, how crowded the trays are, and how juicy the vegetables were to begin with. I removed the vegetables that felt completely dry, and continued to dehydrate the ones that were still damp. You can add more vegetables once there is room on the trays. To check the vegetables, remove the heat source and let the veggies cool down first. If it feels dry, it probably is.

Next, I placed all the dehydrated vegetables in a high-speed blender and blended until the vegetables were a powder. This took a couple minutes of blending. Be sure to let the blender rest before opening it, as the powder is very fine and smokes into the air.

I divided the stock into two plastic baggies of 10 tbsp each, and added the keep-dry packets that come with sushi and other dry foods. I didn’t want the stock powder to be exposed to any moisture.

I wrote the following instructions on each baggie: “Mix 1-2 tbsp of stock with 1 cup of boiling water and let rest for about a minute. Add ground flaxseed to thicken, if desired. Use in soups, stews, and gravy.”

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Voila! Home-made powdered vegetable stock! Because it’s dry, it’ll last for a long time. Store it away from sunlight and moisture.

Date-Nut Chewies
Ingredients
3/4 cup oil (I used canola oil)
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 Macintosh apples (or another kind of apple), cut into pieces, skin on
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups pitted dates
1 cup raw almonds (recipe called for walnuts)

In my high-speed blender I mixed the oil, maple syrup, apples, and vanilla extract until smooth. Then, I added the rest of the ingredients and blended until smooth. The original recipe indicates that you should use ground oats and sunflower seeds, but I did not do this because of how powerful my blender is. Plus, I thought some chunks would be OK.

Next, I spread the mixture out on two dehydrator sheets, making them pretty thick (about 1/2 inch). I dehydrated them for around 6 hours, then cut them into small squares, separated them from each other, and continued to dry them for another 8 hours.

These chewies are a great snack that resembles an energy ball. I was expecting it to be more candy-like or cookie-like, but it definitely tastes like a healthy snack. The first one I tried, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure if I should give them as gifts, but after having a few more, the taste grew on me. This recipe made a lot, so I’m glad they turned out!

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