White Bean-ball Wedding Soup

Well, it’s “Monsoon June” here in Calgary. At least, it has been for the last couple weekends. I’ve been itching to use my new hiking boots and forwent a day trip to the mountains this Saturday because of rain. As such, a rainy day meal was in order. And, with company coming over, I thought I’d pull out a new recipe.

I’ve owned Thug Kitchen for a while now. It was given to me by my cousin  Leigh and her husband John for Christmas one year, and it is certainly time that I post about it.

The first noticeable thing about this cookbook is that it is written in a bossy and blunt tone of voice, using profanity in a humorous way; even the instructions of what to do (“eat like you give a f*ck, as the tagline says). Beyond this comical twist, the book has a lot of interesting recipes, and  how-to’s for basic plant-based eating, such as the ABCs of a good salad, rice/noodle bowls, and smoothies. It is a great cookbook for beginner vegan eaters, most certainly. It has some great looking soup and salsa recipes too that I am itching to try. And, the thing I really like about this cookbook is that it strays away from the stereotype of being vegan as a feminine or a hippie sort of thing, having a more macho vibe. I think this book can reach a different audience than say, Plant-Powdered Families by Dreena Burton.

OK, let’s get to it. I made the recipe called Wedding Soup with White Bean Balls and Kale.  I served it with a baguette, and it fed three of us, leaving enough leftovers for someone to have a lunch the next day. The bean-balls are great on their own too, which meant that we had more broth than bean-balls left over.

Here is my version of the recipe in the book. I changed some quantities and instead of a “no-salt all purpose seasoning” (which involved a google search to see what that is), I made up quantities for some other spices, which went well with the bean-balls.

Ingredients for the bean-balls
1 large onion, diced
3 cups of white beans (canellini or kidney), I used 3 small cans, (398 ml each)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used fresh bread crumbs that I made from the ends of bread and froze)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp olive oil (I used a truffle olive oil, YUM)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp each dried thyme, basil, and oregano
1/4 tsp each onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

Ingredients for the soup
1 tsp cooking oil (grapeseed, canola, or olive)
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup small dried pasta (I used bow ties, but anything that size or smaller would work)
9 cups vegetable broth (I often thin out my broth with water to make the broth last longer)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups chopped kale (the recipe called for 4 cups but I thought it might be too much)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

I started by preheating the oven to 400*F and preparing a large baking sheet with parchment paper on top.

In a large bowl I mashed the beans until they formed a paste with a small amount of chunks. I then added 1/4 cup of the diced onion (reserving the rest for the soup), and the rest of the bean-ball ingredients, stirring until combined. I formed the bean-balls into the size of golf balls, making a total of 26 balls. They could be slightly bigger or smaller too. I put the bean-balls in the oven for 25 minutes, flipping them after about 15 minutes.

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While the bean-balls were in the oven I started on the soup. I heated the oil in a large pot and cooked the onions, carrots, and celery all at once for 3-5 minutes. I added the garlic and let it saute for another couple minutes. I then added the broth and let it come to a boil. The pasta was added and cooked until still a tad al dente, as it will continue to soften as it sits in the soup. I turned off the heat and added the lemon juice, kale, parsley, salt, and pepper.

To serve, I placed 4 bean-balls in a bowl and added the soup on top. The bean-balls soften quite quickly, so I let everyone serve themselves so the soup didn’t sit too long before being consumed.

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This was a fun new recipe for me; I quite enjoyed making it. And, it was well received by all. It made a great lunch the next day, too!

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading 🙂

Stay tuned for some road trip adventures coming up! I’m not sure how often I will get to post, but I’d sure like to, as this is a great space for a travel blog.

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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!

Creamy Squash, Brussels Sprout, and Chickpea Casserole

Hello everyone! I write this post still full from eating this recipe for dinner. I was looking to use the squash I bought last weekend, and I had a vision of making something like Mac & Cheese, only using vegetables instead of pasta. This recipe was delicious for a Sunday night dinner, paired with some herb-infused quinoa.

Ingredients
1/3 cup cashews, soaked*
4 cups peeled and cubed squash, such as butternut or kabocha
2 cups brussels sprouts, bottoms removed and halved
1 small onion, sliced or diced
2 tbsp oil
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)
3-4 tbs nutritional yeast (or more)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups bread crumbs** (if using a finely ground bread crumb, 1 cup may be enough. Mine were fresh, and as such there was more air in my measuring cup)
1 tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste

*Tip: forgot to soak your cashews? Simply pour boiling water over top of them for a few minutes, drain, and you’re good to go.
**Tip: freeze the ends of your bread and throw them in a food processor when you have enough to make a bag of bread crumbs. I keep a bag ready to go in the freezer.

I started by preheating the oven to 400*F. I placed the raw squash, brussels sprouts and onion in an oven-safe casserole dish and tossed them with the 2 tbsp oil, and about 1 teaspoon of salt. This mixture baked uncovered in the oven for 40 minutes, and I occasionally stirred the vegetables so that the top didn’t burn.

While the vegetables were in the oven I used my blender to puree the soaked cashews, almond milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. This is a simple cashew sauce that can be played around with.

In a small bowl I mixed together the bread crumbs, 1 tbp oil, and some pepper.

When the squash was tender (a fork inserted easily), I removed the dish from the oven and stirred in the chickpeas and cashew sauce, and baked the casserole for another 10 minutes. I decided that I didn’t want to risk the chickpeas drying out over the 40 minute roasting period, so I added them later.

I spread the bread crumb mixture on the top of the vegetables and broiled the casserole at 500*F until the top was golden.

Another one-dish delight.

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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