Monday, August 18, 2014

Restaurant Review: Sophie Sucree in Montreal....

I’m a bit behind in my Restaurant reviews and so I thought I’d post one today. Last year when my husband and I were in Montreal we ate like kings. Seriously, you might not think it but Montreal is a vegan mecca! So many wonderful vegan restaurants, and so many great options all around, but one of our most favorite places was a little vegan bakery called Sophie Sucree we loved it so much in fact that we ate there twice.

Before we even left for the trip I already had Sophie Sucree on my radar, but on the first day that we ended up eating there it was kind of by accident. You see, we’d been planning to hit up another vegan restaurant on Rue St Denis - but when we got there the place was closed, not to reopen until 5pm! It was about 3pm, and we were starving considering we hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast and we were pretty tired since we’d walked all the way up from the St Lawrence River. But what can you do? We decided to come back later for dinner and head somewhere else for lunch, only the second place we went to ended up closing at 3pm! And then the third place we went to apparently didn’t exist or else the address on HappyCow was completely wrong. As it happens Sophie Sucree was just a block or two away from the ghost restaurant and as it had started to rain, and we were very hungry, very tired, and very frustrated - not to mention damp - it became our salvation.

The little bakery/café is small but warm and inviting. The owner is super friendly and very sweet - we had a long chat with her, mostly about how she’d started her business after being inspired by the vegan cuisine on a trip she took to Vancouver. Talking to her was so nice, and I felt really inspired by her story. Since nobody else was there when we were there we had our choice of tables. We took a seat near the window and ordered two iced coffees with almond milk and man were they good! Being able to order coffee with almond milk or any non-dairy milk is always such an amazing luxury for us when on vacation.

After browsing the display case I have to say we went a bit crazy. Everything just looked so good, and the presentations were so cute. I had read online that their cinnamon buns were ‘to die for’ so of course we ordered one each. Then we split a Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream, and the most heavenly fruit tart I’ve ever had! Sophie Sucree also sometimes has a few meal options, and that day they were offering a vegetable pesto Panini sandwich which we also decided to split - hey, we were ravenous!

Everything was amazing, and the service was fast and super friendly, and the price was very reasonable. It was so nice to lounge in a French Canadian Café and watch the rain drizzle down. After we had finished eating we thanked the staff told them how much we loved everything and appreciated it, and promised to come back once more before we left the city.

So, on our last day in Montreal, actually our very last moments - we’d already checked out of our hostel and were headed to New York - we swung by Sophie Sucree and ordered some pastry to enjoy before we hit the road. Once again we got iced coffees with almond milk - although I neglected to photograph them. Then we tore into some delicious doughnuts - I wish I could remember what kind they were but it was too long ago and I can’t exactly tell from the picture. In any case they were amazing, they were super light, fluffy, moist and delicious, probably some of the best vegan doughnuts I’ve ever had - not dense and chewy like some vegan doughnuts. Because we couldn’t help ourselves we also ordered a chocolate brownie which was rich, moist and delicious. So damn tasty! And then we ordered two cupcakes, I can’t remember exactly what flavor they were not, but I believe they were both chocolate with different kinds of frosting. One with a blood orange frosting and one with a rose frosting maybe? I wish I could remember, but what I do remember is they were damn good. Again they were light and fluffy, and the frosting was creamy, airy, and sweet without being too sweet. In fact, none of the baked goods at Sophie Sucree were overwhelmingly sweet, which was perfect.

I’m so sad I don’t live in Montreal, because if I did I’d be in here all the time eating stuff. I’ve eaten a lot of vegan baked goods in my time and I honestly think Sophie Sucree makes the best, the only viable rival they have is Edible Flours in Vancouver but I think Sucree might have even them beat. Absolutely perfect desserts that simply cannot be missed if you’re planning a trip to Montreal. Another cool thing about them is that they cater to various food allergies and so they offer Gluten-free baked goods as well, so make sure you hit them up if you’re ever in Montreal, I promise you will not be sorry!

PS: They also make cakes to order, such as birthday cakes, wedding cakes and so on, which is something really cool to keep in mind because finding a vegan wedding cake or a vegan birthday cake in any city is usually a hard ask.

Sophie Sucree
167 Ave des Pins (St Laurent)
Montreal, Quebec
Phone # 514-823-5865
Hours - Monday - Closed
Tue-Wed and Sun 11am-6pm,
Thur-Fri 11am-9pm
Sat 11am-8pm

Friday, August 15, 2014

Spicy Beef and Spinach Lasagna...

It’s been unseasonably cool here the past week. Mostly the days are warm but in the evening it cools considerably and there’s a good breeze. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I love cooler weather - fall is my favorite time of year - but this kind of weather really makes me want to eat ‘out of season’ you know? The other day when it was particularly grey and quite cool I suddenly felt in the mood for lasagna. I have about a million different lasagna recipes in my arsenal but I didn’t want to use any of them. Instead, I wanted to get creative, so I took a look around and found a package of Beyond Meat Feisty Beef Crumbles that I’d bought when they were on sale but never used. I don’t normally buy these kinds of things but since they were new, my husband and I thought we’d try them out but I just never knew what to use them in, until I realized they would be perfect in lasagna.

Since I was only making a lasagna for my husband and I, and I only had one package of beef and one package of cheese I made a small one using my 8x8 baking pan. You could probably double the recipe for a larger lasagna if you needed to, but this dish is super hearty and filling, we only ate one slice each which is a real anomaly for us - especially my husband who’s been known to turn into Garfield at the site of lasagna. This recipe exceeded my expectations and I was quite happy with the end result. So next time you need to make a really hearty, meaty, cheesy lasagna for the omnivore in your life give this one a shot - provided they don’t mind a little heat of course!

Spicy Beef and Spinach Lasagna 

6 Square Lasagna Sheets (8x8)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion Diced
8 Cloves Garlic Minced
*** 1 Package Feisty Beyond Meat Beef Crumbles thawed (Or your favorite vegan beef)
1 ½ tsp Crushed Fennel Seeds
14oz Can Diced Tomatoes
8oz Can Tomato Sauce
1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp Dried Basil
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 tsp White Pepper
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tbsp Capers
3-4 Tbsp Minced Pepperoni Peppers
10oz Fresh Baby Spinach
*** 1 Package Daiya Mozzarella Shreds (Or your favorite vegan Mozzarella)

Tomato Sauce for Topping 

1 8oz Can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
4oz water
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp minced pepperoni peppers
½ bunch minced parsley
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
1 tsp Dried Basil


- Set a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. When boiling add the lasagna sheets and boil for 5-6 minutes until the sheets become soft and pliable. They don’t need to be fully cooked. Drain them, and rinse them.


- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute for 5-6 minutes until softened.

- Add in the crushed fennel seeds and the beef crumbles. Saute for 5 minutes, until crumbles have browned.

- Add in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, capers, red pepper flakes, and Pepperoni Peppers. Simmer for about 10 minutes then remove from the heat.


- Heat the olive oil in a small pot on the stove. Add in the garlic and saute for 4 minutes until golden.

- Add in all the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Then decrease the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.

- Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use.


- Preheat oven to 350'F

- Lightly grease an 8x8 baking pan. Layer in 2 of the lasagna noodles. Cover the lasagna noodles with enough spinach to cover them. Layer in enough of the meat filling mixture to cover the spinach. Then sprinkle enough of the cheese over the filling to cover.

- Layer 2 more lasagna sheets overtop, and repeat with remaining spinach, meat filling and cheese.

- Layer the last 2 lasagna noodles on top. Cover the top with the tomato sauce, and then cover in foil and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Alternately you can bake the lasagna without the sauce and spoon the sauce over top after it finishes baking.

- Once finished remove from the oven, garnish with fresh minced parsley, then cut and serve! Preferably with a nice side salad.

*** Note - Just because I used Beyond Meat crumbles and Daiya Cheese doesn’t mean you have to. Use whatever you favorite vegan meat and cheese are, though if you use a plainly seasoned vegan beef you may want to add a bit more heat to the dish, it’s up to you. Something to keep in mind that this dish is gluten-free and soy free - as long as you use gluten-free lasagna noodles -because both beyond meat and daiya are gluten and soy free products. If you're using other vegan products and gluten or soy is an issue you'll have to read the labels to make sure.*** 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Scrambled Pintos...

This morning I was feeling a ravenous hunger. I knew my typical breakfast of a bowl of fruit or a smoothie just wasn’t going to cut it, and besides I was really craving something savory. Tofu scramble was sounding really good to me, the only problem was that I didn’t have any tofu. I briefly considered making a tempeh scramble until I realized I was all out of tempeh too! I flipped through my wealth of cook books in desperate search of another breakfast option but everything I saw was sweet, or bready and I didn’t want that. Then I remembered Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Mad-Genius invention of Chickpea Scramble from her latest book “Isa Does It” and I knew that was what I wanted.

I went eagerly to the kitchen, opened up the pantry and would you believe I didn’t have a single can of chickpeas. The girl who loves chickpeas, who eats them all the time, had somehow unknowingly ran out! Now I was beginning to get frustrated. I took a look around the kitchen and saw a few things I had a lot of were potatoes, spinach, and onions, but how to make a breakfast out of that. I took another look in the pantry, took inventory of the beans I did have, and thought to myself “Hey, if a scramble can work with chickpeas, why not another bean?” and that, is how the Pinto Scramble was born.

Man, this exceeded all expectations, and even my husband - who’s a notorious bean-hater, but getting better on that front - loved it. Now I want to try making different kinds of scrambles with all sorts of beans to see what kind of awesome combinations I can come up with. In the meantime I hope you try this one out, it’s super delicious, healthy, hearty and comes together in a flash. Serve it however you like - on a piece of lightly buttered toast with some fresh sliced tomatoes, on it’s own, or as I did with some fried potatoes, corn tortillas and extra hot sauce!

Scrambled Pintos 

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Garlic Cloves Minced
½ Red Onion Minced
1 15 oz Can Pinto Beans rinsed and drained
½ tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Ground Cumin
½ tsp Ground Turmeric
½ tsp Sea Salt
Black Pepper to taste
1-2 tsp Hot Sauce (or to taste)
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Dill Minced
8 Cherry Tomatoes Halved
1 Large Handful Baby Spinach Chopped

- Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat.

- Add the garlic, and onion and saute for 5-6 minutes until softened.

- Add in the pinto beans, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Mix to combine and saute for 3 minutes until the beans are warmed through.

- Using a potato masher mash the beans right in the pan, so that they turn into a thick chunky paste. You do not need to get all the beans, leave some whole. Mash about two-thirds of the mixture.

- Add in the dill, tomatoes and spinach and saute for about 2 minutes or until the spinach has wilted.

- Taste for seasonings and add additional hot sauce if desired.

*** Note - If you want a more 'Mexican' feel you can omit the dill and add in an equal amount of minced cilantro instead. Though I quite like the unique flavor that dill brings to the overall dish.*** 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

White Chocolate Cherry Smoothie...

I don’t know about you but I’ve been addicted to cherries lately. I probably buy a few pounds per week and every morning I eat a bowl of them for breakfast. I’ve always loved cherries, but this summer they seem to be particularly ripe and delicious, and I just can’t get enough. I’ve also been really addicted to peanut butter lately, and I’ve had a strange craving for white chocolate which got me thinking this week that I might like combining all three of these things in one way or another.

This morning after a little bit of deliberation I decided to try mixing them together in a smoothie. It was either that or a dessert and I just didn’t feel like baking today. As it happens though this smoothie is like a dessert in a glass, super yummy, and decadent! Actually - as weird as it sounds this smoothie tastes a little bit like Christmas - probably the nutmeg. Anyway it came as a big surprise to me because I didn’t have any real idea of what the end result would be. I can honestly say it far exceeded my expectations, and if you like decadent dessert like smoothies definitely give this one a try!

White Chocolate Cherry Smoothie 

1 1/4 C Vanilla Almond Milk
1/3 C Vegan White Chocolate Chips
1/3 C Frozen Cherries
½ Frozen Banana
** 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter & Co’s White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter
1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Maca Powder
1 tsp Lucuma Powder
½ tsp Mucuna Powder
1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
4-6 Ice Cubes

- Place the vegan white chocolate in a small saucepan over medium heat. After about a minute the chocolate should begin to melt, add in a 1/4 cup of the almond milk and stir the two together until the white chocolate has melted fully.

- Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

- Combine the white chocolate mixture with the cherries, banana, peanut butter, maca, lucuma, mucuna, nutmeg, cinnamon, remaining almond milk and ice cubes in a highspeed blender. Blend on high for 90 seconds or until the mixture is smooth.

- Pour into a glass and garnish with a dash of nutmeg and a few dried cranberries or cherries for a festive feel. Enjoy!

*** Note - I don’t know if there’s any real substitute for Peanut Butter & Co’s White Chocolate Peanut butter, but you could just use regular peanut butter and add in more vegan white chocolate to compensate. Also you can use fresh cherries rather then frozen if you prefer, but then you may want to use more ice to get the same consistency.*** 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chocolate Cinnamon Power Shake...

I’ve always been a big fan of protein shakes/smoothies. Since I’m not normally a big eater in the morning these have always been my salvation. Since my last cleanse however I’ve been mostly sticking to fruit for breakfast in the morning, and so I haven’t bought protein powder or anything like that in ages, but lately I’ve been really craving a good ‘ole chocolate protein smoothie. Today since I was particularly ravenous upon waking, - and since I still don’t have any protein powders - I decided to just throw together my own little power shake.

I was amazed by the result. It tastes so good, and so decadent, and it’s very reminiscent of some of my favorite protein shakes. After I scarfed down a peach and a mango, I drank this, and it really hit the spot. I might just make it again tomorrow and the next day and the next! 

Chocolate Cinnamon Power Shake 

1 C Vanilla Almond Milk
1 Ripe Banana 
2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder 
1 tsp Lucuma Powder
1 tsp Maca Powder 
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon 
1 tsp Vanilla Extract 
** 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter & Co’s Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter
1 tsp Instant Espresso Powder (Optional) 
6 Ice Cubes

- Place all ingredients into a highspeed blender and blend on high for 60-90 seconds until completely smooth.

- Pour into a glass and enjoy! 

*** Note - If you don’t have or can’t find Peanut Butter & Co’s amazing Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut butter, Sub your favorite peanut butter, with an added dash of cinnamon and a small handful of raisins. *** 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bryant's Teff Biscuits with Maple Plantain Spread...

Let’s talk about breakfast! Yesterday I was in a real breakfast kind of mood, but I didn’t want any of the usual things. Lately I’ve been craving plantains, and since I had a few ripening on my counter top I wanted to find some way to incorporate them into a meal. Then I remembered the Bryant Terry’s latest book “Afro-Vegan” I bought it back in April when it first came out and the very first recipe that snagged my attention was the Teff Biscuits with Maple Plantain Spread. Perfect right? Don[‘t you love it when the universe comes together like that?

This was actually my first time cooking from “Afro-Vegan” even though I’ve had it for all these months and so I was quite excited to crack it open. As it happens the Maple Plantain spread was really quite easy to make, just boil the ingredients and then once cooked blend them together into a smooth consistency and then let cool for 30 minutes. I did however add 1 extra plantain to the mix because - well, I love plantains! Is any other explanation necessary?

The biscuits too were quite easy, very low fuss which I liked because some biscuits can be a pain in the ass. I loved that these were made out of teff flour - although there is some all purpose flour in the mix so they’re not gluten-free - I also love that the biscuits use coconut oil rather then Earth Balance or vegetable shortening. I think this really made a difference. You could taste a slight hint of coconut in the finished product but what I found most incredible were how soft the biscuits were. They were so moist and so delicious especially when spread with the amazingly good maple plantain spread. The only thing is - and maybe you can see this in the pictures - they didn't split open quite as nicely as I would have liked. Since they were so soft it was hard to cut it into two pieces that would hold together. No biggie though, after my failed attempt at cutting the first two I left the rest whole and just spooned the spread over top. Just as good!

Honestly, this was one of the most heavenly breakfasts ever. The spread was sweet but not too sweet and the biscuits were perfect. Seriously, they might just be the best damn biscuits I’ve ever had, and I don’t say that lightly. In fact they’re probably going to be my new go-to biscuit from now on. I cannot wait to try more recipes from this book!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Moong and Toor Dal Tadka with Coconut and Red Chilies...

I know what you’re thinking, hot soup or dal in the middle of summer? You’re crazy! And normally I would agree with you only I just recently came off five days of being ridiculously ill with what was probably Norovirus and so I didn’t want to push the limits of my digestion. Since Thursday afternoon I’d been living off of crackers, bread, tea, and on Saturday evening when I finally began to feel stable enough to take in something heartier I made a very brothy vegetable soup. It was pretty basic - potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, broth, water, and spike seasoning. It was tasty, but come Monday when I was feeling roughly 85%-90% better I wanted to eat something fun!

I’ve really been craving Indian food lately, specifically lentils, and when I think of lentils I automatically think of dal, there are few things more nourishing and comforting then a big ‘ole bowl of dal. Specifically I wanted dal tadka, which I’ve only recently discovered There’s a great little Vegetarian Indian Restaurant not far from where I live that serves a wicked good Dal Tadka, I had it the week my mother was in town visiting me, and I’ve been kind of dreaming about tadka ever since.

Tadka incase you don’t know is really just a cooking technique in which you fry whole spices in oil so that they release their natural oils, and after a minute or so you pour the whole thing - oil and all - into the dish you’ve prepared. It sound a bit strange maybe since we’re used to putting spices in our food at the beginning of cooking rather then at the end but let me assure you that this technique imparts some truly phenomenal flavor! And that’s exactly what I wanted.

Now, I’m not going to lay any claims saying that this is in any way a traditional dal tadka, or even a traditional dal, but it is delicious. It’s full of ingredients that are delicious and healing, however if you’re unaccustomed to cooking Indian food at home you may not have them all on hand. Still, they should be easy enough to find at your local Indian grocery - that’s where I get mine - and they are well worth hunting down. Trust me once you taste the slightly bitter, onion flavor of Nigella seeds you’ll be hooked! Similarly the buttery, garlic/onion flavor of asafetida can not be matched, and black mustard has a unique flavor itself, different from that of yellow mustard. As for pickled red chilies I make them myself, and so I’m not sure if you can actually buy such a thing anywhere. Though if you have a basic pickling recipe you can easily pickle some of your own chilies. It’s not necessary but I love the added flavor note.

Moong and Toor Dal Tadka with Coconut and Red Chilies 


1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion Diced
1 C Moong Dal - soaked for 1 hour and rinsed
½ C Toor Dal - soaked for 1 hour and rinsed
4 C Water
½ tsp Ground Turmeric
1 - 1 ½ tsp Salt - to taste
1 13.5oz can Full Fat Coconut Milk
½ Bunch Cilantro Minced


2-3 tsp Olive Oil
1 ½ tsp Black Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Nigella Seeds
½ tsp Coriander Seeds
½ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Asafetida Powder
6 Garlic Cloves Minced
1-2 Red Chilies Minced - depending on heat preference.

To Garnish -

Extra Minced Cilantro
Sliced Pickled Red Chillies - optional but highly recommended!

For the Dal 

- Heat the Olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and saute for 5-6 minutes until lightly golden.

- To the pot add the soaked and rinsed Moong Dal as well as the Toor Dal. Stir to combine.

- Add the 4 cups of water, the turmeric, and the salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes then reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.

- Check on the doneness of your dal. If the lentils are still hard, or too firm for your liking continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes until they become soft. If the lentils are soft already, and have reached a somewhat mushy consistency add in the coconut milk and stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes.

- Remove the pot from the heat and add in the minced cilantro. Stir to combine.

For the Tadka 

- Heat the oil on high in a heavy bottomed frying pan. Once hot add in the mustard seeds, nigella seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafetida powder, minced garlic and minced chili. Fry for one minute or until the seeds pop, the garlic has turned golden and the chilies have softened slightly. It’s okay if the spices brown a little, it adds to the flavor.

- Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the entire contents - spices and residual oil - into your pot containing the dal.

Assembly - 

- Stir the Tadka into the dal until it’s been well combined. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors mingle. Then divide amongst serving bowls and garnish with additional cilantro and pickled red chilies if desired.

- Serve with basmati rice, and/or Indian Flatbread. I made a batch of Roti to scoop the dal up and it was a delicious accompaniment.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summertime Kale and Seaweed Salad...

All that talk about sea vegetables yesterday really inspired me!  After writing the last post there was nothing more I wanted then a big ‘ole salad full of goodness and sea veggies. I know I’ve been kind of slacking this year, school, work, the new job, and then finally being done with school and just needed to relax and veg out - I’ve neglected this blog. Sure I’ve posted, but most of my posts these days tend to be restaurant, or product reviews. Otherwise they’re posts about what I made for the holidays but no original recipes. I feel bad about that, but the truth is that my eating’s been erratic. I’ve either eaten really healthy - but boring, thus not worthy of being blogged about. Or I’ve gone really over the top, but using the recipes of others. I’m really going to try to change that. I want to post recipes again, I want to be more active here again, and so here’s a start.

Unfortunately when I was making my lunch yesterday I wasn’t doing so with the intention of posting the recipe. I just whipped some stuff together and didn’t really measure anything. So take the measurements as suggestions and approximations and adjust as you see fit. Even if you add a little more of ‘this’ or a little less of ‘that’ I know you’ll enjoy this salad. It’s rich in high-quality nutrients, and packed full of flavor. It really hits the spot mid-afternoon afer a long bike ride, or a good yoga session. Enjoy while sitting out in the summer sun, with a nice cool glass of water or your favorite kombucha!

Summertime Kale and Seaweed Salad 

3 Big Leaves Kale torn into bite sized pieces
1 Medium Carrot peeled and julienne
½ Cucumber peeled and julienne
Red Onion sliced thin (about 1/4 C or to taste)
½ C Corn (Fresh or Frozen)
½ C Frozen Edamame
2 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
Small handful Arame ( 1/4 C or less) Soaked in warm water for five minutes. Then drained and rinsed, then patted dry.
1-2 Sheets Nori (to taste) torn into bite sized pieces
2 Garlic Cloves minced

1 tsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Rice Vinegar


2 Tbsp Tahini
1 Tbsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Mirin (or Agave)
½ Tbsp Lemon Juice
Sriracha to taste
Water as needed to thin
Salt and Pepper to taste -  optional

- Place your torn kale into a large bowl, drizzle the sesame oil and rice vinegar over top and massage thoroughly with your hands utnil the kale breaks down a bit. Set the bowl aside and continue making the rest of the salad.
- Heat a small pot of water on the stove, when boiling add the Edamame - and if using frozen corn add that too - boil for 2-3 minutes until Edamame and Corn are cooked through. Drain and let cool.

- Mis all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

- Assemble the salad. To the kale add in the julienne carrot, cucumber, sliced red onion, minced garlic cloves. Corn, edamame, Hemp seeds, torn nori sheets, and arame. Drizzle the dressing over top and toss a few times to make sure all of the vegetables get evenly coated.

*** Note - Gluten Free if using GF Tamari.***

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spotlight Food - Sea Vegetables...

What do you know about sea vegetables? Have you ever had them? Do you like them? This amazing nutrient dense food has been consumed in various parts of the world for centuries, but has only become popular in North America over the past decade or so. I’m still amazed by how many people haven’t tried the various different kind of sea vegetables out there, and even more amazed by those who claim not to like them. Granted they’re an acquired taste, I’ll give you that. They taste like the ocean, some people think they taste ‘fishy,’ and the flavor can be a bit strong for some, but once you get used to it, sea vegetables are such a wonderfully health supporting food that you’ll start craving them, I swear!

I remember the first time I ever ate seaweed. I was a kid, maybe 10, and I hated it. My dad was really into seaweed at the time, he’d buy bags of it from the health food store to eat as it was or to make sushi rolls. He’d give me pieces to try and I always thought they were nasty. Fast-forward to highschool when I started eating sushi, I wouldn’t say that I loved seaweed then, but I grew comfortable with it. Fast-forward to me becoming vegan and it took a while, but eventually I warmed up to it. Now I love some nori sprinkled over a salad, some dulse on a sandwich, some wakame in my miso soup. I love seaweed chips, I love toasted nori sheets, I love all those fun little seaweed snacks you can pick up at the Asian markets. I love that pungent, aromatic, sometimes salty ocean flavor, and the best part is that sea vegetables are so incredibly good for you, so you can feel good about eating them.


A lot of us commonly think of sea vegetables os seaweeds as being an integral ingredient in Asian dishes, but the truth is that many cultures around the world have been enjoying this rich, nutrient dense food for centuries. Asia may have the longest recorded tradition of consuming sea vegetables - more then 10,000 years - but many other countries located near water also have a history with seaweed, such as Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, the South Pacific Islands, and even parts of costal South America.

What a lot of people don’t realize about sea vegetables is the overwhelming variety of them.  More then a thousand types of seaweed exist, and they’re broken down into three distinct categories based on color, brown, green, or red. Each type is unique, having a different shape, texture, and taste. They grow in two places, marine salt waters and freshwater lakes and seas. They may grow on coral reefs or rocky landscapes and can grow at virtually any depth provided sunlight can penetrate through the water to where they reside, as like plants, seaweed needs light for survival. Interestingly sea vegetables are not considered to be either plant nor animal, but are classified as algae.

Health Benefits 

It might surprise you to learn that sea vegetables offer one of the broadest ranges of minerals of any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean. In addition to offering a unique variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants. They’re also an excellent source of iodine, manganese, B Vitamins, potassium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus.

Sea vegetables also provide anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anticoagulant, antithrombotic, and antiviral benefits due to their unique sulfated polysaccharides. Sea vegetables anti-inflammatory benefits seem to take place by blocking selectins - sugar protein molecules - and from inhibiting an enzyme called phospholipase A2.  During an inflammatory response selectins allow inflammatory signals to be transmitted into the cells, so by blocking selectins response, inflammatory signaling can be lessened.  Over activity of the enzyme phospholipase A2 is widely present in unwanted inflammatory problems, and is important for creating the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA.) AA itself provides the basis for a wide variety of pro-inflammatory massaging molecules and in fact many corticosteroid medications lower inflammation by blocking PLA2.

Sulfated polysaccharides are also responsible for sea vegetables cardiovascular benefits, as they can decrease the tendency of blood platelet cells to coagulate and form clots.  Sea vegetables have also been shown to help reduce total and LDL cholesterol.

Sea vegetables sulfated polysaccharides have also shown anti-viral activity, most notably in lab research conducted on Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2. It was shown that by blocking the binding sites used by HSV-1 and HSV-2 for cell attachment that sulfated polysaccharides help prevent replication of these viruses. Though we do not yet known whether or not dietary intake of sea vegetables can help prevent HSV replication in individuals with HSV.

Sea vegetables may be of particular benefit in the prevention of estrogen related cancer, particularly breast cancer. As intake of sea vegetables appears to modify various aspects of a woman’s menstrual cycle in such a way that over time - tens of years - the total cumulative estrogen secretion that occurs during the follicular phase of the cycle gets reduced.  Since the overproduction of estrogen can play a role in the risk of breast cancer for women who are estrogen sensitive sea vegetables can offer some unique benefits here. It’s also important to remember that cholesterol is required as a building block for the production of estrogen and intake of sea vegetables has repeatedly shown to lower cholesterol.

Sea Vegetables may also be particularly helpful when it comes to colon cancer, and research has focused heavily in this area with a special emphasis on the loss of calcium-sensing receptors (CaSRs) in colon cancer cells, and the ability of sea vegetable extracts to alter CaSR-related events. Of course since chronic, unwanted inflammation and chronic oxidative stress are both risk factors for development of cancer it’s possible that sea vegetables could be helpful in prevention of numerous cancers.

Sea vegetables may be able to help us increase our cells' sensitivity to insulin, help us prevent overproduction of glucose by our cells, and help us take existing blood sugars and convert them into storable starches. All of these factors would help us increase our blood sugar control, and lower our risk of type 2 diabetes.

Brown algae like kombu/kelp, wakame, and arame can be particularly concentrated sources of iodine, and for some health conditions - like hypothyroidism, in which the cells of the thyroid make too little thyroid hormone - increased iodine intake can provide important health benefits.

The antioxidant content of sea vegetables is also rather impressive, because sea vegetables not only contain measurable amounts of polyphenols like carotenoids and flavonoids, they also contain other phytonutrient antioxidants, including several types of alkaloids that have been shown to possess antioxidant properties. Coupled with measurable amounts of antioxidant vitamins (like vitamins C and E) and antioxidant minerals (like manganese and zinc), sea vegetables can be expected to help us reduce our risk of unwanted oxidative stress and many types of cardiovascular problems that are associated with poor antioxidant intake.

So you see, sea vegetables are really amazing!

Sea Vegetable Types - 

Arame - Brown Algae, limited to the temperate Pacific Ocean waters around Japan, though it is often cultivated in South Korea. It has a mild, semi-sweet flavor and firm texture.

Bladderwrack - A Brown Algae, the most common algae on the shores of the British Isles. It is typically found on the coasts of the North Sea, the Western Baltic Sea and both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It’s been recorded from the Atlantic shores of Europe, to Northern Russia, to Greenland, the Canary Islands, Morocco, Madeira, to the Atlantic Coast of North America, Hudson’s Bay, to North Carolina.  In North America it isn’t used as a food so much as it is an herbal medicine or remedy.

Chlorella - a single cell green algae high in protein and containing a significant amount of minerals. Usually sold as powder, or tablets and is commonly taken as a health supplement, rather then as an ingredient in cooking.

Dulce - A Red Algae, growing on the Northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific, as well as Iceland where it’s a popular snack food and has been consumed for centuries as a traditional food.  Usually sold in large dried strips, and is quite tasty on salads or lightly crisped in a pan to place on a sandwich.

Hijiki - Brown Algae, grows along the rocky coastlines of Japan, Korea and China. Somewhat similar to Arame but with a stronger flavor.

Irish Moss - A Red Algae growing abundantly along the rocky coasts of Atlantic Europe and North America.. A common ingredient in some traditional Irish and Scottish cooking. Also commonly used in Asian gelatin like desserts. In North America it’s commonly used as a thickener in many commercial products and has recently found a new use in the vegan community for making vegan cheese, and raw food desserts.

Kombu - Brown Algae, and an edible kelp commonly cultivated on the shores of Japan and Korea. Used extensively in Japanese cooking especially to make soups. It’s also a great addition to making a pot of beans from scratch!

Laver - Red Algae, a common ingredients in Welsh cooking and traditional Welsh dishes such as Laver bread. It’s also commonly found in the cuisines of Ireland, Scotland, Whales, China, Japan, and Korea, and may be one of the first kinds of algae to be cultivated.

Sea Lettuce - Green Algae, widely distributed along the coasts of the worlds oceans. It is particularly common in Scandinavia, Great Britain, Ireland, China and Japan.

Wakame - Brown Algae, grown in Japan and Korea, but also commonly cultivated in sea farms in France off the coast of Brittany, and Tasmania in Australia. It has a subtly sweet flavor and slippery texture. Usually used in soups.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of sea vegetables but it contains the most common ones.


So, now that you’ve gone to the health food store and bought some bags of seaweed, what the heck do you do with it? Easy, make Sushi Maki rolls! Or if that’s too much time and trouble for you make a sushi salad! All your sushi ingredients diced up in a bowl, no rolling required, just sprinkle the nori over top. You could put it in miso soup, or any other Asian inspired soup, or any soup in which a little ocean flavor is needed. Such as a vegan ‘clam’ chowder. Try it as a salad topping or make a seaweed salad by soaking some arame and then mixing it with some diced vegetables and a nice Asian style dressing. Toss it into a raw kelp noodle dish, or top a stir-fry with it. Heck, just buy some roasted seaweed sheets from the Asian grocery and eat it as is! Super yummy! Get creative with it, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

4th Of July Fun...

My Plate - Black Bean Burger with all the fixin's
Buffalo Mac Salad, BBQ Coleslaw, BBQ Beans 

Well, I hope everyone had a lovely fourth of July. Ours was pretty low-key. Since I had my mom and step-dad visiting, and we were busy hanging out I didn’t feel much like cooking. Which was okay too. My mother-in-law was kind enough to pick up some fresh-made vegan black bean burgers for us, - which I forgot to photograph, sorry - and I took care of the sides and dessert.

Funny, I knew right away what I wanted to make, because I’ve had my eye on it for years. The Spicy Red  Buffalo Macaroni Salad from Joni Marie Newman & Celine Steen’s awesome little book “The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions.” Personally I’ve always loved a good pasta salad, and this one sounded really interesting, but even though I love pasta salad I rarely find occasion to make it. The 4th seemed like the perfect time, especially since my mom and step-dad like pasta salad too, and since my step-dad likes heat. It’s actually a really easy dish. Just cook your macaroni, roasted red peppers, onions, celery and spinach - although I just realized now that I forgot to add the spinach, whoops! - Then the dressing is made with tofu, hot sauce, earth balance, oil, garlic, salt, pepper and I added a wee bit of agave to balance the tang a bit.  The end result was that this salad was out of this world amazing and my husband and I couldn’t stop eating it! I’m so glad I finally got around to making it.

Spicy Red Buffalo Macaroni Salad

Next up I wanted to make the BBQ Beans from “Vegan Food Substitutions.” I’ve always loved a good saucy bean dish, and I’ve always loved baked beans. These tasted just like a baked bean but with out the long baking time. Simply add all your sauce ingredients into a pot, add the beans and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the sauce reduces a bit. These too were fantastic, and reminded me of the kind of baked beans you eat out of a can - only better! I was happy to have the leftovers and I gobbled them up in no time!

BBQ Beans 

Lastly I decided to make the Creamy BBQ Coleslaw from Joni Marie Newman’s book “The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet” it’s a really simple slaw recipe, shredded cabbage, agave, apple cider vinegar,  vegan mayo and BBQ sauce. I added some onion and carrot in too because, well I love that in my slaw. This slaw was super creamy, and super flavorful. As much as I love slaw, and as much as I love BBQ I never thought to combine the two into one dish! Amazing!

Creamy BBQ Coleslaw 

For dessert I went with pie, and fruit pies at that because Pie is really my favorite dessert and I was all ‘caked out’ after my birthday anyway. Once again I chose to make pies from Hannah Kaminsky’s lovely book “Easy as Vegan Pie.” Of course I can’t just pick a straight forward pie can I? I wanted something unique and since I had a ton of cherries on hand I decided to make the Black Forest Pie because who doesn’t love chocolate and cherries? The Pie is basically as it sounds, think black forest cake but in pie form. Chocolate Crust, chocolate cherry filling, chocolate topping with whip Cream. Yum, yum! This pie went over huge with everyone and I sure liked it a lot too although a small slice was enough for me, as it was a bit too chocolatey for my taste.

Black Forest Pie 

Second I made the Blueberry Blackberry Licorice Pie. Licorice you say? Yes indeed. I know how insane that sounds but trust me when I tell you this pie was out of this world amazing, and this is coming from a girl who hates black licorice or licorice flavored anything. I’m not even all that found of anise to be honest. Still, it was such an interesting combination that my curiosity got the better of me. The pie crust is a standard crust - any recipe will work really - and the filling is a standard blueberry blackberry filling but then you slice up pieces of black licorice and some of them melt into the delectable berry sauce as the pie cooks, while others remain whole. This pie was so good I had 2 slices right out of the gate, and I was impressed at how mellow the licorice flavor was. Not overbearing, it gave it just the right hint of ‘different’ and really took this pie to a new level. As much as this pie came as a surprise to me, it also came as a surprise to everyone else, I think most people were put off by the addition of licorice, until they tasted it for themselves. Only one slice remained after all was said and done! The lesson? Never be afraid to try new things!

Blueberry Blackberry Licorice Pie 

I hope you all had a happy fourth.