Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's Back! - Vegan Mofo 2012...

It’s that time again folks - Vegan Mofo!  I’m gearing up, I’ve got a plan, I’m ready, I’m excited. This is only my second year doing Vegan Mofo, which for those of you who don’t know is a world-wide blogging event. It’s a personal challenge undertaken each October where vegans the world over - and some non-vegans too - try to post at least 20 times, on topics that are exclusively related to vegan food. A lot of people take this opportunity to create a wealth of new recipes, some like to use it as a way to gear up for the holidays. Since when I post recipes they’re always my own anyway I decided for last year that I would spend the month cooking recipes from other people. That seemed a pretty popular idea, and what I like about it is that it gives other people an idea of what particular cook books are like. There are not - in my opinion - enough good vegan cook book reviews, particularly when it comes to the specifics of various dishes.

So this year I decided I would do the same thing. Spend the month blogging about the delicious things I make from my stockpile of cook books. However within the context of that parameter I decided I wanted a theme, and I decided that theme would be Delicious and Decadent Vegan Sandwiches. Over the summer I was really into making homemade veggie burgers and a few weeks ago I was on a real sandwich fix, so I thought it would be perfect. It’ll be a fun way to show that vegan food is just as good, fun, and simple as anything else, and that if you want it to be it can be just as ‘bad for you’ or at least feel that way, haha...

Since last year I missed 2 weeks of Mofo due to being on vacation I posted twice daily to make up for the absence, to ensure that I would at least reach the 20 post quota. This year I won’t be on vacation - my only other commitment this month is Thanksgiving on October 8th - however I got really used to the intensity of posting twice a day, and I kind of like the idea of it. So I’m going to attempt to post two sandwiches a day, and we’ll see what happens.

Now for a little definition - when I say Sandwiches I basically mean anything between or on bread or bread like food. So in addition to regular ole’ sandwiches I’ll possibly also do open-faced sandwiches, burgers, wraps, taco’s, burritos, and things of that nature. I’ve got a list of 55 written down of 55 possible sandwiches that I’d like to make, and many of those recipes also require making extras like condiments and even the breads themselves, so it’s going to be a busy month. I’m interested in finding out how many I’m capable of making in a month, I just hope I’m not sick of sandwiches by the end of Mofo!

So Happy Vegan Mofo to everyone participating - I am just as eager to see what all of you come up with!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Vegan on Vacation: Devil's Lake, Wisconsin...

Last week my husband and I took a little impromptu vacation. We were each in need of a bit of a break so we hopped into our little Volkswagen Golf and headed to Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin for a few days of peaceful relaxation. Neither one of us had been there before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it was really fantastic. I don’t know how we’ve lived here all this time and yet never been there before.

Devil’s Lake is located just outside of a small town in Wisconsin called Baraboo, roughly three to three and a half hours away from Chicago depending on how fast you drive. Not so very far away, but far enough that once you get there you feel entirely alone in the world. Since my husband is not a camper we stayed at the Wildwood Inn in Baraboo, just a few minutes drive from the lake. The Inn was really cute, and had a log cabin kind of feel. It reminded me very much of the sort of place you’d see in either a movie from the nineteen-fifties or a modern horror movie. Great atmosphere and very quiet. Since it’s currently the off-season there was only one other couple staying at the Inn. The Park, and Devil’s Lake were also virtually free of other people. We hiked for long stretches without running into anyone which was incredible.

Unfortunately the weather was a bit touch and go. Mostly it was in the fifties but it dipped lower then that at some points and with the wind as strong and cold as it was it certainly felt a lot chillier. We hadn’t thought to pack jackets so we were a bit cold hiking along the cliffs but we managed alright. The views are absolutely stunning, and since it was so quiet there you feel very much at peace. There were many times where we picked a quiet spot along the cliffs and just had a nice rest, looking out over the lake. There were some fantastic vantage points from which you could even see beyond the lake to the surrounding town and outlaying areas.

I loved walking along the sandstone cliffs and quartzite boulders. Loved looking at all the amazing rock formations. Devil’s Doorway and Balanced Rock were fantastic, elephant rock, and potholes too. The trees are also starting to shift from their summer greens to their autumn reds and it was already looking beautiful but in another week or two I’m sure it’ll be pure magic there. I also really loved the tumbled rock path, which is exactly what it sounds like, a paved path carved through a field of quartzite boulders that have shaken loose from the cliffs over the millennia. These rocks are massive, and awe-inspiring. There are houses dotting the lake, that have been built amongst these rocks and that’s quite a spectacular sight in itself. I imagine it would be a very peaceful place to live though I’m not sure how thrilled I’d be to live in the trajectory of falling boulders.

As for food - well, small towns are always a worry to vegans aren’t they? My husband and I had the foresight and experience to bring provisions with us. We stopped at the grocery store before heading up and bought ample fruit for breakfast, as well as to take with us on hikes, and some nutrition bars like Luna and Lara bars. We also picked up some very delicious wine to enjoy in our room once our hiking was done for the day. So an assortment of fresh strawberries, bananas, apples, pears, coconut water and bars took care of breakfast and midday snacking.

When it came to dinner we were of course a little worried. Wisconsin however is the land of cheese, and small towns in particular are well known for their emphasis on cheese and meats. However we were able to find a cute little place called The Barn. It was actually just down the street from our Inn, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. An old barn that’s been converted into a bar and restaurant. They are apparently well known for their prime rib, but we’d heard they might have vegetarian options also. So we walked in and asked, and the woman was very gracious and accommodating. She said the food could also be made with oil instead of butter, and no cheese. For vegans there were only a few options. A Mediterranean plate, a portobello sandwich, and spaghetti with marinara. For vegetarians there was also Alfredo, and a vegetable grilled cheese. Be sure to ask if you get the Mediterranean plate for no cheese, and be sure to ask for the portobello sandwich without the tzatziki. Tastes great with a bit of ketchup and mustard!  There is also a Mexican restaurant in the town where the vegetarian and vegan options are virtually endless with a little creative re-organizing.

We also found a fantastic coffee shop called The Coffee Bean Connection. This is a really cool coffee house with a groovy atmosphere and a totally cool, friendly, and helpful staff. This is exactly the sort of place I’d be hanging out in everyday if I lived in town. They have a wide assortment of hot and cold drinks. They do lattes, mochas, and fraps. They do iced coffees, iced teas, hot teas. Everything looks and smells fantastic. They also have signature drinks, and holiday drinks and seasonal drinks. They sell their beans whole, their tea leaves loose, and their various coffee blends ground for anyone who wants to take some home as well. Amazing place! My husband bought several different types of flavored coffee to bring back with us. The best thing is they can make all of their drinks with soy milk! I wasn’t expecting that in a small town. So I got their seasonal pumpkin latte and it tasted amazing, a million times better then Starbucks which is way to sweet and artificial for my taste.

So I highly recommend a trip to Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin if you’re into hiking and nature. It’s the perfect place to commune with nature and loose yourself in your thoughts or completely clear yourself of them.

PS: Vegan Mofo is coming up - October 1st. I'm super excited, this will be my second year participating. I got some great feedback on it last year, and I had such a good time doing it. This year I've actually picked a theme so stay tuned, I hope you'll enjoy what i've chosen to do this year!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Proof is in the Pages...

I’m not the sort of person who makes recipes from magazines. I never have been. I know there are a lot of food magazines out there, and I’m sure they have great ideas, people sure seem to love them anyway but it’s just never been my style. Food Magazines, Grocery Store Recipe Cards, recipes on the back/side of food packaging - I don’t know, call me a snob but it’s not for me.

Last week however I picked up the latest copy of VegNews Magazine because their feature was Artisan Vegan Cheese. I’ve actually been wanting to purchase the book by Miyoko Schinner but wasn’t sure if I should spend the money. After all the last thing I need is another cook book I’m never going to use. The recipes upon first glance seemed so involved and a bit sensitive that I wasn’t sure I’d be up for it. So I bought the magazine which features six recipes from the book, as a sort of compromise. If I can make those six recipes or even two or three of them then the book might be worth getting.

Now as it happens this post isn’t about vegan cheese. I haven’t yet tasted the fruits of my effort - I chose to make the Brie which takes a few days to age. I did however get lured in by some lovely photographs of Chipotle Sloppy Joe’s, Crispy Chickpea Crepes, and Pesto Piadina. Since I was at a loss for what to make for dinner this week, and cine all of the above recipes were quick and easy and utilized ingredients I already had I thought why not try them? Well each one turned out extremely delicious, especially the chickpea crepe and the piadina. Piadina = my new favorite thing! So that took care of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday leaving me with a void to fill Wednesday. Well since I had such luck with those magazine recipes I decided to dig out the few old copies of VegNews I have lying around to see if I could drum up any inspiration.

In the April 2011 Issue I came across this delicious recipe. BBQ Lentil and Mushroom Tacos with Dijon Coleslaw. Sounded great and it tasted even better. My husband and I wolfed down five of these scrumptious tacos a piece and had several more of them this afternoon for lunch. They were a perfect blend of bbq lentil mushroom goodness and that tangy Dijon slaw on top finished off with a bit of creamy avocado was heaven! The perfect meal and I’ve got a little left over for lunch tomorrow too!

In the December 2011 Issue I came across a recipe contributed by Hannah Kaminsky of “My Sweet Vegan” fame. The recipe is for Sugar Plum Scones. Now I love scones, I’m a scone fiend actually and if you leave a vegan scone lying around near me it’ll surely be gone by the time you get back. Combine that with the tantalizing promise of a little sugar, and plums which I love and always have on hand and you’ve got an instant winner for breakfast.  I made the scones yesterday for breakfast and we ate them warm out of the oven with some of the home-made Blueberry Lavender Jam I made a couple of months ago. Combined with the jam it was the perfect breakfast, but I think these scones would have been good with any sort of jam.

So, the lesson of this post is - don’t turn your nose up at a recipe just because it came out of a magazine. You never know what you might be missing!

PS: Sorry I don’t have pictures for all of the dishes but I only had the forethought to pull my camera out on Wednesday.

PPS: Don’t forget to pick up the latest issue of VegNews Magazine because it rocks! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Grilled Corn and Avocado Salsa...

This salsa is amazing! Or as some of my younger friends might say it’s Fire! And I don’t say that lightly. I’m a big fan of salsa’s and pico’s, especially strange ones, and I’ve certainly sampled my fare share of them, but this is hands down one of my favorites.

I made it for the first time a couple of months ago, right before my husband and I went on vacation. I don’t remember what possessed me to make it, but I think it had something to do with having an abundance of Fresh corn on the cob and avocados that needed to be used before we went away. Grilled corn is a favorite dish of mine particularly in the summer and so I thought why not use my favorite method for cooking corn and combine it with one of my favorite summer time accompaniments? Thus grilled corn and avocado salsa was born. Not that I’m claiming it’s a totally original concept - I’m sure someone, somewhere has thought of it before - but it is nonetheless delicious.

I know that we’re near the end of summer now and you’re probably thinking to yourself why didn’t I post a summer recipe during the heart of summer? Well, as it happens I forgot to take a picture the night I first made this delicious salsa, then I forgot to write the recipe down too! With no recipe and no picture there wasn’t much to post about, and there weren’t even any leftovers to take a picture of the next day because we gobbled the whole thing up.

Luckily my Mother-In-Law was having a get together with some of her girlfriends today and she requested that I make the Grilled Corn Salsa for her little party. I said sure, and then worked from my memory of what I did the last time to make it all over again. It came out exactly like I remember, a beautiful blend of bold flavors, with lots of potent garlic, tangy lime, and creamy avocado, not to mention that fantastic ‘just off the grill’ flavor from the corn.

This time around I made sure to take a photo, and write the recipe down. Oh and the best part? This Grilled Corn Salsa is totally omnivore approved! It was a big hit at my mother-in-law’s party and there wasn’t a vegetarian to be found amongst them - let alone a vegan - so make it for your next gathering or party and be prepared to wow your friends/family.

Grilled Corn and Avocado Salsa 

4 Ears of Corn with Husk on
4 Large Garden Tomatoes diced
8 Cloves Garlic minced (or more to taste)
1 Red Onion finely diced
1/4 C Olive Oil
1/4 C + 2 Tbsp Lime Juice
½ tsp Ground Cayenne Pepper (more if you like more heat)
1 ½ tsp Sea Salt (or more or less depending on your taste)
Black Pepper to taste
3/4 - 1 tsp Smoked Paprika (to taste)
1 Large bunch Cilantro minced
4 Large Avocados Diced

- Soak corn in a large pot of salted water for 1-2 hours.

- Remove corn from the soaking pot and shake off excess water. Using a medium heat grill corn until husks are blackened and corn kernels are bright yellow. Depending on your grill and your heat setting this can take as little as 8 minutes or as long as 20 keep an eye on it!!!

- Remove corn from grill and place onto a plate to cool. Once sufficiently cool to the touch remove the husks and any silk. Cut all the corn away from the cob and place it into a large bowl. Discard any kernels that may have burned during grilling.

- Add all the remaining ingredients except cilantro and Avocado to the salsa. Mix until thoroughly combined.

- Add in the Cilantro and Avocado mix gently until just combined. Taste for seasonings and flavor and adjust as needed. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips and for a lovely presentation garnish with thin slices of avocado and big leaves of cilantro. Enjoy!

*** Note - This recipe makes A LOT! So if you’re just making it for a couple of people, or just yourself, then half the recipe. However if you’re making it for a party or gathering this is a perfect amount. It will get eaten I assure you! Also this is super easy to make in advance. Prep everything in the morning or even the night before, then add the cilantro and avocado in at the last minute right before serving.***

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Corporate Biotech Giant Monsanto Responsible For Bee Population Decline - Suggests Latest Research...

For the past decade Honeybee populations have been dwindling. The phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder has been occurring throughout the world. Every year or so it seems this story catches fire in the media and you have pundits saying everything from “It’s the end of the world” to “It’s a non issue.” but the dwindling numbers of the worlds bee populations isn’t a laughing matter. Anytime a species is on the verge of extinction or even hinting at moving in that direction it’s a serious topic that should be discussed and researched. For the past ten years nobody knew what was causing colony collapse disorder, nobody knew why the bees were mysteriously dying, scientists couldn’t figure it out. Until now.

The Biotechnology company Monsanto and the worlds largest supplier of pesticides, genetically engineered seeds and agrochemicals - not to mention the most evil and corrupt company in the world - has - at least in part - been blamed for the decline in world wide bee populations.

Poland - in an effort to save it’s native honeybee population - has recently banned genetically engineered corn that self-produces a popular insecticide known as neonicotinoid after research found that the insecticide triggers Colony Collapse Disorder. (CCD) Germany and Greece have also banned the genetically engineered crop.

A Harvard University study published in the June 2012 issue of Bulletin of Insectology also found a strong correlation between imidacloprid a neonicotinoid insecticide and CCD.

Neonicotinoid pesticides - or Neonics - are sprayed over 142 million acres of corn, soy, wheat and cotton in the United States alone. They also happen to be a common ingredient in a variety of home gardening products. The problem with Neonics is that they are absorbed by a plants vascular system contaminating both the pollen and nectar that bees come in contact with. The Neonics act as a nerve poison that disorientates bees - as well as other insects - damaging their homing abilities which may help to account for their ‘mysterious’ failure to make it back to their hives.

Of course there are other contributing factors to dwindling bee population, and scientists have pointed the finger at everything from loss of wild bee habitats, to the weakening of bee immune systems as a result of poor diet. - Commercial bees are fed pesticide laced corn syrup rather then their own honey - as well as the common techniques of modern beekeeping such as artificially inseminating queen bees, which results in a loss of genetic diversity in bee populations.

Though regardless of other contributing factors it’s been made clear that genetically engineered crops and pesticides such as neonics bare a heavy responsibility when it comes to bee population decline. Unfortunately when faced with these charges Monsanto’s response was to buy up one of the leading bee collapse research organizations Beeologics. The purchase can be found in public company records and shows the biotech company bought Beeologics in September of 2011. Which coincidently is around the time the story of the correlation between GM crops and bee decline stopped being explored in the media. Until of course Polish officials began expressing their concerns over the research.

Hm - blamed for bee decline, buy a bee decline research company, because that’s not a conflict of interest right?

For more information on the story check out...

Natural Society
Natural News
The Huffington Post
Global Research

Or just Google Monsanto/Bees.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Restaurant Review: Edible Flours in Vancouver...

I mentioned the other day that after my delicious lunch at Vancouver’s Tera V Burger I headed over to Edible Flours for a little post lunch dessert. Edible Flours is a little all-vegan café on West Broadway that offers a wide array of teas, coffees and delicious mouth-watering vegan pastries. They even have gluten-free, soy-free, and sugar-free options.

Now since it was just me, and since I’d just eaten a rather large lunch I wasn’t exactly in the mood to stuff my face with sweets, but everything just looked so delicious and incredible. Seriously, the presentation was fantastic and everything was labeled super well so that you knew exactly what was in it. After browsing the vast selection I decided to go with a Cinnamon Roll because I’d heard good things about their cinnamon rolls and how often does a vegan get a cinnamon roll unless he or she makes it herself right? I also decided to try one of the ‘cheese’ croissants which for me was more of a novelty then anything else. Croissants were one of my favorite pastries, so flaky and delicious and the idea of getting one with a savory filling - a savory ‘cheese’ filling at that - was just too good an offer to pass up.

First I tried the cinnamon roll and it was fantastic! It was everything you could possible want in a cinnamon roll. Light, fluffy, moist with great cinnamon flavor but not too sickly sweet like those cinnamon buns you get at the mall. It was baked to perfection and once I was done I wished I had another one. The Cheese Croissant was less exciting, I’d heard good things about it too and was super stoked to try it but maybe it was just a bad idea to eat it after a big lunch, or after a sweet cinnamon bun. The pastry of the Croissant was definitely flaky as well as light and airy but I thought it couldn’t have used a little something extra. Maybe a hint of something sweet brushed across the top of it. I don’t know. As for the filling it was really, really cheese like. Honestly if I didn’t know better I would have thought it was real cheese. Flavor wise it reminded me of a strong Swiss and it was good but perhaps a little too realistic for me. However if cheese croissants are your thing you might really love it - just don’t eat a cinnamon roll beforehand.

I would have loved to order so much more. There was such a beautiful display of cupcakes that I wanted one of each of them. I’ve heard fantastic things about their cupcakes too which made it hard for me not to buy them all up. I also hear that the donuts and the chocolate peanut butter mini bars are excellent.

As for the café itself if you don’t live in the area it’s a bit out of the way to go but it is so, so worth a trip. It’s just a small place with an open-style kitchen, and a very comfortable dining area that’s set up like a livingroom. That atmosphere is great, the ambiance is perfect and the owner is super nice, really helpful and gracious. Also for those of you who may not live in the area, though it’s out of the way it is super easy to get there. From Commercial Drive station just hop on the Alma bus and it’ll take you right there. Or if you stopped by Tera V Burger for a meal you could walk up to Edible Flours, it’s definitely a bit of a hike from Tera but the exercise is good for you, and the more calories you burn off the more you can consume at Edible Flours right?

Edible Flours 
2280 W. Broadway, Vancouver (Between Vine and Yew Streets)
Hours - Tues-Sat 10am-6pm. Sun 11am-4pm, Closed Monday.