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.***