Monday, September 24, 2007

Vegan Cookie Challenge

As the fall arrives my oven begins to beckon. I have been fairly focused on raw foods this summer-which is partly why I haven't been posting much. I've been eating a lot of very simple meals-apples, bananas etc. But with Canadian thanksgiving just a couple of weeks away I am starting to crave the zen effect that comes with baking batch after batch of delicious vegan cookies. Luckily I have a really good excuse this year-A Vegan Cookie Challenge. I often write cookbook reviews for my local Vegetarian Association newsletter but for the holiday season I wanted to do something a little bit different. So I pulled out six fantastic vegan cookbooks and found their recipe for traditional chocolate chip cookies and/or spicy ginger cookies. I selected ginger, because, I am a ginger-addict. I would happily add it to just about everything I eat, so finding the most amazing ginger cookie recipe could be a benefit to me for years to come.

With all of these recipes in hand, and the tasting challenge in mind I had to recruit some volunteers. A group of volunteers for the vegetarian association, a colleague, a man off of the street and some diners from the restaurant below the resource centre all agreed to eat a lot of cookies in exchange for their honest opinons. I baked eight batches of recipes:

1. Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vegan with a Vengence

2. Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vive le Vegan

3. Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Complete Vegan Kitchen

4. Chocolate Chip Cookies from How it All Vegan

5. Ginger Cookies from Vegan with a Vengence

6. Ginger Cookies from How it All Vegan

7. Ginger Cookies from Simple Treats

8. Ginger Cookies from the Artful Vegan

It was a night full of fun and sugar (that is, natural evaporated sugar cane)! Everyone had a lot of fun tasting and scoring the different iterations of these classic recipes. I really enjoyed testing out the different recipes as each author had an interesting take on how to combine the various ingredients. If you have any of these cookbooks the results of these recipes will not disappoint you. Although, some were certainly better than others. But....I can't tell you the winners until the article is published in our association newsletter. I promise to keep you posted-you may be surprised.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Cookbook Reviews

I am away from my camera at the moment so instead of taking pictures of the food I have been preparing I have decided to write some cookbook reviews for my many cookbooks. Since becoming vegan I have collected approximately 65 cookbooks. I have tried many of the recipes and would love to share my thoughts and experiences with all of you.

I selected 'Fresh at Home: Everyday Vegetarian Cooking' by Ruth Tal Brown and Jennifer Houston for my first cookbook review. This cookbook is written by the owner and the executive chef of "Fresh by Juice for Life" a chain of vegetarian restaurants (3 locations) located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This is Ruth Tal Brown's second cookbook based on the restaurant's menu, the first was titled "Juice for Life". The second book has evolved with the restaurant menu. I have to admit that I love this restaurant, it is the kind of place where you leave feeling healthier than when you arrived. The menu consists of mainly salads, rice/noodle bowls and juices/smoothies, the same combinations are reflected in the recipes in this cookbook. Unlike in many of the vegan restaurant cookbooks (Millenium, Angellica's, Candle Cafe) the recipes in this collection are simple combinations of high quality ingredients. There are a few ingredients listed that may be more difficult to find but generally the focus is on commonly available grains, vegetables, tempeh and tofu. Many of the recipes are used in different combinations in the book-which means once you create a sauce you can use it to create many of the salad, rice or noodle dishes.

My favourite recipe in this cookbook is a rice bowl called 'The Beach" (pg. 64). My partner and I make this on a regular basis, the routine of creating it has become completely chereographed at this point, and we have integrated our own variations to meet our unique tastes. The recipe consists of brown basmati rice, grilled eggplant, sweet potatos and red pepper, combined with spices, avocado and marinated sun-dried tomatoes. The combination is incredible!

My second favourite recipe in this book is the black bean mix (pg. 115). It is very versatile, showing up as a spread, a filling in burritos and enchiladas and on brown rice. It has impressed everyone from my very carnivorous older brother to my picky 5 year old nephew-who kisses me everytime I make the enchiladas.

Other favourites include: thai mango salad (pg. 44) , new buddha rice bowl (pg. 60), and orange cake with chocolate ganache (pg. 156-a real party pleaser). This cookbook also includes amazing smoothie and juice recipes. In Toronto this makes up a large portion of the menu which makes it fantastic for individuals who want to increase their raw food intake.

I own a lot of cookbooks and this one stands out as a favourite. The recipes all turn out great. They are easy to create and the flavours please those not use to vegan cuisine. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interesting in making healthy delicious recipes at home.

I am excited to add that Ruth Tal's next book is due to be released in May of 2007. I have already preordered mine!

Rating: 4.5 dancing carrots out of 5.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Babycakes on Martha

Wow, I was sooo excited. I know, I get excited by very strange things. But I happened to catch the first half of the Martha Stewart show yesterday and she had on the owner of New York's Babycakes bakery. Babycakes specializes in desserts for people with allergies. So, all of their recipes are vegan, wheat-free, corn-free, nut-free, refined sugar-free etc. Since I'm vegan, my mom is diabetic and my brother's girlfriend is celiac, it was very exciting to see some recipes that I could try out on them. And since the recipes were available for free on martha's website I thought I would post them here as well for all to enjoy. I plan on trying out the brownies at our next family gathering.



Makes about 5 dozen mini browniesNote: This recipe is free of wheat, gluten, dairy, casein, and eggs.

1/2 cup canola oil, plus more for pans
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons garbanzo and fava bean flour
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1 cup unrefined sugar or 10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons agave nectar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup store-bought unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup brewed coffee or hot water
2 cups vegan gluten-free chocolate chips, such as Tropical Source

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Brush 3 dozen mini-muffin pans with oil; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, potato starch, arrowroot, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and unsweetened cocoa powder; set aside. In a large bowl, mix together applesauce, 1/2 cup canola oil, and vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in coffee until it forms a batter. Fold in chocolate chips.

3. Place 1 tablespoon batter into each prepared muffin cup. Transfer muffin pans to oven, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before unmolding.

Cinnamon Toasties

Serves about 10

Note: This recipe is free of wheat, gluten, dairy, nuts, casein, soy, and eggs.

1/2 cup canola oil, plus more for pan
1 cup garbanzo and fava bean flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup arrowroot
1 1/4 cups unrefined sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup store-bought unsweetened applesauce

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Brush a 6 3/4-by-4 1/4-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pan with oil; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, potato starch, arrowroot, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together oil, applesauce, and 1 cup hot water. Add oil mixture to flour mixture; stir until well combined. Measure out 1/3 cup of batter and place in a small bowl. Pour remaining batter into prepared loaf pan. Stir remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon into reserved batter. Add to loaf pan, swirling to combine.

4. Transfer to oven and bake about 20 minutes. Brush top of loaf with oil and continue baking until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before unmolding.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Shopping and Baking

Green Door

On Friday I visited the Green Door Vegan Variety Store in Kitchener, Ontario for the first time. I have to say it was quite exciting to go to a store and not have to read the labels on every item. Unfortunately I didn't buy a lot of new things to try. They did stock vegan marshmallows and white chocolate chips which I have not seen before except online. But since it is January and my holiday baking excuse has come and gone I decided to pick up healthier treats instead.

G Living

So here is some Agave Nectar and Organic Coconut Oil. I have decided to join the G Living Network. Its a fantastic site with tons of interesting videos and recipes for vegan and raw foodists. Their recipes inspired me to pick up the coconut oil in order to try some of the amazing raw desserts their chefs have posted. I definately recommend checking out this site. You have to email them in order to join but I have found it to be an amazing online resource.

Let's Get Baked

For those of you interested in listening to fun vegan podcasts I suggest checking out Let's Get Baked. Its recorded by two guys in Halifax who interview bands while baking vegan treats. They give you the recipe and then you can listen as they wipe up and enjoy their new creation. This podcast has a fun sense of humour that keeps it entertaining.

Ginger Cookies
Finally, these are the ginger cookies I spoke about in my last post. The recipe came from the December issue of Vegetarian Times. These are amazing and definately worth the cost of the magazine.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Catching Up and Vegan Ginger Cookies and Vega

Okay-The picture is of my nephew enjoying vegan chocolate that is a great dessert!

I am very behind in my blogging already. I took a lot of pictures of the vegan treats I made over the holidays and now they are all in my camera which I left at my Mom's. So I will have to add them later. But I have to say the most amazing addition to my holiday baking repetoire came from the holiday edition of Vegetarian Times magazine-which I don't buy very often, since they also publish a hunting magazine. It had a whole section on vegan cookies and I decided to make the ginger ones because I simply can't get enough ginger these days. I left the walnuts out but kept everything else the same. They turned out AMAZING. I also made Pumpkin Spice Muffins from Simple Treats, Monkey Muffins (banana chocolate chip), Dreena's chocolate chips cookies from VLV and some gingerbread stars for the Winter Soltice. They all turned out great, making my holidays a lot sweeter.

As some of you know I have been running a lot these days. I'm up to 50 or more kms per week. So I thought I should read a bit about being a vegan athlete. I was at Whole Foods the other day and was given a free copy of Brenden Brazier's book-Thrive. If you haven't heard of him he is a Canadian, vegan, Ironman athlete. I saw him speak at the Vegetarian Food Fest in Toronto this fall. Anyway, I got the book and read the whole thing yesterday. There weren't too many surprises in it although he certainly encourages the inclusion of Maca, Chlorella and Hemp in your everyday diet. I have been working hard at sticking to whole foods and I'm certainly noticing a difference. Last year, when I was completing my Master's degree and doing a lot of practicum hours I was eating a lot more prepackaged foods-whereas now I'm not eating any besides some condiments. I used to crave both sugar and chocolate on a regular basis and now that has completely disappeared. I do crave a lot of Apples these days-but being in Southern Ontario they continue to be amazingly sweet, so who can blame me. I was wondering if there is anyone out there who has tried his Vega supplement. If you have let me know what you think.

Other than that it looks like I will be moving in to a new job soon which also means buying my first home. The near future is going to be full of be changes but I promise to make time for lots of good food-and I'll even take some more pictures.