Category Archives: vegan

Finally! Fresh Food Fast: Marinated Sesame Tofu Steaks, Soba Noodles, Greens and best of all Pea Shoots

I signed-out Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast from the local library a few weeks ago and have since ordered my own copy.

It took me awhile to get use to the layout of the cookbook and at first I was less than impressed  – even though I made this fantastic Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup out of it.  It is a seasonal cookbook, divided into spring, summer, winter and fall.  The recipes are paired, giving you a tasty meal with two easy to prepare dishes.  Each paired recipe gives you a shopping list, pantry list, and plan of attack so you can complete the meal in as little time as possible.

This was the part that turned me off.

I felt that the shopping list and procedure for preparing the meal outside of the recipe was overkill and to be frank a waste of paper.  However, the recipes, with full on Berley style, are fantastic, easy, and full of pizzazz and creativity.  It is the recipes, the most important part of any cookbook, that compelled me to change my mind, get over the parts of the layout I didn’t like, and pick up a copy for myself.

This tofu dish was much more than a simple stir fry.  The tofu, noodles, and bok choy are all cooked up separately, giving you a noodle bowl-type meal instead of just a stir fry and since the greens are quickly cooked in the same pot as the noodles, the dishes are kept to a minimum.

The glazed tofu was delicious with just a hint of sweetness from the honey (EPC swore it was maple syrup), but the piece de resistance was the accompaniment to this spring meal whose recipe Berley included.  The pea shoot salad was served atop the other ingredients to lend a tender fresh taste.

Pea shoots were a first for EPC and I and we both loved them.  They taste exactly the same as snap peas, but are much more tender and, being pea shoots, they are much “cuter” as well.  Peter Berley included sunflower sprouts in his salad, but I choose to leave them out and go for some straight pea shoot goodness.

I should also mention that I the pea shoots were a much appreciated spring-like presence in my last Organic Box.

Marinated Sesame Tofu Steaks, Soba Noodles, and Greens

1 pound of firm tofu, cut into 12 slices
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon of crushed red chile flakes
2 tablespoons oil

enough noodles for 4 people
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound baby bok choy, rinsed and trimmed – pre-washed spinach works too and makes it extra fast!

2 cups of  pea shoots
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil

  • Bring water to boil in a large pot
  • Blot the sliced tofu on paper towel to remove excess water
  • Mix 6 tablespoons soy sauce with the vinegar, honey and red chiles in a small bowl and whisk to combine
  • Heat a large skillet (I use my 12-inch cast iron) and add the oil.  Let it warm up and then add the tofu slices in one layer.  Fry the tofu for 5 minutes until the bottom is browned
  • Flip the tofu and top with the soy sauce mixture and cook until the sauce has thickened – about 5 minutes
  • When the water boils add the soba noodles and cook according to the package directions.
  • When the noodles are cooked, drain and rinse.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the tablespoon of soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds and toss to coat.
  • In the same pot, with enough water to cover the bottom, add the bok choy and steam for about 2 minutes.
  • In a small bowl mix the lemon juice and oil with a dash of salt.  Add the pea shoots and toss to mix.
  • Serve the noodles topped with greens and tofu with a sizeable garnish of pea shoots.
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The Organic Box, Baby Turnips and Peter Berley: just in time for longer, warmer, and sunnier days.

Well, I did it.

I got my husband to eat turnip and swiss chard AND like it.

All thanks to Peter Berley’s fabulous recipe for Turnip and Leek Soup with Potatoes and Chard from his Fresh Food Fast cookbook.  Did I mention it is fabulously easy as well?

I got two bunches of sweet baby turnips in my Organic Box.  For those of you who don’t know, The Organic Box is a local organic produce service.  They source out local food producers when the season permits and when it doesn’t they source from small farms across the Americas.  Even though I get to pick every item that shows up in my box, it still feels like a surprise each time I get home and open up the box to check out the great mix of fruits and veggies!  They are not just produce though.  You can add on locally produced organic milk from Saxby Dairy Producers in the south end of Edmonton, and grains and pulses from Saskatchewan farms, not to mention their newest addition locally produced organic fruit wines and much much more.

Back to the turnips.

I have never seen or, in my memory, eaten baby turnips.  They were wonderful in the soup and I imagine they would be wonderful roasted as well.  They are about the size of radishes and tied together in that familiar bunch of green tops and creamy white roots.

And now back to the soup.

I have long since learned that Peter Berley’s simple list of ingredients and seasonings make the most wonderful dishes.  I neglected to check my spices before starting the soup and I had to sub in cumin seeds for the caraway, which worked out fine, but I am sure the caraway would have been much better.

I will admit that I used to think if the dish did not contain a long list of spices that it would taste bland or need spicing up, but the perfect blend of vegetables, butter, and salt and pepper make a soup that can make anyone, even my husband, learn to love cruciferous root vegetables and leafy greens.

Leek and Turnip Soup with Potatoes and Chard

3 Tablespoons butter (substitute oil to make it vegan)
2 medium leeks
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 pound small white turnips, quartered or cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 pound of potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces (about 1 pound)
1 bunch swiss chard, stemmed, trimmed and chopped
Freshly ground pepper

  • In a 3 quart saucepan melt the butter over medium heat
  • Add the leeks and a dash or two of salt.  Saute for about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and caraway seeds and stir together.
  • Add 6 cups of water, turnips, potatoes, and bring to a boil.
  • Add 1 teaspoon salt and reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender
  • Add the chard and cook for about 3 minutes until tender.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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Gluten-Free Baking Class? Yes Please!

Hi Everyone, Ally here, I am excited make a guest appearance on Kelley’s fantastic food blog!

As you know from Kelley’s recent post she and EPC have had a very busy month or so thanks to Coco, the new adorable addition to their family. In the midst of her hectic month Kelley did make time to attend a Gluten-Free Baking Class, with me, at the City Arts Centre. It was her idea, because she loves baking, and I am the lucky Celiac friend who often benefits from her passion for new foods.

There were 11 of us in the class, all ladies, about a 50/50 split between “there for their own health or interest” and “there for their husband’s gluten intolerance.”

“Where are all the husbands?” Kelley wondered aloud.

After brief introductions and a short overview by our instructor, Jody Shenkarek (former co-owner of the fabulous Cafe Mosaics), we split up into groups of 2 or 3 and headed into the large kitchen to test our baking skills. Each group had chosen two of the recipes in the handout provided so that by the end of the evening we would be able to sample a bit of everything.

Kelley and I were joined by a lovely older lady named Jean and the three of us set to work mixing up a batch of  Basic Gluten Free Flour Mix.  We made a double batch to provide the basic ingredients for most of the groups. Rather than sifting we mixed the Basic Flour ingredients with a whisk which certainly did the trick.
Our group’s first recipe was for Basic Scones, which was very exciting! Both Kelley and I  love scones!

Baking by committee in a crowded kitchen had its challenges but we managed to gather all the ingredients measure them properly and keep track. In the recipe it says to flour a surface and your hands when splitting the dough into two batches. Well, the GF flour mix doesn’t behave like regular wheat flour so Jody, our instructor, took over – simply plopping the halved dough right onto the parchment and using slightly floured hands to shape it. It provided a good “teachable moment” for her.

Our scones turned out perfect and all three of us were quite pleased.

I have since made these scones at home adding an eighth of a cup (1/8 C) defrosted frozen blueberries to one half, and sprinkling chopped pistachios and mission figs on top of the second half. They turned out delicious! However the berries added a lot of moisture so the scones needed an extra
3 to 5 minutes to fully cook and brown nicely. Personally I think you should experiment with the options – I used to love Berry and White Chocolate, or Cheese and Spinach scones – from Good Earth Café in Calgary. The Basic Scone recipe is straightforward and easy to experiment with, so don’t be afraid to get creative.

Once our scones were in line for the oven, we set to work on the Nut Crackers. I will continue with this recipe in Part 2 of Gluten-Free Baking Class!

Stay tuned.

Basic Gluten Free Flour Mix (makes 6 cups of basic mix)

4 Cups Superfine Brown Rice Flour
1 & 1/3 Cups Potato Starch (NOT potato flour)
2/3 Cup Tapioca flour (which is a.k.a. tapioca starch)

  • Sift in bowl or put into an extra-large Ziplock bag and shake to mix – keep remainder refrigerated!

Caution: when measuring, pour into measuring cup rather than scooping it – Then level off the top with a knife.
This will avoid packing it too densely and mixing  up the proportions.

Basic Scones (makes 1 dozen)

3/4 cup of plain yogurt (I used plain dessert tofu with no problems!)
3/4 cup milk (substitute rice or soy milk to make them dairy-free)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups Basic Gluten Free Flour mix (see above)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoon baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (NOT wax paper)
  • In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon & milk – set aside
  • In a large bowl whisk together all other (dry) ingredients.
  • Once it is well mixed add the wet ingredients and the oil, using a wooden spoon until it is well combined but still clumpy.
  • Divide the dough in half and plop onto cookie sheet – flour your hands and the top of the dough shape into two (6 inch diameter) discs (add optional ingredients to the top at this point if not added already)
  • Cut each disc into 6 “pie” slices and then bake in the centre of the oven for 15 to 17 minutes – transfer to a cooling rack and serve warm.

Optional ingredients: berries – 1 cup, chocolate chips ¾ cup

Recipes adapted from The Allergen Free Bakers Handbook by Cybele Pascal.

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Cookbook extraordinare: Ms. Moskowitz’s Appetite For Reduction

Prior to the release of Appetite for Reduction, I worked up my appetite for Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s new vegan cookbook by making one of the sneak peek recipes off her website. The Baked Onion Rings turned out fantastic and upped my anticipation for the cookbook by 100%.

The first recipe that I tried from the actual cookbook pages were the  Chipotle Lentil Burgers.  They are spicy and delicious.  One of the big problems with vegetable burgers is that they do not hold together well.  Even if they taste great, but fall apart while cooking or while eating, they get a failing grade from me.  Moskowitz’s  burgers held up to cooking, despite begin flipped numerous times, and while begin squeezed between two halves of a whole wheat bun.  The recipe made 6 well-sized burgers and 1 each was all EPC and I needed, along-side our roasted vegetables, to be satisfied.   In addition the burgers are darn easy to make – another plus.

Now I had to decide what to make next.


I had a couple of ripe mangos in the fridge which prompted me to make Mango BBQ Beans and the suggested accompaniment, Fresh Corn and Scallion Corn Bread.  Both were good; however, EPC couldn’t get enough of the corn bread and for me the beans stole the show.  You know that rhyme that ends “and betwixt the both of them they licked the platter clean”, or something to that effect, well in the end it worked out well: neither of us fought over the leftovers. The recipe also prompted me to purchase my first bottle of liquid smoke.  I put in half of what the recipe asked for, because I was a little apprehensive of “smoking out” the beans, but I think Ms. Moskowitz got it right.

Sigh – I should have known better.

Finally, and best of all, the beans and the corn bread were both dead easy to make!

Her falafel recipe is fantastic too and best of all (like the onion rings) does not rely on a deep fryer for flavour.   The falafel came together in no time flat and I took her suggestion and served them atop organic greens, tomatoes, grated carrots and cucumber.  I probably took away the intended low-fat component to this recipe by topping the falafel patties  and greens with a tahini sauce, but I can’t have falafel without tahini!  Oh yes, I realized half way through my meal that I had forgotten to take a photo – I guess I was just too excited to get down to eating!

Next on my list was an easy choice: Curry Laksa.  You can never go wrong with coconut milk, veggies and curry!  And this recipe is oh so right!  The red curry paste, lime juice, ginger and garnish of cilantro quickly add flavour and pizzaz to this time saving meal.  I am a huge fan of coconut noodle soups and this is one of my favourites.  It is delicious and very quick to make.  Both EPC and I absolutely loved it.  I think the author is right when she says that this dish may not be authentic, but with the speed and flavour the lack of authenticity hardly matters.

Now that I have sufficiantly raved about the recipes I should talk a little bit about the overall content of the cookbook.  Appetite for Reduction contains 125 recipes divided into 8 sections: salads, sides, vegetables, beans, tofu and temeph, pasta, soups, and stews.  She also includes a special section on sandwiches and bowls.  In addition, the recipes are reviewed by a registered dietitian who also writes a introductory segment on vegan nutrition, containing info on vitamins and minerals and the scoop on good and bad fats.  Moskowitz also makes choosing a recipe easier for us by using icons with each recipe to identify it as soy or gluten-free and indicate whether the recipe can be made in 30 minutes and under and whether or not the recipe has “downtime”.  She also includes useful information and tips throughout its pages.  Best of all, the cookbook is written in Moskowitz’s standard cheerful and witty banter.

All and all I think this cookbook is fantastic.  I am not going to include any recipes because the cookbook was just released and I think you should pick up a copy for yourself or a as gift for a friend (and then borrow it!)  If you do want to give some recipes from Appetite for Reduction a try take a look at the website.  I think the Chickpea Picatta looks divine!

Click here to purchase from Chapters online, or Amazon.ca.  Just a note that on Amazon.ca you can take a look inside the cookbook!

Dog-Induced Sabbatical and Veggie Pot Pie

My husband and I have been talking about getting a dog for a while now and we finally did it!  In fact, the dog in question is curled up right beside me as I type this post.

We welcomed Coco into our home almost three weeks ago and she is fitting in great.  We found this cute 10 month old Cocker Spaniel at the Edmonton Humane Society and could not resist her.  We are loving every minute of it, but it has not been without its challenges.  She is very timid and scared around men, so EPC has had to work extra hard to win her affections and day-by-day walls are being broken down as she warms to up him.  We have had to do a bit of work on potty-training.  And although the worst is over,(or perhaps I am getting used to it) potty training seems to be a work in progress.  Furthermore, we have to keep an eye on her every second to make sure she isn’t into something (recycling bag, laundry basket) or chewing something (furniture) that she shouldn’t be.  Of course we both love the extra exercise we are getting taking Coco out for walks, but hope the weather will warm up soon! I think Coco feels the same way.

Needless to say I have been busy, hence the absence of posts last month, and Coco, not cooking, has been the center of my attention.  Between take out from Famoso and Padmanadi, Amy’s brand frozen pizzas and our favourite bottled sauces from the Italian grocer over pasta, cooking meals from scratch has been on the back burner.  That being said we have relied on a few quick and easy favourites of Lorna Sass’s in the pressure cooker, but I have not gotten very adventurous in the kitchen.

Since EPC and I had a relaxing weekend with Coco,  I felt inspired to try a new recipe.  I have been thinking about making a vegetarian savoury pie for a few weeks now and I was able to track down a recipe for  Pot Pie in my Vegetarian Times Cookbook, so I decided to give it try.

I was wonderful and I loved the biscuit crust!  The sauce thickened up nicely and wrapped the tender veggies and chickpeas in delicious blanket of flavour. EPC had two large helpings and Coco loved the slices of raw carrot that ricocheted off the counter as I chopped them up for the stew.

It was a  perfect meal on a windy, snowy day.  Yes, despite a respite a couple of weeks ago, it seems that winter will never leave us.

PS: It comes together quite quickly so do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients.

Vegetarian Pot Pie

2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 small red pepper, diced
2/3 cup frozen green  beans
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 19-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (Try brown rice flour to make it gluten-free)
1 cup skim milk (use soy or rice milk to make the recipe vegan)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce (use salt to make it gluten-free)
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour mix)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup skim milk or soy milk
2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey

Heat ½ cup of vegetable broth in a large pot. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the celery, carrots, red pepper, peas, green beans and chickpeas.  Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to coat.  Slowly add the milk and vegetable broth stirring constantly to get rid of any lumps.  Add the parsley, soy sauce, sage, thyme, pepper and cayenne.  Stir constantly until the sauce thickens.

Remove from heat.

In a large bowl blend the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and blend in using a pastry knife (I like to use a large fork) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  I found I needed to add a tablespoon or two of olive oil for the coarse crumbs to develop to my liking.  Add milk and maple syrup and stir to combine.  If the dough is too dry add a touch more milk.  Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and roll it out on a lightly floured surface in roughly the same shape as your casserole.

Pour the vegetable filling into a lightly greased 2 quart casserole and lay the biscuit topping on top.  Do not seal the edges.

Put into the oven a bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes

Serve and enjoy.

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Vietnamese Pho – Vegetarian Style!

I was directed to this great recipe on the Veg News website by my co-worker’s girlfriend.  At work one day he commented on how she had made this great vegetarian Pho, so I was delighted when the link showed up in my inbox a few months later.

I have never had real authentic Pho with beef, so I can’t say if the soup tastes like it should or not. Regardless, it is a great soup and both EPC and I slurped it all up for dinner tonight.

No leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I wasn’t sure if the soup would be as good as the name  – Faux Pho.  Needless to say I spent a lot of time this weekend mentioning to my husband that I would be making Faux Pho, or was that (ahem) Pho Faux, for dinner on Sunday. I guess the soup was pretty stellar, because any annoyance he might have felt at my play on words over the course of weekend was remedied as he finished up his second bowl.

The soy sauce, Chinese five spice powder and of course the seitan make this into one meaty soup quite unlike anything I have had before, except maybe at Padmanadi.  And what do you know, it looks like Padmanadi is having an all you can eat vegetarian buffet this Feb 3 and 4 in celebration of Chinese New Year!

The Vietnamese Faux Pho was quick, easy and delicious, so we will definitely be having it again.

FYI:  I subbed one heaping cup of coarsely grated carrots for the mung bean sprouts, used Green Cuisine plain seitan (available at Planet Organic) and upped the amount of fresh lime juice considerably

Click here for the recipe

Nut Free (or not) Fruit-Sweetened Granola Bars

My friend asked me about 4 months ago if I knew any recipes for nut-free granola bars.  Since I am so remiss in getting around to whipping some up, I decided to post two delicious nut-free recipes.  In this case, the granola part of the bars needs to be made first as it provides the base for the fruit-sweetened bars.

Which means breakfast time and snack time are both covered!

I do not have much to say about these bars (aside from the fact that they are delicious!) other than they can be nut-free or not.  I did decide to add almonds for EPC and I, but a mix of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds would work just as well.

They are chewy, reminiscent of a Lara Bar, but with less structural integrity.  In response, I wrapped each bar separately and stored them in the fridge.

Oh yeah, they can also be made to suit vegans and Celiacs alike!

Seed and Dried Fruit Granola
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

6 cups of rolled oats (not quick oats) (for gluten-free use Only Oats rolled oats)
3/4 cup of raw sunflower seeds
2/3 cup of raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup of sesame seeds
1/4 cup of poppy seeds
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup of honey (substitute maple syrup for vegan granola)
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1/4 cup oil
1 cup of  dried fruit, such as raisins, chopped apricots, and tart cherries

  • Preheat the oven to 300°F
  • Heat a large pot over medium low heat.  Add the oats and stir until fragrant, about 5 minutes
  • Add the seed mixture and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Pour the roasted oats and seeds into a large (9X13) casserole dish and add the cinnamon, oil, honey and maple syrup.  Stir well to mix
  • Take 1/3 of the mixture and spread out on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan (this step is optional, but it produces a more crunchy and darker granola which offers a nice contrast to the lighter cooked granola in the casserole)
  • Put the casserole dish and the cookie sheet into the oven and bake for 20 minutes stirring halfway through.
  • Remove from the oven and stir in the fruit.

This makes about 7 cups of granola.  When cool, store in an airtight container.

Fruit-Sweetened Granola Bars
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 1/2 cup of mixed dried fruit.  I used about equal amounts of raisins, apricots, and apples
1/4 cup of oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups of Seed and Dried Fruit Granola
1 cups of seeds or nuts of your choice. I used almonds.

  • Add granola and seeds or nuts to a large bowl
  • Put the dried fruit mixture, oil and water into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Scrape the fruit mixture in a small pot and warm on the stove top.   When hot pour over the granola mixture and stir well to coat.
  • Line a 8 x 8 square pan with cling wrap and press the mixture into the pan.
  • Cool in the fridge for 1-2 hours until firm and slice into 12-16 bars.

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