Veganly Delicious

Julie-Juliaing one cookbook at a time.

Interview with Alicia C. Simpson.

A sad note: my camera decided it doesn’t so much like taking pictures, so until it does like doing it, no more. (I am really sorry. There were a couple I managed to snag).

And now – my very first interview (I’ve now done two) Yay!. This one is with Alicia C. Simpson, the writer of Quick & Easy Low Cal Vegan Comfort Food. Yumm. If you remember, out of a Buy, Try or Fry, I gave this book a solid “Buy” rating.

My one tiny complaint, and I am going to pick this up in every book that has a nutritonal serving…. even if it is listed at the back/beginning of the book, I’d like a serving to be weighed out/measured out for the particular recipe. Just don’t say “serving”. Especially when it comes to combination foods. If pasta is 1/2 a cup, veg 1 cup, and beans 2/3rd a cup pers serving, and all of that is in the dish… you see the problem?

But it’s minute.

Anyhoo. Here’s my conversation with Alicia. 🙂

Liv: Hi Alicia, thanks so much for being my interview-y! (My first one!) :), So how long have you been a vegan? What inspired you to be a vegan?

Alicia: First of all I’m super excited to be your first interview!

I’ve been vegan for over 6 years now (vegetarian for 4 1/2 years before that). My road to veganism was a long one that I went down kicking and screaming until I realized that I was just being silly and foolish. I was sitting in a class on fasting with a woman who will always be near and dear to my heart, Arden Zinn, who at the time was in her late 80s and is now in her 90s! I told her I was a vegetarian and gave the typical “I just love cheese soooo much I could never give it up” spiel that everyone says and she, without flinching, looked at me and said “why would you as an adult human drink the milk of a cow that is designed to grow a calf into a 1/2 ton cow or bull?” For some reason, that simple question made everything else come into focus and I realized that drinking milk and consuming milk based products was just about the most unnatural thing I could do. So from that day forth, I was vegan.

(Inside my head: You know. this is a good question. My sociology teacher asked something similar in university to me. Why do people drink things that make huge, honking animals…. makes no sense to me!).
Liv:  What prompted you to write this book in particular (and your first two books?) Was it difficult when you got started?

Alicia: This fall I’ll be graduating with my masters in Nutrition and sitting for the RD exam, so health and wellness are passions of mine. There is so much misinformation out there about what healthy eating is and what healthy eating isn’t that I wanted to write a book that set the record straight without the gimmicks and forcing people to cut out incredibly valuable parts of their diet like fats. The process of writing a book, I find, to be easy and fun – I’m in the kitchen every day anyway so it’s just a matter of writing everything down and organizing it. To that end, so many great recipes are lost forever because I jotted them down on a piece of junk mail that accidentally got thrown in the recycling bin or compost heap. (Liv: heeee. me too! it’s really sad, actually). 


Liv: 
You have three cookbooks now, and two focused on comfort food, why the focus on (Southern-y) based Comfort Food?

AliciaI think when people make a big lifestyle shift, like going vegan, they still need to know that the foods they have always loved will be there. Even though I’m a California girl, born and raised, there’s something about southern comfort food that is just nostalgic and utterly fantastic. In our house southern food was only served on special occasions, like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter so for me it’s synonymous with family, togetherness and home. I think those that buy Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food will find is that it isn’t focused on southern comfort food but comfort foods from around the country and some new twist on old favorites.
Liv: What did you want to accomplish with this book? (You know, other than the low-cal aspect!)

Alicia: As I said before I really wanted to breakdown the stereotypes around what healthy eating is and present a low-calorie book that still had real food – poundcakes, fritters, casseroles, the whole nine.
Liv: What do you think of the Vegan Cookbook explosion? Why do you think it’s happening now?

Alicia: I think it is fantastic! What I also think is amazing about the vegan cookbook explosion is the level of creativity out there. The bar is continually raised and I am a fan of so many vegan cookbook authors. I think that we, as Americans, are in such a horrific place in terms of health that we are finally starting to see that the meat and dairy based diets we have enjoyed for the past couple of generations will ultimately be our demise and to that end people are looking for alternatives. I also think that people are often more compassionate than we give them credit for and when the truth about the horrific practices of the meat and dairy industry are put in front of them it’s hard to deny that the way we eat has to change.

(Note: I didn’t know this during the interivew – but this is actually the year of the Vegan Cookbook. In case you were wondering, last year was the year of the Canning book. Do it yourself is in ya’ll).

Liv: And I’ve got to ask – All those recipes, and not one Pizza recipe? What gives?! 😀

Alicia: There is! There are mini-pizzas in Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food. (Note: this is Alicia’s first book, which I don’t have). I actually have several pizza recipes (even a few deep dish ones) that are tried, tested, and fantastic that just haven’t made it into the books yet. I usually brainstorm and cook somewhere between 200-250 recipes and then whittle it down to the final 150+ for each book so, unfortunately, not everything makes every book. If I get the chance to continue to write vegan cookbooks then, I promise you, there will be more pizza recipes!

Liv: Out of three books, which one is your favourite?

Alicia: Hands down it’s Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations. It might not be PC to say you love one of your books more than the others, and they are all fantastic and represent a different place in my life and a growth in my cooking and writing but I have to say I just adore the recipes in Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations. It’s the book I cook out of most. It is full of comfort food recipes as well as a really diverse group of recipes from Louisiana style cooking for Mardi Gras like Gumbo, Oyster Po Boys and Beignets to Shepherd’s Pie (St. Patty’s Day) and Homemade Irish Creme Liquer. I literally make the traditional and North African Meatballs from Vegan Celebrations at least 3 times a month and my daughter loves them!

Liv: What’s your inspiration?
Alicia: Helping people wade through all the misinformation out there and get to the root of really great, simple, food that is good for them is my passion. I’m inspired by my readers, their stories, and their experience with each recipe and each book. New vegans excite me and invigorate me and make me want to just keep on creating fantastic recipes that will help people discover how easy and delicious veganism is. My goal is to make veganism as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. Of course, my biggest inspiration now is the little vegan in my life, my daughter. She’s a phenomenal little recipe tester and has really changed the way I cook and eat. Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food was actually written while I was pregnant with her.
Liv: Whose your favourite chef (vegan or otherwise?)
It’s so hard to just name one! There are a lot of great up and coming vegan talents who’s books have made it across my desk. If I had to name one Kelly Peloza brings me immense amounts of joy. I’ve never tasted a recipe of hers that I didn’t love. Her egg nog cookies are reason enough to fall head over heels in love with her.

(In my head: Heck. freaking. yeah. Kelly’s stuff is amazing. Ah. mah. zing. Seriously.).

And I know this seems completely insane but I love Paula Deen, in a sort of ironic way. Her over the top, completely unhealthy, butter on top of butter with cream on the side recipes are what inspired my blog The Lady and Seitan so I have to give props to Paula since she inspired an entire blog of mine and I spend my days veganizing her recipes now (and trying to make them a bit healthier).
Liv: For those reading and wondering if veganism (or at least very strict vegetarian) is for them, what would you suggest for them?

Alicia: Yes it’s for you! Going from being an omnivore to a herbivore is a lifestyle change and you have to treat it as such. As with any lifestyle change you can’t just jump into it without a plan, if you do you won’t make it long-term. If this is truly the way you are going to live for the rest of your life you need to go about it thoughtfully.

Find a few cookbooks that you like, or good recipe blogs to get an arsenal of go-to vegan recipes that you really love. Don’t give up if the first couple recipes you try aren’t great.  Not every recipe is for everybody that’s a universal truth to all cooking not just vegan cooking. Find out where you can eat out, when you’re out at your favorite restaurants look over the vegetarian menu and ask if they can make things without eggs or dairy products, you’ll be surprised how often the answer is yes and how many mainstream convience foods are already vegan. Find like minded people to bounce ideas off of and get inspiration. There’s nothing worse than that isolated vegan who doesn’t go out with friends anymore, doesn’t go to dinner parties, and kind of removes themselves from everything not vegan in life. That’s no way to live!

Vegan Celebrations really talks in depth about how to be a party starter and not a party pooper (that’s literally the name of one of the chapters) and how to be vegan anywhere and everywhere. The more people that see you’re a happy, healthy, vibrant, vegan the more attractive veganism will be to them and you might be the spark that helps someone else make the change to being vegan without even knowing it! Online forums like the PPK are amazing places to bounce ideas off of people, vent frustrations (seriously how many times can you answer “where do you get your protein from?”) and just connect with others.
Liv: Would you say your books are for the newly veganist?<<– yes that’s a word. I made it one.

Alicia: I really believe my books are for everybody. I started writing  Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food during my transition from being a vegetarian to a vegan and it was published after I had been vegan for 3 years. For that reason I think it appeals to new vegans more because it really takes you step by step through my vegan journey, information on vegan nutrition and dispells a lot of vegan myths. Overall, my books are for people who love food, because at the heart of it I’m a foodie who would spend everyday in the kitchen if I could.

Liv: What are your favourite recipes from “Low Cal Comfort Food?”

Alicia: The Corn dogs made with homemade ball park hotdogs, Chili Cheese Fries, Seitan Cheesesteak, Chickpea Cacciatore, Butter Pecan Ice Cream, Butter Rum Poundcake, Strawberry Milkshake, Fried Green Tomatoes… Hmmm…the more I think about it this might be my favorite book afterall! I just want to name every recipe!
Liv: Is there anything else coming down the pipeline?

Alicia: I’m bouncing around several ideas for cookbooks right now and looking for what really fits me best for where I am in life right. Any cookbook author will tell you, that looking back at old cookbooks is like looking at a yearbook – it’s a really good picture of where you were creatively at that time. Beyond cookbooks, now that I’ve finally finished with school I also have the opportunity to write more about my areas of speciality which are maternal and pediatric nutrition and lactation and there’s several projects I’m actively working on in that arena.

Liv: Thanks again!!

See. that was so informative. 🙂 (and Alicia was a real sweetie!). She was super busy, so I didn’t want to expand a lot of the answers which were straightforward enough, but as you can tell with the thoughts in my head, – there are some questions that you ask yourself once you really think  (like the milk thing), why do we do it, other than.. you know, marketing, etc? (Or because you are told to). Not to get too political or anything, just an observation 🙂

And I have another interview coming up (like I mentioned).  Featuring, the lovely, and talented dessert goddess: Kelly Peloza! (honestly, when I saw Alicia name her as one of her favourites, and Kelly had just graciously agreed to interview with me, I was like, see. all of these things work out for the best!). 🙂

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Some Musings, Some Updates, and My New Boy, Chuck.

Forgive me. I lied.

I didn’t mean to lie. It wasn’t even my intention to lie, but lie I did. The lie was, that I was going to do a total photo essay of every recipe of all my books and it would be awesome.  Because you know, it’s awesome.

But I think… there are just some days you don’t want to cook from the same book. Yes it is easier because you have all the stuff you need, but sometimes you want to cook from someone else. Or you want to try a brand new recipe that you discovered online, and you pout because it’s not in the book.. Or you just want to eat crackers and soup because you feel kind of icky.

(like this week).

It’s nothing against the book. It’s part of the reason why I stopped in the middle of The Every Day Vegan. (and why I never did make it through the entire Betty Crocker 12th Edition Cookbook). There is a tonne of recipes out there and I want to try to get through a tonne of them. (Plus if I cook through most of my cookbooks, I can buy more. See. Logic!).

And. I’m not forgetting about the pictures. It just takes a while to upload them, edit them, and transfer them to my photo locker and then put them here. And I work 12 hour days. So. it’s not really on the first and foremost thing on my mind. But I am taking them. 🙂 I just need to you know. Fiddle with them! 🙂

So – final reviews on Quick & Easy Low Cal Comfort Food

I made one recipe from every section, minus: salads. so I feel that I can properly comment on everything.

Everything that I made except for the lasagne was really, really good. They came out exactly as it was supposed to minus  the black bean sausage (and that was more of my fault, not the book).

Cooktime – very fast. If I were a weekday chef, and I made sure a little prework (ie: have sausage already made and frozen), a lot of these could be done when someone came home from work.

Vegan to Omni Factor: I’d say pretty high, You shouldn’t have a picky issue here.

Taste: Pretty good, and how I’d expect it to be.

Instruction: Clear (good!)

Variation on the Diet: I’d say fair to middling. Ample parts of seitan, bean and tofu.

Ingredients Forage: minimum. I don’t know what Spike seasoning is, I couldn’t find gumbo file (and I forgot to pick it up at my specialty spice shop) and I couldn’t find vegan whipping creme (and I know I can make my own but I was looking for the one that the book called for… for the most part anything/everything you could find in your local store, Canadian and all.

Leftover Friendly: high. Everything I made tasted good as the week wore on.

Favourite Recipe: I’d have to say the meatball soup with the buttermilk biscuits. I am making sweet potato biscuits & chips as I have a bunch of sweet potato sitting here & it’s thanksgiving… so they do go hand in hand I’d say. The meatballs looked eerily like meat meat balls. It kinda squiged me out! Oh wait. + the lemongrass soda & sugar cookies. Nom.

Is this a Buy, Try Or Fry?:  I would give it a solid buy rating. I made most of the soups (Im a soup fiend) and they were really good. The biscuits and breakast foods (which I find aren’t often quick and grabbable for most vegan books) was worth it, and the a whole section of low caloric drinks (make the lemongrass soda.Just do it).  is worth it.

Now. the question was asked, if you had the first book, did you need the this one. (as this is low cal, and the other one, well is not). Well, I can’t answer that. I don’t have the first book. Some recipes did come over, but they were revamped to be low cal-ed so I don’t know.

New stuff to look forward too…

INTERVIEWS! 🙂

I have one lined up with Alicia (the author of Vegan Comfort Food – and I just realised my tag was wrong. Darn it, must fix). And a surprise one 🙂

October’s Book:

Gluten Free is becoming a huge thing in the weight loss world, vegan world, and the world in general. It’s really tough in the vegan world because a lot of our main sources of nourishment comes from gluten-gluten based products. But there is a huge movement in the xgfx community and there are a lot of people who have awesome stuff. In honour of that I will be cooking from Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats. This book is by Allyson Kramer of Manifest Vegan. I will do a preview of the book later this week.
This book almost didn’t get chosen because…

My new slowcooker “Chuckwagon!” came.

Okay let me explain. I name all my appliances. That’s right. Every single thing I own that’s an appliance… or electronic, gets a name. (eg: my cast iron skillets are named Bubba and Bobby-Joe. My timer is named Clicky Pig. My Food Processor is named Faith. My Ninja is called, well.. I can’t say it in polite company. But there is a reason I’m saving up for the Holy Grail of Blenders. The Ninja can do its thing but man do I want a Vitamix).

So my new Cuisinart 6.5 quart programmable 12 hour delay crockpot…. is named Chuckwagon. But it’s nickname is Chuck.
Not Chuck. But Chucuuuuk. With a deep thick Southern accent.

Look. I don’t have a life. Give me this.

And with my new boy Chuuuccck (I’ll stop now), along came Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. (Note: this is not a reprint of her original book “Fresh from the Vegetarian slow cooker”). This came after I made the announcement about October’s book.

A “Darn it!” may have escaped my lips. 😉

 

But, to be fair, I’ve wanted to cook from this book for ages. AGES. And now I can, because I chose it. trallaa. See 🙂

Because it’s Thanksgiving, I do plan on cooking up a nice Thanksgiving feast for… well one. I am going to take advantage of Pear season while its here and make some pear cinnamon jam and pear slow cooker butter. but I think my first menu is going to involve Veggie Kofta (If you had pre-ordered this book way back when you were given some recipes that didn’t make it into the book – Veggie Kofta did not. This will be the only thing I’ll make because I don’t think it’s fair to cook things that you don’t get access to).

See ya next time!

 

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Annnd We’re Back!

It’s just been a very couple of weeks. Last week, there were no pictures as I forgot to photograph the Jalapeno Poppers. (so freaking good, so they were just going into my mouth, rather than stopping to take the time to photograph them). and… wow, I can’t remember what else I made. But it was all good.

Except for the lasagna.

I really wish I knew what went wrong with that recipe. I think it could just be I’m not a white sauce girl. Or a tofu in lasagna kind of girl…

Or it just wasn’t good. (for me).

I did also try a new cheese – Follow Your Heart. (but as I had to chuck the entire thing away, I don’t know if I liked it… it melts great though!).

This weeks menu is fairing a lot better. And I am remembering to take pictures.

 

Breakfast is.. well. Breakfast Biscuits.
I made the buttermilk biscuits (which are REALLY good) with the tofu egg and seitan sweet sausage I actually decided when I made the sausage, instead of making them into links, just make them into little patties. Better decision.

Lunch is Meatball Soup.
Oh. my heck. this is now hands down one of my top five favourite soups ever. EVER. I added my own spice mix to this (Just a touch of Mrs. Dash and some exra pinches of herbs here and there), but the overall base (and the meatballs) were amazing. I am actually going to make the meatballs again (just as hamburger patties), do a sear and have them for my weekeend meal.

Dinner is Chik’n Fried Steak w/5 Minute Garlic and Spinach. (with Mashed Potatoes).
This is good.I did not use the Basic Seitan recipe, instead of I used Vegan Sandwiches No-Cluck recipe. It’s my favourite. (plus it tastes like chicken) 😀 But everything else was good. A touch more salty, I think I would not add the salt (I don’t have Bragg’s Liquid Amnios yet, I am using up my Tamari right now, but she calls for that + some salt, and I think the extra salt just kills it in the gravy). and the coating was a bit salt-y too. But it’s still yummy.

The garlic spinach.. I think I let it ‘wilt’ too much. It was .. not yummy. (for me) I am a texture girl after all.

Dessert is baked apple sorbet. Yes, you can totally come over. (this was not in the book, but I saw the recipe and needed to try it ASAP).

Pictures to follow.

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Lasagna Woes and Canning Fun. (AKA hello? is this thing on?)

Is anyone reading this?
Am I just talking to myself? (I often do this).

I hope people are reading this. 🙂

Okay – so for a belated birthday gift I decided to get a canner. This was totally going to be my summer project, and then summer got away from me, and then I figure, well what the heck, why not? So I did. And I have to say I am so, very happy that I did. So this is why I have made rhubarb butter (like I said before) but I’ve also got 6 lbs of strawberries just sitting in some sugar (and 3 lbs are with lemons) ready to make some preserves. Also – I’m making peach jam. JAM.

But the sad tale is – I’ve also ran out of sugar. I think this is the first time ever I’ve been sugarless.
(needless to say other baking and stuff I needed to do needs to be on hold until I can get to the organic grocery store for some vegan sugar).

 

This weeks menu was “Let’s use the stuff up in my fridge before it gets too bad”. Also I really wanted to embrace the comfort food aspect because it was been a horrendously. horrible. bad week.

Sadly – the cucumber died before I got to use it.

It was – Jalapeno Poppers.
this took about 20ish minutes to actually slice them all, clean them up and stuff them. (I only bought 6 – because I forgot my grocery list and thought I needed 6) –  the stuffing actually went into all of the 12 (so it makes me wonder what the heck I would have done had I had 12? and 24 to stuff. These are … okay. (I think it would have helped had the breading really crisped up).

 

White Lasagna.
Man. this took for.ev.er to make. FOR.EV.ER. (a tip. should you make this, start steaming all your veggies first. I didn’t see all the “steam till tender” parts so i had to actually stop – do that, and then continue with everything:

I used a new vegan cheese (Follow Your Heart), instead of Daiya (FYH actually melts really well, and grates really well).  I don’t know how it tastes. it tastes…okay. Lasagna is one of those things that tastes better the longer it has a chance to sit. But as the only seasoning is Italian seasoning, some salt and pepper I have a feeling it’s gonna be a bit bland. (My mom actually asked me what I was thinking and always over season the lasagna).

I actually need to get a big lasagna pan too. I used my biggest one and oi. Thank goodness I had the foresight to put a baking sheet underneath it all.

 

Lemongrass Soda. (on hold until I get some sugar)

Chocolate Zucchini Pecan Muffin (on hold until I get some sugar).

Meltable Sugar Cookies
Really yummy. I didn’t frost them. I don’t think it was really necessary even if the calories allow you too. These really do kind of melt in your mouth.

Tomorrow I’ll be making:
Vegetable Noodle Soup with Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits. (sans biscuit pan. Boo)

the fruits of my labour (seriously all those strawberries get preserved).

and crispy risotto cakes. (should i feel bothered to actually bake them. but I figure since the oven has to be preheated anyway why not? I’ve also got some chickpeas soaking but I am more in a popcorn kinda mood. (so i’ll be breaking my own rule and will be repeating recipes – maybe. we’ll see)

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Painful Weekend. Scrummy Eats.

I have had the most painful weekend ever. Painful. I slept wrong  so now I’ve got the most ever loving pain bubble in my back and neck, which is causing my arm to go numb. And I sleep on my arm, so imagine waking up to the biggest case of pins and needles two days in a row.

Then – I had a big case of heartburn. (but lunch – Avo-pasta with Apple-Sage Sausage was totally worth it).

Then I had some oil splash into my eye. (Yes. I screamed like a girl. Yes, I freaked out – but I’m fine).

This morning, I had more oil splash my arm.

The moral of the story – Oil is totally not worth it. (Okay, maybe it is).
So I am nice – here are the hash browns from last week. Like I said they were okay – but I think next time I will either double the recipe or just make them bigger. But they did go well with my meal, so all is well that ends well.

Speaking of which. I actually contacted the author of the book! 🙂 Alicia is a very sweet lady. I needed to know what I did wrong regarding the sausage patties, and she really helped with the trouble shooting of them. I’m not going to make them again any time soon, we’ve got an entire book to work through (or mostly the entire book). but I will re-do them. Basically, what I needed to do was have a half puree/half dry mixture. And NO wet hands. I think for me it’s going to take a bit to get there but we will.

If you also remember, I said I did some canning last weekend. (and if I didn’t, guess what! I did canning last weekend!) I made peach butter (not the jam in the book, I didn’t have pectin). and rhubarb butter. Here’s a lookie loo.

the left is Rhubarb with (organic) white sugar/cinnamon, the left is Rhubarb with dark sugar and ginger. Both are yum.

My friend and I felt like just making them different from the book (FYI- Food in Jars). We followed the basic recipe, but we actually reduced the sugar that was in the book (JB’s suggestions, and we added cinnamon to the original. Then I was like, well what would dark brown sugar do, and we were like, I dunno, hence, we added a blend of dark brown sugar, white sugar, and some ginger. (To offset all that delish molasses goodness). They were awesome. My summer project this year was to actually can. Well, i got off to a really slow start, so I do intend to pickle and can a lot next year.

As I said, I also did peach jam, which was really yummy, and we added some cinnamon to that too. The peaches were well roasted. (I did want to get Food in Jars. It isn’t a vegan book,but things in there can very easily be veganised. I’m thinking swapping the honey for maple syrup or brown rice syrup (probably the latter). And I want to make curd! Which is very veganisable. Swap the egg yolks for some corn starch, and you have got a delish, creamy curdy fruit… curd. Minus the egg. See. Where on earth would we be without Google, I tell ya, I never want to know.

But – you want to know about this weeks menu! I was actually really good and kept prep times too! 🙂

Saturday Night:
Baked Risotto:
Prep-Time 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes.

So this meal is totally weekend-nightable! In the book it says serve immediately. Eh. I never pay attention to that!. take a look of the final product with all the creamy Earth Balance and nutritional yeast (aka Nootch).

The orange bitties are carrots, and the yellow isn’t corn – it’s the yellow zucchini that I found at the organic health food store. Next week’s menu is going to include “Crispy Risotto Cakes” (technically to use the leftovers, but I figure, I’ll just double the serving size – because believe it or not this is less than 160 calories), and make another fresh batch then crisp it up. It will be still under 1.5 hours. 🙂

I love risotto – when I was living in Korea, I had a really nice pregan meal of chicken risotto (with honking big mushrooms). I never really had anything like that since, but risotto is really big in vegan circles, so I know i’m going to be able to have this over and over again.I reckon this will win itself a sticker.

Chickpea Catacctore
Prep-Time: less than 15 minutes
Cooktime-30 Minutes
Chickpea Soak Time – overnight
Slower-cooker: 8 hours.

Remember y’all. I use dried beans (and really ever rarely to make enough to freeze ). These went for eight hours.I find doing it for 6 hours still makes the chickpea hard-ish, while the eight hours gives it fresh from the can taste (for me). Anyway, if you just remember to do this and go on your way – it doesn’t factor into your prep time at all. Also – the timing is off because this is where I had oil splash into my eye.

Anyway – this made up quickly. As I was screaming “my eye! my eye!” and washing it under cold water, my roommate took over (Thanks). But my garlic burned (which is what Alicia said this will happen if you don’t stir constantly, so I added a pinch of roasted garlic powder. (I love this powder, I swear to goodness.  I will use any and every excuse to use it).

I’ve never really had any kind of caccatore in my pregan days but I am just assuming this is a version of a meat based tomato sauce that you’d serve up over… pasta or something. The suggestions were called for either rice or quinoa. I chose quinoa because A: I was already having rice in the risotto, and B: I’ve not had it for a while. and I was using this for my lunch, I figure, let’s

the sesame is in the oil. no seeds.

just have a very powerful protein lunch. With a side of the sesame broccolini, it will be very complete and very yummy. (speaking of the broccolini, I am just going to say, while I was a firm believer of “boil it dead” steaming it is so easy and you just get to keep that vivid green colour I’m just going to steam all the time now (Unless of course I have to boil it dead) :). The broccolini took less than five minutes and less than a minute prep. Have it on hand, and it’s done in no time.

It will be kind of weird to have an “Italian” based meal with something akin to an Asian flair (with the sesame oil and all) but I think it will compliment each other very much. 🙂 (I also am going to have this with the risotto. Lots o’ greens!

We interrupt this to show off the yummy hush puppies. (I am embarrassed to admit, I ate these all yesterday. They never stood a chance). Which is why I made stove top Sticky Bun Popcorn as well.

stovetop style. really good!

If you remember – last time I made barbeque popcorn, I used my air popper. Which, I do not mind using at all. I feel it’s quick, easy, and you can get like a single serving right off the bat, which is good. (Much better than you know, buying a bag of chips. I like chips, but I like popcorn better, except when it gets stuck in my gums). With the stop-top, you get that.. well great tasting flavour you want from popcorn, (a bit more calories, due to the oil, I think) but still really quick. the Air Popper was like less than 5 minutes, this took 20 minute start to finish.

And now. the star of our show. The one I was really concerned about. The blueberry cornmeal pancake. First of all I think I have to admit a few things:

  • I am not the biggest pancake fan in the world. They’re okay, but I like waffles better.
  • Mostly because I suck at making them.
  • I don’t like blueberries.

fresh in the pan.

So. there we go. But these were like awesome. I think I have a weird kind of cornmeal. This stuff is really course and dry and everything, (not silky smooth like the one I get at the bulkfood store. I should really take a picture of the two side by side next time I get some bulk-store cornmeal). But this has got some bite to it!

This took about 5 minutes to put everything together, and another 10 or so to actually make. So very easy to do in the morning if you’ve got your stuff together. I think blueberries make this. (I think raspberries would too. Strawberries, I doubt it). I topped off my poor broken mis-shapen ones with the peach butter and a tipple of maple syrup. (There is totally not enough to share with my roommate. So sad. Also not enough to last for the week. Double so sad. And I’m not really going to make another batch for the rest of the week. I do have cold cereal).

 

breakfast of champions. Peach butter, maple syrup, and the blueberry cornmeal pancake, nommmy nommy.

I’m going to get some milk now and make some mint tea.

Honestly though – when people ask me what I eat as a vegan – just look above. Nothing processed, all organic for the most part, and so easy and quick to make. And most of this stuff is gluten free too. It’s like a inside the park home run.

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Hush Puppy!

When I was a little girl. (from like 8 to 12) my uncle and aunt used to drive to Florida. It was so awesome because I got to see America, and have American things.. like Musketeer bars, and Milky Way Bars (which ended up being in Canada anyway, and Milky way is a Mars Bar. I was 8. work with me).

But my favourite thing was when we hit the South (Carolina, Kentucky), is that we got to have Southern Food. I didn’t really care about everything else (grits, fried everything). I wanted Hush Puppy.

Now, I know what you are asking.

Liv, what is, pray, a hush puppy. (also you are asking, do I always add “pray” when I ask a question. Yes. Yes. Yes I do.)

A Hush puppy is a corn meal, onion-y, garlick-y fried dough mess of a yum in your tum. I kid you not. It’s just awesome. And now people can add actual corn, and bacon grease (yuck!) and whatever. As we never had pork for religious reasons, I’m assuming the hush puppies I had was Piglet free. But truthfully for a bowlful of some puppies, I didn’t care.

Why are they called hush puppies? You’re asking me? I’m Canadian, go ask a Southerner.

Naturally. I decided to make this from the book.  These are technically supposed to make 18. However, we had a few issues.

  1. I didn’t have a mini muffin pan
  2. I have yet to bake anything that had a suggested serving size and I reached it.

So instead of 18. I got 11 pretty nice baked hush puppies. (Yes baked. it’s low cal vegan, y’all. It wasn’t going to be fried. Shame).

The one, teeny, tiny tweak I made to this recipe was the addiction of garlic. For me, hush puppies need garlic. I wasn’t going to grate them in there (ooh, an Idea for next time), so I added a tsp of roasted garlic powder. These just made them all pop.

Happy belly.

After Who tomorrow, I’ll be making everything else including pancakes). Pictures to follow.

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If Broccoli & Asparagus were to ever Fall in Love..

Okay first things first:

I know. You are missing pictures of the popcorn (it’s in the book – also. my popcorn will not really… work the same way as Alicias. I have an Air-Popper, ergo, I don’t need to mix with oil, while she does. So it kinda worked out because it’s actually lower-cal. (SCORE!) but It tastes. well. airpopped.

Leftover Rating of Menu 1:
8/10. The Black Bean Sausage (crumbles) tasted great for the week. Ditto the Chickpea Cheese. (hummus y’all. less oily hummus). everything stood the test of time except the Hashbrowns. So I figure these are more of a “You have people come over, and you decide, hey, Let’s make hash browns).

(but truth be told. I wasn’t SUPER impressed with them. They made an awesome lunch accessory but I feel like they could have been bigger (actually they could have been I did 1/4 instead of the 1/3) but I just like store bought better.

Chickpea Cheese (HUMMUS). I am going to use as a snack or something. i don’t think it will go bad right away. I have a LOT left over. The salsa (Yummy) I will make a tonne of it and can it for next year.I think Tomaillos are out of season now. boo.
Almond Granola WILL be made again. I got 6+ servings out of it (1 cup each). and it was yummy. I do suggest mixing your fruits (like 1/8th cup of everything. Prunes, ironically made the difference).

Breakfast lasted me for a long time. Which, I have to say, good job granola and pumpkin milk. (Now I have to say that breakfast #2 has a lot to live up to).

Lunch as well, by the time I got home I was hungry.

Dinner…. we had issues. I was hungry every day this week after dinner. (so. of course I had some sorbet and some more popcorn – and a gingerale I was slightly sick to my tummy).  I’ll report if this is a standard thing.

I have to say I am off to a good start.

 

Book Finds

I was so good. I lasted. A lot longer than I had to be. Really. But when you have a new Celine Steen Tami Noyes book coming out (Albeit May 2013), you’d pre-order it too right? Especially if it’s a baking book. With whole grains. I mean, hello, it’s practically essential. Also – I preordered Gluten Free & Vegan Bread. I had to. Again. Essential. Not to say I intend to give up gluten. Gluten and me. we’re buds. But I love bread. And I love making it. (well learning how to). It reminds me of watching my mom and grandma make bread. So if I could A: make bread, B: make vegan bread, C: make my vegan bread gluten free.. I think that’s a win win win situation. Also – it will D: save on BUYING vegan bread, because y’all. vegan bread’s expensive.

Plus they aren’t coming out until next year so I have plenty of time to save up and cook more for you all. See. logic.

 

Food Finds

I found Peanut Butter & Co Peanut Butter. This was like beyond amazing. I’ve wanted to try these forever and – while I don’t think they are Canadian wide yet, they were at my supermarket. On sale. Plus a discount. And this was a super market I never really go to. Yeah. Score one for me.

 

Menu #2

Now this is what you really wanted to know, and the title of the blog post. Well. we’re going to be cooking with broccolini this week. What is, pray, broccolini? Well – it’s broccoli and asparagus exploded into one spiffy veg. It really looks cool. Mine is organic (so it cost more, but I actually got more. It was 5.99 a lb and I spent 7 dollars on it. Eek, I know. BUT. the other supermarket had.. “Broccoli spears” which looked like my baby broccolini, but it was 2.71 per bunch. And the bunch was small. So I would have had to spend at least 6+ on it, to get my lb, so this way I have my lb + its organic. Win.

This week’s adventures in Low Cal Vegan cooking is

 

Breakfast:
Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes. w/Peach Butter
not the spiced Carolina Peach jam. I think should I be able to get peaches for 79¢ again OR get 3lbs for a good lot, I’ll probably make some of it. if not, I won’t. I don’t really feel like worrying with peaches right now anyway.

Almond Milk (Silk).

this one is going to be tough. I am not the biggest fan of fresh blueberries. I know. I am weird. I also don’t like it in baked goods. Yes. I know. I am weird. Especially when my favourite pregan doughnut was a blueberry fritter. loaded with blueberry jam… work that one out. 

Lunch
Sesame Broccolini with Chickpea Catacctore & Quinoa
(power-protein lunch!)
with applesauce (Yes. I have a thing for applesauce. I intend to can a bucket load).

Dinner
Baked Risotto! I found yellow zucchini at my health food store and I figured that was as close to summer squash as I was going to get right now. The things I do for you people because I had to HUNT for that Leek. (yes the leek of all things).

 

I’m also going to be making hush puppies. (for the weekend and other snacking). most likely Sticky Bun Popcorn. There was going to be some sugar cookies too – but alas I forgot the cream of tartar. Maybe next week.

This week is Bean week. So this meal is 100 percent soy free should you you know, purchased soy-free items. (the book isnt’ ‘marked’ soy free or whatever, but I think it’s often good to know). Like I said, I eat the big vegan Four of proteins: Seitan, Tofu, Tempeh & Beans. So I cycle. Seitan, Soy, Bean. (rinse and repeat). I know that it might not always be so clear cut. (e.g.: a lot of this books tofu recipes includes seitan as well). but I think as long as I try, I am not ‘overdoing it’ on any one food group. (even though, seitan is really yummy).

 

Oh – and to answer the question: I will be using Alicia’s seitan recipes in the book – unless she calls for storebought. Then I will whip up some Gobblers, Moo-Free & No Cluck Cutlets from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day.
Time for some Torchwood.

Cooking commences tomorrow, and maybe I’ll actually give you a look of a plated dish of food…. 😉

 

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Sprouts, Cheese, Salsa and Granola… Oh My!

So I started doing most of these Friday Night. (The Sausage – I want the fennel to develop, so these will have a quick fry up). I also did onion and bell peppers for the quesadillas today but these are a “make the day of”. So I did everything else.

Almond Granola.

 This was the first thing I made this morning. (and I honestly had meant to check the timing on everything else I made, but I get into this Rachael Ray cooking zone or something and I forget, I take breaks, etc). This literally takes about 30 minutes to make start to finish. There were optional fruit choices one can do – so I did all of them (1/8th cup of 4 instead of 1/4 cup of 2).

(Prunes, Apricots, Cranberries and Currants).

This came together, and cooked and cooled under an hour and Alicia says it’s good on the countertop. So We’ll see about that.

How do I feel about this? This isn’t the first granola I’ve made. It was easier and certainly drier than my first batch (the last one called for applesauce for sweetness, and I used a different puffy cereal). It tastes…flat. Like she forgot to add salt to it or something. I think a pinch of Himalayan Sea Salt would have brought out the yumminess of everything. But having this with some milk will do.

This will be made again simply for the “snack” factor and the east factor.

 

Gingered Brussels Sprouts

You know – I’ve never steamed vegetables before. Ever. I am a boil it until it’s dead kind of girl, so it took me a couple of minutes to figure out how my new steamer basket worked. (and then I went “oooohh”) and then I stuffed it all of Brussels sprouts and was curious how on earth it was going to get all tender, popped the lid on it and did what I needed to do to make the ginger sauce. And colour me surprised. It totally came out awesome

 

I think I’ve had Brussels sprouts once ever. But these are really good. 

It took less than ten minutes for these. (well, fifteen once you take in the quartering). I did not, however have vermouth. I do not drink, and while I do have red wine and white wine for Seitan making or whatever, unless the recipe allows the wine to come to a high temperature to burn off the alcohol I don’t use it. So long story short, I pulled out my white wine, herbed it up and added it to the mix. It tastes fine to me.

 

Chickpea Cheese.

 

I don’t know why she just didn’t call it cheesy hummus. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting to be “cheesy” like, but it’s like a thick spread of nootchy goodness, with a nice punch of Hungarian Paprika. (this is my go too. I have three. Hungarian (sweet), Spanish (smoked) and American (bland). I NEVER use my American, always opting for the Hungarian, unless I need smoked. Call me snotty). 🙂  Anyway – this was a three day event as I don’t use storebought chickpeas  I don’t think a lot of people realise how fast it is to make your own beans.

I know what it looks like but it’s good.

Slow Cooker Way:

1 cup (or more) of beans (remember they double in size after they soak)
Rinse and put about 2ish inches over it and pop it in the fridge.
Take it out the next day and rinse again – and then put into the slow cooker
Cover with water (again about 2-3ish inches) a splash of oil, a pinch of salt, add some
Kombu (it’s a sea weed, it helps you not toot as much), 5-7 hours later – beans!

Stovetop Way

Do everything I just said,but put in a pot, cover it up and leave it alone for 1-2 hours.
(I find though slow cooking it gives it that fresh from the can taste).

But back to the recipe – I ended up dumping everything in the food processor and woila. And then of course my friends proceed to tell me how gross it looks. It’s not the sexiest food thing ever but it really does taste delish. (I bet the next day once the flavours marry, will taste better). But “cheese” it ain’t. It’s a hummus spread. So I think making some crackers would be in order the next time I make this.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

I forgot to chop in the cilantro. Crud.
I also, somehow, forgot to buy seranno peppers…or they are hidden in my apartment. (I hope this isn’t the case).

So when in doubt, use what you have, which was in this case, chiplotes in adobo sauce. I haven’t really tasted it yet, I’ll let you know, and I know this will now change the caloric balance of the recipe.(eh). But I needed a pepper, right?  This was the longest to make due to the roasting of the tomatillos. But it all came together really quickly, and then… Wham!

wham-pow! yummy salsa

 

It’s one of those things – once you now know how to do it – why would you really go and buy it again. I love salsa. LOVE it. and had I known it was super easy to make (and in theory, it shouldn’t have been that surprising – hello. Tomatoes, veg, = salsa). but I never really do it. But it is good, good food.

I haven’t actually tasted it yet, (but it smelled delish). I am going to wait to spoon it over the quesadillas which will be made again, tomorrow. (the plan is to saute everything up, and then have it spread-able, and just eat when I need it.

 

Tomorrow I will show you

BBQ Popcorn. (and maybe sticky-bun, I do have friends over).
Hashbrowns
Pumpkin Seed Milk
and the put together queasadilla. 🙂

Now I have food to munch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Menu #1 (We’re About To Begin!)

I was. this close to be making the Plantain tamales. This close (imagine two fingers close together). And while I am all about changing my tastebuds and everything… I’ve never had a tamale, and I’ve never had a plantain. So that was two new things I’ve never had and I was like…

Eh no.
(A big reason why this was a big contender is that this weekend is a long weekend. Why not?).

So the Menu this week is going to be a doozy.

Breakfast:
Almond Granola with Pumpkin Seed Milk.

Lunch:
Gingered Brussels Sprouts with  Oven Hash Browns & Black Bean Sausage
with storebought applesauce. 

Dinner
Black-bean Quesadillas with roasted Tomatillo Salsa.
with frozen grapes. 

Snack
BBQ Popcorn

Total Low Cal Vegan Calories:
1208

Dude. I am going to love this book. 1208 Calories for everything i’m going to make is a whopping 1208 calories. And the only reason why I’ve got it to 1208 is because I added the popcorn. (I have to see what a serving size of grapes are and the applesauce that I’ve purchased, but that still gives me a good 200 calories to play with).

Tomorrow is shopping day and then I shall commence cooking, commentating and capturing.

I don’t know if I mentioned this… maybe I did, I’ve written a lot. I’m not a “cook every day” kind of girl. I’m a cook once  and then have left-overs all the time kind of girl. I am lazy

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My First Impressions of “Quick & Easy Low Cal Vegan Comfort Food”

Forever now for this project to be called “Low Cal Comfort Food.” Y’all know that I’m vegan. Ergo: I’m not eating anything not vegan. And If I have to type out all of that each and every single time, I’d get bored and forget what I had planned to say. So. yes. Low Cal Comfort Food. By Alicia C. Simpson, unless there is a non-vegan Low Cal Comfort Food out there somewhere on the interwebs.

 

The book itself. 

It’s a paperback book, and it’s not too book, and it’s not heavy. It’s really lightweight. If you were to open it to any page it stays on that page. (I haven’t yet tested it in my cookbook holder, but I think it would stay flat in it. (It is very weird how many cookbooks do not do this in my cookbook holder).

The Cover Says
“Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food: 150 down-home recipes packed with flavor, not calories; every recipe has fewer than 350 calories per serving!”

No where in this book does this claim that it is a diet book.

The authors who praised this book are

  • Robin Robertson
  • Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
  • Joni Marie Newman
  • Celine Steen
  • Kathy Hester

This is always key for me. I figure that if authors that I like (and have cooked and never really had a fail recipe), read and reviewed the book and they enjoyed the book, the book has to be somewhat good.

 

The first 35 pages talk about Low Calorie not low flavour (which a lot of people seem to put hand in hand). What comfort food is (to sum it up: it’s all about taste, and memories). How to lose weight (basically, move, move, move!) and then the most important part I think in this low-cal book:

Learning the Language.
This little section breaks down how you can pretty much eat what you want (and lose weight), as long as you know your serving sizes (and as someone whose been trying to lose weight for years – I couldn’t even begin to tell you what a serving size is, when it is presented in a book. if something is 6 servings, I can always make it stretch to pretty much more than that… except cookies. I never get the full 2 dozen.).

But she breaks it all down, nutrient density, fiber, calcium, b12, so on and so forth.

And my other favourite part

A Guide to your Vegan Pantry. 

I mean, a girl’s gotta know what to have, right?!  (Honestly, I feel that this is key to any cookbook. It tells you what your bulk ingredients are going to be, and what you’ll need to have equipment wise, though truthfully, I’ll admit popcorn popper wasn’t listed.

Alicia also includes several sample meal plans (for each caloric range). There’s a little errata (cookbook mistake, something didn’t get included), in the 1800 calorie section, but it’s minute. I’m not going to be following this.

The cookbook font is somewhat small (but still easy to read, you don’t have to squint or anything like that, but if you are used to fonts found in 500 Vegan Recipes or Viva Vegan it’s a touch small). But a major bonus factor, is that at first blush. Every recipe is on its own page. And if it’s a  long recipe, for the most part it doesn’t require you to flip the page and keep going, the recipe is on the next facing page. Which is awesome. (Do you know how much I wish all cookbooks did this?)

If it’s a three step recipe. (like This meal will go well with this, that and this) ALL three components are together. awesome!

There are 8 pages of plates. (oops. that’s my inner librarian popping out. There are 8 full pages of coloured photos).

There is a lot of blank space to write notes.

Full confession time: In cookbooks, I write notes. My actual librarian and my inner librarian freaked out when I first did it, I was screaming no! I love my books to be pristine. But then, sticky notes fall out all the time. And if I remember if I hate it, or it needs more salt or something I’d like to indicate that in the book (or a key note – ie: I rarely ever cook with alcohol unless it has a chance to be burned off, and I can’t do coffee at all. So now I write “chicory” for coffee, and substitutes for liquor. Some recipes, I do it for so I can indicate that i LOVE it and it needs to be made again, or something like that.

But it’s in pencil. I mean. seriously, I’m not that much of a rebel.

 

I’m not too much of a fan of the cursive font. But all in all the first impressive, layout and readability of this book is high up there. 🙂

 

 

 

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