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It finally feels like summer. I finally felt some inspiration again this week to cook after, finally, the sky came up and summer came, belatedly.

The last few months have been consumed with other things: I spent May in Italy, France, and on a Mediterranean cruise with my family, and Mike travelled through the Cote D’Azur and Provence with his family for most of June.

The late start to summer, coupled with business with school and work, had me a little down and I found myself searching for properties in sunnier locales.  Other people (my Dad, Mike) really enjoy Vancouver’s climate, but I would be pretty happy living in sandals and cutoffs everyday.

With summer, however, comes a renewed sense of excitement about the farmers’ market, camping trips, road trips to the Okanagan and Oregon, and our cabin on Sakinaw Lake.

So, to celebrate, we made a pitcher of sangria and had a Southern style barbecue, accompanied by collard greens sautéed in olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, salt and pepper. It’s amazing how the simplest things, enjoyed while looking at the sun setting on Vancouver, can cheer you up the most.

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Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F or 200 degrees . Grease a 9 inch round cake pan lightly.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in the “egg”, non-dairy milk and vegetable oil and mix until well combined. Pour the batter into the pan and spread it with a spatula
  3. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the top becomes golden.
Ingredients
 
·         1 cup all-purpose flour
·         1 cup yellow cornmeal
·         2/3 cup white sugar
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
·         1 tablespoon egg replacer mixed with 3 tablespoons water (equivalent to one egg)
·         1 cup non-dairy milk
·         1/3 cup vegetable oil
 
 
Barbecued Ribs, adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
 
2 cups vital wheat gluten
4 teaspoons paprika
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
4 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons Liquid Smoke
1.5 cups water
4 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
2 cups of barbecue sauce to your taste
 
 I recommend the Stubbs Honey Bourbon sauce. I just doctored up the generic sauce we had in our fridge with a couple of splashes of bourbon and about 4 tablespoons of honey. Personally, I feel a sweet and sticky sauce tastes the best with these ribs.
 
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease large baking dish.
  2. Mix the first five ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Mix the water with the peanut butter, Liquid Smoke, and barbecue sauce and add it to the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix until combined and knead in baking dish.
  5. Flatten out the “dough” and spread it to the edges of the baking dish. Cut it in about 16 pieces.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Check to make sure indentations are still there but the pieces are still stuck together.
  8. Spread barbecue sauce generously on top.
  9. Separate ribs into 2, and place each piece sauce side down on the grill. Slather barbecue sauce on the upright dry side.
  10. Watch closely to make sure they don’t burn, and flip them back and forth for about ten minutes, until the barbecue sauce caramelizes.
  11. Remove from grill, cut into 16 pieces and serve.
 
Here is a video on making the ribs. It ‘s a lot easier than it sounds:

A Lazy Weekend

I think my favourite part of living where we do is how much it makes me appreciate the beauty of Vancouver. I love waking up in the morning and enjoying a coffee while looking out over the city landscape with the mountains behind. Even the skytrain looks picturesque as it winds through the tall buildings. Our apartment always makes me feel that I’m living in a hotel, and this feeling is compounded by its proximity to the neighbourhood bar in our back alley, the Narrow, and the seawall, Gastown, Main St., and Granville Island.

 

I really love to travel. I love the sense of adventure and escapism that comes with it. There is nothing greater than the growing sense of anticipation that builds as the airplane engines start up and the plane begins taxiing down the runway.

 

But sometimes I think that we should try to apply the sense of fun and adventure that comes with travel to our own lives more. In Vancouver, there is so much at our fingertips: the Trout Lake farmers market, cycling on the seawall, the beaches, the mountains, great restaurants, and I really greet the weekend with a greater sense of anticipation if I make plans to take advantage of what we have here.

In the immortal words of Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks:

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.”

 

On Friday night, Mike and I made linguine with edamame pesto from the book Appetite for Reduction, a recent publication by the prolific cookbook author Iza Chandra Moscowitz. We own Veganomicon, and so far every recipe has turned out amazingly well. The pesto turned out absolutely delicious, but I added broccoli, some extra basil and garlic, and used almond milk instead of veggie broth. I ended up having to add 1 to 1.5 cups of liquid to thin it out. The recipe is a great alternative to traditional pesto which, while delicious, is incredibly high in fat and calories. The nutritionally dense pesto ended up being fantastically thick and creamy.

 

Saturday morning we got off to a little late start thanks to a late night spent down at an underground space where Mike’s band, the Dead Ghosts, played.

We woke up starving and went downtown to the Loving Hut food truck and had lunch on a park bench in the sunshine. The food truck makes the most delicious homemade vegan fast food, such as Reuben sandwiches and Philly cheese steaks. We had golden onion rings and ch’kn burgers that were covered in imitation Thousand Island sauce and were battered and fried until crispy.

The rest of Saturday was spent shopping downtown for Mike’s birthday (since I will, sadly, be in Europe for it) and out at a show the DGs played at for Dandelion Records on Main St. in celebration of International Records Store Day.

 

Sunday afternoon we walked along the seawall to Granville Island, enjoyed the ocean air, and ate a takeout Indian vegetarian curry on the docks. There is something so magical about taking the aqua bus to there on a sunny morning and drinking coffee on the docks, staring out at the sailboats.

 

Sunday was our three year anniversary, so we went out to dinner at the Afghan Horsemen. I am absolutely obsessed with food from the Middle East. Afghani food is quite similar to Lebanese food and involves hummus, bean dips, flavoured rice, skewers, potatoes, pita, etc. The restaurant has amazing vegetarian and non-vegetarian platters on the menu, and the combination of flavours and spices is phenomenal.

 

I have been sadly neglectful of this lovely little blog. Mike and I have had some pretty fun adventures lately, involving a sun soaked trip to Austin for South by Southwest and a trip last weekend down to Seattle where he played one of the last nights at the Funhouse, Seattle’s iconic dive bar, complete with a basketball court and a big clown sign, which is getting displaced by condo developments.

After returning from Austin, which was shorts and t-shirts weather the whole time, I found myself frustrated with the fact that winter will just not quit. I long for spending lazy summer nights in the park, using our barbecue, enjoying the view from our deck and drinking sangria on patios. I can’t wait to escape and cannot wait to go to Europe later this month and then, later on, spend time away from the city at the cabin and in the okanagan.

At this time of year, I begin to struggle with inspiration for beautiful food and I cannot wait for the bountiful summer farmer’s markets. So, I made provencal tomatoes to remind Mike and I that an escape to France is just around the corner.

These provencal tomatoes are really, so very lovely and delicious. Just perfect. Make sure to use fresh bread crumbs (put bread in food processor until it is in crumbles). Otherwise, it’s way too dry.

A perfect French inspired night with provencal tomatoes, La Vie en Rose, a lovely wine, and a French rustic loaf.

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Ingredients

6 ripe tomatoes

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (About 6 slices of bread, with the crusts removed)

2 bunches green onions

1 bunch fresh basil, minced

Dried herbes deprovence

4 cloves minced garlic

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½

Good quality olive oil

Sauteed vegetables:

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

6 mushrooms, diced

Sea salt, pepper, dried garlic, basil and herbes de provence

Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2) Heat up olive oil in pan on medium heat

3) Add onion and sautee until soft and clear, about 5-7 minutes

4) Add other vegetables and spices and sautee for another 10 minutes, set aside to cool.

5) Cut a circle in the tops of the tomatoes and cut the cores out, removing as little as possible.With your fingers or a spin, remove the seeds and juice. Place tomatoes In a baking dish.

6) With a spoon, add sautéed vegetables to tomato, taking up half of the room inside the tomato.

7) In a bowl combine fresh bread crumbs, green onions, basil, dried spices, and garlic. Spoon into the tomatoes.

8) Bake for 15 minutes.

9) Pull out. With fingers or spoon, add a generous amount of daiya to tomatoes, pressing down to stuff it in. Add a generous amont of salt and pepper. And a drizzle of olive oil. Bake until cheese melted, about 10 minutes. Switch to broil for a couple of minutes in the end to brown the cheese.

10) Goes well with a beautiful salad and some rustic French bread.

Vegetarian Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a controversial recipe. Traditionally, ketchup and peanut butter do not belong in Pad Thai.The slight reddish colour, instead, comes from the tamarind paste and the chili sauce. I’ve made it traditionally before, but I’ve become so accustomed to North American versions that I found something was lacking. If you’re a stickler for tradition and aren’t a vegetarian, you can omit the ketchup and peanut butter and sub in fish sauce in place of ½ the soy sauce. Feel free to serve it on top with chopped cilantro, as well, if desired. This version is a slight tweaking of a traditional recipe and will taste like the yummiest takeout from your local Thai hole-in-the-wall. I saw Mike get up about 5 times after dinner to sneak more, so I guess it was an unqualified success.

 This is a marriage of traditional Pad Thai and Americanized Pad Thai.Usually, vegetables are not a big part of Pad Thai, but adding them in really turns it into a meal by itself and adds to the nutritional content. Feel free to substitute any vegetables that are hanging on for dear life in your produce drawer, that’s what we did, just make sure to add them in order of how fast they cook. White wine or a light beer (such as a pilsner or a light Asian beer) really pairs nicely here.

 Ingredients:
 
1 package rice noodles
4 green onions
1 white or yellow onion
4 cloves garlic minced
1.5 tablespoons grated or minced galangal or ginger
3 cups bean sprouts
1 cup dry roasted peanuts, ground or chopped (I used a mortar and pestle)
1 cup sliced broccoli
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced cauliflower
10 mushrooms, sliced thinly
½ cup vegetable broth
1 package extra firm tofu, cubed
2 tablespoons oil
Lime wedges for serving, optional
 
Pad Thai sauce:
 
3 Tbsp. tamarind paste, to taste (available at Asian/East Indian food stores)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
7 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari sauce (tamari is gluten free)
½ Tbsp. Siracha chilli sauce (1 Tbsp. would make it spicy, if desired)
½ cup. brown sugar, or more to taste
6 Tbsp. ketchup
4 Tbsp. peanut butter
A sprinkle of salt and pepper
 
Directions:
 
1)       Heat up pot of water to boil and turn off heat. Add rice noodles, soak for 4-6 minutes, until limp but still undercooked. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
2)       Add all sauce ingredients to sauce pan, heat up to boiling and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Whisk all ingredients together while simmering. Set aside.
3)       Heat up wok or large frying pan to medium  heat. Add oil and the white or yellow onion. After a few minutes, add garlic and galangal/ginger. Add in ¼ cup vegetable stock and carrots and cauliflower.
4)       After about 8 minutes, add broccoli, tofu, and mushrooms. Cook for another 8 minutes or so.
5)       Add noodles and ¼ cup vegetable broth. Toss everything together using tongs and a spatiula. Add in pad thai sauce and stirfry everything together. Cook for 5 minutes, make sure to keep stirring to keep anything from burning.
6) Turn off heat, fold in bean sprouts. Serve with green onions and ground peanuts sprinkled on top and a lime wedge on the side.
 

I think it’s natural at this time of year to want to cleanse a little. InVancouver, especially, the grey days stretch on, we become sluggish, and we start eyeing the possibility of summer beachwear with a certain measure of apprehension.  I don’t place much stock in detoxes that require buying expensive kits or supplements. Our bodies are pretty efficient at ridding themselves of toxins normally.

However, lately, we’ve been feeling a sluggish, lethargic, congested, and bloated, and Mike and I both decided to focus on eating really clean diets for the month, avoiding allergens, and exercising a lot. I think, personally, that the word diet has become a word with seriously negative connotations. Instead of focusing on deprivation, I think it’s a lot healthier to focus on filling up your body with as many nutrients and clean food as possible.

So, for the next month or so, in addition to our vegan diets, we’re really making a concerted effort to avoid processed food, junk food, too much sugar, wheat, and too much oil. We’re focusing on doing a lot of juicing, making a lot of fruit smoothies, eating whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa, eating legumes, and adding psyllium husk and ground flax to our morning routine.

 With this in mind, we made cornmeal crusted cauliflower florets and a quinoa chickpea salad last night. The cauliflower florets are exceptional: they are crunchy and golden, but are gluten free and use hardly any oil. Here, an oil sprayer works especially well to coat the cauliflower without using too much. Otherwise, you could brush a little on.

 Ingredients:
 
1 cauliflower head, cut in half and sliced thinly
Small amount of oil, sprayed
Dried herbs such as garlic, oregano, basil, and smoked sea salt and pepper
 
Batter:
 
2 tablespoons commercial egg replacer mixed with 3 tablespoons water
¾ cup cornstarch mixed with ¾ cup water
 
Coating:
 
About 2 cups of cornmeal
Dried herbs such as garlic, oregano, basil, and smoked sea salt and pepper
 
Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 375
2) Slice cauliflower and lay out on large baking sheet
3) Spray a little oil over cauliflower florets, and then sprinkle dried herbs, smoked sea salt, and pepper on both sides
4) Mix all batter ingredients in a small bowl and spread out all coating ingredients on a plate.
5) Dunk each cauliflower slice in the batter, let excess drip off, and then cover it in the coating. Place all slices back on the baking sheet.
6) Spray the cauliflower with a tiny bit of oil, and add salt and pepper if desired.
7) Bake for about ½ an hour. Turn on broiler and watch closely so it doesn’t burn (it took about 5 minutes for us). Broil until golden brown.
 

Serve with a yummy salad.

 

French Onion Soup

I have a slight obsession with all things cute and French, aside from, perhaps, the traditional cooking. If anything is cute and French, I will buy it. Mike has a weakness for French pop records and our purchases of absinthe, Lillet, and St. Germain were all slightly motivated by how charming the bottles look.

 I do have an admittedly unrealistic fantasy of moving to Provence, buying a charmingly decrepit old stone house, and starting a rustic vegetarian café with vegetables from my organic garden. Embarrassingly often, I make fashion decisions with the women of Godard films in mind. In comparison, most actresses today seem absolutely bland; I find beauty that is devoid of intelligence or sophistication completely uninteresting.

I definitely romanticize the Paris of the past. Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” is my most beloved book of all time. I love how Hemingway’s storytelling transports you into the bohemian world ofParisin the 1920’s with his anecdotes about the Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein. Although Hemingway’s later works are, in a sense, more impressive or serious, there is something incredibly charming and authentic about his memoirs of his youth spent inParis.

 Because of this, I absolutely fell in love with Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” last year. I always love Allen’s neurotic sense of humour, but this film is my absolute favourite of his. Too few filmmakers today know how to imbue their movies with a real charm and magic, and I found myself laughing with delight as Owen Wilson is transported back in time and encounters the big lights of the 1920’s literary era. Hemingway’s character is pitch-perfect, and Allen captured his authorial voice incredibly well. Mike will attest to the fact that I ordered a few 1920s style headpieces as a direct result of that movie.

 Anyway, we had a bit of a French theme this weekend. Last night we watched “Jean de Florette,” a beautiful but absolutely devastating film about an urban French family who inherits a Provencal stone home and moves there with big aspirations of supporting themselves farming, but are thwarted by their scheming neighbours.

 And then, on Saturday, I decided to make French Onion Soup.

 The difficulty in doing a vegetarian version of French Onion Soup is that it is difficult to replicate the richness and meatiness of homemade beef broth. Vegetable broth simply cannot compare. Here, I used two vegetarian gravy packets in vegetable broth to mimic the texture and meaty flavour, but you could also caramelize an onion and a few mushrooms, and blend it with some vegetable broth, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and a couple of tablespoons of flour until smooth. However, using a couple of vegetarian packets of mushroom sauce or veggie gravy really works well here.

 With regard to the alcohol component, wine or vermouth would work well here. We added 1 cup of vermouth, ½ cup of red wine, and ½ cup of vodka because we happen to have a really big bottle of vermouth to use up. The original recipe calls for 1 cup of alcohol, but I decided to add extra to add some richness to the vegetarian soup, and I also added a splash of red wine shortly before removing the soup from heat. I added 10 diced mushrooms to pack some extra nutritional punch, but I know that’s non-traditional and is, therefore, strictly optional.

 This was adapted from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”

 French Onion Soup

Soup:
 
5 -6 cups yellow onions , thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs)
10 mushrooms, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups of “stock,” recipe follows
1 ½ cups wine or dry vermouth
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried herbes deprovence
Salt and pepper
1/2 raw yellow onion, grated into soup
1 slice of French bread (about 1 inch thick) per bowl, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling
 
Stock:
 
6 cups veggie broth
2 packets vegetarian gravy
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried garlic
Salt & pepper
 
Directions:
  1. Pour all stock ingredients in sauce pan on high heat. After it boils, reduce it to simmer for about 20 minutes, while you prepare the soup.
  2. Place heavy bottom stock pot or dutch over over medium-low heat.
  3. Add 1 Tbs cooking oil, 2 Tbs Earth Balance margarine.t.
  4. Add sliced onions and stir until they are evenly coated with the oil.
  5. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes until they are very tender and translucent.
  6. To brown or caramelize the onions turn heat under pot to medium or medium high heat.
  7. Add minced garlic and mushrooms.
  8. Add 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt and continue to cook uncovered, stirring frequently until the onions have browned and reduced significantly.
  9. Once caramelized, reduce heat to medium-low and add 3 Tbs flour to the onions.
  10. Brown the flour for about 2-3 minutes trying not to scorch it. (If the flour does not form a thick paste, you can add a bit more Earth Balance here).
  11. Stir in about 1 cup of warm stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up all of the cooked-on bits.
  12. Add the rest of the stock, wine, sage, herbs deprovence, and bay leaf to the soup.
  13. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  14. To make the “croutes” (toasted bread), heat oven to 325 degrees F.
  15. Drizzle each side of the bread slices with a bit of olive oil and place on baking sheet.
  16. Broil the bread for a few minutes, watching closely.
  17. Check the soup for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
  18. Remove the bay leaves.  Grate ½ onion into the soup.
  19. Spoon soup into oven save bowls, put croutons on top, and top with Daiya cheese and salt and pepper. Broil for a few minutes, until cheese is melted and begins to get crispy.
  20. Put on a Serge Gainsbourg record and pair with a full bodied red wine and a simple salade vert.

 

Eggplant Parmesan

 Mike and I have tried (once or twice) to get into the very adult activity of meal planning. However, we are both people with little patience for boring things. Usually we fail to make a shopping list, and I inevitably end up at Whole Foods trying to recall the various ingredients in vegetable paella or minestrone soup. Often after a big grocery shop, we end up eating too much takeout and find ourselves looking rather guiltily at a fridge full of produce that is about expire. More than once, an uninspired conversation about what to cook for dinner after work ends with the question, “Chinese or Thai?”

 “Next time,” we always reassure ourselves, “We’ll be better. We’ll plan our meals, make a shopping list, and not get takeout pizza twice in one week. We will soak our beans, make a soup with the leftovers, and eat a salad a day.”

 Last night about 8:00, after a snack of some beer, hummus, and pita, Mike looked at me and suggested that it might be a good idea to consume a “real” dinner. In our kitchen, there really aren’t any shortcuts. We don’t keep frozen food, we don’t own a microwave, and we don’t have any boxes of processed food that could be transformed into a quick dinner. This dinner was inspired by a delicious tofu parmesan my Mom made us in December. We were out of tofu, but a lonely eggplant sat in my fridge waiting for some love.  

 Eggplant is a difficult thing. It can become soggy and almost….gross quite easily. The trick is to salt it and drain it for half an hour; however, I was way too lazy to do that here. Usually eggplant parmesan is made with bread crumbs, but we only had cornmeal, which I think made it extra golden and crunchy, anyway. To cut down on fat, you could probably bake the eggplant dusted with cornmeal instead of frying it and you could also use wheat free flour to make it gluten free.

 We paired this with a nice organic baguette and some old Rolling Stones records.

 Ingredients:
 
 Oil canola oil to cook with
 2 cans diced tomatoes (I used 1 large and 1 small)
 Dried basil, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper
 4 cloves garlic, minced
 8 mushrooms, sliced
 1 onion, diced
 2 cups spinach
 1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise in round pieces
 ½  bad Daiya mozzarella cheese
 Fresh basil to add after (optional)
 
 Batter:
 
About 1 cup flour mixed 1 to 1 water with 2 tablespoons of egg replacer powder mixed in
 
 Coating:
 
About 2 cups cornmeal, dried garlic, sea salt, pepper
 
 Directions:
 
 1)      Preheat oven to 400
 
 Sauce:
 
 1)      Heat up tablespoon of oil in sauce pan
 2)      Add onions, then garlic a couple of minutes later.
 3)      Add mushrooms and dried basil, oregano, salt & pepper, sauté for a few minutes.
 4)      Add diced tomatoes, bring to boil, and let simmer for ½ an hour while you cook eggplant.
 
 Eggplant:
 
 1)      Mix batter in small bowl
 2)      Spread out cornmeal on plate, add dried garlic, sea salt, and pepper.
 3)      Dip each eggplant slice in batter then in cornmeal to coat. Use fingers to help stick.
 4)      Heat up oil to medium-high in large shallow pan. It should cover bottom. You can check if it’s ready by throwing a drop of water into it. It should sizzle.
 5)      Spread out eggplant slices in pan. Cook until golden and crisp on each side, about 4 minutes each side. Set aside on paper towels on a plate to drain.
 
 1)      Assemble eggplant parmesan in roasting pan like a lasagne. Spread out thin layer of tomato sauce, spread out eggplant slices over it, spinach, then tomato sauce, then another layer of eggplant slices, then tomato sauce. On top, add a generous layer of cheese, salt, pepper, dried basil, and oregano.
 2)      Bake for about half an hour.